Note: This article is derived from the research of Stephen Covey and his book, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People.
“You are not good enough!”
“I wonder if you will fail again.”
“You have a twisted nose.”
“You can never operate this machine!”
People often listen to others and absorb their words. They consider themselves the same as others tell them. Similarly, our actions are also determined by various external factors.
– Genetic Determinism: You inherit some of the characteristics of your parents and grandparents at your birth.
– Psychic Determinism: You develop some of the characteristics based on how parents look after you during your childhood.
– Environmental Determinism: You change your characteristics based on the environment where you stay and interact.
This creates a stimulus-response map i.e each stimulus will result in a particular response. In other words, we are a product of all the external forces and all our actions are governed by the entities that surround us.
There is a gap between stimulus and response. No doubt, a stimulus will always result in some response. But we have the freedom to choose that response. For that purpose, Allah has given 4 tools to each individual, for choosing the response:
Self-Awareness: Can you tell whether you are happy or sad? Can you describe your mental state? Can you think of how you think? If so, then you are self-aware.
Independent Will: Do you want to go left or right? Do you like apples more than bananas? If you can choose an answer then, you have an independent will.
Conscience: Imagine that you saw someone leaving his wallet on the table. You picked the wallet. There is quite a handsome amount of money. Even though that money would benefit you, you know that it is wrong to use someone else’s money. The ability to judge what is right and what is wrong is conscience.
Imagination: You just imagined the person leaving his wallet even though he is not in front of you. Heck, you can even imagine the entire solar system if you want to.
These tools are always there; we just don’t use them to their full extent. Proactivity is the ability to use these tools. It means to take initiative and to be responsible. Responsibility is the ability to change response.
There’s a big difference between a proactive and a reactive person. A proactive person will act on opportunities and his work won’t be affected by mood, weather or any other external factors. He does everything based on his values/principles. On the other hand, a reactive person would like to wait for an opportunity to fall at his feet. Hot weather and angry wife tend to decrease his efficiency.
So, how can one improve his proactivity muscles? First of all, you must accept that what you are now is because of the choices that you have made in the past. Only then, you can say, “I will choose differently from now on.”
Everyone has concerns of all kinds. Let us give it a term, “Circle of Concern.” It means all the things that you think of or talks about. You can’t have control over all of them but there will always be some of the things that you can influence either directly or indirectly. Let us call it “Circle of Influence”, a circle within Circle of Concerns. You are more proactive if you spend more time in the Circle of Influence instead of Circle of Concern. It can be something like buying the groceries (direct influence) or talking to someone (indirect influence). There are things that you can’t change no matter what. Trust Allah and go on with life! Don’t overthink about such matters.
A much better and practical way would be to observe your language. If you say, “I have to do this task”, it means that you are doing it because of the circumstances i.e you are being reactive. Try replacing it with, “I choose to do this task.” Similarly, if you say, “You make me mad!”, it means that your emotions are heavily influenced by that person which should not be the case for a proactive person. Saying something like “This is how I am” simply means that you are giving up control on yourself. And you know what happens when you don’t have the remote control of your self. Of course, someone else would have it. Don’t give your remote control to others.
Lastly, try to make small commitments and keep holding them. This will increase your honour and your proactivity muscles will grow.
In the end, I would like to say that this article may have mistakes and it is highly opinionated. So, don’t follow it as is. Use your sense as well. Be proactive. May Allah guide you towards the right path. Hopefully, you learned something and will apply it in your life.