Thursday, December 29, 2005

Reactive Vs. Proactive Language.

While reading the habit 1 of Stephan Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one interesting fact that I noticed is that our language gives away our proactive and /or reactive nature in us. The language that we use naturally reflects whether we are acting proactively or reactively. So it is interesting to note the language that we use, be self-aware, to step aside from our own selves and to notice the language that we are using.

If we are being reactive, Covey suggests that we will be using language that usually absolves us from responsibility. Our language will suggest that we are the victim of the situation, environment or our conditioning, rather than the feeling of being in control.

We make so many generalized reactive statements that reflect the deep buried reactive nature and the conditioning that we have received over the years. These statements are so generalized, we tend to accept these as part of our nature or the way the world is. Consider statements like,
“There’s nothing I can do”
“They make me so mad”
“That’s the way I am”
“I don’t have the time”
“They do that to me”
“I have to do this”
“I can’t, that’s me”

Then there are reactive statements that that put us at the mercy of others, where we shun away from responsibility and blame everything on the other person or a particular factor.
“If only my wife was more understanding…”
“If only my boss was not a jerk…”
“If only my work didn’t take up all my time…”

Another way to identify the reactive language is to identify the have’s in our language. These have’s put away our happiness or our effectiveness to be based on the out come of some other incident, or an occurrence. This language puts the problem out there. It is in effect saying that we are being limited by something out there, something that we do not have at the moment. That is statements like:
“I’ll be relieved when I have my loans paid off”
“I’ll take a vacation when I reach my targets”
“If I had a degree”
“If I had a better job”
“I’ll start exercising after the workload eases”
“If only I had a more understanding wife”

Such language, as mentioned earlier absolves us from responsibility. The whole intention is to shift the responsibility away from us. But in the process, it radiates that we are not able to chose our response and that the situation or the other party or the environment is driving us. It emits the notion that we are helpless, victimized. We tend to blame factors external to us for all our problems and miseries. It puts the problem out in the circle of concern, away from the circle of influence. And we become to engross by this, this becomes internalized and we start to believe and act according to the victims’ mindset.

As the chapter on being proactive suggests, if you listen carefully for one full day, to your own language and to the language of those around you, we will better understand this.

So if this is the language of reactive mindset, then what is the language of proactive mind?
Covey suggests that proactive language, embraces responsibility and takes charge of the situation. Nothing is left to chance. If something is being done, it’s not because we are forced to it, but because we choose to do it. Remember, we are response-able, free to choose our response. So we are not victims, but we are the masters. And proactive language exuberates this.

Proactive language puts our actions within the circle of influence. It does not put the problem ‘out there’. It identifies the part of the problem that is ‘in here’. It will identify parts of the solution within direct control or indirect control areas. It will sound like this:
“Let’s look at what we can do”
“Let’s choose a different approach”
“I will do this”
“I am in control of my own feelings”
“I can do this”
“I choose”
“I will”

And proactive language will consist of the “be’s” instead of the “have’s”. It will focus on what we can be, or what we can do, rather than depending on the outcome of something else. Such as “I can be more loving”, “I will be more compassionate”, “I can be more understanding”, etc. When we focus on things within our control, things within our circle of influence, we are concentrating on being rather than having.

So, watch your language and identify your reactive and proactive moments. And then, you can work on converting the reactive moments to proactive moments through the advise given by Stephen covey in his best selling book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Be Proactive

I had finished reading this chapter more than 48 hours ago. But since I was on vacation, and I promised my wife that I’d stay away from computers during the vacation, I could not post this earlier.

The first habit of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey, is titled Be Proactive. It is the first habit, which will move us from dependent state to the independent state, and it is the first step of the private victories that we are to achieve.

The word proactive is perhaps one of the most widely used buzzwords today. We talk about proactive approach to anything and everything. So what does it mean? Before reading Covey's definition, for me proactive meant foreseeing the future and acting based on this foresight. Now for me, this required the ability to foresee the future, or at least a glimpse of the future and to take action to meet the needs of the future. While this may be somewhat correct interpretation of Pro-activity, Covey provides a more simpler and meaningful definition.

Proactive means we are responsible for our own lives, our own actions, and our own decisions. We have the ability to choose our response. We have the ability to choose our response, free from our emotions, based on our values. We have the ability to be our own creator.

This is somewhat in contrast to what we have been taught. There is a deterministic model, which teaches us that we are determined by what has happened to us; by the conditioning that we have received. Genetic Determinism says that we have inherited our behavior; Psychic Determinism says that our upbringing determines our behavior, and Environmental Determinism says that the environment around us is determining our behavior. All of these theories suggest that we are determined by these factors and that we are not the ones responsible for our own selves. This is lame! But there are a lot of emphasis placed on these factors that we have gone to the extent that we have started to define mankind as animals that respond to stimuli.

If we are blindly responding to stimuli, based on the conditioning that we have received, to say the least is very un-human. As humans, we posses few abilities that distinguish us from the rest of the animals. And these capabilities give us the inexcusable responsibility of selecting our response to the stimuli. Covey talks about four such human endowments: Self Awareness, Imagination, Conscience and Independent Will.

Self Awareness is our ability to think about our own thought process. We have the ability to step aside from ourselves and to look at our own self from out side. This is the ability that allows us to separate our minds from our feelings and gives us the ability to choose.

Imagination is our ability to create in our minds something beyond the future. We have to ability to visualize something that is not the present. Something that we WANT the future to be.

Conscience is our deep awareness of right and wrong. The deep buried principles in us that we have come to accept without question.

Independent Will is our ability to act, to choose the response, free from other influences.

As humans possessing these qualities we have the ability to choose our response to stimuli, without just reacting based on our conditioning. We have the ability to look at our own thought process and imagine the response that we want to select, validate that response from our conscience and choose the response, free from other influences such as emotions and feelings.

The proactive person will act based on values, not impulses or emotions. When we act based on our emotions we become reactive, allowing the emotions to guide us, not our values and principles. As the saying goes "No one can hurt you without your consent." As Covey puts it, it is not what happens to us that hurt, but our response. What matters most is not what happens to us, but how we respond.

As humans we should act, not be acted upon. But most of the time, we wait for the right circumstances to act. We wait for the right time to come, we wait for some external factor to change to act. But, if we are proactive, we will also create the circumstance rather than wait for it to happen.

If we do not act, we will be acted upon. If we do not act, we are inviting others to act upon us. By being reactive, we are allowing the others who stimulates us to act upon us. When we are responding to a stimuli, to trigger the response, others come to learn about the stimuli that they should give us.

Circle of Concern and Influence

There are things that concerns all of us. Out of all those things that we are concerned about, there are things that we can do something about and there are things that we cant do anything about. The things that we can influence are the Circle of Influence. If we are proactive, we will focus our energy on our Circle of Influence. We will work on things that we can have an effect on. But reactive persons will focus their energy on Circle of Concern out side their Circle of Influence. The end result is simple, their energy is not going to yield any results.

All problems and situations that we face into three categories.

Direct Control problems are problems that we have direct control over. These are problems that can be solved by working on ourselves, our behaviors, our habits. These directly fall under our circle of influence.

Indirect Control issues are concerning other peoples' behavior. We can influence them through our methods of influence. Still these fall under our circle of influence.

No Control issues are things that we can do nothing about. Things such as our past, situational realities, national economy etc. fall under this category. We have to accept these as such. We must learn to adopt to them and to live with them. Accepting this fact puts our response within the circle of influence.

No matter in what category the problem belongs to, our response should fall into our circle of influence. By choosing our response we are expanding our circle of influence. One way that we can expand our circle of influence is by working on our selves, on our being. On my being.

There is one important point made in this chapter. That is while we choose our response, we are accepting the result to that action. Though we can choose our response, we cannot choose the consequence of our action. The results to any action is governed by natural and universal law. The choice is in the circle of influence, but the results are in the circle of concern. When we pick one end of the stick, we pick up the other as well. I find this aligned with my beliefs. As Buddha has taught, all our actions carry with them consequences. His teachings are all about choosing actions which does not have bad consequences.

A few valuable lessons:

Past mistakes are also out in the circle of concern. You can't undo them or recall them. But accept them, and learn a lesson. Acknowledge a mistake as soon as it becomes evident. Correct it and learn the lesson.

If you make a promise, keep it. When you make a decision, stick to it.

Know that we are responsible - Response - able.

Act or be acted upon.

Basically, we are own creator!

Footnote:This is the chapter summary of Steven covey’s & Habits of Highly Effective People, Habit 1 – Be Proactive, as understood by me. I am placing this content in this blog following Covey’s advice on how to make the maximum out of reading the book; by reading each chapter with the intention of teaching someone it’s contents. I have instead, written the content here in the blog.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

7 Habits of Highly Effective People


I just started reading 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. This is my second time that I am reading this book. The first reading was about three years ago, at the time I was really not that bothered about developing effective strategies in my life; at a time when my life was centered around seeking fun & pleasure and was having plenty of it.

But this time around the situation has changed. Now I am actively interested in developing effective and efficient habits / strategies. And I just remembered that 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey was lying in my book shelf. So I dug it out. And this time around, without just reading it through, I will be putting into practice the "Application Suggestions". Also, this time around, I am determined to delve deeper into the content and ponder and reflect upon myself as I go along. This will help me in internalizing the habits into my life; well not as exactly as they are, but as they appeal and agree with my values. Hopefully, it will help me clarify my values further.

Covey suggests two paradigm shifts that will increase the benefit that the reader can reap from the book. The first one is to not to treat the book as a 'book', but to rather treat as a companion on the long run. That is as our understanding deepens, to come back to the book time and again to expand our knowledge, skill and desire. Putting it into perspective, in this second reading I am able to understand the concepts more deeply and broadly. I remember on the first reading there were things that I just skimmed through, without thinking about it ever again. But this time around, every sentence speaks directly to my mind, makes a more deeper sense. And I am glad that I came back to reading it.

The second paradigm shift that we are to focus on is to transform ourselves from the role of the reader to the role of the teacher. Covey suggests that we read the book with the purpose in mind of sharing what we learn within 48 hours of us reading it. This will give our mind a signal to comprehend the subject matter since the mind is looking forward to sharing the knowledge. And without it first understanding the material it knows it cannot attempt the second task.

So this is the approach that I am going to adopt in this second attempt. I will share through this blog, my understanding of each habit as I finish reading each chapter. Hopefully someone out there will benefit from that. AND I hope that I wont get sued for copyright infringement!

But before I start sharing my understanding of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I think it is appropriate to set the ground. I mean, Covey does not start talking about the habits straight away. Before we attempt to understand, adopt and internalize the 7 habits, we have to understand a few things about ethics, values, principles, paradigms etc.

Paradigms and Principles

Covey starts out by describing the Inside-Out approach. In his analysis he talks about how our perceptions affect the way we see the world. He compares our perceptions to the lens through which we see the world. He talks about two paradigms of personal development, the personality ethic and the character ethic. The character ethic concentrates on developing values such as integrity, humility, fidelity, courage, justice, patience, etc. This school of thought says that the foundation of personal success is through the development of these basic character ethics. But, such development takes time and effort.

But as the world progressed, we became obsessed with doing things faster and in instantaneous ways. So the time consuming character ethics took a back seat and more instant success formulas came popular. These quick fix methods concentrated on our personality, on what the others saw in us, on ways to project ourselves as required in the eyes of the society. Though not all these methods were bad, most of them lacked substance and only offered temporary solutions. Although, personality ethic tried to encompass the character ethic as part of its offering, it treated character as a small part of the total approach, not as the cornerstone. I mean, for how long can you pretend to be someone that you are not. It's only a matter of time till you get exposed and show the world the real you! Personality ethic is very beneficial, if you develop your character first! Your primary greatness flows out of developing values that are in agreement with the natural laws of the universe. In other words, by developing goodness in our character to the level that the world is naturally easy with you. Once you achieve this level of primary greatness, you can achieve the secondary greatness of fame, recognition and fortune via the techniques of personality ethic. When your character is based on values, your personality will shine easily.

According to Covey 7 Habits of Highly Effective People encompass many strategies of effectiveness. They are the basic habits that allow us to be effective - to do the right thing. Once we discover the right thing to do, we can look for ways of doing it right; ie. Efficiency.

Our values and ethics represent the way we see the world. They represent our paradigms. The models that we apply to the things around us, how we understand things, how we perceive and interpret the world. Covey compares paradigms to maps. This helps us to understand a basic difference between paradigms and reality. Map is not the territory. It is some sort of representation of the territory. So it is essential that we find the correct maps before we attempt to find our way using a map. If you have the wrong map, all other techniques will be of no use. Hence it is essential that we get the map right. All of us have many different maps in out heads. But there are two basic ones: maps on the way things are or realities and map on how things should be or values. All our interpretations of the world are decipher through these maps. And we go on to assume that the way we see the world is the way the world really is or should be! There is an excellent example that we can try out in the book that helps us realize this. Basically the lesson is, we see the world based on the conditioning that we have received over the years, as childhood experiences, as traditions, and training and education, etc. What we actually see, is what our mind is trained to see. And how we see the world affects our relationships with the world, how we treat and feel about the world. And our behavior is governed by it. I think this explains how different people tend to be more proactive, more entrepreneurial, more lazy, etc given the same opportunities.

We have to experience a paradigm shift inorder to break away from the traditions, from the way we were doing things, if we want to achieve a significant breakthrough. All significant breakthroughs have taken place after experiencing a paradigm shift. And making paradigm shifts to happen is not an easy task. Sometimes paradigm shifts are instantaneous. We come across a "Aha" experience. But sometimes, these shifts are slow and happen over time. If we really think hard about our past, on what we were, I am sure all of us will be able to understand at least one or two paradigm shifts that we have experienced over time or instantaneously. But when we want to make a quantum leap, we have to shift our basic paradigms. The paradigm shift that Covey attempts to make in us in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is that there are natural principles that govern effectiveness, which are unchangeable and real. As the saying goes "It is impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the law".

There is one more thing that we have to understand. Paradigms are not the reality. Just as maps are not the territory. They are just an attempt to describe the reality, just as maps attempt to describe the territory. Sometimes the territory would have changed since the last update of the map. This means that the map is not insync with the territory and needs updating. There are times when our values may be different from the principles. In such cases we need to deeply look at the world to understand the principles. If we take a deep look at social cycles, we see the same principles surface from time to time and giving birth to new interpretations. But the basic principle remains unaltered. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People contains examples of these.

Basically principles are fundamental guidelines for humans. They are the territory. They are not values. Values are maps. Values sometimes violate the basic principles. Principles are not practices; practices are specific actions, they are not universal. But principles are! The closer our paradigms and values are with the universal principles, the better off we are.

Covey says that the way we see the problem is the problem. When people see the success of a well principled person, they try to to emulate the success by adopting the same techniques. But because of the difference in the value systems, they do not necessarily work on the other person. We attempt to concentrate on quick fix without attempting to treat the underlying issues. We attempt to adopt "outside-in' remedies to our problems, when we actually need "inside-out" solutions. When the change required is from within us, we attempt to change the other. When the problem is within us, we see the problem as out there. When we need to find a solutions for ourselves, we try to give solution to others. We have to start with ourselves. The problem is not out there, it's within us. By changing ourselves we can find the solutions.

When we think that the problem is out there, we are telling ourselves, "there's nothing I can do about it. I have nothing to do about it. something out there needs to change." So we feel helpless, victimized. We allow others to give solutions to us. We feel that we don't have any control over the situations. We are controlled by the environment. But, even for a second we do not think "maybe the problem is not out there. maybe I can do something about it." If we can change this paradigm shift, we will attempt to address issues, by looking at what we can do about them. We will start to think, maybe I need to look at this in a different way. Maybe, I need to change. I personally have many experiences of this nature. Everytime I disagree with my wife, I start off thinking that I am right and that she is wrong. If I keep at it, I come to the absolute conclusion that I am right; there's no fault on my side. So I put my defense walls up and wait for her to come to my feet. When it doesn't happen I get irritated and I start to feel victimized. When we finally talk about it my wife comes up with her side of the things and then I start to see my mistakes, how I could have handled it differently, etc. This time around, I hope that I will be able to realize the mistakes on my own. That I will identify my contribution to the problem and correct it, rather than waiting for her to correct herself.

I plan to shift my paradigms to a more deeper, meaningful "inside-out" approach. I shall correct myself before I try to correct others.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Strange Conincidence

Today, in the morning I was thinking about a friend that I have not spoken to for a long time: Manjula. The last time I saw him was at his wedding and after that he moved to Aussie in a hurry and since then I had not spoken or mailed him. Although once, I asked a mutual friend to send me his new email address, I never followed it up, when I did'nt get it. So, I decided to follow it up and get his mail and to write to him once I got to office.

Surpised was I to get am IDD call on my way to work. And I was even more surprised to hear that it was Manjula! Strange coincidence. It was really good to hear from him.

Is this some kind of proof that Intention - Manifistation works?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Spookys World


Allow me to welcome my bro to the world of blogging. He's blogging at Spookeys World.

I have always considered him a more eloquent writer. So this should be interesting to watch how his blog is coming along. From the first two postings that he has done seems like he's on to some interesting topics!

Welcome to the world of blogging bro!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Inspiring thoughts

I got these in a chain mail. But since I found it to be inspiring and valuable, I thought of posting them here.
  • Time Management - Value your time Â… It is a diminishing resource
  • Vision - Nothing happens unless first a dream
  • Strategy - Those who are victorious plan effectively and change decisively. They are like a great river, that maintains its course, but adjusts its flow.
  • Innovation - If there is a better solution, find it.
  • Teamwork - Teamwork is the ability to work together towards a common vision. It is a fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.
  • Momentum - A little push in the right direction can make a big difference.
  • Opportunity - When one door closes, another opens. Seize the opportunity while the path remains lit.
  • Possibilities - Our thoughts and imagination are the only real limits to our possibilities.
  • Growth - The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold your foot long enough to put the other foot higher.
  • Focus - Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you fail to focus on your goals.
  • Service - Success in business and service go hand in hand.
  • Attitude - If it is to be Â… it is up to me.

And a few more quotes:

  • Your attitude determines your altitude
  • Whatever the mind of man caconceiveve and believe, it can achieve

Be inspired!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

He who makes no mistakes makes nothing

This is a proverb that should be taken seriously by all those who are scared to make decisions. For this has counters the biggest failure that most of us have, Failure and Mistakes. Fear of failure is the most common factor that limits human potential. Why do we fear failure? Because, the word failure in itself is synonymous with negativity.

But is failure so bad? I mean, if you don't fail, how will you learn. How will there ever be an advancement, if none of us have failed? Do we do the things right on the first attempt? Haven't we all learned lessons from the past failures and mistakes of the human kind. Isn't it because someone else or ourselves have failed or made the mistakes, that we know to avoid them now, without repeating them again and again.

We are bound to fail at least once in life. And because of the fear of failure, we do not attempt to go out and go for our dreams, we are making a bigger mistake than trying and failing. We are shutting down our own chances of success. Because of this fear, we are only going to give our dreams a half hearted chance at most. Because even when you make a go at it, with the fear of failure under your belly, you are already giving yourself only half the change. Your own mind is taking away the other half because of your fear. If your fear is bigger than your conviction then the net result is fear. So how can you expect your endeavors to succeed, when your net output is negative?

Is it interesting to delve deep and see why we fear failures and mistakes? Is the human race supposed to not to make any mistakes? I don't think so. The very reason why the human have become superior to other species is because we have the ability to bounce back from failures; to learn from mistakes. It is the lessons that were learnt from mistakes that helped the human race to advance. Thomas Edison failed 999 times before he could come up with the electric bulb. Had he given up at the first, second, tenth, hundredth or the five hundredth failure, what would have happened? Someone would have invented the electric bulb, but it wouldn't have been Edison!

I think the lesson from Edison is never small. It is one of the best lessons of perseverance and learning from mistakes. As Edison said, he did not fail 999 times, he just discovered 999 ways of it not working! That is the spirit that we should follow. If we fail doing what we were doing, then we should not give up, we should find out what went wrong and not make the same mistake again, the next time we try.

And it should be interesting to see why we fear failure. It's mainly because we fear the perception of others towards us, that we fear making mistakes. This world is full of specimist, that they expect everything to fail. They find it hard to believe that this world is full of possibilities. They fear the unknown and hence they prefer to stay in their cocoons and predict failure of everything, rather than the success of anything. It is their own fears that they try to impose on others. And everytime you embark on a new journey, you will come across atleast a few of them that will tell you exactly why you are doomed to fail. They will tell you plenty of examples of failures, but they will not remember any successes.

But, no matter what anyone says, I'd say, if you are convicted enough about your goal, go for it. If you believe in yourself, go for it. Even if you fail making a go for it is worthwhile. Simply put, you need to learn the lessons. You need to find out for yourself, the ditches and potholes. So you can avoid them the next time around. As the saying goes, forget the failure, but not the lesson. Don't forget, there's a lesson in everything that happens, if you look.

Also, there is another risk of never failing. Say, all that you try works out in the first attempt and if you never fail, you will become complacent and will lose your agility. You will go on not learning any lessons, and you get in to a bigger trap. And if you fail, then you would have lost your agility to get up and brush up, failure will hit you too hard.

So, never fear what others might say, never fear what the world will think. Dont fear mistakes or failure, they will only teach us a lesson. Remember - He who makes no mistakes makes nothing!



There is a terrific article by Steve Pavlina on Cause-Effect vs. Intention-Manifestation. This is a super article because this is an explanation about an aspect that is overlooked by modern science or the success coaches of our time. And the Million Dollar Experiment is a uncontrolled experiment of this theory.

But if you delve deeper into the article it will make you realize, this is the best way of achieving our goals, by using the most powerful means that we have at our disposal - our mind!

When I come to think of this, this phenomena is nothing new. This is something that our forefathers knew and preached. But as the human race became materially advanced, they simply neglected this aspect and true to Darwinian theory that became almost extinct. Otherwise, most of the teachings of Lord Buddha deal with the power of mind and on becoming the master of the mind. But, since we are currently so far away from this level of consciousness we are at a loss to understand the Lord Buddha's teachings.

Coming back to the topic at hand, the first step in getting our mind to become our mind to do the work is arriving at our decision firmly. By this it means we cannot be having second guesses about our decision or be half hearted. We have to decide, and be committed to our decision. We we are only 100% committed to your decision only will our mind take it as a command. This is a point made by several authors including Napoleon Hill and Tony Robbins.

Napoleon Hill says when you decide on what you want to do and start moving in that direction to burn all the bridges that you cross. So you cannot retreat at the first sign of failure. Tony Robbins talks about the power of the decision: "Making a true decision means committing to achieving a result, and then cutting yourself off from any other possibility".

So once you have made the decision without doubt and second thoughts and when you are clear about it, your mind takes it as a command and goes into work. Napoleon Hill says that at this point the mind makes use of the infinite intelligence. And once your mind taps into the infinite intelligence, it will show you the ways and means of achieving your goal in ways that you never knew were possible. Some of these things would have been there all along, but you just failed to see them in the correct light. Some of the things would be totally new and you would now see them. Steve Pavlina calls them Synchronicities.

I think, theory aside this is something that is well worth a try. Why we wont believe in this is because we were never taught that it is possible to make things work this way. And we are naturally conditioned to be suspicious about the things that we don't know. But, to say the least, this is ancient wisdom that is being re-discovered. The oldest evidence of this aspect can be found in the teachings of Lord Buddha. Buddhist teachings are mainly towards to conquering of the mind. He who has conquered the mind conquers everything.

I, for one am going to set a goal and hand it over to the mind and the universe to manifest it. And, once I set my goals, I will record them in this blog, so I can later on follow it up and share the progress. At least it will serve as evidence for the skeptics.