Habits for a healthy lifestyle

Habits for a healthy lifestyle – 1 Proactivity

Zoë Whitby, ZW Coaching, www.zwcoaching.co.uk, www.facebook.com/ZWcoachingpage

Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a bestseller and well known in management circles for its approach to self improvement.

As a coach and trainer, I believe that everyone has potential to gain greater results and to achieve more – it’s just that we all have a different starting point, different perspectives, different beliefs about our capabilities and different barriers that stop us from getting what we really want.

Working with Peak Physique Retreat, I will be introducing techniques and tools to help you assess your life holistically and take the first steps to improvement.

In each of my blogs I will explain one of Stephen Covey’s Habits and how it can apply to living a healthier and more effective life.

It’s often not ‘rocket science’ – you may have already heard about these things.  Having the knowledge (WHAT to do) is one thing; to make something a ‘habit’ may also mean developing new skills and will only come about if you have  the desire to make the change..

Without the Desire, you will fail to get off the starting blocks – in fact more than desire, it’s also about belief – this quote from Henry Ford is one to remember:

“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right!”

We explore the concept of beliefs more on the Peak Physique Retreat.

Finally, be prepared to do things differently – we can learn from one of the great achievers of history, Albert Einstein:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

And my favourite little saying from my NLP training:

“If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got”.

Habit 1 – is be Proactive

This Habit is an important starting point as all the other Habits depend on it – essentially Proactivity is about having a ‘can do’ attitude to making things happen.

The underpinning message is that as human beings we have CHOICE – the choice to decide how we respond to the events and situations that we are presented with on a day to day basis.

A person exhibiting the Proactive Habit is one who takes the initiative, accepts responsibility and recognises that their decisions ultimately impact on their lives.  They realise that they have it within their power to make things happen.

A person in Proactive mode will use language that reflects their mindset – phrases such as:

  • Seize the day
  • Take the initiative
  • Let’s get on with it
  • Go for it

They will also put themselves in the driving seat of seeking solutions to problems.  They recognise that life is what you make it and that you ‘Don’t get owt for nowt’ – ie you get out what you put in.

Conversely a person who is behaving Reactively has chosen to allow other things to control them – they wait for things to happen to them (often fruitlessly) and expect others to make the running.  They are also quick to blame others or outside forces (such as the environment, government, economy, etc) for their own situation.  You might hear them saying things like:

  • There’s nothing I can do about it
  • I’m waiting to see what happens
  • He makes me so angry
  • The weather ruined my holiday

A caution – not many of us will be completely Proactive or completely Reactive in our nature – and our approach can change dependent on the context (eg more likely to be Proactive at work and more likely to be Reactive in making social arrangements).   In getting Habit 1 what we are attempting to do is shift the balance of our behaviour to Proactive, particularly in the situations which most impact our lives.

People with the Proactive Habit, focus their energies on things which they can influence – working on the things that THEY can do something (what they eat, how often they exercise, etc) rather than spending a lot of time and energy on things that they can have little impact on (eg celebrity relationships, world food shortages, the debt crisis, etc).

Underpinning this Habit is the concept that we have CHOICE – the choice to decide how we respond to events and situations.  Difficult circumstances still arise – people behaving Proactively can still be hurt physically, emotionally or economically – what is different is that their attitude means that their basic identity is not damaged by these events.  This means that the ability to manage stress reactions is enhanced….a topic for another day!


  1. Over the next day, notice the language you use and the response you make to situations – are you more Proactive or Reactive?  Does it change in different contexts?
  2. Make a list of the things things that you could do proactively to live a healthier, fitter life.
  3. Practice choosing your response to situations – particularly if you have identified a tendency to have Reactive responses.  Note what happens and how this affects how you feel and the outcomes you get.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey (1989) is published by Franklin Covey Co ISBN 0-684-85839-8.


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