STEPHEN COVEY: We all want to succeed and one part of success is identifying the habits that can help us on our journey. I recommend starting that part by reading this powerful book titled The 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey.
This book opens with an explanation of how many individuals who have achieved a high degree of outward success still find themselves struggling with an inner need for developing personal effectiveness and growing healthy relationships with others.
Covey believes the way we see the world is entirely based on our own perceptions. In order to change a given situation, we must change ourselves and in order to change ourselves, we must be able to change our perception.
From the knowledge Covey has in alliteration, he identifies that in earlier times the foundation of success rested upon character ethics things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, justice, peace, courage, and modesty.
But getting toward the 1920’s the way people view success shifted to what covey calls “ personality ethic” where success is a function of personality, public image, attitude, and behavior.
Now people look for quick fixes, they see a successful person learning or organization and ask, how do you do it, teach your techniques, but these shortcuts that we look for hoping to save time and effort and still achieve the desired result are simply Band-Aids that will yield short term solutions. They don’t address the underline conditions.
The way we see the problem is the problem says covey Stephen, we must allow ourselves to undergo paradigm shifts to change ourselves fundamentally and not just alter our altitude and behavior on the surface level.
In order to achieve this change, that is where the 7 habits of highly effective people come in.
Habits 1,2,3 are focused on self-mastery and moving from dependence to independence.
Habits 5,6,7 are focused on developing, learning work collaboration and communication skills, and moving from independence to dependence.
Habit 7 is focused on continuous growth and improvement, it is the embodiment of all the other habits.
Let’s look at the 7 habits of highly effective people
Habit No 1: Be Proactive
We are in charge, we choose the scripts by which we live our lives, and we use this self-awareness to be proactive and take responsibility for our choices.
The first of seven effective habits Stephen covey discusses is being productive. What distinguishes us as humans from all other animals is our inherent ability to examine our own character, to decide how to view ourselves and our situations, and control our own effectiveness in order to be effective one must be proactive.
Reactive people take a passive stance, they believe the world is happening to them, they say things like, there is nothing I can do, that’s just the way I am, they think the problem is out there but that thought is the problem.
Reactivity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and reactive people feel increasingly victimized and out of control.
Proactive people however recognize that they have responsibilities or Response-Ability which covey defines as the ability to choose how you will respond to a given stimulus or situation.
In order to be proactive, we must focus on the circle of influence that lies within our circle of concern. In other words, we can do something about the positive energy we exert because it will cause our circle of influence to expand.
Reactive people on the other hand focus on things that are in their circle of concern, but not in their circle of influence which leads to blaming external factors, emanating negative energy, and causing their circle of influence to shrink.
Now challenge yourself to test this principle of proactivity by replacing reactive language with pro-active language
Habit No 2: Begin With The End In Mind
Start with a clear destination in mind, covey says we can use our imagination to develop a vision of what we want to become and use our conscience to decide what values will guide us.
Most of us find it rather easy to busy ourselves, we work hard to achieve victories, promotions, higher income, more recognition, etc, but we don’t often stop to evaluate the meaning behind the business behind these victories.
We don’t ask ourselves if these things we focus on so intensely are really what matters to us. Habit 2 from the 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen covey suggests that in everything we do we should begin with the end in mind.
We should start with a clear destination, that way we can make sure that the steps we are taking are in the right direction.
Beginning with the end in mind is also extremely important for businesses, being a manager is about optimizing for efficiency, but being a leader is about setting the right strategic vision for your organization in the first place and asking, what are we trying to accomplish before we as individual or organization can start setting and achieving goals.
We must be able to identify our values, this process may involve some rescripting to be able to assert our own personal values
Rescripting covey explained is recognizing ineffective scripts that have been written for you and changing those scrips by proactively writing new ones that are built on your own values.
Now challenge yourself with the principle of beginning with the end in mind by
- Visualizing in rich detail ( your own funeral) and think about how your priorities will change if you had only 30 more days to live. Start living by these priorities.
- Breaking different walls in your life, whether professional, personal, or community, list 3 to 5 goals you want to achieve for each.
- Defining what scares you, public speaking, critical feedback after writing a book, write down the worst-case scenario for your biggest fear, then visualize how you will handle the situation, write down exactly how you will handle it
Habit No 3: put first things first
In order to manage ourselves effectively, we must put first things first, we must have the discipline to prioritize our day-to-day actions, based on what is the most important not what is the most urgent.
In habit 2 we discussed the importance of determining our values and understanding what it is we are setting out to achieve.
Habit 3 is actually going after these goals and executing our priorities on a day-to-day and moment-to-moment basis in order to maintain the discipline and the focus to stay on track toward our goals.
We need to have the willpower to do something when we dont want to do it, we need to act according to our values rather than our desires or impulses at any given moment
Habit no 4: think win-win
In order to establish effective interdependent relationships, we must commit to creating win-win situations that are mutually beneficial and satisfying to each party.
Let’s discuss a few paradigms of human interaction that Stephen covey has discussed in the 7 habits of highly effective people
- Win -Lose: if I win you lose, win-lose people are prone to use position power credentials and personality to get their way
- Lose win: I lose you win, the loose win people are quick to please and appease and seek strength from popularity or acceptance.
- Lose-lose: both people lose, when two win-lose people get together that is when 2 determined stubborn ego invested individuals interact, the result will be lose-lose
- Win-win or no deal: both people win, and agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying to both parties. If you can’t reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial there is no deal. The best option is to create win-win situations with win-lose or lose-win.
One person appears to get what he wants for the moment but this will negatively impact the relationship between those 2 people going forward.
The win-win or no deal option is important to use as backup when we have no deal as an option in our mind, it liberates us from needing to manipulate and push our own agenda. We can be open and really try to understand the underline issues.
Another important factor in seeking win-win situations is to maintain an abundance mentality or the belief that there is plenty out there for everyone, most people operate with the scarcity mentality meaning, they act as though everything is zero-sum, in other words, if you get it, I don’t.
people with a scarcity mentality already had a very hard time sharing recognition or credit and find it difficult to be genuinely happy about other people’s successes, the more committed we are to win-win, the more powerful it will be.
Lastly, the spirit of Win-Win can’t survive In an environment of competition. We need to align our reward system with our goals and value and have the system in place to support Win-Win.
So what are the lessons: get yourself to start thinking win-win with these challenges.
- Think about an upcoming interaction where you will be attempting to reach an agreement or solution, and write down a list of what the other person is looking for. Write a list next to that of how you can make an offer to meet those needs.
2) Identify 3 important relationships in your life, and think about what you feel the balance is in each of those relationships, do you give more than you or take more than you give?
Write down 10 ways to always give more than you take.
3) Deeply consider your own interaction tendencies: are they win-lose how does that affect your interaction with others?
Determine whether or not this approach serves you well in your relationship.
Habit No 5: Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
This simply means that before we give our opinion, and suggestions and effectively interact with people, we should always listen to deeply understand them and their point of view.
Stephen covey said “ you have spent years of life learning how to read and write, years learning how to speak. But what about listening?.
He further said that we have to build the skill of empathic listening on a base of character that inspires openness and trust.
In an actual sense to listen emphatically, there must be a fundamental paradigm shift. We really seek first to be understood.
So many of us listen with the intensions to reply only, and not to understand. This set of people at any given moment is either speaking or preparing to speak.
Stephen covey said that we usually listen autobiographically, that is to say, that with our own perspective, our frame of reference tends to respond in one of these four ways they are:
Evaluate: agree or disagree with what is said
Probe: ask questions from our own frame of reference
Advise: give counsel based on our own experience
Interpret: try to figure out the person’s motive and behavior based on our own motive and behavior.
Note: if we can replace these types of responses with empathic listening, there will be a hugely positive result in our improved communication.
Though this shift might take time to learn, constant practice of empathic listening will go a long way to correct this misunderstanding.
The second part of Habit 5 which is “then to be understood” is also very crucial for us to achieve a win-win solution.
If we form the habit of clearly presenting our ideas in the context of a deep understanding of the other person’s needs and concerns, we will highly increase the credibility of our ideas.
Habit No 6: Synergize
This simply means that we can actually uncover new possibilities through openness and creativity by understanding and valuing the difference in another person’s perspective.
Habit 6 which is the habit of synergy is the combination of all other habits. Synergy does not only allow us to create new alternatives and open new possibilities.
It also allows us as a group to collectively agree to ditch the old scripts and write new ones.
Stephen covey said “ without doubt, you have to leave the comfort zone of base camp and confront an entirely new and unknown wilderness.
Hence the ways we can introduce synergy to a given situation or environment is to stand with habits 5 and 6, you must think win-win and seek first to understand.
The real essence of synergy is valuing the difference, that is mental, emotional, and psychological differences between people. Covey said “ the key to valuing difference is to realize that all people see the world, not as it is, but as they are.
We seek first to understand and then we find strength and utility in those different perspectives in order to create new possibilities and win-win results.
Synergy allows us to be open and free-minded and encourage others to do so. It expands our perspective by valuing the difference in other people. Synergy always looks for the good in other people instead of criticism.
Habit No 7: sharpen the saw
Habit 7 is basically talking about renewal or rather taking time to sharpen the saw. We must devote time to renewing ourselves physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially.
These are also the 4 dimensions of life. Let’s look at the 4 dimensions of life
- Mental Dimension: the aim of this dimension is to continuously expand our minds to that we can
- Keep a good record or journal of your experience, insight, and thought
- Invest in good books
- Watch programs that enrich your life and improve your personal development.
The mental dimension helps us manage our time and resources well.
- Physical dimension: the aim of the physical dimension is to exercise our body in such a way that our capacity and ability to work are improved. To achieve this we must
- Keep fit on a daily basis
- Eat well and get enough rest.
Activating this physical dimension helps us to develop habit 1 which is building muscles of productivity.
- Spiritual dimension: by renewing our spiritual self we practically reinforce our commitment to our value system and also provide leadership to our live
We can achieve this by
- Practicing meditation and always conversing with nature.
- social/ emotional dimension: the aim of renewing that dimension is rs to develop meaningful relationships, we can achieve this by
- Making contributions that improve the lives of others
- Seeking deeply understand people
- Maintaining abundance mentality
The 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey is a must-read for everyone because it has the ability to reshape our overall mindset.