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I have never made any serious New Year’s resolutions before. In the past I never agreed with the practice of setting specific goals for myself. I always felt I had a very strong idea of where I wanted to go and what I needed to do to get there, that I didn’t need to write anything down. Recently I have been reading more books on self improvement, and they all boast the power of making goals. I’m starting to see the benefits of goal setting when you follow the method of creating SMART goals. Which stands for: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
If you’re making any resolutions this year, need ideas for goals, or are just on a journey of self improvement and learning, then The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a must read. It’s easy to understand, because it breaks everything down into 7 simple habits each with their own chapter. The habits are also presented in order so that they grow on each other. Just like any resolution you make, this book reminds us that you need skill, knowledge and desire first, to be effective when trying to implement these habits.
After writing this post, I realized that I wrote a summary of the book, and not a review. Enjoy.
You can’t fake any true growth and developmentThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephan R. Covey
Before any of the habits are discussed first the author discusses character, ethics and principles. It’s not just what other people can see but the foundation of you as a person. This he believes, is the core of the habits. In one lesson he teaches is that all successful and effective business, or other organizations including a family, must operate with the understanding that all stakeholders are important. You can not neglect once aspect if your life or business and still expect to be successful. Each person involved must be treated with respect from employees to customers, and especially your spouse and children. He gives an example of a soup restaurant. The restaurant was so popular that people lined up outside to get their famous clam chowder. But then the store was bought and the new owners watered down the soup, the customers felt betrayed and stopped coming. Even once they realized their mistake and the new owners brought back the original recipe, the customers did not return and the restaurant had to close. This story was written to teach the lesson that to remain effective you must maintain quality.
The next lesson the author teaches before the 7 habits, is about our interactions with other people, those with co- workers and family members. He discussed what he called emotional bank account. The idea is that every person has a reserve within their emotional bank, and with every interaction you have with someone you are either depositing or withdrawing from their emotional bank. Too many withdrawals and you have damaged the relationship, and it will need to be repaired. When performing actions that are deposits for another person, you have to consider not what you regard as a deposit, but what a deposit is to them. This advice reminded me if the book The 5 Love Languages. The last piece of advice around your interactions with others is the ability to apologize with scensarity.
After he explains the basic ideas around interactions, maturity, and perceptions ( the principles he feels are important to establish first) then the 7 habits are described. I will summarize what they are below, but to fully understand I suggest you read the book. I got the audio version, and listened to it as I walked to work. I was able to finish within a few days.
Habit One – Be Proactive
The first habit is taking responsibility for your actions. Its about our freedom to choose our response to stimulus. We are in control of how we react; we control our attitude. No matter what outside influence are occurring everyone has the freedom to control their internal voice, and how they act. The examples in this book describe people in the same situation who act very differently, those with a positive outlook, or control over themselves, were able to survive very difficult situations. Our response can influence world. Which means, how we react and respond can change future stimuli.
A proactive person will focus on the things that they can change, and not on those outside of their control. If there is drama in your job, instead of focusing on the bad, and complaining with your co-workers, you should focus on the things you can influence. Work within your circle of influence, this is where your energy should be focused. Change and improve what you can, and over time what you can influence will start to grow, and your influence will increase.
Habit Two – Begin with the End in Mind
Habit two is about creating a personal vision for your life. It grows on habit one, which says you do have control, and says with that control create a vision and be a leader in your life. For me it relates to the ideas of vision boards, journaling, and goals. Many parenting books I read, discuss having a family motto, and mission statements, so each member of the family knows what is expected of them. Its the same as when companies create a list of values they want their employees to follow. It about deciding who you are. We all need a vision for our lives and a set of principles that represent who we want to be.
Habit Three – Put First Things First
Habit three is about prioritizing your goals and tasks. Once you have completed habit two and have created your goals and tasks, you need to decide what is the most important and what you are going to focus on, It is about personal management and making sure you are following what you decided in the previous habit. In other words you are executing the priorities in habit two.
It is suggests to divide everything into 4 quadrants, the first quadrant, he suggests, should always be about the relationships in your life. these are the things that are important and urgent. Knowing where everything falls, we need to start learning to say no to the things that are not important, and to put our time into quadrants 1 and 2, the important things.
If it is important to a person, then it is as important to you, as the other person is to youThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephan R. Covey
Habit Four – Think Win Win
Habit four is about mutual benefit. It is about sharing knowledge, and power, People are afraid that if they share too much they are loosing something. But the author believes that the pie gets bigger when we share, that it is not finite. Most people believe in Win/Loose that someone always wins and the other person looses. Or we mistake compromise for win/win. The difference he describes, is that compromise is when both parties have to give up something, they both loose. In win/win no one has to compromise, both parties get exactly what they want, and if that’s not possible then its a “no deal” situation.
Habit Five – Seek First to Understand then to be Understood
When we listen to people, we have a tendency to listen to reply, not to understand. In this habit, he suggests, it is so important to try to understand others. People have so many perspectives and understandings, that we have to understand that other persons world before we can try to have our opinion understood by them. People will not listen to us, if they don’t think we understand them. If we want to be heard, we have to listen first. He calls this “listening with other peoples reference”.
People know listening is important, but instead pretend to listen. They make eye contact, nod their heads, but really they are still preparing their response. He describes this as trying to be efficient, we don’t have time to get lost in another’s thoughts. The problem is you can not be efficient with people, it saves time in the long run if we truly try to understand people first.
Fast is slow with people, and slow is fastThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephan R. Covey
Habit Six – Synergy
Habit six is about valuing other people and interacting with others. We need to learn to value differences and celebrate them. No one has all the answers so we need to be glad of differences in opinions and try to understand other peoples points of view. Often they will bring to the table things we never thought of. Together people can make something better and bigger when they work together, then any one of the parts could have completed on their own. He describes it as 1+1 =3. Synergy is not a compromise, its creative cooperation. It is important to note that in order for this to work there needs to be common purpose, or mission.
The whole is greater then the sum of the partsThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephan R. Covey
At the end of this chapter, the author states that if your follow habits 4 ,5 and 6 you can solve any human problem.
Habit Seven – Sharpen the Saw
Habit seven is the habit of renewing yourself. Its called sharpening the saw, because of a example he gives regarding cutting down a tree. You don’t want to become so caught up and busy cutting down the tree, that you don’t take the time to sharpen the saw. Or in another example, to busy driving that you don’t stop and get gas.
This habit is about continuous improvement and learning, its something that I deeply believe in. Its not just about knowledge (mind), we also need to focus on sharpening on our, body, spirit, and relationships. Lives become distorted if don’t do it.
In the rest of the chapter he gives examples of ways to sharpen each area of our lives. Exercise and nutrition will strengthen our body. Exercising is also important for your spirit, because it gives us confidence. Reading, writing, and keeping a journal, are all things that strengthen our minds. He suggests lessening the amount of TV, so its only used for education and entertainment. Otherwise our time should be spent expanding ourselves.
Knowing what our principles and beliefs are will strengthen our spirit. Spend some time in nature. Books will strengthen our spirit too, when we read biographies about admired people, or religious text. Now what about emotional and relationships in your life? He suggests rebuilding relationships that are important to you, that may be broken or neglected. Even if you have all the other categories covered, a bad relationship with someone important to you, will taint the rest of your life.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ends with challenges, that are meant to help you start developing these habits. If you got all the way to the end of this post, then thanks for sticking around. I apologize how long it became. I clearly found this book very inspiring and wanted to share everything I learned by reading it.