Hello again! Today’s post is a review of the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, easily one of my favorite books on self-improvement. As Master Pearson and many other of my friends will tell you, I am not exactly the most organized person so this book is a perfect fit! As you can guess from the book title, Stephen Covey has prepared 7 habits for anyone to follow. He promises that the addition of these habits in an unorganized person’s life will make them a completely different person in terms of efficiency and thought process. So where do we begin? At the very beginning, we are introduced to paradigms.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the basic meaning of the term paradigm as “a pattern or model, an exemplar”.
So paradigms are essentially how people view the world, they are the figurative magnifying glass every single person is using to go through life. Covey makes an argument in the beginning of the book that paradigm shifts are some of the most powerful changes in a person’s mind than anything else. It’s easy to learn quick techniques to appear to be more interested in people’s opinions or to appearlike you want to help solve their problems, but unless you are truly invested in that cause you probably need to change your paradigm. Otherwise people will begin to realize that you are being insincere, and when people figure that out then nobody will truly trust you because they will feel like you are manipulating them. This is why gaining a person’s trust is never as simple as 1 2 3. People can have different paradigms and still be correct. Not making sense? What do you see in the picture below?
If you see a rather young lady with her head mostly turned to the right then you are correct. But if you also see an elderly woman then you are also correct. This is what Covey means when he talks about paradigm shifts, he describes them as the “Ah ha!” moment that you experience when you see both the old lady and the young lady for the first time instead of only one. You open you mind up to different possibilities yet you are still correct. There are many paradigms that Covey suggests people adopt throughout his book and all of them are focused on creating more integrity with people’s behaviors and cracking down on personal responsibility and time management. I don’t have enough space to get into great detail about the paradigm aspect of this book, so I will have to move on to the first few habits.
There are seven habits in this entire book, although I will only go into detail about the first three (the bolded ones) because the other 4 could take up another post by themselves. The seven habits are…
- Be Proactive
- Begin with the End in Mind
- Put First Things First
- Think Win/Win
- Seek First To Understand, Then to Be Understood
- Sharpen the Saw
The first 3 habits are what Covey categorizes as “From Dependence to Independence“. Throughout the entire book he argues that many people are still dependent on other people for a variety of reasons and that they usually make excuses without even realizing it. Only after applying the first three habits can you break the cycle of dependence and be independent. But you shouldn’t stop there, because although being independent is a great improvement, being interdependent gives a person the greatest amount of effectiveness in life (habits 4 through 6 focus on interdependence).
Be Proactive. This habit is all about being proactive about taking responsibility for your life. Covey says that people who are proactive are “response-able”, that they don’t blame circumstances on circumstances that are out of their control (such as genetics, conditions, etc.). People who aren’t proactive are the type of people who are happy when the weather feels good but gloomy when the sky is cloudy and it begins to rain. They depend on nice weather to feel happy throughout the day. Proactive people feel happy because they are happy, not because of some outside circumstance. And this is the most important part of habit 1: you have to realize that you have the freedom to choose. You make a conscious choice to go through life without depending on external conditions. And not only do you make the choice, you have to believe it in your gut. Proactive people are always the people saying “I can”, “I will”, and other I statements. On the contrary, reactive people are constantly saying “I can’t”, “I have to”, “If only”, etc.
Two important concepts that Covey describes in habit 1 are the Circle of Influence and the Circle of Concern. The Circle of Influence are things that people tend to have great control over, like health or children or problems at work. The Circle of Concern contains parts of people’s lives that they do not have much control over. Almost zero control, actually. An example of this would be terrorism. It is important that a person’s Circle of Influence is the main area where energy is spent because energy spent elsewhere is usually a stressful waste of time.
Begin with the End in Mind. Habit 2 is all about what you want to be. It is the imaginative aspect of being independent, the ability to see with your mind what you want to be in the future. It is all about finding a proper center for your life. Many people are centered on things that make them vulnerable. Common centers are family, money, or work. These centers each have their own vulnerabilities, but I’ll let you read those for yourself in the book. Covey argues that the best center for a person is based not on family, money, or work, but on principles. Principles like integrity, honesty, and so on. If a person is principle centered, then they are no longer vulnerable. They have the confidence and durability to deal with any situation because of their principles. There are two main goals of habit 2:
- Find a principle-based centre for the you or your organisation
When the pressure is on, confirm who are you as a group of people and remind yourself of your common goal outside of your immediate concerns. This ties into how we address the gap between stimulus and response through knowing who you are.
- Find those who are not as impacted under stress to support your weak spokes
Everyone reacts differently under stress. Some may be able to continue to see the strategic vision, others can focus on process, while others have the capacity to keep the laughs happening under fire. Know the strengths of your team, and apply grace and understanding to those whose spokes need supporting.
For more information, please go to this site: Habit 2 Explanation
Put First Things First. This habit is all about recognizing the fact that you don’t need to do everything imaginable. It is much better for you to focus on a few major responsibilities than collapse from the weight of too many unnecessary priorities. What this habit comes down to is time management.
I would go into detail about this habit but Master Pearson has already incorporated some of these ideas into one of his own posts about time management. To understand the basics of habit 3 please refer to his post: Time Management – Why would anyone want to live like that?
That concludes my review of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I hope my discussion of the first half of this book piqued your interest! It is a fantastic book and I highly recommend that everyone should give it at least one good read.