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The “Have’s” and the “Be’s”

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I am currently reading this great book by Stephen Covey titled The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People.  I began reading this book because I thought it would help me become more effective at business and success.  Though this is definitely the case, I came across this little nugget of information from the book that is focusing on happiness, so I thought I would share.  Without going to deep into what Mr. Covey is saying, I will break it down for you at a higher level.  

Happiness Is A Choice

We have to understand that happiness, just like unhappiness, is a choice.  More specifically, it is a proactive choice.  We can choose to be happy or sad based upon how we look at any situation.  In a sense, we have to see the world through the window of things that we can and cannot control.  Mr. Covey shares with us two circles we need to work within.  These circles are The Circle of Concern and The Circle of Influence.

The Circles

The Circle Of Concern is full of things that we need to be concerned about…things that could have an impact on our lives.  These are things that we may or may not have any control over, but nonetheless can impact our lives.  Things in this circle include the weather, nuclear war, our kids, and problems at work.

Within The Circle Of Concern is The Circle Of InfluenceThe Circle Of Influence is the circle of things that we do have some influence over.  These are things that we do have some control over…things we can do something about.  Proactive people focus on The Circle Of Influence, whereas reactive people focus just on The Circle of Concern.

The “Have’s”

The Circle of Concern is full of the “Have’s.”  These “Have’s” include things like:

  • “I will be happier when I have no more debt.”
  • “If I had more free time…”
  • “If only I had a wife that would listen to me…”
  • “If I had a boss that would not be so rude…”

These “Have’s” are saying that our happiness depends on these external things…things we may not have any real direct control over.  It could take you years to get out of debt.  Does that mean you have to be unhappy until you are???  Does your spouse really have to change for you to be happier???  The point here is that the “Have’s” are in The Circle Of Concern but not anything that we may have 100% control over right now.

The “Be’s”

The “Be’s” reside in The Circle of Influence and are much more internally focused rather than externally focused.  The “Be’s” focus on your character and the things you can do to build your character.  The “Be’s” include things like:

  • “I can be more loving.”
  • “I can be more understanding.”
  • “I can be smarter.”
  • “I can be more patient.”

Proactive people focus on what they can “be” to improve their situations, not about what they can “have” that makes the difference.

Final Thoughts

Mr. Covey says,

“Anytime we think the problem is ‘out there,” that thought is the problem.”

If we want to be happier, we have to go inside first.  We can’t rely on external things to make us happier.  We can “be” happier by focusing on what we can “be” not what others “have” to do.  We can’t control things like the weather or how everyone acts in our lives.  But we can focus our efforts on the things we can change and accept the things that we can’t.  We can choose to be positive rather than negative.  We need to understand that we can’t rely on anyone to make us happy.  We can only rely on ourselves.

If you find yourself focusing more on the “have’sthan on the “be’s”, then happiness is going to be a lot tougher to find.  Too many times we look outside for happiness rather than the closest place there is…within ourselves.  Make the “be’s” your primary focus and work on your character.  Building a strong character will get you closer to happiness than ever relying on someone or something else you can’t control.

If you would like to read Mr. Covey’s book, you can pick it up via my affiliate link here:

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