“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Dr. Stephen R. Covey
Analysis by Bob Bugle
As one of the most influential management books ever written, “The 7 habits of Highly Effective People” has profoundly affected millions of business and personal relationships since it was first published in 1989.
“Habits are powerful factors in our lives. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character and produce our effectiveness…or ineffectiveness.” Dr. Covey
Dr. Covey defines a habit as the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do it) and desire (wanting to do it). Unless all three elements are involved, a good habit will never be formed. Merely knowing what to do and having the will to do it produces ineffective results if we don’t possess the skill set required to accomplish the task. Similarly, having the knowledge and skill but lacking the desire accomplishes nothing.
Now that we know what a habit is, what exactly are “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”?
- Be Proactive. “As human beings we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.”
- Begin with the End in Mind. “All things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a second or physical creation.” We create what we envision.
- Put First Things First. “The objective of Quadrant II management is to manage our lives effectively from a center of sound principles, from knowledge of our personal mission, with a focus on the important as well as the urgent.” Understanding and focusing our time, energy and resources on what’s most important, both short and long term.
- Think Win-Win. “Seeking mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-Win sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena. Agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial, mutually satisfying.”
- Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood. “We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
- Synergize. “Low trust causes us to be defensive in our communication. High trust produces high levels of communication (win-win).” Understanding that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that together we can accomplish more than we can as individuals.
- Sharpen the Saw. The Principle of Balanced Self-Renewal (Mind, Body, Social/Emotional and Spiritual) and commitment to lifelong learning. “Habit 7 is preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have—you.”
Habit # 1- Be Proactive.
Most people define being proactive as taking initiative, but that’s only part of the equation. Taking the initiative to acquire the knowledge and skill set necessary to accomplish our desired goals is certainly critical to our personal development and success. Luck as the saying goes is the intersection of planning and hard work. By planning and working hard, we help to influence our environment and put ourselves in a position where good things can happen to/and for us.
As mentioned above, being proactive means understanding that we have the power to manage our lives. Who we are and the decisions we make are not simply a function of our upbringing or circumstance. Between the stimulus of our environment (what happens to us), and our response lies our area of influence where we decide what our response will be. This “freedom to choose” is fundamental to all human beings and can never be taken away. But it can be given away.
Being Proactive also means, as much as possible, focusing our time and energy on those things we can control and ignoring those that we can’t. Dr. Covey refers to these as the “Circle of Concern” and the “Circle of Influence”. Think of your Circle of Influence as being located inside your Circle of Concern. As your time, energy and resources are focused within your Circle of Influence, you shape your environment in a positive way and your Circle of Influence expands. As you expend time, energy and resources outside of your Circle of Influence, your actions have little or no effect on the desired outcome. In fact, by ignoring those issues your efforts could have impacted in a positive manner, your Circle of Influence actually diminishes, thereby limiting your options and influence.
The Serenity Prayer comes to mind here: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Through exercising our freedom to choose how we respond, and by focusing our energy on concerns we can actively address, we positively shape our environment and powerfully affect our circumstances