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Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Being proactive

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Editor's Note: This is the first story in a seven-part series on the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. A class on these habits is offered periodically by the Airman and Family Readiness Center.

Being proactive isn't just about getting down to business, but rather an outlook on life. I recently took a class, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and I found a new perspective on being proactive.

Be proactive. This is the habit of choice, according to Steven Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. This is where we have free will, the choice to be proactive or reactive -- a product of our circumstances or a product of our choices.

Before I took this class my idea of being proactive was being a step ahead of procrastination. To me this meant that if a tasking came down and was due on a Friday, I would accomplish it on Wednesday. This is a good behavior to have, however, that alone is not what being proactive is all about. Being proactive is looking at things differently and acting on things that we can influence.

"When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves" is a concept from Austrian Holocaust survivor, neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. This idea is the foundation for developing the habit of being proactive.

Being proactive is a challenge that I face every single day, professionally and personally. I realize the things that I can and cannot influence. I hold myself responsible for the things I can change and now I also hold myself responsible for my reaction to the things that I cannot change. No matter what the circumstances are, we need to pause and think about the situation and look at it outside of our window of perspective.

When I go grocery shopping I like to get in, get out and get home. There are so many people who use the commissary and I often can't help but notice how full it is. Sometimes I feel like I go in to get one thing and I am forced to move as slow as molasses through the aisles because the commissary is having a special on brisket and is packed tight.

I used to get frustrated on days like that. Now if I go in there and I have to maneuver like a forklift operator to get a loaf of bread, I choose to look at the situation from a different perspective, be patient and occupy my mind with positive thoughts. I realize that no matter how much I need to get home, that bread is not going to jump in my basket any faster if I become angry or bitter because I have to wait a little bit longer.

I have always had the ability of self-awareness, but once I learned to be proactive, I realized I have the responsibility of self awareness. I have freedom to choose how I affect a situation and its outcome, whether I choose to act on it or let it act on me.

My ultimate goal is to break my negative patterns and transition to become a more positive and effective person. I am choosing to put my energy and focus on the things that I have control of and less time focusing on things of little concern. That's being proactive.

If this concept of being proactive sounds like something that you're interested in then I challenge you to change your reactive behaviors, throw out "I can't" and "if only" from your vocabulary and frame of mind. I challenge you to be conscious of your thoughts and actions towards others and situations and make the choice to be more effective by being proactive.

If you want to learn more about being proactive or any of the seven habits, call the Airman Family and Readiness Center at 720 847-6681 for more information about the free three-day class.