Menanteau Serfontein – 29 December 2020
Soon after Stephen R. Covey’s Book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” was launched in the early 1990’s I bought and read it. I found it fascinating and was fortunate to apply many of the principles contained in the book in my business career and in my personal life. The book is still on my bookshelf and when I paged through it recently, I noticed all my underlining and marking of key principles throughout the book. I then decided to go through the book again and to prepare a Summary to be posted on this website. My decision was based on the excellence of the content of the book and my belief that all of Covey’s principles and the 7 habits that are required to be highly effective and successful, remain as relevant today as they were then. I trust that you will find my Summary useful and that you will enjoy putting the principles and the 7 habits into practice, without having to read the whole book.
Covey believes that the way we see the world is based on our own unique perceptions. In order to create change, we often have to change ourselves first and this can only be done by changing our paradigms/perceptions.
An important starting point is to define success.
Covey states that “In more than 25 years of working in business, university, and marriage and family settings, I have come in contact with many individuals who have achieved an incredible degree of outward success, but have found themselves struggling with an inner hunger, a deep need for personal congruency and effectiveness and for healthy, growing relationships with other people.”
He studied over 200 years of writings about what “success” means and summarised below is his description of how the definition of success has changed over the years.
During the first 150 years, the focus was on “Character Ethic”, i.e. things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperament, courage, justice, patience, simplicity, modesty, etc. According to the Character Ethic, there are basic principles of effective living, and that people can only experience true success and happiness when they integrate these principles into their basic character.
Soon after World War 1, the view of success shifted from Character Ethic to “Personality Ethic”. Success became a function of personality, public image, attitudes and behaviours, skills and techniques. There were two paths; the one was human and public relations techniques and the other was positive mental attitude. Some of the literature acknowledged that character as an ingredient of success, but tended to compartmentalize it rather than recognise it as foundational.
Covey and his wife’s experiences with raising their son, coupled with his studies about perceptions and success, helped him to realise that there is a vital difference between Personality Ethic and Character Ethic. He found that elements of the Personality Ethic such as personal growth, communication skills and positive thinking are sometimes essential for success. However, these are secondary, not primary traits. Secondary traits alone have no permanent role in long-term relationships. Eventually, when there isn’t deep integrity and fundamental character strength, the challenges of life will cause true motives to surface and human relationship failure will replace short-term success. Covey says that in the final analysis, what we are, communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do. We all know it. There are people we trust absolutely, because we know their character. Whether they are eloquent or not, we trust them, whether they have human relations techniques or not, we trust them, and work successfully with them. In the words of William George Jordan, “Into the hands of every individual is given a marvellous power for good or evil – the silent, unconscious, unseen influence of his life. This is simply the constant radiation of what man really is, not what he pretends to be.”
The 7 Habits that Covey proposes 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
I strongly recommend that you don’t skip Sections 2 to 6 of the Summary in order to quickly get to the details of the 7 Habits that are dealt with from Section 7 onwards. It is absolutely essential to read Sections 1 to 6, because what Covey covers in these Sections are key building blocks for properly understanding the 7 Habits. Unless you read it thoroughly, it will be difficult to understand some of the concepts, principles and terminology that are used later on in Section 7 onwards.
Please note that the vast majority of the text that is included in my Summary, has been taken verbatim from Covey’s book. This means that virtually wherever I use the term “I” it will be verbatim the wording that was used by Covey in his book.
The Power of a Paradigm
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People embody many of the fundamental principles of human effectiveness. These habits are basic; they are primary. They represent the internalization of correct principles upon which enduring happiness and success are based. But before we can really understand these Seven Habits, we need to understand our own “paradigms” and how to make a “paradigm shift”.
Both Character Ethic and Personality Ethic are examples of social paradigms. A paradigm is a model, theory, perception, assumption, or frame of reference. In the more general sense, it’s the way we “see” the world – not in terms of our visual sense of sight, but in terms of perceiving, understanding and interpreting.
Each of us has many maps in our head which can be divided into two main categories: Maps of the way things are, or realities, and maps of the way things should be, or values. We interpret everything we experience through these mental maps.
Two people can see the same thing, disagree, and both be right. It’s not logical; it’s psychological. A paradigm shift takes place when someone finally “sees” reality/facts in another way.
Paradigms are inseparable from character. Being is seeing in the human dimension. And what we see is highly interrelated to what we are. We can’t go very far to change our seeing without simultaneously changing our being and vice versa.
- The Principle-Centred Paradigm
The Character Ethic is based on the fundamental idea that there are principles that govern human effectiveness – natural laws in the human dimension that are just as real, just as unchanging and unarguably “there”, in the same way as laws such as gravity are in the physical dimension.
Principles are like lighthouses. They are natural laws that cannot be broken. “Objective reality” is composed of “lighthouse” principles that govern human growth and happiness – natural laws that are woven into the fabric of every civilized society throughout history and comprise the roots of every family and institution that has endured and prospered.
The degree to which people in a society recognise and live in harmony with them, moves them toward either survival and stability or disintegration and destruction.
According to Covey, the principles that he is referring to are not esoteric, mysterious or “religious” ideas. These principles are a part of almost every major enduring religion as well as enduring social philosophies and ethical systems. They are self-evident and can easily be validated by any individual. It’s almost as if these principles or natural laws are part of the human condition, part of human consciousness, part of the human conscience. They seem to exist in all human beings, regardless of social conditioning and loyalty to them, even though they might be submerged or numbed by such conditions or disloyalty.
Some of the examples of principles referred to by Covey include fairness, out of which the concept of equity and justice is developed, integrity and honesty which create the foundation of trust, human dignity, service, quality or excellence, potential, growth (releasing potential) and developing talents, patience, nurturance and encouragement.
Principles are deep, fundamental truths that have universal application. They apply to individuals, marriages, families and organisations. When these truths are internalized into habits, they empower people to create a wide variety of practices to deal with different situations.
Principles are guidelines for human conduct that are proven to have enduring, permanent value. They’re fundamental. They’re essentially unarguable, because they are self-evident. One way to quickly grasp the self-evident nature of principles is to simply consider the absurdity of attempting to live an effective life based on their opposites. I doubt that anyone would seriously consider unfairness, deceit, baseness, uselessness, mediocrity, or degeneration to be a solid foundation for lasting happiness and success. Although people may argue about how these principles are defined or manifested or achieved, there seems to be innate consciousness and awareness that they exist.
The more closely our paradigms are aligned with these principles or natural laws, the more accurate and functional they will be. Correct paradigms will infinitely impact our personal and interpersonal effectiveness far more than any amount of effort expended on changing our attitudes and behaviours.
- Principles of Growth and Change
The glitter of the Personality Ethic, the massive appeal, is that there is some quick and easy way to achieve quality of life – personal effectiveness and rich, deep relationships with other people – without going through the natural process of work and growth that makes it possible.
It’s a symbol without substance. It’s the “get rich quick” scheme, promising “wealth without work.” And it might even appear to succeed – but the schemer remains.
The Personality Ethic is illusionary and deceptive. And trying to get high quality results with its techniques and quick fixes is just about as effective as trying to get to some place in Chicago using a map of Detroit.
Covey refers to the words of Erich Fromm, an astute observer of the roots and fruits of the Personality Ethic:
“Today we come across an individual who behaves like an automaton, who does not know or understand himself, and the only person that he knows is the person that he is supposed to be, whose meaningless chatter has replaced communicative speech, whose synthetic smile has replaced genuine laughter, and whose sense of dull despair has taken the place of genuine pain. The statements may be said concerning this individual. One is that he suffers from defects of spontaneity and individuality which may seem to be incurable. At the same time, it may be said of him that he does not differ essentially from the millions of the rest of us who walk upon this earth.”
In all of life there are sequential stages of growth and development. A child learns to turn over, to sit up, to crawl, and then to walk and run. Each step is important and each one takes time. No step can be skipped. This is true in all phases of life and in all areas of development. The principle of process also applies in emotional areas, in human relations, and even in the area of personal character. It is unrealistic to try to shortcut a natural process in our growth and development. On a ten-point scale, if I am at level 2 in any field, and desire to move to level 5, I must first take the step toward level three. “A thousand-mile journey begins with the first step” and can only be taken one step at a time.
To relate effectively with other people, we must learn to listen. And this requires emotional strength. Listening involves patience, openness and the desire to understand – highly developed qualities of character. It’s so much easier to operate from a low emotional level and to give high-level advice.
Our level of development is fairly obvious with say tennis or piano playing, where it is impossible to pretend. But it is not so obvious in the areas of character and emotional development. We can pose and put on for a stranger. We can pretend. And for a while we can get by with it – at least in public. We might even deceive ourselves. Yet, I believe that most of us know the truth of what we really are inside; and think many of those we live with and work with do as well.
- A New Level of Thinking
Albert Einstein observed, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”
As we look around us and within us and recognise the problems created as we live and interact within the Personality Ethic, we begin to realise that these are deep, fundamental problems that cannot be solved on the superficial level of thinking on which they were created.
We need a new level, a deeper level of thinking – a paradigm based on the principles that accurately describe the territory of effective human being and interacting – to solve these deep concerns.
This new level of thinking is what Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is about. It’s a principle-centred, character-based, “inside-out” approach to personal and interpersonal effectiveness.
“Inside-out” means to start first with self; even more fundamentally, to start with the most inside part of self – with your paradigms, your character, and your motives.
An example of changing from the inside-out is “if you want to be trusted, be trustworthy”.
The inside-out approach says that private victories precede public victories, that making and keeping promises to ourselves, precedes making and keeping promises to others. It says it is futile to put personality ahead of character, to try to improve relationships with others before improving ourselves.
Inside-out is a process – a continuing process of renewal based on the natural laws that govern human growth and progress. It’s an upward spiral of growth that leads to progressively higher forms of responsible independence and effective interdependence.
Covey says “I have never seen lasting solutions to problems, lasting happiness and success, that came from the outside-in. What I have seen result from the outside-in paradigm, is unhappy people who feel victimized and immobilized, who focus on the weaknesses of other people and the circumstances they feel are responsible for their own stagnant situation.”
- The Seven Habits – An Overview
Our character, basically, is a composite of our habits. Covey quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson who said: “Sow a thought and you reap an action, sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character, sow a character, reap a destiny.”
Covey defined a habit as the intersection of knowledge, skill and desire.
Knowledge is the theoretical paradigm, the what to do and the why. Skill is the how to do. And desire is the motivation, the want to do. In order to make something a habit in our lives, we have to have all three. Creating a habit requires work in all three dimensions.
The Seven Habits are not a set of separate or piecemeal psych-up formulas. In harmony with the natural laws of growth, they provide an incremental, sequential, integrated approach to the development of personal and interpersonal effectiveness. They move us progressively on a Maturity Continuum from dependence to interdependence.
As an interdependent person, I have the opportunity to share myself deeply, meaningfully, with others, and I have access to the vast resources and potential of other human beings. Interdependence is a choice only independent people can make. Dependent people cannot choose to become interdependent. They don’t have the character to do it; they don’t own enough of themselves.
That’s why Habits 1, 2 and 3 deal with self-mastery. They move a person from dependence to interdependence. They are the “Private Victories”, the essence of character growth. Private victories precede public victories. It’s inside-out.
As you become truly independent, you have the foundation for effective interdependence. You have the character base from which you can effectively work on the more personality-orientated “Public Victories” of teamwork, cooperation,, and communication in Habits 4, 5 and 6.
The Seven Habits are habits of effectiveness. Because they are based on principles, they bring the maximum long-term beneficial results possible. They become the basis of a person’s character, creating an empowering centre of correct maps from which an individual can effectively solve problems, maximise opportunities and continually learn and integrate other principles in an upward spiral of growth. They are also habits of effectiveness, because they are based on a paradigm of effectiveness that is in harmony with a natural law, a principle I call the “P/PC Balance” which can be easily understood by remembering Aesop’s fable of the goose and the golden eggs. The story shows that true effectiveness is a function of what is produced (the golden eggs = P) and the producing asset or capacity to produce (the goose = PC). Effectiveness lies in the balance between production (P) and production capability (PC).
What You can Expect
The process involves defining yourself from within, rather than by other people’s opinions or by comparison to others.
You don’t have to be defined by your current habits. You can replace old patterns of self-feating behaviour with new patterns, new habits of effectiveness, happiness, and trust-based relationships. Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment.
It’s obviously not a quick fix. In the words of Thomas Paine, “That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only which gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price on its goods.”
- Habit 1: Be Proactive
The importance of “self-awareness” is stressed, i.e. the ability to think about your very thought process. Self-awareness enables us to stand apart and examine even the way we “see” ourselves – our self-paradigm, the most fundamental paradigm of effectiveness. It affects not only our attitudes and behaviours, but also how we see other people. It becomes our map of the basic nature of mankind.
In fact, until we take how we see ourselves (and how we see others) into account, we will be unable to understand how others see and feel about themselves and their world. Unaware, we will project our intentions on their behaviour and call ourselves objective.
If the only vision we have of ourselves comes from the social mirror, i.e. from the current social paradigm and from the opinions, perceptions, and paradigms of the people around us, then our view of ourselves is like the reflection in the crazy mirror room at the carnival. Covey refers to Victor Frankl who used self-awareness to discover the basic principle about the nature of man: Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose. In addition to self-awareness, we have imagination – the ability to create in our minds beyond our present reality. We have conscience – a deep inner awareness of right and wrong, of the principles that govern our behaviour, and a sense of the degree to which our thoughts and actions are in harmony with them. And we have independent will – the ability to act on our self-awareness, free of all other influences. Through our freedom to choose, we have the power to develop and fulfil our human potential.
Proactivity means taking initiative. We as human beings are responsible for our own lives. Our behaviour is a function of our decisions, not our circumstances. We have the responsibility to make things happen. Highly proactive people recognise this responsibility. They do not blame circumstances or conditions for their behaviour. Their behaviour is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions based on feeling.
Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and their performance. Proactive people can carry their own weather with them. Whether it rains or shines makes no difference to them. They are value driven, irrespective of the weather.
Reactive people are also affected by their “social weather”. When people treat them well, they feel well; when people don’t, they become defensive or protective. Reactive people build their emotional lives around the behaviour of others, empowering the weaknesses of other people to control them.
The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of a proactive person. Reactive people are driven by feelings, by circumstances, by conditions, by their environment. Proactive people are driven by values – carefully thought about, selected and internalized values.
Taking initiative means recognizing our responsibility to make things happen.
Many people wait for something to happen or someone to take care of them. But people who end up with good jobs are the proactive ones who are solutions to problems, not problems themselves, who seize the initiative to do whatever is necessary, consistent with correct principles, to get the job done.
Act or Be Acted Upon
It takes initiative to create the P/PC Balance of effectiveness in your life. It takes initiative to develop the Seven Habits. As you study the other six habits, you will see that each depends on the development of your active muscles. Each puts the responsibility on you to act. If you wait to be acted upon, you will be acted upon. And growth and opportunity consequences attend either road.
Listening to Our Language
Because our attitudes and behaviours flow out of our paradigms, if we use our self-awareness to examine them, we can often see in them the nature of our underlying maps. Our language, for example, is a very real indicator of the degree to which we see ourselves as proactive.
The language of reactive people absolves them of responsibility. “That’s me. That’s just the way I am.” There is nothing I can do about it.
“He makes me so mad!” I’m not responsible. My emotional life is governed by something outside my control.
“I have to do it.” Circumstances or other people are forcing me to do what I do. I’m not free to choose my own actions.
That language comes from a basic paradigm of determinism. And the whole spirit of it is the transfer of responsibility. I am not responsible, not able to choose my response.
A serious problem with reactive language is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People become reinforced in the paradigm that are determined, and they produce evidence to support the belief. They feel increasingly victimized and out of control, not in charge of their life or their destiny. They blame outside forces – other people, circumstances, even the stars – for their own situation.
In the great literature of all progressive societies, love is a verb. Reactive people make it a feeling. They’re driven by feelings. If our feelings control our actions, it is because we have abdicated our responsibility and empowered them to do so.
Proactive people make love a verb. Love is something you do: the sacrifices you make and the giving of self. Proactive people subordinate feelings to values. Love, the feeling, can be recaptured.
Circle of Concern/Circle of Influence
We all have various things that we are concerned about – our Circle of Concern. Some of the concerns we can do something about (our Circle of Influence) and others we have no real control over (our Circle of Concern).
Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence, i.e. the things they can do something about.
Reactive people, on the other hand, focus their efforts on the Circle of Concern. They focus on the problems in the environment and the weakness of other people that they have no control over. Their focus results in blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language, and increased feelings of victimization which causes their Circle of Influence to shrink.
Direct, Indirect, and No Control
The problems we face, fall in one of three areas: direct control (problems involving our own behaviour); indirect control (problems involving other people’s behaviour); or no control (problems we can do nothing about, such as our past or situational realities).
Direct control problems are solved by working on our habits. Indirect control problems are solved by changing our methods of influence. No control problems involve taking responsibility to change the line on the bottom of our face – to smile, to genuinely and peacefully accept these problems and learn to live with them, even though we don’t like them. The spirit of the Serenity Prayer applies here, commonly quoted as follows: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
There are some people who interpret “proactive” to mean pushy, aggressive, or insensitive; but that isn’t the case at all. Proactive people aren’t pushy. They’re smart, they’re value driven, they read reality and know what’s needed.
Anytime we think the problem is “out there”, that thought is the problem. We empower what’s out there to control us. The change paradigm is “outside-in” – what’s out there has to change before I can change.
Making and Keeping Commitments
At the very heart of the Circle of Influence is our ability to make and keep commitments and promises to ourselves and to others. And our integrity to those commitments, is the essence and clearest manifestation of our proactivity.
It is here that we find two ways to put ourselves in control of our lives immediately. We can make a promise – and keep it. Or we can set a goal – and work to achieve it.
- Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
What it means to “Begin with the End in Mind”
Consider the words of Joseph Anderson:
“When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of parents upon a tombstone, my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tombs of the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly follow; when I see kings lying by those who deposed them, when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind. When I read the several dates of the tombs, of some that died yesterday, and some six hundred years ago, I consider that great Day when we shall all of us be contemporaries, and make our appearance together.”
The most fundamental application of “begin with the end in mind”, is to begin with the paradigm of the end of your life as your frame of reference or criterion by which everything else is examined. This enables one to evaluate what really matters most to you so that each day of your life contributes in a meaningful way to the vision you have of your life as a whole.
To begin with the end in mind, means to start with a clear understanding of your destination so that the steps you take today are always in the right direction.
People often find themselves achieving victories that are empty, successes that have come at the expense of things that they suddenly realise were far more valuable to them.
If you carefully consider what you wanted to be said of you in the funeral experience, you will find your definition of success.
All Things are Created Twice
All things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation to all things. The carpenter’s rule is “measure twice, cut once.” Ensure that the blueprint, the first creation, is really what you want and then thereafter, each day’s decisions and actions must be carefully planned and executed in line with the end that you have in mind. This principle should ideally be applied to all facets of your life. In this way, we act within and enlarge the borders of our Circle of Influence.
By Design or Default
The unique human capacities of self-awareness and conscience enable us to examine first creations and make it possible for us to take charge of our own first creation, to write our own script. Put another way, Habit 1 says “You are the creator”. Habit 2 is the first creation.
Leadership and Management – The Two Creations
Habit 2 is based on principles of personal leadership, which means leadership is the first creation. Leadership is not management. Management is the second creation which is discussed in Habit 3. In the words of Peter Drucker and Warren Bennis, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.
Real success is success with self. It’s not having things, but in having mastery, having victory over self. To begin with the end in mind means to approach my role as a parent, as well as my other roles in life, with my values and directions clear. It also means to begin each day with those values firmly in mind. Then as the vicissitudes and challenges come, I can make my decisions based on those values. I can act with integrity. I don’t have to react to the emotion or the circumstance. I can be truly proactive and value driven, because my values are clear.
A Personal Mission Statement
The most effective way to I know to begin with the end in mind is to develop a written personal mission statement or philosophy or creed. The content and form of it will be different for everyone.
At the Centre
In order to write a personal mission statement, we must begin at the very centre of our Circle of Influence, i.e. the centre that comprises our most basic paradigms, the lens through which we see the world.
Whatever is the centre of our life will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom and power.
Security represents your sense of worth, your identity, your emotional anchorage, your self-esteem, your basic personal strength or lack of it.
Guidance means your source of direction in life, i.e. your internal frame of reference that interprets for you what is happening out there, are standards or principles or implicit criteria that govern moment-by-moment decision-making and actions.
Wisdom is your perspective on life, your sense of balance, your understanding of how the various parts and principles apply and relate to each other. It embraces judgement, discernment and comprehension.
Power is the faculty or capacity to act, the strength and potency to accomplish something. It is the vital energy to make choices and decisions. It includes the capacity to overcome deeply embedded habits and to cultivate higher, more effective ones.
Examples of typical centres of security include spouse, family, money, work, possessions, pleasure, friends, enemies, church and self. Most people fluctuate from one centre to another. The resulting relativism is like roller coasting through life. The ideal is to create one clear centre from which you can consistently derive a high degree of security, guidance, wisdom, and power, empowering your proactivity and giving congruency and harmony to every part of your life.
A Principle Centre
Principle centred security comes from knowing that correct principles do not change and can be depended upon, unlike other centres based on people or things which are subject to frequent and immediate change. We can depend on correct principles.
Principles are deep, fundamental truths, classic truths, generic common denominators. Principles are bigger than people or circumstances, and thousands of years of history have seen them triumph, time and time again.
The wisdom and guidance that accompany principle-centred living come from correct maps from the way things really are, have been and will be. Correct maps enable us to clearly see where we want to go and how to get there.
The personal power that comes from principle-centred living is the power of a proactive individual, unrestricted by the attitudes, behaviours, and actions of others or by circumstances and environmental influences that limit other people.
Principles always have natural consequences attached to them. There are positive consequences when we live in harmony with the principles. There are negative consequences when we ignore them.
Using Your Whole Brain
We should use the left as well as the right side of our brain. The left hemisphere is the more logical/verbal one and the right hemisphere is the more intuitive, creative one. Imagination and conscience which are primarily functions of the right brain enable us to practice Habit 2.
One side or the other generally tends to be dominant in every individual. The ideal of course, would be to cultivate and develop the ability to have good crossover between both sides of the brain.
Personal leadership is not a singular experience. It doesn’t begin and end with the writing of a personal mission statement. It is rather the ongoing process of keeping your vision and values before you, and aligning your life to be congruent with those most important things.
- Habit 3: Put First Things First
Habit 3 is the second creation, the physical creation. It’s the fulfilment, the actualisation, the natural emergence of Habits 1 and 2. It’s the exercise of independent will toward becoming principle-centred. It’s the day-in, day-out, moment-by-moment doing it.
The Power of Independent Will
Effective management is putting first things first. While leadership decides what “first things are”, it is management that puts them first, day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Management is discipline carrying it out.
If you are an effective manager of yourself, your discipline comes from within; it is a function of your independent will. You have the will, the integrity, to subordinate your feelings, your impulses, your moods to those values.
Covey refers to E.M. Gray who wrote an essay entitled “The Common Denominator of Success”. Gray spent his life searching for the one denominator that all successful people share. He found that it wasn’t hard work, good luck, or astute human relations, though those were all important. The one factor that seemed to transcend all the rest, embodies the essence of Habit 3, i.e. putting first things first. Gray wrote, “The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do. They don’t like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose.”
That subordination requires a purpose, a mission, a Habit 2 clear sense of direction and value, a burning “yes!” inside, that makes it possible to say “no” to other things. It also requires independent will, the power to do something when you don’t want to do it, to be a function of your values rather than a function of the impulse or desire of any given moment. It’s the power to act with integrity to your proactive first creation.
Fourth Generation of (Time) Self – Management
The principle that people are more important than things is recognised. It also recognises that that the first person you need to consider in terms of effectiveness rather than efficiency is yourself. It encourages you to spend time in Quadrant II (i.e. Important, but not urgent activities in, e.g. prevention, PC activities, relationship building, recognising new opportunities, planning and recreation) and to understand and centre your life on principles, to give clear expression to the purposes and values you want to direct your daily decisions. It empowers you to use self-awareness, and your conscience to maintain integrity to the principles and purposes you have determined are most important. Instead of using a road map, you’re using a compass.
Characteristics of Fourth Generation of Self-Management are: it’s principled, it’s conscience directed, it defines your unique mission, including values and long-term goals, it helps you balance your life by identifying roles, and by setting goals and scheduling activities in each key role every week and it gives greater context through weekly organising. The primary focus is on relationships and results, with a secondary focus on time.
Every of the key to effective management of self and others is intrinsic, i.e. it is in the Quadrant II paradigm that empowers you to see through the lens of importance rather than urgency.
Every one of the Seven Habits is in Quadrant II. Everyone deals with fundamentally important things that, if done on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in our lives.
- Paradigms of Interdependence
Covey says that before moving into the area of Public Victory, we should remember that effective interdependence can only be built on a foundation of true independence. Private victory precedes Public Victory. Algebra comes before calculus.
There are no shortcuts. You can’t jump into effective relationships without the maturity, the strength of character, to maintain it. You can’t be successful with other people if you haven’t paid the price of success with yourself.
The place to begin building any relationship is inside ourselves, inside our Circle of Influence, our own character. We have to make this fundamental paradigm shift first. Self-mastery and self-discipline are the foundation of good relationships with others. Real self-respect comes from dominion over self, from true independence. And that’s the focus of Habits 1, 2 and 3. Independence is an achievement. Interdependence is a choice only independent people can make.
As we become independent – proactive, centred in correct principles, value driven and able to organise execute around the priorities in our life with integrity, we then can choose to become interdependent – capable of building rich, enduring, highly productive relationships with other people.
The Emotional Bank Account
An Emotional Bank Account is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that one’s built up in a relationship. It’s the feeling of safeness you have built up in a relationship.
If I make deposits into an Emotional Bank Account with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping my commitments to you, I build up a reserve. Your trust toward me becomes higher, and I can call upon that trust many times if I need to. When a trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.
But if I have a habit of showing discourtesy, disrespect, cutting you off, overreacting, ignoring you, becoming arbitrary, betraying your trust, threatening you, or playing a little tin god in your life, eventually my Emotional Bank Account is overdrawn and the trust level gets very low.
Our most constant relationships, like marriage, require our most constant deposits.
Six Major Deposits
- Understanding the Individual
- Attending to the Little Things
- Keeping Commitments
- Clarifying Expectations
- Showing Personal Integrity
Integrity includes, but goes beyond honesty. Honesty is telling the truth – in other words, conforming our words to reality. Integrity is conforming reality to our words – keeping promises and fulfilling expectations. This requires an integrated character, a oneness, primarily with self, but also with life.
One of the most important ways to manifest integrity is to be loyal to those who are NOT present. When you defend those who are absent, you retain the trust of those present.
- Apologizing Sincerely When You Make a Withdrawal
The Habits of Interdependence
With the paradigm of the Emotional Bank Account in mind, we’re ready to move into the habits of Public Victory (i.e. Habits 4 to 6), of success in working with other people.
- Habit 4: Think Win/Win
Six Paradigms of Human Interaction
Covey explains that there are six paradigms of human interaction:
- Win/Win: Both people win. Win/Win is a total philosophy of human interaction. Agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and mutually satisfying to all parties.
- Win/Lose: “If I win, you lose.” Win/Lose people are prone to use position, power, credentials, and personality to get their way.
- Lose/Win: “I lose, you win.” Lose/Win people are quick to please and appease, and seek strength from popularity or acceptance.
- Lose/Lose: Both people lose. When two Win/Lose people get together, i.e. when two, determined, stubborn, ego-invested individuals interact, the result will be Lose/Lose.
- Win: People with the Win mentality don’t necessarily want someone else to lose – that’s irrelevant. What matters is that they get what they want.
- Win/Win or No Deal: If you can’t reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial, there is no deal.
Which Option Is Best (the most effective)?
The answer is “It depends.” Most situations, in fact, are part of an interdependent reality, and then Win/Win is really the only viable alternative. There are however instances where one of the other five options (i.e. excluding Win/Win or No Deal), would be preferable, e.g. if you value a relationship and the issue isn’t really that important, you may, in some circumstances, want to go for Lose/Win to genuinely affirm the importance of your relationship with the other person.
The Win/Win or No Deal option is important to use as a back-up. When we have No Deal as an option in our mind, it liberates us from needing to manipulate people and push our own agenda. We can be open and really try to understand the underlying issues
Think Win/Win is the habit of interpersonal leadership. It involves self-awareness, imagination, conscience, and independent will in our relationships with others. It involves mutual learning, mutual influence, mutual benefits.
It takes great courage as well as consideration to create these mutual benefits, particularly when you are interacting with others who are deeply scripted in Win/Lose.
- Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Covey says that communication is the most important skill in life and Empathic Listening is a key part of communication.
“Seek first too understand” involves a very deep paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They’re either speaking or preparing to speak. When the other person is speaking, we tend to either ignore the person, pretending to be listening, listening selectively and even practice attentive listening to the words that are spoken. But very few of us practice the fifth level, the highest form of listening, i.e. empathic listening which is listening with the intent to understand. This means truly seeking first to understand, to really understand. It’s an entirely different paradigm. Empathy is not sympathy.
Empathic Listening is to listen with your ears, eyes and heart. You listen for feeling, for meaning. You listen for behaviour. You use your right brain as well as your left. You sense, you intuit, you feel. Empathic Listening is the key to making deposits in Emotional Bank Accounts.
Diagnose Before You Prescribe
Seek first to understand, or diagnose before you prescribe, is the correct principle in many areas of life.
Then Seek to be Understood
Knowing how to be understood, is the other half of Habit 5, and is equally critical in reaching Win/Win solutions.
Seeking to understand requires consideration; seeking to be understood takes courage. Win/Win requires a high degree of both. So it becomes important in interdependent situations for us to be understood.
The words ethos, pathos and logos contain the essence of seeking first to understand and making effective presentations.
Ethos is your personal credibility, the faith people have in your integrity and competency. Pathos is the empathic side – it’s the feeling. Logos is the logic, the reasoning part of the presentation. Most people in making presentations go straight to the logos, the left brain logic of their ideas, without taking ethos and pathos into consideration.
One should ideally ensure and demonstrate that you deeply understand what the objectives, paradigms, preferences and concerns of your audience are about the topic of the presentation.
Habit 5 lifts you to greater accuracy and integrity in your presentations.
- Habit 6: Synergise
Simply defined, synergy means that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Synergy is the essence of principle-centred leadership. The exercise of all of the other habits, prepares us for the habit of synergy.
When you communicate synergistically, you are simply opening your mind and heart and expressions to new possibilities, new alternatives, new options. Almost all creative endeavours are somewhat unpredictable. Unless people have a high tolerance for ambiguity and get their security from integrity, principles and inner values, they find it unnerving and unpleasant to be involved in in highly creative enterprises. Their need for structure, certainty, and predictability is too high.
Synergy and Communication
Synergy is exciting. Creativity is exciting. It’s phenomenal what openness and communication can produce. The possibilities of truly significant gain, of significant improvement are so real that it’s worth the risk such openness entails. High levels trust and cooperation play a key role in effective synergistic (Win/Win) communication. Respectful communication normally leads to outcomes based on compromise which means that 1 + 1 = 1,5. Both give and take. Respectful communication isn’t defensive or protective or angry or manipulative; it is honest and genuine and respectful. But it isn’t creative or synergistic. It produces a low form of Win/Win.
Synergy means that 1 + 1 = 8, 16, or even 1 600. The synergistic position of high trust produces solutions better than any originally proposed, and all parties know it.
There are some circumstances in which synergy may not be achievable and No Deal isn’t viable. But even in these circumstances, the spirit of sincere trying will usually result in a more effective compromise.
Valuing the Differences
Valuing the differences is the essence of synergy – the mental, the emotional, the psychological differences between people. And the key to valuing those differences is to realize that all people see the world, not as it is, but as they are. If my paradigm is that I think I see the world as it is, and I am objective, so why would I want to value the differences – why would I bother with someone who is “off track”? If that is my paradigm, then I will never be effectively interdependent, or even effectively independent, for that matter. I will be limited by the paradigms of my own conditioning.
The person who is truly effective, has the humility and reverence to recognize his own personal limitations and to appreciate the rich resources available through interaction with the hearts and minds of other human beings. That person values the differences, because those differences add to his knowledge, to his understanding of reality. When we’re left to our own experiences, we constantly suffer from a shortage of data.
When you introduce synergy, you use the motive of Habit 4, the skill of Habit 5, and the interaction of Habit 6 to work directly on the restraining forces. You create an atmosphere in which it is safe to talk about these forces. You unfreeze them, loosen them up, and create new insights. You involve people in the problem in such a way that they tend to become an important part of the solution.
Synergy works; it’s a correct principle. It is the crowning achievement of all the previous habits. It is effectiveness in an interdependent reality – it is teamwork, team building, the development of unity and creativity with other human beings.
- Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw – Principles of Balanced Renewal
Habit 7 is taking time to sharpen the saw. It surrounds the other habits on the Seven Habits paradigm, because it is the habit that makes the others possible.
Four Dimensions of Renewal
Habit 7 is personal Production Capacity (PC). It’s renewing the four dimensions of your nature – physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional. All four dimensions of our nature have to be exercised regularly and consistently in wise and balanced ways. To do this, we must be proactive. Taking time to sharpen the saw is a definite Quadrant II activity and must be acted upon.
This is the single most important investment we can ever make in life – investment in ourselves. To be effective, we need to regularly sharpen the saw in all of the four dimensions.
The Physical Dimension
The Physical Dimension involves caring effectively for our physical body – eating the right kinds of foods, getting sufficient rest and relaxation, and exercise on a regular basis.
The Spiritual Dimension
Renewing the spiritual dimension provides leadership to your life. It’s highly related to Habit 2.
The spiritual dimension is your core, your centre, your commitment to your value system. It’s a very private area of life and a supremely important one. It draws upon sources that inspire and uplift you. To the timeless truths of all humanity. And people do it very, very differently.
Covey says that he finds renewal in daily prayerful meditation on the scriptures, because they represent his value system. As he read and meditates, he feels renewed, strengthened, centred and recommitted to serve.
Spiritual renewal takes investment of time. But it’s a Quadrant II activity we don’t really have time to neglect.
The great Matin Luther is quoted as saying, “I have so much to do today, I’ll need to spend another hour on my knees.” To him, prayer was not a mechanical duty, but rather a source of power in releasing and multiplying his energies.
David O. McKay taught, “The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in silent chambers of the soul.” If you win battles there, if you settle the issues that inwardly conflict, you feel a sense of peace, a sense of knowing what you are about. And you’ll find that the public victories – where you tend to think cooperatively, to promote the welfare and good of other people, and to be genuinely happy for other people’s successes – will follow naturally.
The Mental Dimension
Covey says that most of our mental development and study discipline comes through formal education. But as soon as we leave the external discipline of school, many of us let our minds atrophy. We don’t do any more serious reading, we don’t explore new subjects in any real depth outside our action fields, we don’t think analytically, we don’t write – at least not critically or in a way that tests our ability to express ourselves in distilled, clear, and concise language. Instead, we spend our time watching TV.
Continuing surveys indicate that television is on in most homes some 35 to 45 hours a week. That’s as much time as many people put into their jobs, more than most put into school. It’s the most powerful socializing influence there is. And when we watch, we’re subject to all the values that are being taught through it. That can powerfully influence us in very subtle and imperceptible ways.
Wisdom in watching television requires the effective self-management of Habit 3, which enable you to discriminate and to select the informing, inspiring, and entertaining programmes which best serve and express your purpose and values.
Continuing education, continually honing and expanding the mind – is vital mental renewal. Proactive people can figure out many, many ways to educate themselves.
It is said that wars are won in the general’s tent. Covey states that sharpening the saw in the first three dimensions – the physical, the spiritual, and the mental – is a practice I call the “Daily Private Victory.” And I commend to you the simple practice of spending one hour a day every day doing it – one hour a day for the rest of your life. Doing so, will affect every decision, every relationship. It will build the long-term physical, spiritual, and mental strength to enable you to handle difficult challenges in life. In the words of Phillips Brooks, who was an American Episcopal clergyman and author: “Some day, in years to come, you will be wrestling with great temptation, or trembling under the great sorrow of your life. But real struggle is here, now …. Now it is being decided whether, in the day of your supreme sorrow or temptation, you shall miserably fail or gloriously conquer. Character cannot be made except by steady, long-continued process.”
The Social Emotional Dimension
While the physical, spiritual, and mental dimensions are closely related to Habits 1, 2 and 3, – centred on the principles of personal vision, and personal leadership and management, the social/emotional dimension focuses on Habits 4, 5 and 6, i.e. centred on the principles of interpersonal leadership, empathetic communication, and creative cooperation.
The social and emotional dimensions of our lives are tied together, because our emotional life is primarily, but not exclusively, developed out of and manifested in our relationships with others.
Renewing our social/emotional dimension does not take time in the same sense that renewing the other dimensions does. We can do it in our normal everyday interactions with other people. But it definitely requires exercise. We may have to push ourselves, because many of us have not achieved the level of Private Victory necessary for Habits 4, 5 and 6 to come naturally to us in all our interactions.
Success in Habits 4, 5 and 6 is not primarily a matter of intellect; it’s primarily a matter of emotion. It’s highly related to our sense of personal security.
Where does intrinsic personal security come from? It doesn’t come from what other people think of us or how they treat us. It doesn’t come from the scripts they’ve handed us. It doesn’t come from our circumstances or our position.
It comes from within. It comes from accurate paradigms and correct principles deep down in our mind and heart. It comes from inside-out congruence, from living a life of integrity in which our daily habits reflect our deepest values.
I believe that a life of integrity is the most fundamental source of personal worth. I do not agree with the popular success literature that says that self-esteem is primarily a matter of mindset, of attitude – that you can psych yourself into peace of mind.
Peace of mind comes when your life is in harmony with true principles and values and in no other way.
There is also the intrinsic security that comes as a result of effective interdependent living. There is security in knowing that Win/Win solutions do exist, that life is not always “either/or”, that there are almost always mutually beneficial Third Alternatives. There is security in knowing that you can step out of your own frame of reference without giving it up, that you can really, deeply understand another human being. There is security that comes when you authentically, creatively and cooperatively interact with other people and really experience these interdependent habits.
There is intrinsic security that comes from service, from helping other people in a meaningful way. One important source is your work, when you see yourself in a contributive and creative mode, really making a difference. Another source is anonymous service – no one knows it and no one necessarily ever will. And that’s not the concern; the concern is blessing the lives of other people. Influence, not recognition, becomes the motive.
The late Dr. Hans Seyle, in his monumental research on stress, basically says that a long, healthy, and happy life is the result of making contributions, of having meaningful projects that are personally exciting and contribute and bless the lives of others. His ethic was “earn your neighbour’s love.”
In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
Balance in Renewal
The self-renewal process must include balanced renewal in all four dimensions of our nature: the physical, the spiritual, the mental, and the social/emotional.
Synergy in Renewal
Balanced renewal is optimally synergetic. The things you do to sharpen the saw in one dimension have positive impact in other dimensions, because they are so highly interrelated. Your physical health affects your mental health; your spiritual strength affects your social/emotional strength. As you improve in one dimension, you increase your ability in other dimensions as well. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People create optimum synergy among these dimensions.
The Upward Spiral
Renewal is the principle – and the process – that empowers us to move on an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement.
To make meaningful and consistent progress along that spiral, we need to consider our conscience, which senses our congruence or disparity with correct principles and lifts us toward them.
Education of the conscience is vital to the truly proactive, highly effective person. Training and educating the conscience, however, requires even greater concentration, more balanced discipline, more consistently honest living. It requires regular feasting on inspiring literature, thinking noble thoughts and, above all, living in harmony with its voice.
Just as junk food and lack of exercise can ruin an athlete’s condition, those things that are obscene, crude, or pornographic can breed an inner darkness that numbs our higher sensibilities and substitutes the social conscience of “Will I be found out?” for the natural or divine conscience of “What is right and wrong?” In the words of Doug Hammarskjold, “You cannot play with the animal in you without becoming wholly animal, play with falsehood without forfeiting your right to truth, play with cruelty without losing your sensitivity of mind. He who wants to keep his garden tidy doesn’t reserve a plot for weeds.”
Once we are self-aware, we must choose purposes and principles to live by; otherwise the vacuum will be filled, and we will lose our self-awareness and become like grovelling animals who live primarily for survival and propagation. People who exist at that level aren’t living; they are “being lived.” They are reacting, unaware of the unique endowments that lie dormant and undeveloped within.
And there are no shortcuts in developing them. The law of the harvest governs; we will always reap what we sow, – no more, no less.
I believe that as we grow and develop on this upward spiral, we must show diligence in the process of renewal by educating and obeying our conscience. An increasingly educated conscience will propel us along the path of personal freedom, security, wisdom, and power.
Moving along the upward spiral requires us to learn, commit, and do on increasingly higher planes. We deceive ourselves if we think that any one of these is sufficient. To keep progressing, we must learn, commit, and do – learn commit and do – learn, commit and do again.
- Inside-Out Again
“The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ would take the slums out of people, and then they would take themselves out of the slums.
The world would mould men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.”
Ezra Taft Benson
Change – real change – comes from the inside-out. It doesn’t come from hacking at the leaves of attitude and behaviour with quick fix personality ethic techniques. It comes from striking at the root – the fabric of our thought, the fundamental essential paradigms, which give definition to our character and create the lens through which we see the world.
A Personal Note
Covey said the following:
“As I conclude this book, I would like to share my own personal conviction concerning what I believe to be the source of correct principles. I believe that correct principles are natural laws, and that God, the Creator and Father of us all, is the source of them, and also the source of our conscience. I believe that to the degree people live by this inspired conscience, they will grow to fulfill their natures; to the degree that they do not, they will not rise above the animal plane. I believe that there are parts to human nature that cannot be reached by either legislation or education, but require the power of God to deal with. I believe that as human beings, we cannot perfect ourselves. To the degree to which we align ourselves with correct principles, divine endowments will be released within our nature in enabling us to fulfill the measure of our creation. In the words of Teilhard de Chardin, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” I personally struggle with much of what I have shared in this book. But the struggle is worthwhile and fulfilling. It gives meaning to my life and enables me to love, to serve, and to try again. 207 Again, T. S. Eliot expresses so beautifully my own personal discovery and conviction: “We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time.”
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