In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey proposes a principle-based approach to personal development and self leadership as a foundation for personal and professional success. At the core of its message is the fact that if we want to change or improve anything or anyone we must first change ourselves by developing habits that will refine our character.
The book espouses the following habits:
1. Being proactive
We can proactively choose our response and create our desired outcomes regardless of what is happening around us. We gain personal power when we focus on the things within our circle of influence instead of whining over the things in our circle of concern. We give up our personal power when we do otherwise.If we want to change or improve anything or anyone we must first change ourselves by developing habits that will refine our character. Click To Tweet
2. Beginning with the end in mind
Just as we would not engage in a building project without first having a clear picture of the desired outcome, we should have our desired end in mind before starting any task. This mindset should also be applied to life as a whole. By having a picture of the kind of testimonies we would like to have at our funeral, we can develop a personal mission statement that will serve as compass leading to our desired destination.
3. Putting first things first
The author recommends a time management technique that focuses on effectiveness rather than efficiency. This means that instead of trying to get the most things done, we should simply focus on the most important things while we defer or delegate everything else. We can know what to prioritise by measuring our tasks/commitments against the importance/urgency matrix. Most people put off the things that are important but not urgent. Yet, activities in this quadrant should be our highest priority.
4. Thinking win-win
In our relationships with people we need to adopt an abundance mindset that believes there is enough for everyone instead of a scarcity mindset that competes with the other person for a disproportionately favourable outcome. When we adopt a win-lose paradigm everyone loses in the end. We need to sincerely pursue the good of the other person as much as we pursue ours. Relationships should be treated like an emotional bank account with our deposits far outweighing our withdrawals.
5. Seeking first to understand, then to be understood
It’s important to practise empathic listening which involves putting ourselves in the shoes of the other person with a genuine interest in understanding their viewpoint. Instead of listening to prepare a response, we should listen to understand. This is even more important when we consider the fact that communication is much more about sounds and body language than the actual words used to convey meaning.
The book proposes that we can be much more effective by practising interdependence rather than independence. By respecting other people and being open to their opinions we can work together to achieve results that are greater than the sum of what each of us could have achieved by working on our own.
7. Sharpening the saw
If we’re going to be effective over the long term we must deliberately make out time to recuperate and recharge in every area of our lives. We must develop the right habits and put systems in place to maintain our physical fitness, spiritual wellbeing and mental health together with social and emotional wellbeing. If we don’t take care of ourselves we won’t be able to take care of anyone else.When we adopt a win-lose paradigm everyone loses in the end. We need to sincerely pursue the good of the other person as much as we pursue ours. Click To Tweet
Overall, the author observes that people can either pursue success and effectiveness through:
a. The personality ethic which is essentially about learning the skills needed to put up acceptable behaviour or
b. The character ethic which involves an inside-out process of effecting lasting change by aligning our fundamental habits and belief systems with universal principles.
While the personality ethic may help us win approval and get what we want in the short term, lasting success can only flow out of a well-developed character. And this will be reflected in the paradigms through which we have chosen to see and interpret the world.