Are You in the Habit of Being Effective?

Although our world has changed dramatically since Dr. Stephen R. Covey published The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in 1989, his internationally successful motivational guide continues to be recognized as one of the best nonfiction business books. Even if you once read Covey’s book and perhaps live by the Seven Habits, it may be enjoyable to revisit his theory and guide, much like visiting a favorite aunt who graced your childhood with encouragement and pearls of wisdom.

Dr. Covey’s book presents an outline for personal effectiveness founded upon his conclusion that a change only in one’s outward behavior lacks significant value. Creating a change that fuels true effectiveness comes from within. Focusing on principles and character, which Covey identified as a collection of habits, Covey flushed out Seven Habits that, if studiously developed and followed, inspire true effectiveness:

1. Be proactive: Although it may seem that your life “just happens,” it is designed by you. You chose joy or sorrow, success or failure. Be aware of every situation and the choice it presents. Take responsibility for your own life. Proactive people do not place blame or point to external factors as causes of their behavior. Proactive people recognize and ignore conditions that they have minimal control over and focus on that which they can control.

2. Begin with the end in mind: Use your imagination to visualize who you are and what you want in life. The mental creation is the blueprint for the physical reality. If you do not make a concerted effort to envision what you want in life, you empower circumstances and others to do it for you. Begin each day with a clear vision and make it happen. To incorporate this habit into your life, develop a personal mission statement.

3. Put first things first: Balance life by recognizing that you do not need to address everything that comes along. You have the right to say no when necessary, and focus on your highest priorities, thus managing your life. First things are those you consider to be the most worthwhile.

4. Think win-win: Win-win requires you to be both nice, as well as tough, not either/or. It is important to view life not as a competitive arena, but as a cooperative arena. Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all interactions. This requires both sensitivity and courage.

5. Seek first to understand, rather than to be understood: Speaking, reading and writing are all second nature, but what about listening? Most people seek to be understood and listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. We typically listen autobiographically, filtering through our own experiences, thus minimizing our connections with others. Listen to understand.

6. Synergize: Focus on creative cooperation. New solutions to old problems come from teamwork and open-mindedness. Synergy allows us to discover jointly what we are less likely to discover individually. Value the differences within a group to motivate synergy. Uniformity is not unity. Differences are strengths.

7. Sharpen the saw: Be sharp so you can focus on the other 6 habits. Living life in balance requires time for renewal. You are your greatest asset. Preserve and enhance this asset by renewing yourself in four areas: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. Renewal encourages growth and change, thus keeping you sharp. Your ability to meet challenges increases as you feel vibrant, energized, and at peace.

Click here for more in-depth exploration of Covey’s 7 Habits

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