Stephen R. Covey has based his foundation for success on the character ethic–things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden Rule. The personality ethic–personality growth, communication skill training, and education in the field of influence strategies and positive thinking is secondary to the character ethic. What we are communicates far more eloquently than what we say or do.
A paradigm is the way we perceive, understand and interpret the world around us. It is a difficult way of looking at people and things. To be effective we need to make a paradigm shift. Most scientific breakthroughs are the result of paradigm shifts such as Copernicus viewing the sun as the center of the universe rather than earth. Paradigm shifts are quantum changes, whether slow and deliberate or instantaneous.
A habit is the intersection of knowledge, skill, and desire. Knowledge is what to do and the why; skill is the how to do; and desire is the motivation or want to do. In order for something to become a habit you have to have all three. The seven habits are a highly integrated approach that moves from dependency (you take care of me) to independence (I take care of myself) to interdependence (we can do something better together). The first three habits deal with independence, the essence of character growth. Habit 4, 5, and 6 deal with interdependence, teamwork, cooperation, and communication. Habit 7 is the habit of renewal.
The 7 habits are in harmony with a natural law that covey calls the “P/PC Balance,”* where P stands for production of desired results and PC stands for production capacity, the ability or asset. For example, if you fail to maintain a lawn mower (PC) it will wear out and not be able to mow the lawn (P). you need a balance between the time spent mowing the lawn (desired result) and maintaining the lawn mower (asset). Assets can be physical, such as the lawn mower example; financial, such as the balance between principal (PC) and interest (P); and human, such as the balance between training (PC) and meeting schedule (P). You need the balance to be effective; otherwise, you will have neither a lawn mower nor a mowed lawn.
Habit 1: Be Proactive
Being proactive means taking responsibility for your life, the ability to choose the response to a situation. Proactive behavior is a product of conscious choice based on values, rather than reactive behavior, which is based on feelings. Reactive people let circumstances, conditions, or their environment tell them how to respond. Proactive people let carefully thought-about, selected, and internalized values tell them how to respond. It’s not what happens to us but our response that differentiates the two behaviors. No one can make you miserable unless you choose to let them. The language we use is a real indicator of our behavior.
Habit 2: begin with the end in mind
The most fundamental application of this habit is to begin each day with an image, picture, or paradigm of the end of your life as your frame of reference. Each part of your life can be examined in terms of what really matters to you, a vision of your life as a whole.
All things are created twice; there is a mental or first creation and a physical or second creation to all things. To build a house you first create a blue print and then you construct the actual house. You create a speech on paper before you give it. If you want to have a successful organization you begin with a plan that will produce appropriate end; thus leadership is the first creation, and management, the second. The leadership is doing the right things and management is doing things right.
In order to begin with the end in mind, develop a personal philosophy or creed. Start by the considering the example items below:
- Never compromise with honesty.
- Remember the people involved.
- Maintain a positive attitude.
- Exercise daily.
- Keep a sense of humor.
- Do not fear mistakes.
- Facilitate the success of subordinates.
- Seek divine help.
- Read a leadership book monthly.
By centering our lives on correct principles, we create a solid foundation for the development of the life-support factors of security, guidance, wisdom, and power. Principles are fundamental truths. They are tightly interwoven threads running with exactness, consistency, beauty, and strength through the fabric of life.
Habit 3: Put first things first
Habit 1 says, “You are the creator. You are in charge.” Habit 2 is the first creation and is based on imagination, leadership based on values. Habit 3 is practicing self-management and requires Habit 1 and Habit 2 as prerequisites. It is the day by day, moment-by-moment management of your time.
The time management Matrix is diagrammed below. Urgent means it requires immediate attention, and important has to do with results that contribute to your mission, goals, and values. Effective, proactive people spend most of their time in Quadrant 2, thereby reducing the time in Quadrant 1. Four activities are necessary to be effective. First, write down your key roles for the week (such as research manager, United Way chairperson, and parent). Second, list your objectives for each role using many Quadrant 2 activities. These objectives should be lies to your personal goals or philosophy in Habit 2. Third, schedule time to complete the objectives. Fourth, adopt the weekly schedule to your daily activities.
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Win-Win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Both sides come out ahead; in fact, the end result I usually a better way. If Win-Win is not possible, then the alternative is no deal. It takes great courage as well as consideration to create mutual benefits, especially if the other party is thinking Win-Lose.
Win-Win embraces five interdependent dimensions of life-character, relationships, agreements, systems and processes. Character involves the trains of integrity; maturity, which is a balance between being considerate of others and the courage to express feelings; and abundance mentality, which means that there is plenty out there for everyone. Relationships mean that the two parties trust each other and are deeply committed to Win-Win. Agreements require the five elements of desired results, guidelines, resources, accountability, and consequences. Win-Win agreements can only survive in a system that supports it, you can’t talk Win-Win and reward Win-Lose. In order to obtain Win-Win, a four-step process is needed: (1) see the problem from the other viewpoint; (2) identify the key issues and concerns, (3) determine acceptable results, and (4) seek possible new options to achieve those results.
Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood
Seek first to understand involves a paradigm shift since we usually try to be understood first. Listening is the key to effective communication. It focuses on learning how the other person sees the world, how they feel. The essence of Emphatic Listening is not that you agree with someone; it’s that you fully, deeply understand that person, emotionally as well as intellectually. Next to physical survival the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.
The second part of the habit is to be understood. Covey uses three sequentially arranged Greek words, ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos is your personal credibility or character; pathos is the empathy you have with the other person’s communication; and logos is the logic or reasoning part of your presentation.
Habit 6: Synergy
Synergy means that the whole is greater than the parts. Together, we can accomplish more than any of us can accomplish alone. This can best be exemplified by the musical group The Beatles, who as group created more music than each individual created after the group broke up. The first five habits build toward Habit 6. It focuses the concept of Win-Win and the skills of emphatic communication on tough challenges that bring about new alternatives that did not exist before. Synergy occurs when people abandon their humdrum presentations and Win-Lose mentality and open themselves up to creative cooperation. When there is a genuine understanding, people reach solutions that are better than they could have achieved acting alone.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw (Renewal)
Habit 7 is taking time to Sharpen the Saw so It will cut faster. It is personal PC preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have, which is you. It’s renewing the four dimensions of your nature physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional. All four dimensions of your nature must be used regularly wise and balanced ways. Regular renewing the physical dimension means following good nutrition, rest and relaxation, and regular exercise. The spiritual dimension is your commitment to your value system, renewal comes from prayer, meditation, and spiritual reading. The mental dimension is continuing to develop your intellect through reading, seminars, and writing. These three dimensions require that time be set aside, they are Quadrant 2 activities. The social and emotional dimensions of our lives are tied together because our emotional life is primarily, but not exclusively, developed out and manifested is our relationship with others. While this activity does not require time, it does require exercise.