Be Proactive to Become Productive

by Francisco Saez

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Pursuit of Mastery.

October 8, 2012

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

—Stephen R. Covey


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October 8, 2012

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

—Stephen R. Covey

Viktor Frankl, Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, and survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, wrote the book Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he analyzed, from a psychiatric point of view, humans’ ability to transcend their difficulties. He explains that all human beings, unlike animals, are aware of themselves and have the ability to act on that awareness. This makes us able to respond to a stimulus in a completely different way from the one proposed by our instincts, or from the one we have been taught.

According to this principle of human nature, our power as individuals lies in our freedom of choice. This is why Stephen Covey says that proactivity is the most basic habit we must develop to be efficient and productive.

This type of behavior occurs when we accept the responsibility to make things happen and then take the initiative. We could blame the circumstances, the conditions of our environment, or other people for our problems, but ultimately, we are responsible for our own lives.

“No one can hurt you without your consent.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

How do you know if you are a proactive person? Here are a few clues:

  • Proactive people understand they have the ability to direct their lives.
  • Proactive people act according to decisions they make ​​consciously, and which are based on their principles and values​​.
  • Proactive people, rather than just waiting for things to happen, set their goals and then work to achieve them.
  • Proactive people act on the issues over which they have direct or indirect control, and simply accept that there are others that are out of reach.
  • Proactive people are not afraid to use their imagination and creativity to explore new paths.
  • Proactive people quickly recognize their mistakes, correct them, and learn from them.

And of course, freedom of choice should be carried out accompanied by responsibility:

“Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.”

—Viktor Frankl

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