Catriona Futter – Equip For Life Coaching Becoming your best self and living life to the full – 07713 974138

Category Archives: Good Habits

Habit Number 1: Be proactive

Be proactive

Be proactive

As we start a series looking at the seven habits towards effectiveness, the first and foundational habit is to be proactive. This is primarily about taking responsibility for your life. 

This has been a central tenet of mine for decades, from my previous work as a physiotherapist. You come to me with a terrible hand injury. I cannot magically make your hand better. I can only give you as much information, encouragement and support required to empower you to choose to do your own exercises – to take responsibility for your own rehabilitation.

There is a wonderful old prayer, written by Reinhold Neibuhr from a century ago that goes like this:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

At the root of this wisdom is self-awareness – that central and crucial ability humans have to see and understand their behaviour.

We cannot begin to change the way we respond until we understand it.

It is that very ability to be aware of ourselves and our responses that is the springboard to our first habit – being proactive. To quote Stephen Covey:

Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.

That is a hugely powerful statement – read it again and let it sink in.

We so often hear ourselves say, “he made me so angry” or “she leaves me feeling so discouraged”.

BUT – No one else can make us feel a certain way.

Your actions towards me are the stimulus. But I and I alone choose how I respond. You cannot make me angry – I choose to become angry in response to your actions.

But – and here is the power of being proactive – I have the power to choose a different response. This is not about being pushy or dominant. It is about being response-able: taking the initiative to choose our own response. This can be very hard, especially in the face of a difficult relationship. But choosing our own response – choosing to love even when we don’t feel loving for example – is the root to greater freedom and positive influence.

When we live reactively, we are driven by our feelings, and often behave or talk in a way that abdicates responsibility to others:

“She made me angry, I can’t do that, I don’t have time”

something outside of us is controlling us.

This can trap us into feeling powerless over our own lives.

But being proactive is about control and influence – recognising what we can actually do something about.

Living proactively fits so well with coaching because it is about living and making choices according to our values – and not according to the actions or expectations of others.

Proactive people spend most of their time and energy on things over which they have some influence and can do something about. There are many things that we are concerned about and impact us. But a lot of them are things over which we have no real control – spend time and energy on these things will lead to frustration and lack of progress.

Focus on the weaknesses of others, the problems in the system or the environment, and circumstances over which you have no real control, and there is likely to be blame, frustration, negativity, lack of progress.

Take the initiative to work on things instead that you can do something about and your influence will grow. Recognise when you make a mistake, apologise, seek to make amends, and learn from the situation.

How might this work out in practice this week?

  • pay attention to your language – notice when you hear yourself say ” I can’t….I have to….if only….he/she makes me….there’s no other way”. Practice instead choices like “I can….I will….I get to….I choose to….what alternatives are there?”
  • recognise that if you want to improve your situation, work on the one thing over which you have control – you. Where do you feel stuck? What can you change in that situation – usually, that will start with yourself and your own behaviour. What does it mean to take initiative and behave differently – to be more active, to make healthy choices, to be more supportive, to listen more than speak, to let go of hurts from the past and be more kind…..what would it be for you?
  • where can you take the initiative with others this week? In your workplace or family, rather than getting sucked into blame or negativity, where can you seek to be supportive, positive, and look at what you can do rather than what you can’t?

Being proactive – having the courage and making the choice to change the things we can: ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

What would you think is one of the most important books of our time?

Once upon a time, not so long ago….and so begins many a good story. What makes a good story?

important booksWe will all have different views on this of course. Themes that might emerge include strong characters which develop, grow and mature as the story progresses, continuity of plot with integrity in how the characters behave, and some understanding of the inner wranglings of the main character’s lives – the WHY of what they do, aka motive. We might enjoy twists and turns of a plot, but ultimately a resolution that shows how the individuals in the story have moved from where they started to the conclusion.

Let me tell you about a book that is all about character, one that contains truths that are based on timeless principles and not on fads, trends or the latest craze. A book that has been described variously as

  • life changing
  • transformational
  • a penetrating truth about human nature
  • pathbreaking
  • essential reading for anyone who wants to make a difference
  • one of the most important books of our time

A book that has sold over 25 million copies and is on the best-selling-books-of-all-time list, and one that is as relevant today as when it was first published nearly 30 years ago.

What am I talking about?

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey.

Why all the preamble – why didn’t I just say that in the first place?

Because I wanted you to keep an open mind, as I seek over the next few weeks to muse on each habit, it’s impact and how we might learn to put them into practice.

The Seven Habits is a well known and well recognised book, and one that sometimes is put into a ‘management book‘ category. I opened a conversation recently about the book, and was met with some skepticism and the view that it was a book about systems.

There are systems in it, but primarily, it’s a book about character. The focus is on building character and not on seeking to have greater success. My favourite saying, oft quoted by my wise and long-departed grandfather is

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”

The Seven Habits is a book about inner transformational growth that enables greater effectiveness and fulfillment in all areas of life because the book equips you with principles that not only work and stay with you, but serve as a framework on which to build personal effectiveness and growth.

Reading the book, you learn to fish rather than just enjoying a one-off fish supper.

What matters most is not what we do or what we have, but who we are. Just look around at the popularity of mindfulness, gratitude, the role of exercise for our mental – as well as physical – well being, and you see how relevant is a book that teaches skills to build inner character, rather than seeking external success and acquisition for personal happiness.

In the 25th anniversary edition of the book, published in 2014, there 17 pages of glowing endorsements from the great and the influential including this one from Arianna Huffington, that really struck me:

Twenty-five years after it first appeared, the wisdom of The Seven Habits is more relevant than ever before. On an individual level people are burning out, and on a collective level we are burning up the planet. So, Dr Covey’s emphasis on self-renewal and his understanding that leadership and creativity require us to tap into our own physical, mental and spiritual resources, are exactly what we need in this moment.

I am much looking forward to re-reading the book as I plan and write my musings here for the next few weeks. It has hugely influenced my team coaching material, what I presented recently as life-skills to the sixth formers at my daughter’s secondary school, and forms a solid basis to much of my coaching work.

If someone were to ask you what were the most useful habits you have in the course of your own life, what would you say? Pay attention to that, and to what emerges from these seven habits over coming weeks.

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