Joe Wilson, Kanye West and the 1st Habit of Highly Effective People

I know what you might be thinking. Why am I bringing this up when the dead horse of Outbursts Anonymous (Joe Wilson’s “You Lie” and Kanye Wests “I’ll let you finish but . . . “)  has been beaten to many times this week? Well, their snap reactions made me think about something I learned a while ago.

In Stephen Covey’s book (7 habits of highly effective people), the first habit is described as be proactive (rather than reactive).

To illustrate, this is reactive

JWKW1st_1 copy

And this is proactive


Mr Covey explains that to move from dependence to independence, the choice  to be proactive is the first step i.e. realizing that we control our actions. Not our environment or our upbringing or our nature. It’s easy to say “That’s the way I am” or “They made me angry” but that does not explain the response. When there is no gap between stimulus and response (reaction), fireworks always result. The point is not that we shouldn’t react at all, but to produce a measured response that reflects thought.

I was reading an article recently where an older man was advising a younger man on marriage (The source of that article is a man talking about his first 100 days of marriage. His wife is also blogging. Very entertaining and eye-opening reads). What the older man does when he senses things getting testy between him and his wife is ask “How important is this to you?” Just 6 words. Yet, those words and the silent moment aftwerwards alone would greatly reduce the divorce rates and breakups that happen. Just taking a small moment to think and then respond always makes a huge difference.

Now this habit is not saying that there should be no response. I have seen and experienced the danger of bottling up emotions can do. It is important to respond, but just as relevant is the thought prior to response. The stimuli for the Mr Wilson and Mr West was a difference in opinion, what’s yours and how do you deal?

Brain image from Wikipedia.

7 responses to this post.

  1. Excellent post. You bring up a real good point that those six words can apply to any situation, and the goal in life is really to be able to step outside emotions and into rationality. It takes practice, of course, and discipline and patience. This society moves so fast and we’re raised to be reactive. (Brilliant tie in to the Stephen Covey book). That’s why it’s important that we continue to seek wise counsel from our elders or anybody that has learned how to control those basic instincts. For me, I try to keep my cool but focusing on the issue, rather than the emotions associated with the issue. It’s tough at times. If necessary, I go for a drive or go to a quiet room to settle down and get my mind right.


  2. Posted by Raja on September 17, 2009 at 12:54 am

    Very nice!!!! Keep up the good work


  3. Thanks Mr Nichols. By the time I get married, you’ll be the elder (not age-wise but experience-wise) so I’ll be listening to your advice then.

    Thanks Raj, I’ll try to.


  4. Posted by LeeCee on September 19, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    Bravo! This is so very, very true. You’ll never regret taking a moment to think before you act, but if you act without thinking you’ll usually end up in a sticky situation (a la Mr. West.).


    • Thank you. Fortunately (or unfortunately), it’s people like Mr West and Mr Wilson that remind us of what not to do.


  5. This reminds me, I picked up an awesome book for my flight back here: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s an absolute must read. It’s about how a majority of the decisions we make are acts of our subconscious mind versus the conscious one.


  6. Yea I remember reading that book a while ago. I thought his point was that when it comes to decisions that involve life and death and fast decisions, you can make them subconsciously.
    Might have to read that again.


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