HABIT 1: BE PROACTIVE
It is so easy to be reactive! You get caught up in the moment. You say things you don’t mean. You do things you later regret. And you think, “If only I had stopped to think about it, I never would have reacted that way!”
Family life would be a whole lot better if (people acted according to their values instead of reacting to the emotion or circumstance of the moment It’s possible to develop a habit of learning to pause and give wiser responses. Proactively is the ability to act rather than react.
I have a friend who makes a powerful proactive choice every day. When she comes home from work, she sits in her car in the driveway and pauses. She takes a minute to think about the members of her family and what they are doing inside the house She considers what kind of feeling she wants to help create when she goes, inside. She says to herself, “my family is the most enjoyable, the most pleasant, the most important part of my life. I’m going to go into my home and feel and communicate my love for them.”
Just think of the difference this makes in her family. And another friend told me this story, which shows Habit 1 in action:
While my wife was out of the room, my three-year-old son Brenton emptied a one-and-a-half-gallon jug of water from the fridge-most of it onto the kitchen floor. My wife’s initial reaction had been to yell at him. Instead, she stopped herself and said patiently, “Brenton, what were you trying to do?”
“I was trying to be a helping man, Mom,” he replied proudly.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“I washed the dishes for you.”
Sure enough, there on the kitchen table were all the dishes he had washed with the water from the jug.
“Well, honey, why did you use the water from the fridge?”
“I couldn’t reach the water from the sink.”
“Oh!” my wife said. Then she looked around. “Well, what do you think you could do next time that would make less of a mess?”
He thought about it for a minute. Then his face lit up. “I could do it in the bathroom!”
“The dishes might break in the bathroom,” she replied. “But how about this? What if you came and got me and I helped you move a chair in front of the kitchen sink so you could do the work there?”
“Good idea!” he exclaimed.
As my wife was telling me what had happened, I realized how important it was that she had been able to catch herself between stimulus and response. She had made a proactive choice.
One useful way to communicate the idea of proactivity is through an analogy I call the “emotional bank account.” This account is like a financial one in that you can make “deposits”-things that build trust in the relationship-or “withdrawals” – things that decrease the level of trust. The balance in the account determines how well you can communicate and solve problems with another person.
One of the great benefits of being proactive is that you can choose to make deposits instead of withdrawals. No matter what the situation, there are always things you can choose to do that will make relationships better.
Little kindnesses go a long way toward building relationships of trust and unconditional love. just think about the impact in your own family of saying “thank you,” “please” or “you go first.” Or performing unexpected acts of service such as phoning to see if there’s anything you can pick up at the store on your way home. Twelve hugs a day-that’s what people need. Hugs can be physical, verbal, visual or environmental. And each one is a deposit in the emotional bank account.
You would be hard pressed to come up with a deposit that has more impact than making and keeping promises. just think about it! How much excitement, anticipation and hope is created by a promise?
Our daughter Cynthia shared this memory:
When I was twelve, Dad promised to take me with him on a business trip to San Francisco. I was so excited! After Dad’s meetings, we planned to go to Chinatown for dinner, see a movie, take a ride on a trolley car, then go back to our hotel room for hot fudge sundaes from room service. I was dying with anticipation.
The day finally arrived. The hours dragged by as I waited at the hotel. Finally, at 6:30 p.m., Dad returned with a dear friend and influential business acquaintance. My heart sank as this man said, “I’m so delighted to have you here, Stephen. Tonight, Lois and I would like to take you to the wharf for a seafood dinner, and then you must see the view from our house.” I could see my hopes and plans going down the drain.
I will never forget the feeling I had when Dad said, “Gosh, Bill, I’d love to, but this is a special time with my daughter. We’ve already got it planned to the minute.”
We did absolutely everything we had planned. I don’t think any young girl ever loved her father as much as I loved mine that night.
Stephen Covey ( Author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)