7 Habits of Highly Effective People

7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was THE self help of the 1990’s. Enthusiasm and marketing of this book have dropped off in recent years but the lesson in the book are as applicable today as they were 10 years ago.

The overall philosophy of the book is based on a maturity continuum which travels from Dependence (you) to independence (I) to interdependence (we). Habits 1, 2, and 3 deal with self expert and private victories and assist in the transformation from dependent to independent. Habits 4, 5, and 6 build teamwork, cooperation and communication. These include Public Victories and move from the independent to the interdependent.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

There are 3 accepted theories of determinism to explain the character of man.

1) Genetic determinism: it’s inherited in your genes

2) Psychic determinism: Freudian, learned early from your parents

3) Environmental: this is from your boss, your spouse, the kids, the economy, policies, etc.

However, between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose. You can choose by self awareness, imagination, conscience, and independent will.

Reactive vs Proactive

Reactive people are affected by their ecosystem, the weather, how others treat them. Reactive people are pushed by feelings, by circumstances, by conditions, by their ecosystem…

Proactive people are nevertheless influenced by external stimuli but their response to it is a value based choice or response.

Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can hurt you without your consent”, example Victor Frankl – Nazi POW

Self Awareness

course of action of Concern: where do we focus our time and energy? i.e. our health, finances, children, work, national debt, etc.

course of action of Influence: these are the concerns we have control over either directly (problems involving our own behaviour) or indirectly (problems involving the behaviour of others).

Any time we think the problem is “out there”, that thought is the problem. We empower what is out there to control us. This paradigm approach is from the outside-in, example “that much change before I can…” The proactive approach is to generate change from the inside out.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

To begin with the end in mind method to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It method know where you are going so that you can better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.

Imagine your eulogy at your funeral. What would your friends say? What would you like them to say? Your family? Your co-workers?

“Begin with the end in mind” is based on the rule that al things are produced twice. There’s a mental of first creation and a physical or second creation to all things. There is an idea before there is an action.

Management is a bottom line focus: How can I best accomplish certain things? Leadership deal with the top line: What do I want to accomplish? Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things. Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership is calculating whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.

A Personal Mission Statement

The most effective way to build a personal mission statement is to begin with the end in mind. Focus on what you want to be (character) and do (contribution and achievements) and on the values upon which being and doing are based. Begin at the very center of your course of action of Influence. Different people have different paradigms for the source of their center, i.e. spouse, family, work, pleasure, money, self, but perhaps the center should be based upon principles instead?

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Effective management is all about putting first things first. While leadership decides what the “first things” are, it is management that puts them first, day by day, moment by moment. Management is the discipline carrying it out.

The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do.

“Time Management” is truly a wrong name, time carries on despite us and we could never manage it. But the challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.

Question: What one new thing could you do on a regular basis to enhance: a) your personal life, and/or b) your specialized life?

Urgent: requires immediate attention, usually visible, often popular with others, right in front of us, often easy fun to do

Important: implies results, contributes to your mission, values, goals, generally more monotonous without gratification.

We “react” to urgent matters, but must be proactive in regards to important matters.

Most people use most of their time in Quandrants I and III. However, Quadrant II is the heart of effective personal management. It emphasizes relationship building, long range planning, exercising, preventative maintenance, and preparation. By expanding Quadrant II, you reduce Quadrant I

There are 3 general faults of time and life management:

1) the inability to prioritize

2) the inability or desire to organize around the priorities

3) the without of discipline to execute and stay with the priorities


4) Habit #2 is not internalized. There are many people who recognize the value of Quadrant II but without a rule center and personal mission statement, they don’t have the necessary foundation to sustain their efforts.

6 Important Criteria for a Quadrant II Organizer

1) Coherence: harmony/unity/integrity between your personal mission statement, roles and goals, priorities and plans, desires and discipline.

2) Balance: all roles are balanced, i.e. worder, spouse, parent, friend, self.

3) Quadrant II focus: organize on a weekly/monthly basis. The meaningful is not to prioritize what is on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.

4) A “People” size: include/interact with others, delegate.

5) Flexibility: you planning tool should be your servant, never your master.

6) Portability: carry your tool with you

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

Win/Win is a frame of mind and heart that regularly seeks mutual assistance in all human interactions. Win/Win sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena.

Other paradigms include:

Win/Lose: this is most popular in business, sports, academics and already as control in some relationships.

Lose/Win: low self esteem, always put others before themselves in spite of of the results.

Lose/Lose: this one is popular in divorce – if I can’t have it, nobody will.

Win: a person with this mentality thinks in terms of securing his own ends and leaving it to others to obtain theirs.

Win/Win or No Deal: if both parties can’t win, then walk away, keeping trust intact.

Character is the foundation of Win/Win

Three basic character traits include:

1) Integrity: goes back to your personal mission statement and values

2) Maturity: the balance between courage and consideration

3) Abundance mentality: the paradigm that there is plenty out there for everybody. This is the opposite of the shortagen mentality.

For Win/Win the focus is on the results, not the methods. The essence of principled negotiation is to separate the person from the problem, to focus on interests and not on locaiongs, to invent options for mutual gain, and to insist on objective criteria – some external standard or rule that both parties can buy into.

First – see the problem from the other point of view

Second – clarify meaningful issues and concerns (not locaiongs)

Third – determine what results would constitute a fully permissible solution

Fourth – clarify possible new options to unprotected to those results

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Communication is the most important skill in life. “Seek first to understand” involves a very thorough shift in paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They’re either speaking or preparing to speak. They’re filtering everything by their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into the other people’s lives.

When another speaks we’re usually listening at one of 4 levels:

1) Ignoring – not really listening at all

2) Pretending – “yeah, “uh-huh”, “right”

3) Selective listening – hearing only parts

4) Attentive listening – focusing and paying attention to the words

But few people practice the 5th level – Empathic Listening. This form of listening gets inside another person’s frame of reference. They see the world the way they see it. They understand their paradigm and how they feel.

Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival; to be understood, to be validated, to be appreciated.

Because we listen autobiographically, we tend to respond in one of four ways:

1) We estimate: we agree or disagree

2) We probe: ask questions from our own frame of reference

3) We advise: give counsel based on our experience

4) We interpret: try to figure people out, explain their motives, based on our own paradigms

Some people believe empathic listening takes too much time. But it really is short term investment for long term gain.

Know how to be understood is the other half of Habit 5 and is equally basic in reaching Win/Win solutions.

To best be understood, one must possess:

1) Ethos: personal credibility, integrity, competence. Much of this comes from a character ethic and your personal mission statement

2) Pathos: the empathic side, the feeling, the emotional alignment with the other person’s communication.

3) Logos: the logic, the reasoning part of the presentation

Habit 5 is powerful because it is found right in the middle of your course of action of Influence.

Habit 6: Synergize

Synergy is the essence of rule-centered leadership. It catalyzes, unifies, and unleashes the greatest strength within people. Simply defined the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, 1+1= 3, or more.

Most people can ingemination at the minimum one synergistic event in their lives that had a profound effect, i.e. team spirit, an emergency… To many, such events seem uncommon, out of character, already miraculous. But this is not so. These things can be produced regularly, consistently, almost daily in people’s lives. But it requires enormous personal security and openness, and a spirit of adventure.

One can already be synergistic with one’s self. When a person has access to both the intuitive, creative, and visual right brain and the analytical, logical, verbal left brain, then the whole brain is working. There is psychic energy taking place in one’s own head. The consequence is a logical AND emotional response.

Synergy requires trust, openness, a Win/Win attitude, and the ability to value the differences.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Habit 7 is personal Production Capability (PC). It’s preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you! It’s renewing the 4 dimensions of your character:

1) The physical size: eating the right food, getting sufficient rest and relaxation, and exercising. This is a high leverage, Quadrant II activity that most of us don’t do consistently because it’s not urgent.

2) The spiritual size: your chief, your center, your commitment to your value system. It draws on the supplies that inspire and uplift you and is very private. Some may choose religion or meditation. Some may find it in character away from the noise and commotion of the city and unifying with the harmony and rhythm of the earth.

3) The mental size: most of us experienced out mental development and study discipline by a formal education. But once we graduated from school we let our minds atrophy. Surveys show that a television is on in most homes 35-45 hours per week!

These three dimensions represent the “Daily Private Victory”. One hour per day will affect every decision and relationship. It will greatly enhance every other hour of the day, including sleep, and it will help you manager all challenges.

4) The Social Emotional size: while the physical, spiritual and mental dimensions are closely related to Habits 1,2,3 – centered on the principles of personal vision, leadership and management, the Social/Emotional size focuses on Habits 4, 5, and 6, the principles of interpersonal leadership, empathic communication, and creative cooperation. If our personal security comes from supplies within ourselves, then we have the strength to practice the habits of Public Victory.

The 4 Dimensions Organizational Equivalents

1) Physical: expressed in economic terms

2) Mental: recognition, development, and use of talent

3) Social: human relations and how people are treated

4) Spiritual: finding meaning by purpose or contribution and by organizational integrity

If all 4 dimensions are not addressed, the organization will confront problems in the form of collective resistance, adversarialism, excessive turnover and other thorough cultural problems.

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