Habit #1 – Be Proactive

Hi Everyone – and Happy Wednesday to you!

I dragged myself out of bed to spin class yesterday morning, but I’ll confess that I kind of slacked off in class and kept my resistance pretty low. I’ve been battling off a sore throat/impending cold this week, and I’m trying my best to stay healthy for Kingston!

Speaking of staying healthy, I’ve got some good news on the shoulder front. I went to my chiropractor on Monday afternoon and he diagnosed my shoulder woes in about 30 seconds (not uncommon for him, the man is seriously a genius). He told me that my “top rib” had come out of place and was causing some problems, but that he would put it right back in place.

He explained to me that my top rib (the one right by my neck) had gotten a little lost, and had come out of alignment with the rest of my rib cage. The unfortunate victim of the misplaced bone was my right rotator cuff, which was getting pinched between the top rib and another bone.

 Ribs

Ouch 😦 sorry rotator cuff 😦

I also went and saw my massage therapist yesterday (seriously, sometimes I feel like a professional athlete with a team of therapists dedicated just to me and my silly over-use injuries :P) and she also helped me out A LOT. I would say my shoulder is about 90% back to normal today and I’m hoping for a full recovery by the end of this week.

So since I’m kind of a loser in terms of training lately, and feeling kind of iffy in terms of overall health, I thought today I would do a more cerebral post and start with the first post in my Seven Habits of Highly Effective People series.

I won’t get too deep or go too “Buddha” on you, I promise.

 Buddha

A quick reminder before I launch into this stuff that all of the Seven Habits principles and philosophies are licensed trademarks of the Franklin Covey Institute – I’m not the genius that came up with all of this stuff, nor should I get any of the credit for it…cool?? 🙂

Habit #1 – “Be Proactive”

 Something that the Franklin Covey Institute has done that I really like is to add a tagline to the end of each habit that really defines what the habit is all about in 3 words or less. The tagline for Habit #1 is:

The Habit of Choice

I don’t know what you think about when you hear the word “proactive”, but I used to picture things like:

  • Organized binders
  • To-do lists
  • Suits
  • Agendas/Outlook calendars
  • People with glasses (I have no idea why)

 Glasses

Before we go a step further, let me clarify something important. Habit #1 has nothing to do with being organized, nor does it have anything to do with planning ahead.

“Being proactive” in the world of the Seven Habits is all about choosing your attitude, focusing on the things that you can control and letting go of the things that you can’t.

Hmm…now where have I heard this advice before…:)

We were taught that the human brain has two major response initiators; one at the back of the brain, just above the base of the spinal cord, and one at the forefront of the brain.

The one at the back of the brain is responsible for our “emotional brain” responses. This is the one to blame when you take your frustration from your day out on the first poor unwilling soul that cuts you off on the highway.

I can turn into a cold-hearted, mean, mean person on the highway. I can’t even count the number of people that I’ve wished death on while driving on the QEW.

The emotional brain is controlled by feelings, moods and circumstances. It is impulsive, and acts immediately on a stimulus, leaving no time for analysis or choice.

“Reactive” people respond to situations almost entirely out of their emotional brain. Do you have anyone in your life who responds to situations with a flurry of emotion? Someone whose face turns red and who’s voice elevates when something is frustrating them?

I am an incredibly “reactive” person. When something happens to me, good, bad or indifferent, my natural instinct is to respond straight out of my emotional brain. If something good happens, I’ll exclaim with joy. If something sad happens, I’ll likely cry, no matter what the situation is or who is around. If something frustrating or unfair happens, then get the hell out of the way because I’ll probably take your head off if you get too close.

Can we still be friends? 😦

After I took the Seven Habits course, I realized how wrong this approach is. I’m now working on shifting my responses to be more PROACTIVE.

Proactive people respond out of their “pre-frontal cortex”, or the part of the brain that sits at the front of the skull.

The pre-frontal cortex has a wonderful ability to create space between a stimulus and a response. Imagine somebody cuts you off on the highway. The emotional brain responds immediately with a shout, maybe slamming your hands on the wheel, maybe swearing at the person. The pre-frontal cortex takes in the stimulus, and grants you a moment of choice.

How do I want to respond to this stimulus?

If the person is a raging jerk on a cell phone, then the chosen response may indeed be to scream at him to go pound sand (or something less PG). But maybe if you take a second look, you might realize that the driver is a young person, maybe their first time out on the highway alone, and they are gripping the wheel, eyes wide, trying their best not to mess up or make anybody mad.

Whatever the situation is, the pre-frontal cortex gives you that freedom to CHOOSE your response, not to be sewn into an immediate response that blurts out of you from the emotional brain.

The second part of Habit #1 is about focusing your efforts on the things that you can control, and emotionally “letting go” of the things that you can’t.

They break up this section into two circles: The Circle of Influence, and the Circle of Concern.

Your Circle of Concern may be massive, and includes anything that crosses your plate in a given day that has the ability to impact you in any way. Things like taxes, the construction on your street, deadlines at work, your kid’s soccer practice…you name it.

Your Circle of Influence is much smaller. It represents only the things that YOU can actually control, or do something about.

For example: you may be super stressed about impending budget cuts in your department at work. There have been rumours flying that they need to cut 10 people from your department, and you can’t shake the feeling that you may be one of them.

The budget cuts and the ultimate decision fall in your Circle of Concern. You have no impact on whether or not your department budget is going to get cut, nor can you really change their mind if they decide that you are one of the ones to go.

Your Circle of Influence however includes things like: showing up on time to work every day, putting in your best effort, and making the effort to prove your importance and your ability to your boss every day.

Can’t you see how focusing on the items in that Circle of Influence would take away from the stress of focusing on the items in the Circle of Concern?

This post is getting long (sorry, I tend to ramble about this stuff because I’m way into it), but that about sums up Habit #1 – The Habit of Choice.

I invite you to observe yourself for the next couple of days, and try to pinpoint when your responses are coming from your emotional brain, vs. when they are coming from your rational brain. When are you getting swallowed up by things that are in your Circle of Concern, instead of your Circle of Influence?

I found this habit incredibly revealing for me personally – I hope that you find the same!

Take care everyone!

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