The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change – Stephen R. Covey

Here are my comments on three of the habits:

What are the habits of highly effective people? Stephen R. Covey, American educator, author, businessman, and keynote speaker, states that there are 7 habits that highly effective people have. The seven habits are: 1) be proactive, 2) begin with the end in mind, 3) put first things first, 4) think win-win, 5) seek first to understand, then to be understood, 6) synergize, 7) sharpen the saw. Here are some of the points to the book:

 

1. Humans are creatures of habit. Where you are currently in life is the compilation of your habits that you’ve built up over your life. You didn’t just get to where you are now because of one action but rather through a series of actions. Your actions because of your habits have either served you well or not served you well in getting what you desire. If you’re in a position that you don’t like, then you better start changing your habits or else you’re going to be stuck where you are. Our character, basically, is a composite of our habits. ‘Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny,’ the maxim goes. Habits are powerful factors in our lives. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character and produce our effectiveness or ineffectiveness. As Horace Mann, the great educator, once said, ‘Habits are like a cable. We weave a strand of it everyday and soon it cannot be broken.’ I personally do not agree with the last part of his expression. I know they can be broken. Habits can be learned and unlearned. But I also know it isn’t a quick fix. It involves a process and a tremendous commitment. Those of us who watched the lunar voyage of Apollo 11 were transfixed as we saw the first men walk on the moon and return to earth. Superlatives such as ‘fantastic’ and ‘incredible’ were inadequate to describe those eventful days. But to get there, those astronauts literally had to break out of the tremendous gravity pull of the earth. More energy was spent in the first few minutes of lift-off, in the first few miles of travel, than was used over the next several days to travel half a million miles. Habits, too, have tremendous gravity pull — more than most people realize or would admit. Breaking deeply imbedded habitual tendencies such as procrastination, impatience, criticalness, or selfishness that violate basic principles of human effectiveness involves more than a little willpower and a few minor changes in our lives. ‘Lift off’ takes a tremendous effort, but once we break out of the gravity pull, our freedom takes on a whole new dimension.

 

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2. Begin with the end in mind. To become successful, create attainable goals that you can then reverse engineer and break down the steps on how to get there and everyday you should be working towards them. Having an end goal in mind will give you clarity on what it is that you’re trying to achieve and that’ll (hopefully) motivate you to adopt the habits that will allow you to get there sooner. You won’t become an over night success but you can become successful over time if you have the right attitude, approach, and do the right activities. “You don’t have to be great to start but you have to start to be great.” as said by Zig Ziglar. “Each part of your life — today’s behavior, tomorrow’s behavior, next week’s behavior, next month’s behavior — can be examined in the context of the whole, of what really matters most to you. By keeping that end clearly in mind, you can make certain that whatever you do on any particular day does not violate the criteria you have defined as supremely important, and that each day of your life contributes in a meaningful way to the vision you have of your life as a whole. To Begin with the End in Mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction. It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover it’s leaning against the wrong wall. It is possible to be busy — very busy — without being very effective. People often find themselves achieving victories that are empty, successes that have come at the expense of things they suddenly realize were far more valuable to them. People from every walk of life — doctors, academicians, actors, politicians, business professionals, athletes, and plumbers — often struggle to achieve a higher income, more recognition or a certain degree of professional competence, only to find that their drive to achieve their goal blinded them to the things that really mattered most and now are gone. How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and, keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most. If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster. We may be very busy, we may be very efficient, but we will also be truly effective only when we Begin with the End in Mind.”

 

3. Take the time to build up meaningful and genuine relationships that you can count on. Take the time to create an emotional bank account by building up trust with others. Too many people these days have the “what can I get out of this person?” mindset. Instead of trying to take from others constantly, be vulnerable and open up and take the initiative to offer value first to gain the trust of others so that when you do need support, others will be willing to help you out in return.We all know what a financial bank account is. We make deposits into it and build up a reserve from which we can make withdrawals when we need to. An Emotional Bank Account is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship. It’s the feeling of safeness you have with another human being. If I make deposits into an Emotional Bank Account with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping my commitments to you, I build up a reserve. Your trust toward me becomes higher, and I can call upon that trust many times if I need to. I can even make mistakes and that trust level, that emotional reserve, will compensate for it. My communication may not be clear, but you’ll get my meaning anyway. You won’t make me ‘an offender for a word.’ When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective. But if I have a habit of showing discourtesy, disrespect, cutting you off, overreacting, ignoring you, becoming arbitrary, betraying your trust, threatening you, or playing little tin god in your life, eventually my Emotional Bank Account is overdrawn. The trust level gets very low. Then what flexibility do I have? None. I’m walking on mine fields. I have to be very careful of everything I say. I measure every word. It’s tension city, memo heaven. It’s protecting my backside, politicking. And many organizations are filled with it. Many families are filled with it. Many marriages are filled with it. If a large reserve of trust is not sustained by continuing deposits, a marriage will deteriorate. Instead of rich, spontaneous understanding and communication, the situation becomes one of accommodation, where two people simply attempt to live independent life-styles in a fairly respectful and tolerant way. The relationship may further deteriorate to one of hostility and defensiveness. The ‘fight or flight’ response creates verbal battles, slammed doors, refusal to talk, emotional withdrawal and self-pity. It may end up in a cold war at home, sustained only by children, sex, and social pressure, or image protection. Or it may end up in open warfare in the courts, where bitter ego-decimating legal battles can be carried on for years as people endlessly confess the sins of a former spouse. And this is in the most intimate, the most potentially rich, joyful, satisfying.

 

4. Create win-win scenarios. In life, there are more options available than meets the eye in most situations. Don’t think that you’re only limited to just options A or B. If you think hard and creatively enough, you can come up with a solution in which all parties are happy. In one of T. Harv Eker’s business seminars, he says that the best way to succeed in business negotiations is to create win-win situations where both or all parties walk away feeling good about the deal and this should be the same in your life. In addition to these logical, personal consequences, it is also important to clearly identify what the natural organizational consequences are. For example, what will happen if I’m late to work, if I refuse to cooperate with others, if I don’t develop good Win-Win Agreements with my subordinates, if I don’t hold them accountable for desired results, or if I don’t promote their professional growth and career development. When my daughter turned 16, we set up a Win-Win Agreement regarding use of the family car. We agreed that she would obey the laws of the land and that she would keep the car clean and properly maintained. We agreed that she would use the car only for responsible purposes and would serve as a cab driver for her mother and me within reason. And we also agreed that she would do all her other jobs cheerfully without being reminded. These were our wins. We also agreed that I would provide some resources — the car, gas, it, she would lose the privilege until she decided to. This Win-Win Agreement set up clear expectations from the beginning on both our parts. It was a win for her — she got to use the car — and it was certainly a win for Sandra and me. Now she could handle her own transportation needs and even some of ours. We didn’t have to worry about maintaining the car or keeping it clean. And we had a built-in accountability, which meant I didn’t have to hover over her to manage her methods. Her integrity, her conscience, her power of discernment and our high Emotional Bank Account managed her infinitely better. We didn’t have to get emotionally strung out, trying to supervise her every move and coming up with punishments or rewards on the spot if she didn’t do things the way we thought she should. We had a Win-Win Agreement, and it liberated us all.

 

By Ryan Timothy Lee

 

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1 Comment

  1. […] negotiators in life are the ones who look for “win-win” situations. This is one of the 7 habits of highly effective people as stated in the book written by Steven Covey. “Your single greatest opportunity as a […]

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