Establishing Your Sense of Direction

I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious effort. Henry David Thoreau(1)

So, we begin the journey, beginning from the inside-out. This will be a new way of thinking for most of us. We tend to listen to others and their comments and criticism rather than listening to our own thoughts. In session one, we looked at the importance of initiating change based in character, from the inside. Character forms around principles that we adopt. Principles transcend private interpretation, reflection or social feedback. They can be observed as a natural order. We adopt these as values. They form our inner core.

Remember the counsel of the author? Don't treat this material as the read-it- once-and-set-it-aside type. Instead shift your paradigm from learner to teacher. "Take an inside-out approach and read with the purpose in mind of sharing or discussing what you have learned with someone else within 48 hours after you have learned it."(2)

Remember, too, that your growth will be evolutionary, but the effect will be revolutionary.(3) As we gain insight into the changes that we want and expect, our expectations rise. We want to change immediately and expect sweeping dimensions to it! Effective change comes slowly. It's effects should be permanent.

Covey also reminds us that private victory precedes public victory. That means that change incurs within us, not in public view, and within our self-management. Private victory increases self-confidence. It increases self-understanding. "As you live your values, your sense of identity, integrity, control and inner-directedness will infuse you with both exhilaration and inner peace."(4)

So, our quest for private victory brings us to Habit One-Be Proactive.

"Self-awareness enables us to stand apart and examine even the way we "see" ourselves-our self-paradigm, the most fundamental paradigm of effectiveness."(5)

We must see that our self-paradigm creates a lens that distorts or casts a colored hue over our perceptions of our world and the people and occurrences within it. It uniquely shapes our understand and response. To understand how we see and respond we must examine our self-paradigm. Using a tool like the Johari window helps. We can list what we know about ourselves and then we can get others to contribute their insights.

Our conditioning, theorists says, comes from three sources or social maps-genetic determinism, psychic determinism and environmental determinism.(6) Our grandparents gave us a genetic map, our parents a psychic map and our friend and society our environmental map. In short, who I now am has been handed to me by others and that can't be changed. They have determined the person I am. Or, so determinist say!

We will take a different approach because determinism seems to fall far short of reality. We approach change, inside-out change- believing that we can change. You can change. Change will come as you will to change. Your change will come from self-determined principles. Like Victor Frankl, you can decide within yourself how all your circumstances will affect you.(7)

We must keep in mind that our kit of tools or motivators for change include not only self-awareness but also imagination, conscience and independent will.(8)

What does proactive mean?

"It means more than merely taking initiative. It means that as human beings we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate our feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen."(9)

Change begins in our attitudes toward our lives. Frankl observed three central values-experiential, creative and attitudinal. Covey commented that the atitudinal value profoundly affect the way in which we respond to our experiences.(10) This invokes a natural law or principle. We naturally want to act not be acted upon. We take control of our lives rather that letting conditions of other folk take control.

Once we have taken control of our lives we can begin to influence our world-our homes, workplace and community. The people who succeed best sell solutions. They bring solutions to observed problems rather than merely complaining about conditions. If a person tends to complain rather than solve problems or resolve issues, they soon become an unattractive and depressing part of our worldscape. We tend to avoid or reject such people. Leaders must hold those they lead and influence to the responsible course of offering solutions rather that complaints. Leaders must hold each other accountable for finding solutions, too.

Consider the words you hear.(11)

Reactive: There is nothing I can do!

Proactive: Let's look at some alternatives.

Reactive: That's just the way I am.

Proactive: I'll consider another approach.

Reactive: I must!

Proactive: I prefer . . .

What words do you hear? What words do you use? The most insidious thing about words lies in their ability to shape behavior and then values. What we say shapes who we become. Proactive words lead to proactive behaviors. "A serious problem with reactive language is that it becomes self-fulfilling prophesy.(12)

Let's look at your immediate world to see what influences your response. Around us lies an area of 'concern(s)".(13) Covey depicts it as a Circle of Concern. At the center lies our ability to make and keep commitments and promises.(14) The next concentric ring creates the Center of Influence. "Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence."(15)

Exerting our influence expands our Circle of Influence. Reacting to outside pressures diminishes our influence and intensifies concerns. We soon see that we have direct control over some areas, indirect control over others and no control over another set of circumstances.(16) We concentrate thought and effort of the direct and indirect control areas within out Circle of Concerns.

We can know in which circle-concern or influence-we find ourselves. Haves fill the Circle of Concern. "If only I had . . ." "I have to have . . .they have . . .." While be's populate the Circle of Influence. I can be more patient . . .I can be more loving . . .I can be more successful . . .I can be a greater influence . . . I can become a leader.(17)



1. Covey, S. R., The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, NYC: Simon & Schuster, A Fireside Book (1990). P. 66.

2. Habits. P. 60.

3. Habits. P. 61.

4. Habits. P. 61.

5. Habits. P. 67.

6. Habits. P. 68.

7. Habits. P. 68.

8. Habits. P. 70f.

9. Habits. P. 70.

10. Habits. P. 74.

11. Habits. P. 78.

12. Habits. P. 79.

13. Habits. P. 81.

14. Habits. P. 91.

15. Habits. P. 83.

16. Habits. P. 85.

17. Habits. P. 89.

The following quotations are taken from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey, Simon & Schuster.

In the midst of the most degrading circumstances imaginable, [Victor] Frankl used the human endowment of self-awareness to discover a fundamental principle about the nature of man:  Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose. (pp.69-70)

Within the freedom to choose are those endowments that make us uniquely human.  In addition to self-awareness, we have imagination -- the ability to create in our minds beyond our present reality.  We have conscience -- a deep inner awareness of right and wrong, of the principles that govern our behavior, and a sense of the degree to which our thoughts and actions are in harmony with them.   And we have independent will -- the ability to act based on our self-awareness, free of all other influences. (p.70)

While the word proactivity is now fairly common in management literature, is is a word you won't find in most dictionaries.   It means more than merely taking initiative.  It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives.  Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. (p.71)

In fact, our most difficult experiences become the crucibles that forge our character and develop the internal powers, the freedom to handle difficult circumstances in the future and to inspire others to do so as well. (p.73)

Our basic nature is to act, and not be acted upon.   As well as enabling us to choose our response to particular circumstances, this empowers us to create circumstances. (p.75)

It is inspiring to realize that in choosing our response to circumstance, we powerfully affect our circumstance.  When we change one part of the chemical formula, we change the nature of the results. (p.86)

While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of those actions.  Consequences are governed by natural law. (p.90)

Our behavior is governed by principles.  Living in harmony with them brings positive consequences.  We are free to choose our response in any situation, but in doing so, we choose the attendant consequence. "When we pick up one end of the stick, we pick up the other." (pp.90-91)

People who exercise their embryonic freedom day after day will, little by little, expand that freedom.  People who do not will find that it withers until they are literally "being lived." (p.93)

The first and most basic habit of a highly effective person in any environment is the habit of proactivity. Being proactive means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.

Look the word responsibility—response-ability—the ability to choose your responses. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.

The opposite of proactive is reactive, The spirit of reactive people is the transfer of responsibility. Their language absolves them of responsibility.

"That's me. That's just the way I am." I am determined. There's nothing I can do about it.

"He makes me so mad!" I'm not responsible. My emotional life is governed by something outside of my control.

Many behavioral scientists have built reactive, deterministic, stimulus-response models of human behavior. The basic idea is that we are conditioned to respond in a particular way to a particular stimulus. In contrast, the proactive model states that between stimulus and response lies our freedom to choose our response.

Proactive people focus their time and energy on their Circle of Influence (things they can control) in lieu of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control (Circle of Concern). In so doing, proactive people use positive energy to influence conditions and increase their Circle of Influence.

Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl, a Jewish prisoner held in a concentration camp during World War II, learned about the reality of proactivity as the "last of the human freedoms."

"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked throughout the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl


Look at Gandhi. While his accusers were in the legislative chambers criticizing him because he wouldn't join in their Circle of Concern rhetoric condemning the British Empire for their subjugation of the Indian people, Gandhi was out in the rice paddies, quietly, slowly, imperceptibly expanding his Circle of Influence with the field laborers. A ground swell of support, of trust, of confidence, followed him through the countryside. Though he held no office or political position, through compassion, courage, fasting, and moral persuasion he eventually brought England to its knees, breaking political domination of three hundred million people with the power of his greatly expanded Circle of Influence.