The first of Stephen Covey’s famous 7 Habits is: Be Proactive. Heavily using jargon words like “proactive”, “synergy” and “paradigm” is one of the things that gets Covey snarked for his 7 Habits model. And I suppose he probably deserves to get snarked for pushing such words on us all. It reminds me of a line from the recent movie Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (a movie that is hideously bad but also painfully funny — you just gotta rent it):
Chosen One: Killing is wrong. And bad. There should be a new, stronger word for killing. Like badwrong, or badong. Yes, killing is badong. From this moment, I will stand for the opposite of killing: gnodab.
Apparently this is the kind of logic that brings us the word proactive. The natural opposite of the word react is act but someone (reportedly beginning in the 70s) apparently decided that there “should be a new, stronger word for acting or active” so proactive muscled its way into the lexicon.
Despite the unfortunate jargon Covey uses for his Habit 1, the idea is a good one. Habit 1 is essentially an endorsement of the concept libertarian free will and a denial of determinism. The idea is pretty simple – men are free to choose and nothing, including our genes or upbringing, determine our choices and actions. Covey is fond of describing this concept by insisting that there is always a space (no matter how small) between stimulus and our response. We can always choose what we will think, say, or do in that space no matter how powerful the stimulus is.
Of course libertarian free will is not a habit, it is a philosophical doctrine. But LFW is required for the habit Covey is promoting. The idea is simply to get into the habit of taking responsibility for all of our own thoughts, words, and deeds. If we don’t like our thoughts words and deeds we should choose different ones. The notion is extremely empowering and very Mormon in my opinion (though not exclusively Mormon, of course). So Habit 1 basically teaches that we are in full control of our own choices and accordingly we ought to choose the right.
Lots of people (including some bloggernacle citizens) don’t believe in free will in the libertarian sense. They believe that we solely are the product of genetics and environment and past experiences. I suppose Covey’s 7 Habits must fall apart from the beginning for these determinists. I feel sort of sorry for those poor misguided determinists though since the libertarians have it right… (grin)… The other six habits can be quite useful!