This is a continuation of the blog post 10 Habits of Highly Effective Exercisers.

If you'll recall, the first habit was "Be Proactive," which was directly *borrowed* from Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Here's the blurb I wrote next to it:

This means that you are 100% responsible for everything that happens (or doesn't happen) to you.  Once you recognize that you are in the driver's seat, you begin to actually drive.  Take control.  Be the predator, not the prey!

There's actually a lot more to be said about being proactive than what I could put in the little blurb, so I decided to expound upon the concept in an attempt to drive it home.

Allow me to start with, not Dr. Covey, but another author who espouses the concept: Jack Canfield.  In his book The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, he writes:

One of  the most pervasive myths in the American culture today is that we are entitled to a great life- that somehow, somewhere, someone (certainly not us) is responsible for filling our lives with continual happiness, exciting career options, nurturing family time, and blissful personal relationships simply because we exist.  But the real truth [...] is that there is only one person responsible for the quality of the life you live.  That person is you. If you want to be successful, you have to take 100% responsibility for everything that you experience in your life.

What is so utterly in our face is the fact that nobody will do it for us.

In other words, if we don't do it for ourselves, it won't happen.  We are responsible.  But let me take just a minute to talk about this word "responsibility."  It's kind of a heavy word, isn't it?  Let's dissect it for a moment.  Response - ability means the ability to respond to a given situation.  A response differs from a reaction.  Reactions get us trapped in loops, like Pavlov's Dogs.  The dogs' food was given in conjunction with a bell.  The dogs reacted to the situation by salivating.  Soon, the dogs began to associate the bell with food, and they began salivating to the bell regardless of the presence of food. By contrast, humans have the ability to overcome our initial, gut-level reactions and consider our response.

Let's look at a real-world example:

Let's say you had a bad weigh-in.  Now the reality is that you are bound to have a bad weigh it sooner or later.  I have NEVER heard of anyone who lost a significant amount of weight without ever having a bad weigh in.  Most, at some point, go into a full-blown plateau.  Most people react to this situation by saying to themselves, "See!  I knew this wouldn't work!  I give up!"  But what other options do we have in that situation?  Perhaps we could allow ourselves to see the situation for what it is - temporary.  In the spirit of being proactive (rather than re-active), we could go over our strategy and look for flaws.  If we're in a plateau (stagnant weight loss for several weeks) perhaps we could make adjustments in the program.  Or we could CHOOSE to stay the course and believe that the body will get back to making progress.

Let's look at another dimension of this concept of being proactive.

The concept of taking 100% responsibility for what happens to you can make some people curl up in the fetal position.  If we're looking backward, taking responsibility can be mistaken for accepting blame.  "It's my fault that I am the way I am."  This doesn't seem very proactive, does it?  Let's look at it differently.  First of all, instead of blaming yourself for your life not being the way you want it to be, let's instead forgive ourselves and acknowledge that we did the best we could with the resources we had available.  Don't spend too much time looking back. 

I do have two exceptions to this rule:

  1. The first exception is that when something doesn't go right, learn whatever lessons the past has to teach you.  Making mistakes is one thing, but if you learn from them, the mistake becomes a lesson -- sometimes a painful lesson, but a lesson nevertheless. 
  2. My second exception is to look back for perspective.  Sometimes you may find yourself feeling stuck.  In these cases, a retrospective view can be helpful to remind you of how far you've come.

The true essence of being proactive is looking into the future.

This embodies taking charge.  The past is the past, but the future is ours to create.  From this perspective, being responsible for our lives becomes exciting.  If we are responsible, and we understand that nobody else will do it for us, we can create the life we want.

I should stop here and clarify something.  It's not actually the future that we can take control of, well at least not directly.  It's actually the present that we can take control of.  All we have is right now.

By taking control of the present, we have influence over our future and GRADUALLY we begin to have influence over our past.

In essence, we can take control of our lives and whether or not we have the life we want by taking charge of what we're doing RIGHT NOW.  Don't start tomorrow ... don't start next week ... don't start later today ... start NOW!  The conscious decision needs to be made and acted upon now and continuously.  The more control you can take over the particular moment you are in, the better your outcomes will be. 

Are you ready to take control?