By Thomas F. Blaisse, MA, Principal, TFB Consulting
In his inspiring, landmark book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People®, Stephen Covey, PhD, says that to change a given situation, we must first change ourselves; and to change ourselves, we must be able to change our perceptions. In order to achieve true change, we must undergo paradigm shifts―to change ourselves fundamentally and not just alter our attitudes and behaviors on the surface level. That's where the seven habits of highly effective people come in.
Habit 1: Be Proactive
Proactive people recognize that they have responsibility―or "response-ability”―to choose how they will respond to a given stimulus or situation. To be proactive, we must let go of the things we cannot control and focus more on the things we can do something about.
Habit 2: Begin with The End In Mind
Habit 2 suggests that you should start with a clear destination so the steps you take are in the right direction. Before you can start setting and achieving goals, you must be able to identify your values and your center. Whatever is at the center of your life will be the source of your security, guidance, wisdom, and power. Your centers affect you fundamentally―they determine your daily decisions, actions, and motivations, as well as how we interpret events.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
If Habit 2 is about the importance of understanding what it is you are setting out to achieve, Habit 3 is all about going after those goals and executing on your priorities on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis.
To manage yourself effectively, you must have the discipline to prioritize your day-to-day activities. All activities can be categorized based on two factors: urgent and important. It’s the things that are important, but not urgent that improve our personal productivity.
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
To establish effective interdependent relationships, you must commit to creating win-win situations that are mutually beneficial and satisfying to each party. When it comes to interpersonal leadership, the more genuine your character is, the higher your level of proactivity; the more committed you can be to Win-Win, the more powerful your influence will be. Keep the focus on results, not methods; on problems, not people.
The win-win or no deal option is important to use as a backup. When you have no deal as an option in your mind, it can liberate you from needing to manipulate people and push your own agenda. You can be open and really try to understand the underlying issues.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Before you can offer advice, suggest solutions, or effectively interact with another person in any way, you must seek to deeply understand them and their perspective through empathic listening. To seek to understand, you must learn to listen.
Listening empathically requires a fundamental paradigm shift. Most people typically seek first to be understood. They listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. At any given moment, they’re either speaking or preparing to speak. Empathic listening means you are listening with the intent to understand, both intellectually and emotionally.
Habit 6: Synergize
The combination of all the other habits prepares us for Habit 6, which is the habit of synergy―when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. For example, if you plant two plants close together, their roots will co-mingle and improve the quality of the soil, so that both plants will grow better than they would on their own.
By understanding and valuing the differences in another person’s perspective, you have the opportunity to create synergy, which allows you to uncover new possibilities through openness and creativity. Synergy allows us to create new alternatives and open new possibilities. It allows us as a group to collectively agree to ditch the old scripts and write new ones.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
To be effective, you must devote time to renewing yourself daily. Continuous renewal allows you to synergistically increase your ability to practice each of the other habits. There are four dimensions of our nature, and each must be exercised regularly in balanced ways: physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual.
Renewal is the process that empowers us to move along an upward spiral of growth, change, and continuous improvement.
Explore the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People® and learn about the inspirational and aspirational standards that are necessary for anyone who seeks to live a full, purposeful, and good life. Register for this August’s lunch and learn webinar series featuring Blaisse: