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  • Writer's pictureThe RES Tutor

Becoming Proactive

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” Dr. Stephen R. Covey.

Some of us might be familiar with Covey's best seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide. In today's post, we will be diving deeper into the first habit - "Be proactive".

Proactivity is about taking responsibility for one's reaction to one's own experiences, taking the initiative to respond positively and improve the situation. Effective people choose to take the initiative and act. The key lesson is understanding whether you control, influence, or merely have concern about an impact. We can ignore areas outside of these three circles as they are of no concern to you.

Through our years from primary school, university to work, we're likely to have noticed how how differently people either react to change or how they choose to respond to change. Those who effectively embrace change, focus their time and energy on things they actually have control over, instead of wasting their time and energy on things they don’t.

The Three Circles

The outer circle of concern includes everything that impacts you. Some areas of the outer circle are areas where your choices have a direct impact – this is your circle of influence. The inner circle represents matters you directly control.

Productive people exert effort in their Circle of Influence.

1. Circle of Control

Be proactive in the areas you have direct control over. Although making the best choices won't be easy, you're in charge. These areas include:

  • What time you go to bed and get up in the morning

  • Whether you eat healthy foods and exercise

  • What you buy, read, listen to, and watch

  • Where you live and work

2. Circle of Influence

Being proactive in your Circle of Influence will help you become more influential, even though there are still areas that you don't fully control:

  • Your health

  • A job promotion or business success

  • Local politics

For example, being nice to a fellow colleague at work influences whether they will like you, yet it doesn’t guarantee it!

From another perspective, becoming a more effective person will help expand your Circle of Influence. For instance, proactively leading your Team will give you more influence than simply laying back as a team member.

3. Circle of Concern

This circle lies outside your Circle of Influence. Avoid the negative energy of focusing on areas that concern you, yet you don’t influence.

We can’t control the economy or a global pandemic. As we react, we tend to focus on the Circle of Concern, which depletes our energy because we have no control over it. Hence, the energy focused on the Circle of Concern is negative.

Moreover, if you focus on the Circle of Concern and neglect the Circle of Influence, eventually the Circle of Influence will get smaller. This will add to feelings of stress and helplessness, because you cannot change anything in the Circle of Concern.

Reactive people will often blame or complain about these concerns. This wastes time and shrinks their circle of influence.


Proactive people focus their efforts on their Circles of Influence & Control, which are the areas we have control over and we can act upon. They work on the things they can do something about: health, children, business, or work. When you act on your Circle of Influence you are able to reduce stress levels and increase happiness, because you can initiate and influence change.

Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern, on things over which they have little or no control: the national debt, terrorism, or the weather. Reactive people tend to neglect those issues that are under their control and influence. Their focus is elsewhere and their Circle of Influence shrinks.

Gaining awareness of the areas in which we expend our energies is a giant step in becoming proactive. What will you differently from today? Here're some questions to kickstart your journey to becoming a more effective person:

  1. Where are you currently spending the majority of your focus & time? Are these in the Circle of Concern or Influence?

  2. What strategies or simple daily habits can you adopt to help you focus on the things you can control and transform your life?

  3. Which areas of your lifestyle fall within your Circle of Concern? How can you minimise / eliminate them?

Need more study tips and tricks? Give our specially curated RES Mind Maps a try! Make use of the faster way to digest all the RES syllabus today. Learn more here!

The above information is adapted from Mathew J. Abraham's article on Abraham | Law and Steve Musica's article on Lean East.

The above information is correct as on the date of listing. While every reasonable effort has been taken, errors may still arise. The author and publisher shall not be liable for any printing error, typo error or mistake.


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