Published in 1989, Stephen Covey’s book “7 Habits of highly effective people” has impacted thousands of people around the world by helping them shift their perspective on how they think about life, goals, and success.
After reading this book, I would recommend it to anyone trying to grow more in the following areas:
- Time management
- Collaboration with others
Stephen Covey focuses on the character of the individual as opposed to exterior propensities. The book is not about quick fixes and short cuts. It’s about building lasting habits that shape our character so we can grow and become more effective in life.
So What is Character?
The dictionary defines character as the “aggregate of traits and features that form the individual.” In other words, character is the composite of our habits. It’s what we do when no one is watching that makes us who we are. As Aristotle once quoted: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Stephen divides these habits into two categories: Private victories and Public victories.
Let’s Start with Private Victories:
1. Be Proactive
Proactivity is deciding to take responsibility of our own lives. It’s deciding not to play the victim, but choosing to face our problems, finding solutions as opposed to letting problems hinder us from moving forward and being effective.
Being proactive also focuses on what Stephen calls “our circle of influence.” Our circle of influence are the people and things in our lives that we can reach. Being proactive is focusing on the things that we can do something about as opposed to dispensing all our energy in “our circle of concern,” where we have very little influence.
2. Begin With the End in Mind
Beginning with the end in mind is about who you want to become and what you want to accomplish in your life time. Once you have clear picture of the type of person you want be, you can start taking steps toward getting there.
Steven also stated that an effective person centres their lives around a set of values or core principles as opposed to centring their lives around volatile things such as money and pleasures.
3. Put First Things First
The third private victory pertains to an individual’s personal leadership and self-management. Putting first things first is about taking your big picture goals and breaking them down into practical day-to-day tasks.
For this to happen, you need to recognize your most important priorities and organize them in a way that allows you to spend your energy on the things that matter most.
5. Seek First to Understand then Seek to be Understood
Seeking to listen and to understand others first goes a long way in every area of life, whether it’s business, family, or friendships. But there is also a right and wrong way to listen. For example, you can listen simply to state your reply or to convince the person, or you can listen to understand the other person’s perspective.
Choose the latter. Doing so will build an atmosphere of trust and empathy, where people can feel emotionally secure and confident in the relationship.
4. Think Win/Win
Everybody faces situations where they have to make tough decisions. Some decisions are beneficial for one party while costly for the other. In that case, it would be a Win/Lose situation, where one side has to compromise.
However, an effective person always tries to make decisions that are beneficial for both parties. This is what is known as a Win/Win situation. Finding the Win/Win option in every situation not only creates new opportunities, it also creates stronger relationships.
Synergy is defined as the creation of something whole that is greater than the sum of it’s part. Think of being in a room where only one person contributes to ideas and the rest just listen, holding back what they want to share. How effective is that? Not Very.
Synergy on the other hand, requires people to collaborate, work together, and share ideas in a non-threatening environment. These types of environments can be the birth place of some of the best ideas and results.
7. Sharpen the Saw
Imagine trying to chop down trees with the same saw you have been using for months or even years.
That would be one dull saw! Not a very effective one.
But you might figure: “hmm…If I just swing harder for longer, eventually I can cut down more trees.” Perhaps, but at that point, you are working harder and longer with mediocre results. However, if you took a break and sharpened the saw, you’d be able to cut down trees with much more ease and expediency.
The same goes for the human body. People need time to rest and recover so they can be effective. If you work non-stop without rest, thinking that’s the way you’ll achieve maximum productivity, you might want to reconsider this approach.
We all need to sharpen the saw, whether it’s physically, spiritually, or emotionally. Running on an empty tank will only produce mediocre results. But when you choose to refuel and restore your mind, body, and soul, you can dispense more energy into doing the things that matters most in your life.