When I was about 14 years old my dad was reading a book call 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He would reference it often, using words like ‘Emotional Bank Account’ and ‘First things first‘. Not understanding what these phrases meant, I paid them no attention. Now that I am in my 30’s and have taken the time to thoroughly understand what these words mean, I realize my father was trying to improve himself and those around him. I want to explain what a few of these habits discussed in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey mean to me.
Habit 1: BE PROACTIVE
Instead of worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control, proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control. The problems, challenges, and opportunities we face fall into two categories: Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence. Proactive people focus their efforts on their Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about such as their children, where they work, how they use their time. Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern. These are things they have little or no control over such as how their sister is raising their niece. A proactive person uses proactive language--I can, I will… A reactive person uses reactive language--I can't, I have to, if only.
I thought that I was doing well with what I felt was my circle of influence until I read this section. I find myself saying words like ‘I have to’ quite often. Apparently I need to evaluate what is causing me to say these words.
Habit 2: BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
Begin with the End in Mind means to begin each day or project with a clear vision of a desired outcome. If you don't make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life. It's about connecting with your own uniqueness and then defining the personal, moral, and ethical guidelines within which you can most happily express and fulfill yourself. Steven states that the best way to begin with the end in mind is to develop a mission statement that focuses on what you want to be and do. I have heard this often with self development programs and have found it effective when I am implementing it in my life.
Habit 3: PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST
Putting first things first means getting your priorities straightened. Illustrated in his book are 4 quadrants categorized as important/urgent, important/not urgent, not important/urgent, and not important/not urgent. He advises us to spend as much time as we can in the important/not urgent quadrant. Again this is a habit I could work on.
Habit 5: SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD
To rephrase this would be: Try to understand how a person is feeling and put yourself in their shoes before expressing your own opinion. Sometimes you may never get to express your feelings because you change how you feel in the time it takes them to talk. I do recall my father truly doing his best to change from first being understood to first understanding. Human nature is to first be understood and we are often as children taught that our opinion is less valuable than our parents’. Before passing my father mastered this habit.
Steven R. Covey is a well of self-improvement knowledge all of us should be partaking of.