Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is one of the most valuable in our corporate library. We advise it all our employees. Its value lies in the fact that it describes a ready-made system to improve the quality of life. And when we give it to our employees, we improve their lives. But it won’t work if you just read it and keep waiting for a miracle. Constant use of the principles, described in the book is the necessary element of success.
Read and implement. Good luck!
Stephen Covey in his book defines a habit as knowledge (why and what to do), skill (how to do) and desire (want to do). It means that to develop a habit, you must consider all three components: to study the theoretical model, to learn how to apply it in practice, and to find the motivation for its use. The first three habits are connected with the inner world of a person – the ability to control himself. It’s the basis of character development. Only having won himself, a person becomes independent enough to achieve public victories associated with teamwork, communication, and collaboration – three habits of external efficiency. The seventh habit connects all the other ones. It is a habit of regular, balanced development.
Efficiency, by Covey, is a balance between the desired result and wasted resources – he calls it the “P / PC balance”. Maintaining the balance between P and PC makes the most efficient use of physical, temporal and financial resources. So, what are the habits defined by Stephen Covey in his best-selling book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People“?
Habit 1: Be Proactive
The author of the book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” adheres to a clear and familiar to a western person principle of proactivity: a person always has the freedom of choice, he is responsible for his life.
Covey attaches the greatest importance to how we react to what is happening with us. Many people wait that the important events that can change their lives will occur themselves, without any effort.
They are waiting for someone else to take care of making them more successful and happier. However, high results are achieved by another type of person. These people solve problems instead of talking about them, they are looking for solutions, not excuses, they take the initiative and do everything necessary to complete the task. One argument “for” is more important for them than ninety-nine “against”.
With this concept, Covey defines the behavior of a successful person. A proactive approach means to change from the “inside out”. It’s pointless to seek challenges outside and try to bring positive change outside. If I really want to fix things, I’ll work on the only thing that is subject to me: myself.
Responsibility is the ability to be responsible for what is happening, but to choose your own response is the basis of efficiency and each of the other habits.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Our lives will develop quite differently if we really understand what is most important for us and keeping this image in mind, do only what is really important. If we put a ladder to the wall, we don’t really want to climb, each step will bring us closer to the place we don’t really want. So, the basis of efficiency is a clear understanding of the ultimate goal.
Everything is created twice, says Stephen Covey. The second (physical) creation is preceded by the first (mental) one. Everything starts with the originally unformed and nonpersistent desire to change anything. And we are responsible for ensuring that by using our imagination and creativity we create new scenarios of our lives, that fully correspond to our values and principles.
The most effective way to see our ultimate goal is to develop a personal mission statement or philosophy. He recommends focusing on what you want to be (your nature) and on what you would like to dedicate your life (on your contributions and achievements). And if having done it once, you will realize your mission, realize your motion vector, you’ll get the basis for the development of your proactivity. You will get a vision and a set of values to guide your actions. You will have a life “compass” in accordance with which you’ll set long-term and short-term goals.
Different people put different paradigms in the center of their lives – work, family, money, etc. Many, especially young people, selfishly focused on themselves. But all this, according to Covey, are unstable centers. The only firm basis to make the right decisions and not to deviate from our mission is our principles.
A life focused on principles is characterized by wisdom and inner orientation. In this case, you are not subject to influence from other people or circumstances. Your decisions are effective due to the fact that their source is “accurate maps” with predictable results. And taking them you feel moral satisfaction. Because instead of having to live under the scenarios provided to you by your parents, society, genes, you write your lofe-scenario yourself.
It suffices to define two or three important results you want to achieve in order to move forward – and this simple act will open the overall perspective of your life and will indicate the direction of your development.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Management is discipline, adherence to the established order. But not only. It is equally important to give priority to the key issues, the most important at the moment.
Stephen Covey offers to decide what is your top priorities, and have the courage to say “no” to everything else. Many people make the mistake of wasting efforts on the most urgent issues, instead of concentrating on the most important ones and then maintaining a balance between the growth of their performance and the development of their resources and funds. It often seems that you have not enough energy and effort for the most important issues. But this problem can be solved by the delegation of some powers to the professional people who work with you side by side.
An effective person pays attention not to the problems, but to the opportunities, stresses the author. Effective people feed opportunities and starve problems. They think proactively. These people support the P / PC balance, focusing on the often-overlooked matters of a high order which creates new opportunities.
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
“Win-win” is a special desire in the heart and mind to search for mutual benefit in the interaction with other people. It is very difficult to pick win-win solutions and agreements that satisfy both sides. However, it is necessary, otherwise, both sides will lose in the long run.
But it’s not always possible. What to do in this case? Covey advises using the position of “no contact” in which you and your counterpart waive previous agreements and remain in harmony with each other. You do not enter into any new contracts, but create each other no vain expectations.
Building mutually beneficial cooperation is a great job. To achieve this quality of partnership, you are required to be persistent in achieving your goals and to pay attention to the interests of others. Covey advises developing a mentality of sufficiency – a paradigm, according to which the world has everything for everyone. As competition is important for the market, just as important it is to organize cooperation in the workplace. A pointless rivalry can be dangerous and destructive.
Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then – to be understood
Paradoxically, but the one who listens well expresses his ideas more clearly and convincingly than the one who speaks well. Covey advises to master the skills of empathic listening – listening with the intention to understand, not with the intention to express your own views or to convince. It means not to agree with someone, but try to understand your interlocutor both at a rational and emotional level.
Before you assess the situation and draw conclusions, try to see the position of the other side. If you train yourself to do so, you will no longer be a permanent member of two monologues. The most comfortable way for you will be dialogue, an exchange of views. In the dialogue, you are more likely to achieve your goals.
Habit 6: Synergize
Synergy by Covey is the construction of a team, teamwork, unity, and development of creative interaction with other people. A successful synergistic process produces solutions that far surpass the individual ones.
The highest synergy arises when we face the most difficult problems and focus all our resources on them: motivation “win-win” and empathic communication skills. The result of this is a miracle. We create alternatives – something that hasn’t even exist.
A truly efficient person has sober self-esteem to recognize the limitations of his perception of the problem and insight to see the new opportunities offered by the interaction with the hearts and minds of other people. Such a person appreciates differences between people because these differences supplement his knowledge of reality.
Although you can not control other people’s paradigm and the synergistic process itself, the main factors of synergy are within your circle of influence. You are able to appreciate what makes you different from other people. You do not have to agree with the other point of view – just recognize its right to exist. And you can try to understand it. If you see only two choices – yours and the “wrong” one – you will not be able to start looking for an alternative and most likely you will not be able to find the best solution.
Habit 7: “Sharpen the saw”
To make an understanding of the seventh habit easier to the reader, Stephen Covey offers a metaphor. Imagine a man who is sawing wood for five hours, but when you advise him to stop for a couple of minutes to sharpen the saw, he replies: “I do not have time to sharpen the saw!”.
The seventh habit develops and supports your most valuable resource – yourself. It means constant updating of four dimensions of your nature – physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional. It is your personal resources and tools (RT).
Spending time on “sharpening the saw” is an action that requires initiative from us. Our RT is at the center of our circle of influence and no one except us can provide their development. We need to take care of ourselves.
The update process becomes effective only when it is balanced and covers all four dimensions. Neglecting one of them will have a negative impact on all the others. Thus, speaking about the relationship between the physical and spiritual resources, Stephen Covey advises devoting at least 30 minutes every day to your body to develop endurance, strength, and flexibility. If you do not have time to think about your life, about your mission on the Earth – you will not be able to become a true leader. For regular feeding of the intellect, Covey advises to read good books. And another good way of sharpening the intellectual saw is a diary: formulating your thoughts and discoveries on its pages, you will gradually seek clarity, accuracy, and relevance of your thoughts.
Development of the effectiveness
It’s not an easy task to develop a solid character. But yet it is possible. Everything starts with the desire to find the right principles for the foundation of your life, to break the paradigms created by others, and to escape from the deceptive comfort us unworthy habits.
If you start with a daily personal victory and act “from the inside out”, the results will certainly appear. Placing the right principles in the center of your life and maintaining a balance between the productive activities and the development of your ability to act (P / PC balance), you will build a truly effective, useful and happy life.
Notice, that not only the right habits can help you to become an effective person, but also the usage of special applications to planning, tracking and managing the activity. Take a look at what you can use to achieve success!