If practiced, the 7 habits Stephen and Sean Covey referred in their books will make the readers able to control their lives, to do more in fewer time, improve relationships with other people, improve self confidence, rehab from addiction, be happy, find the balances between the time for school, work, hang out, and many other activities. Moreover, the readers will find out what do they value the most in their lives. What do habits have to do with effectiveness? Well, our habits will decide whether or not we will be successful, and whether or not we will be happy.
An English poet once said that at first we will determine our habits, and the next our habits will determine who we are. Our habits, good or bad will shape our characters. Everyone has good as well as bad habits, so everyone should deal with their bad habits and create the good habits. Yes, we are able to create, change and eliminate our habits. It is not easy to do that, but when we are able to deal with our own habits, then we are ready to deal with other people’s habits. In creating good habits, we should have good paradigm in our lives. Paradigm means perception.
It is like a pair of glasses that will determine whether we will see things clearly or not. We will never know how poor our current vision is, until we get a new and better pair of glasses. In the book, Sean Covey mentioned some statements of some experts in the past that sound silly now. One of them is a statement from Ferdinand Foch, a French Military Strategic Expert who became a World War I Commander. He once stated that airplanes are interesting toys, but have no value in the military. Ferdinand was sure about his perception, but it turned out that he was wrong.
No one has the best and complete perception. As an analogy, let us say that there is a group of blind people who never encounter any elephants before. We bring them an elephant and we ask them to touch and describe the elephant. One will say that an elephant is like a giant snake. He actually is only touching the elephant’s trunk. Another will say that an elephant is like a rope, but he is actually only touching the elephant’s tail. They all will be very sure of their perception about the elephant, and they will argue.
The point from this analogy is, we are like those blind people, trying to understand something big and we only see it from one side but we are so sure that it is just as what we see. Having the wrong paradigm is just not good because it will be an obstacle in our lives. In this live, what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG), so in order to get the good things we must make sure that we see the good things. My favorite from Covey’s stories about paradigm is the story of a Dauphine of France. After King Louis is imprisoned, the Dauphine is taken to a faraway community.
They are trying to destroy the Dauphine’s morality so that he will not become the next King of France. They introduce him to the community where people use bad words, where prostitution is everywhere, and where people are not respecting or trusting other people. Six months in such a community, not even once he follows their lifestyle. The secret is that he knows that he is born to be a King, and that is why he should not act like that. In this story, we can see how powerful paradigm is. Positive paradigms will make us great but negative paradigms will obstacle us. 1st Habit: Be Proactive
Being proactive means not being reactive. A reactive person is a person who feels that he is a victim of life, a victim of conditions, and a victim of other people’s mistake. When something unfortunate happens to him, he always thinks that he is a victim, and he can do nothing. He never thinks that it is his own fault. The blame is always on other people, or on conditions. He keeps complaining on things that he cannot control, like the weather, the traffic jam, etc. Reactive people tend to have bad tensions and they are easily irritated. In our lives, we should lead our own way.
If the journey of our lives is like our journey in a car, being proactive means being the driver. The reactive people are the passengers in their own car, and they are letting other people or the condition to drive for them. While the reactive people wait for good things to happen to their lives, proactive people make them happen. They look for the things they want and if they cannot find one, they create one. They know what things they can control and what things they cannot control.
Reactive people complain and worry about things they cannot control while proactive people deal with the things they an control. We cannot control the conditions, but we can control our respond towards the conditions. For example, when Amy has a problem, she becomes easily irritated, so when Beth told her that she looks miserable, Amy get irritated and said bad things to Beth. If Beth is a reactive person, she will be irritated as well; she will get mad and start a fight with Amy. This time, Beth is a proactive person, she does not like what Amy said about her, but she pull back and try to tolerate. Beth tries to understand that Amy is undergoing a problem and she did not mean to say that.
She also introspects herself, and she tries to put herself on Amy’s position, and she understands that if she was Amy, she will get irritated as well. The next day, Beth apologizes to Amy and Amy tells her that she also felt sorry for saying bad things to her. Barrack Obama’s “Yes We Can” slogan is a proactive slogan. By being proactive, we should be sure of our own ability. If we cannot trust our selves, how can other people trust us? Instead of saying “Okay, I will try” we should say “I will do it”. It is more powerful yet ensuring.
Which sentence do you think is the best when one of your friends gives you a birthday present? Is it “Wow, Beth they are fabulous stilettos. I will try to wear them”, or “Thank you Beth, I will wear them”? 2nd Habit: Begin with the End in Mind When driving our cars on the road, we will encounter several branches and we should choose the one that will bring us to our destination. How can we choose which way to go if we do not know our destination? When asking people about directions, we should always mention the destination so that they can tell us which the right route is.
There are times when we should make big decisions about the choices in our lives, and the same principle will apply. We should know where to go; we should know what our goal in our lives is. Once we know, we will find out which route to take, which choice we should take. If we just randomly choose the route, then we will arrive at a random destination as well. That is why we should begin with the end. Writing down our own mission statements is the best way to implement the 2nd habit. These will be our guidelines and principles to help us to choose which route to go in our lives.
Our mission statements could be anything, could be in our own or our favorite words, poems, pictures, photographs, quotations, etc. Some or most of us might think that this is not necessary. It is actually very helpful not because it is written, but it is helpful because when we want to write our mission down, we need to be specific to put the words together. Besides, it also gives a sort of psychological effect that it gives us spirit by having our mission statements written down. 3rd Habit: Put First Things First In the third habit, we learn about priorities and time management.
In the second habit, we learn that we should decide what the most important aspects in our lives are, and then in the third habit, we learn that we should prioritize them. In doing our daily activities, we are not spending our time effectively if we do not set any priority. There is a famous analogy about priorities, which is also mentioned by Sean Covey in the book. Let us assume that there is an empty container, representing the time we have in a day. There are big stones representing the important things to do and there are also pebbles representing some other daily unimportant activities that will take some time.
When we put the pebbles into the container, and the big stones after, the container will have no enough space for all of the stones and pebbles. There will be some big stones remain outside the container. Now try to do it reversely. If we put the big stones first, and the pebbles right after, there will be enough space for all of them because the pebbles can fit into small spaces between the large stones. The message from this analogy is that we should do the priorities first in order to get all of them done. There is a simple way to help us managing our time.
It is by setting a weekly plan and we can it on our agenda. By having them written down, we will not forget about our plan, deadlines or maybe other schedule. In making the weekly plan, we should identify what are our ‘big stones’ and set a schedule for them. After that, we can schedule our ‘pebbles’ as well. Then we should do our best to have all the priorities of the week done. In the third habit, we also learn to face our fear and pressure. We need courage to hold on our ground principles, our standards, and our priorities. We need courage to step out from our comfort zone.
Stepping out from our comfort zone is necessary to challenge and to improve ourselves. There would be risks, but without taking the risks, we cannot learn and grow. A person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing, and is nothing. We shall not let our fear make decisions in our lives. We might fail many times, but we should never give up. Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but rising every time we fall (Confucius). 4th Habit: Think Win/Win In the society, most of us do not think win/win. Some of us think Win/Lose, Lose/Win, or Lose/Lose.
The Win/Lose people think of everything as competitions where there is only either win or lose, and that when competing with other people, they should be the winner, and when other people become the winner, they become the loser. They think that nothing is enough for everybody so they should compete. The Lose/Win people think that they should just let other people be the winner by making everyone happy and sacrifice their own need / feeling (become the loser). The Lose/Lose people think that if they fail, everyone should fail as well. This will happen when two or more Win/Lose people meet.
The Win/Win people think that everyone could get all they want because everything is unlimited. Sean Covey illustrates the situation as people going out to eat at a buffet, so everyone can have all you can eat. Now that we know what the Win/Win attitude is, we might want to know how to think Win/Win. The first thing is to win our own victory, which means that we should have a good level of confidence. The second thing is to avoid being competitive and comparative. It will be an endless effort to be the best in everything and to be perfect in anyways.
Nobody is perfect and we should embrace our strengths and weaknesses. When we feel secure about ourselves, then we can avoid being competitive and comparative. 5th Habit: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood Many people are too busy talking that they have no time to listen. God created each of us with a pair of ears and only one mouth. It tells us that we should spend more of our time listening than talking. We should stop talking and try to listen to and understand other people, and then it will be our turn to be listened to and understood.
People tend to be egoistic, so they want other people to listen to them because they just care about their own problem, but they fail to listen to other people. What happen when everybody is talking? No one is listening. We need other people to understand us. Let us look at a situation where Amy has a conflict with her parents. Amy talked to Beth about her problem, but before Amy done telling about her feelings, Beth keep interrupting with her story about a conflict she had with her parents and assuming that Amy is having the same problem Beth ever had.
Amy will not be happy because she feels that Beth is not paying attention to her, and Beth does not understand her. Later, Amy will not be open to Beth anymore, because what Amy really need is Beth’s attention and sympathy. Not paying attention is just one of the bad listening styles. There are some others like pretending to be listening, selectively listening, verbal-only listening, self-focus listening and wandering minds. In order to understand other people, we should sincerely listen to them when they are talking. There are three steps in sincerely listening.
First, we should listen to his/her verbal (words) as well as non-verbal language (intonation, body language). Secondly, we should try to see things from his/her perspective, and the last is to be a mirror. What it means by to be a mirror is to repeat what he/she told us with different words as our respond to show that we are paying attention. 6th Habit: Synergize People are all different; they have different needs, different interest, and different skills. There is no one like you and there is no one like me in this world. Differences can break a nation apart, but differences can also form a powerful nation.
It depends on how they deal with their differences. There are many cases of differences that cause conflicts. However, in many parts of the world, the communities have people with different religion, culture, race and nationality. Differences are not always about those. People from the very same hometown, culture, race, nationality and religion have differences as well. They might be different in their social status, their talents, etc. Some people deal with the differences by avoiding, and some tolerating the differences. Nowadays people tend to campaign about toleration.
Actually, there is the best way to deal with the differences. It is to embrace the differences and utilize them. It is not about how to let different people do different things. It is about how to let two different persons work together; synergize to get a better result which they could never achieve if they work alone. As an example, when Amy and Beth want to set a business to earn their own money, Amy wants to do a bakery business while Beth wants to do a creative art business. Amy is into baking cakes and cookies while Beth is into creating decorative stuffs.
They might fight about which business to do which will result in nothing but a fight. They might also do it their own way. Amy alone could do her best and earn USD 800 from her bakery business. On the other hand, Beth could do her best and earn USD 700 from her creative art business. However, there is another solution to their different business interest. They can synergize where they accept orders for cakes or cookies as wedding or birthday party souvenirs. Amy will bake the cupcakes or the cookies while Beth will handle the packaging. Then together, they could earn up to USD 2000.
When they do the business alone and we sum up their profit, USD 800 plus USD 700 is only USD 1500. 7th Habit: Sharpen the Saw There are four key dimensions in our lives, which are body, mind, heart and soul. These key dimensions should be sharpened regularly. No matter how much energy we use to cutting trees with a blunt saw, it will takes forever. If we spend our time to sharpen the saw before cutting the trees, we will not need that much of time. We should regularly sharpen the four key dimensions. If we only sharpen our body intensively, without sharpening our mind, we will be the brainless athletes.
If we only sharpen our mind intensively without sharpening other dimensions, we will be the unsocial geeks. Neither one is good. We should balance between the four dimensions. First, we will discuss about how to sharpen our bodies. We can do it by eating healthy food because we are what we eat. We can also relax in the bathtub at the end of the day, exercise or do any kinds of sport we like, have enough sleep every day, and refusing to take any hazardous intake. Addiction to tobacco, alcohol and/or drugs is extremely dangerous. It will not only blunt one dimension, but also other dimensions.
Secondly, to sharpen our mind, we should continuously learn about anything. We should never stop learning. Learning does not mean going to school, college or any academic institute. School and college are very important for our future, but the thing is, we should make sure that we are actually learning, not achieving scores only. There is no point of going to college with great GPA if we learn nothing. There are many ways to learn and the most frequently used is reading. We do not always have to read school textbooks to learn something. We can choose any topic of our interest.
No matter how unimportant a topic sounds, we are actually learning something and broaden our knowledge when we read about it. Other ways to sharpen our mind are playing games (chess or logical games), traveling, attending seminars, watching television, reading newspaper, learning how to play a music instrument, etc. The third dimension is our heart, and we can sharpen it by building good relationships with other people as well as ourselves. A good relationship with ourselves means that we trust ourselves, that we are content and confidence in our own skin.
In other words, we are treating ourselves nice. While a good relationship with other people means that we make sure that we are trustworthy, kind, loyal and understanding. Depression is a demon for this dimension, but we can fight depression with hope, faith and laughter. Never underestimate the power of hope, faith and laughter. The last but not the least dimension is our soul. How do we sharpen our soul? There are several ways to do it. We can meditate, write a journal, go on a trip, paint, pray, write a song, listen to the music, play an instrument, and many other activities.
Going on a trip to see nice view where we can relax and enjoy the view. It will help us to get in touch with the nature. Nature has the healing power for our soul. Writing a journal also heals us by letting us to express our feelings, and from a journal we can also learn from our mistakes because we might forget about that lesson in the future. Moreover, reading, listening or watching an inspirational media will also help us to sharpen our soul. Reading is useful to sharpen our mind but depending on the content, some can sharpen our soul as well.