1. Being Proactive: The first habit of Highly Effective People

Co-authored by Prof. Biju G Pillai, and Prof. Omkar Bapat

Article series 01 of 07 on ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’

There is no ‘short cut’ to success. Discipline, dedication and determination are the three keys to it. The sweat of persistence and the effort of smart work is the ‘juice’ of success. As quoted by Drew Houston, Founder and CEO of Dropbox, ‘Individuals need to be systematic in training themselves. They must figure out what they do not know and acquire the necessary learning for it by themselves as one cannot expect anyone else to do it for ourselves’.

The first habit of highly successful people lies in ‘Proactivity’. A proactive individual has a greater chance of achieving success than the one who waits for an external stimuli for movement and taking decisions. All wealthy, famous and noted individuals in the world from Steve Jobs to Pablo Escobar have made their pile of wealth and earned their name and fame by being proactive.

An individual faces multiple situations ranging from good and bad in his daily life. He has the choice of managing his response to these situations by being either reactive or proactive. Experience has shown that individuals who respond proactively to the diverse situations in life have a greater chance of success than the individuals who simply react to the situations.

Dr. Stephen. R. Covey explains that human beings have the capacity of ‘self-awareness’, recognizing themselves as human beings and not as animals and can use this ability as a mechanism to choose how to respond to any stimulus. Unlike animals we have an independent will as we choose to respond to situations like a programmer unlike animals who respond to a stimulus like a program.

Dr. Covey gave an example of a Jewish psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl. An Austrian neurologist, he was marked for ‘special action’ on account of him being a Jew and was imprisoned in several death camps namely Auschwitz, Klaufering and Turkheim. His wife, mother and brother perished in these camps. However, Viktor Frankl did not die, as he chose to live having realized that he alone had the power to choose his response to the situation he was in. He visualized himself as a teacher, instructing his students into the fine details of psychiatry and made himself useful as a doctor and survived until the end of the Second World War.

Another example can be given about Major James Nesmeth, an American combat pilot who found himself in a similar situation like Viktor Frankl as an American POW in Vietnam during the war. He too choose to live and survived his ordeal in hell visualizing how he could perfect his skills in a game of Golf and managed to shoot a hole-in-one post his liberation from the camps.

Through these examples, it is clear that individuals who choose to view a given situation in the light of proactivity enable themselves to focus their efforts into managing and making the most from the situation by employing their knowledge and resources to influence and manifest change, thereby gaining a profit from the situation.

Steps for being proactive:

  1. Target YOU:Success or failure, it all lies within you. If you choose to be proactive, you will succeed. You can blame the entire heaven for your failures but in the end you know, that you are to blame for it.
  2. Become a ‘solver’ in life:One of the greatest skills of success, is the skill for solving problems. Proactive people choose to solve a problem by focusing on the things that are within one’s control rather than wasting time, whining on things that are not in one’s control.
  3. Become accountable for your work:Proactive people ‘own’ the things that they do by taking the responsibility for it. When you bear the onus of achieving the set goal, you will focus all your efforts into fulfilling your goal as you are accountable for your success in life.
  4. Work SMART:Proactive people are believers in solving their problems and achieving their goals in a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) way. Smart work increases the probability of success and paves the way for efficient utilization of knowledge and resources.
  5. Create a ‘blueprint’ of success:Proactive people create the ‘blueprint’ of their success by identifying the goals and the resources allotted for it and then form  a plan and measuring it by setting milestones based on a specific timeframe.
  6. Make your efforts consistent:One of the reasons human beings became the dominant species on Earth is because of their consistency and persistence when it came to hunting and chasing prey. Proactive people do not stop their efforts if they encounter obstacles or difficulties as they know no obstacle is too high or no difficulty is too deep for a man determined to achieve his goal.
  7. The right circle of influence:A quote in the Panchatantra states that ‘A vulture is more preferable as a king if he is advised by swans’. This means that a leader who surrounds himself with the right influence comprised of driven and effective people has a greater chance of success no matter what his position or station is in life.
  8. Adopt the mantle of honesty in life:Proactive people believe in being ‘honest’ with reference to situations in life so that they can identify a problem and take measures in solving it immediately instead of living in an escapist fantasy world of excuses.


Ordinary people wait for the key for unlocking the gates of success. Proactive people make their own keys and open the gates of success.


  1. Dr. Stephen. R. Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
  2. Wikipidea. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  3. Greg McKeown, Stephen R. Covey Taught Me Not to Be Like Him
  4. Dan Schawbel, Stephen R. Covey Revisits The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  5. Kevin Ohannessian, Leadership Hall of Fame: Stephen R Covey, Author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’
  6. Douglas Martin, Stephen R. Covey, Herald of Good Habits, Dies at 79
  7. Stephen. R. Covey, About Stephen R. Covey
  8. Brianna Whilting, Stephen R. Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Chapter 5  /  Lesson 9
  9. Tom Butler-Bowdon, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  11. Dr. Stephen. R. Covey, Quotes


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Dr.(Col) Bala Sir
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Dr. (Col.) A. Balasubramanian is a classic example of courage, commitment and intimate relationship with the corporate world. His love for Knowledge and perfection is unimaginable he has created more than 30000 successful MBA's all throughout this Lifetime.
He passion for writing has not stopped till now , he always write new pieces of short stories every month.