FranklinCovey has recently partnered with OpenSesame to offer some of our online learning courses to their catalog. In addition the company is reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Below is a post from Sunny Zhang, an intern at OpenSesame about her experience reading the book.
There are a lot of habits that people understand are good but rarely do. “Put first things first!” “Sharpen the saw!” “Be proactive!” We hear this advice, and we want to make a change, but we find it hard to start. For example, what exactly are “first things” to put first? Which “saw” should I sharpen to most effectively do my job?
These are the questions I ask myself as I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Those questions are really hard to answer, but as I evaluate the successful people I know, what differentiates them is their ability to be proactive – Habit 1 in Stephen R. Covey’s essential series of recommendations for changing your life. Proactivity is the key to the door of success.
In mainland China where I was born, there are significantly fewer opportunities to create change. People are pushed by the rapidly developing society while at the same time being restricted by culture. You find hard-working people everywhere, but very few of them are following paths that they’ve chosen for themselves. In such a society, being proactive is limited to the circumstances people can control within a dictated path. In that case, “be proactive” sounds more like “study longer hours to get a better grade” or “do everything you can to make your boss like you”. Even when people are hardworking and diligent, only very few people achieve the quality of life they imagine. One can’t help but wonder:
In cases where the odds appear to be against you, is it meaningful to continue to be proactive?
The answer is yes. Especially in restricted societies, a deep commitment to proactivity is the only way to achieve meaningful change.
It’s not easy to keep focusing inside yourself when the outside circumstances are limiting and difficult. But deciding to focus on what you can do to change your life is incredibly empowering. makes a difference. No matter what the situation is, holding a positive attitude, learning something new and acting on these insights will lead you to a whole new level.
The people who effectively lead change within themselves are equipped to survive and thrive in hard situations. Instead of complaining and blaming others, proactive people hold fast to their values and do the right thing in a smart way. Even in China, although there is relatively limited space for individuals to pursue what they want, a small portion of people succeed as a result of being “super proactive”.
As I read The 7 Habits, I challenge myself to look deeply at what I can improve, and I set new goals for myself: To resist the cultural pressure to follow a predetermined path and instead make a different choice – to set a path for myself. To remember that there are always factors I can control, even if it’s only my reaction to the pressures I face.
Whatever the environment is, a proactive person is more likely to succeed than a reactive person. This habit number one – ‘be proactive’ – has the potential to not only change individuals, but to change societies. I hope I will lead the way in my society with my new motto: Things will get better when more people stop complaining and start solving the problems.
FranklinCovey recently added their courses to OpenSesame, global elearning marketplace, where Sunny Zhang is a marketing intern. She is an experienced event planner and nonprofit organization manager.
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