Search This Blog

Follow by Email

Monday, January 6, 2014

Make the First Move

Today I'm reading Matthew 6:33 "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

As I mentioned in my sermon yesterday I am not one who is big on making New Year's resolutions, yet I do think the New Year is a good time to reevaluate and refocus. Last New Year's I blogged about a couple of books that encourage you to pick one word to guide or define your focus for the year, rather than a long list of resolutions. ( I still like that idea. My word for 2013 was "Create" - but I'm not sure about my word for 2014. 

I was actually thinking about cheating by using a Japanese word/phrase "Shodo-o-Seisu" which means "control the first move." An English equivalent might could be to be "proactive." To be proactive is the first habit in Stephan Covey's paradigm of the "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" which is like a leadership Bible for me. 

Here's how one author summarizes what being proactive means:

Covey starts the explanation of Habit 1 – Be Proactive with stressing the uniquely human ability of being able to reflect on yourself, your thoughts and your feelings in other words, the human self-awareness. It is our self-awareness which sets us aside from animals and which allow human kind to move forward from generation to generation. It is our self-awareness through which we can evaluate and learn from our experiences and those of others. It is why we can make and break our habits.
And that is fundamental point, through our self-awareness we can improve ourselves if we choose to do so.
On the back of this Covey outlines three generally accepted theories for determinism or to put it in other words three reasons why things are the way they are. These theories are often combined, but in there pure form the explain life as follows:
         Genetic determinism says your grandparents did it to you. Your grandpa had a temper and so do you. Not your fault is it? It’s in your DNA and that’s that.
         Psychic determinism takes one step closes and basically says that it was your parents who did it to you. Your upbringing and your childhood basically made you who you are.
         Environmental determinism says it is your boos who is doing it to you right now, or if it’s not your boss, it is your husband or wife, or that terrible teenager. It that is not enough then it must be the terrible economic situation we’re in. heck it must be Obama’s fault.

Notice a common denominator in these deterministic theories? Whether genetic, psychic, or environmental, one thing is for sure, none of it is your fault! These theories are based on the concept that just like Pavlov’s dog we humans have been conditioned to respond to certain events in certain ways.

At this point in the book, Covey brings forward the story of Viktor Frankl. Frankl was a psychiatrist and a determinist in the best of Freud’s traditions. In his early days Frankl would have told you that your childhood shapes your character, your personality and essentially sets the limits and parameters of your life. Nothing you can do about it.
But, Frankl was also a Jew and during World War II he was imprisoned in the death camps of Nazi Germany.
There, his parents, his brother and his wife died. Except for his sister his entire family perished. Frankl himself was tortured and subjected to the most horrible and demeaning conditions. One day, naked and alone in a small room Frankl realized he still had “the last of the human freedoms”. The one freedom his Nazi guards could not take away. Frankl realized that whatever was done to him, he still had the freedom to decide how he would let this affect him. He still had the freedom to choose his response to what was being done to him.
Frankl discovered that between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose. And it is this choice by Frankl of how to respond to the events in his life, that brings Covey to his Proactive Model.

In Covey’s definition pro-activeness or proactivity is more than taking initiative. In his view, being proactive means accepting that as human beings we are fully responsible for our own lives. Our behavior and our actions are the result of our choices, not our conditions. We have a responsibility for how we choose to act and make things happen.
Responsibility or “response-ability”.
Looking at the word as response-ability that you will get a better understanding of what Covey’s means with the word responsibility. An ability to choose your response.
In Covey’s view highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame their circumstances, conditions or conditioning for their behavior or actions. The behaviour and actions of proactive people are the result of their conscious choices based on their values rather than on their feelings or conditions.
On the other hand Covey describes reactive people as people who are often affected by their environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t the bad weather affects their performance and their attitude. Covey sees proactive people as people who carry their own weather with them. Similarly, reactive people are affected by their social environment. When people are nice to them, treat them well, they feel well. If not, well, you get the picture. As Gandhi said “They cannot take away our self respect, if we do not give it to them.” Or in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt “No one can hurt you without your consent.”
Covey is the first to recognize in his book that this view on being proactive, that you always have a choice, no matter how bad it gets, is very difficult to accept emotionally. Especially for those of us who get dealt very tough cards in our life; we know that life is not fair. But the whole point of Covey’s proactive model is that no matter what we do have a choice on how we respond to the events in our life. And most of us never have to face the horrors Frankl had to face in Nazi Germany before he realized that even he had a choice.
I think this is powerful stuff. Can you imagine how your daily life might be different if you actually embraced the concept of being proactive? In your faith. In your family. In your business. Every day you face a chess board of options - time to make the first move.

No comments:

Post a Comment