I’ve been re-reading some books that are considered classics. One I’ve been slowly working my way through again is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. My dad gave me a copy when I was 14 years old and I’ve read a few times since then. Even if you haven’t read it, you’ll recognize a lot of the concepts.

The first habit is “Be Proactive” and one of my favorite parts is when he talks about Viktor Fankl (of Man’s Search for Meaning fame). Victor Frankl was imprisoned in Nazi Germany during WWII. From the book:

“One day, [Viktor Frankl] began to become aware of what he later called ‘the last of the human freedoms’ – the freedom his Nazi captors could not take away. They could control his entire environment, they could do what they wanted with his body, but Victor Frankl himself was a self-aware being who could look as an observer at his very involvement. His basic identity was intact. He could decide within himself how all of this was going to affect him. Between what happened to him, or the stimulus, and his response to it, was his freedom or power to choose the response.”

He summarizes the section with this: “Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.”


He gives some examples of reactive language we use and a possible proactive response:

Reactive languageProactive Language
There’s nothing I can do.Let’s look at our alternatives.
That’s just the way I am.I can choose a different approach.
They won’t allow that.I can create an effective presentation.
I have to do that.I will choose an appropriate response.
I can’t.I choose.
I must.I prefer.
If only.I will.

This concept changed my view of the world. The ability to pause and choose is so empowering. Our “circle of concern” is usually bigger than our “circle of influence” but a positive approach to solving problems widens our influence beyond what we directly control and can create real and lasting change.


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