Today we’re starting a new series on the popular bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. First published in 1989, this essential manual is filled with powerful lessons in personal change and has continued to entirely transform lives again and again.

Let’s jump right in with Habit #1: Be Proactive

What does it mean to be proactive?

Author Siim Land says this about it: “Being proactive means that you don’t let your situation dictate your reality. It’s about taking extreme ownership over one’s life and rising above circumstance…Being reactive [on the other hand] means that you take a passive stance towards life…Such people say things like: ‘There’s nothing I can do’, and will simply stand there while getting beaten. Or when they fail miserably: ‘That’s just who I am – I have those failure genes.’ Because of their own limiting beliefs and doubts, they start re-creating their own self-fulfilling prophecies over and over again. Proactive people, however, realize that they’re in control – they have the ability to choose how they’re going to react to a given stimulus or situation.”

To put it another way, being proactive is to take initiative, it’s to be a self-starter. You don’t wait for opportunities to come your way. Instead, you venture forth and create the opportunities for yourself. You open your own doors. You make your own terms. And if something doesn’t go your way, you don’t just turn on your back and give up. You pick yourself up, figure out what went wrong this time around, and then go back at it in a different way.

Any successful person will tell you that they had to be proactive to get to where they are today. There are countless stories of entrepreneurs and inventors and writers who experience failure after failure or rejection after rejection…but they didn’t back down from their dreams. They believed in their dream and in what they felt called to do, and they kept moving forward until they made their dreams happen.

How can you be more proactive in life?

A lot of it has to do with being careful about the way you speak.

“Language has a huge impact on the way we perceive the world and what beliefs we have,” author Siim Land says.

Covey outlines examples of reactive and proactive language in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

  • Reactive Language: There’s nothing I can do. That’s just the way I am. They won’t allow that. I have to do that. I can’t.
  • Proactive Language: I can choose a different approach. I can change. I can create an effective presentation. I choose. I will.

See the difference?

Which camp are you in? Do you tend to use reactive language, or do you use proactive language? Monitor the way you speak for the next 24 hours to find out.

Remember, the words we speak very often create the reality we experience, so it’s essential we use words that are proactive and empowering.

Just as important to being proactive is focusing on your circle of influence.

We each have a Circle of Concern. It can contain things such as our health, our children, our debts, problems at work, and so on. Some of these things we have no control over. Some of them we do, and these items would go in our Circle of Influence because we can influence them in some way.

Which circle are you focusing the majority of your time and energy on? Covey writes that “proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying, causing their Circle of Influence to increase.”

On the flip side, when you spend too much time worrying over things you can’t control, it only leads to stress and burnout. Do yourself a favor in 2017 and spend more time in your Circle of Influence, the things that you can to some extent control.

By taking the initiative, minding your language, and focusing the majority of your time and energy on the issues you can influence, you’ll gradually become more and more proactive. As a proactive individual, you’ll understand that you alone are responsible for your life and can choose to make it whatever you want it to be. It’s a powerful mindset shift, and one that will help you accomplish more in the long run.