Leadership is communicating others’ worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.

I have seen mixed reviews on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. Some reviews said it’s life-changing and others said you just need to know what the 7 habits are and the book doesn’t warrant a purchase. After hearing the book getting recommended by my mentor, I decided to give it a read and to stop the “should I give this book a read?” internal dialogue whenever I go book shopping.

Even though this book can be much more concise, it is very beneficial. The 7 habits are indeed easy to grasp, but it’s the methods that Stephen uses to build and reinforces these habits that I can take away and incorporate myself.

Habit #1 – Be Proactive

Until a person can say deeply and honestly, “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,” that person cannot say, “I choose otherwise.”

Be proactive and look for ways to get the results you are after. Often times, people attribute their mistakes and failures to external factors such as your boss, your coworkers, or your living conditions. These external factors do have an impact on your results, but they do not determine it. If you have to work with coworkers who often cause mistakes due to their inexperience, spend the extra time to understand and to train them rather than simply be frustrated by their low productivity. You may not determine the situation you are in, but you can take the initiative and the responsibility for you to improve your situation and to make things happen.

Habit #2 – Begin with the End in Mind

You can do it in every area of your life. Before a performance, a sales presentation, a difficult confrontation, or the daily challenge of meeting a goal, see it clearly, vividly, relentlessly, over and over again. Create an internal “comfort zone.” Then, when you get into the situation, it isn’t foreign. It doesn’t scare you.

Efficiency is a big focus nowadays. You study hard and get the highest grade for your courses. You try to do your tasks at work more efficiently. You try to get promoted sooner by putting in the work. But how often do we take a step back and consider if we are taking the right courses and whether we should consider a different degree? How often do we consider whether the tasks we are working on solves a key problem and if it does whether there’s a better solution or an even more important problem that we should be tackling? And how often do we consider whether to switch careers when we do not enjoy what we are currently doing?

Know what your goals are first before you start working. Picture yourself at your own funeral. You see your family, friends, and coworkers giving speeches about you. What do you want them to say? That will be your ultimate goal for the different roles you take on in life. With a lifelong goal in mind, you can work backward and establish yearly, monthly, and weekly goals. Plan out your week around your weekly goals. Doing this will help you allocate your time effectively and let you work with a purpose.

Habit #3 – Put First Things First

If we don’t have a clear idea of what is important, or the results we desire in our lives, we are easily diverted into responding to the urgent.

When you begin with the end in mind, you will have goals for the different roles (ex. brother, coworker, employee, friend, son, individual) you take on in life. Schedule time to achieve the weekly goals for each of your roles. This will give you clarity on what to focus on and will bring attention to the roles that you aren’t dedicating enough time to.

Ask yourself: What is one thing you could do (something you aren’t doing now) that, if you did it on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life? Allocate time for it and spend less time on things that don’t help you accomplish your lifelong goals.

covey-matrix

Keep in mind that urgent is different from important. Focus on and prioritize things that are important. If you don’t schedule time for things that are important, they will not get done since urgent things will take priority.

Habit #4 – Think Win/Win

Win/win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions.

Simply put, win/win is when both parties involved in an agreement or relationship are happy with what they signed up for. For any human interactions, think win/win. There will be situations where both parties can’t come to a win/win solution and if that’s the case, you are most likely better off to go for “no deal” rather than forcefully accepting a solution either side isn’t happy with. Even though going for win/lose, when you win and the other party loses, can benefit you in the short term, it can hurt you in the long run as you will have a hard time earning the trust of the other party when you don’t have their best interest at heart.

Emotional maturity is the ability to express one’s own feelings and convictions balanced with consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others.

To go for win/win, you not only have to be considerate but also courageous. If you’re not courageous, you won’t express and stand up for your own ideas and will often end up in a lose/win situation.

Habit #5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

The key to effective personal communication is to seek first to understand, then to be understood. Everyone wants to be understood, however, not all of us take the time to understand others.

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They are either speaking or preparing to speak.

Before making suggestions or providing solutions we often don’t take the time to understand the problem and all of the different perspectives. We don’t trust doctors who prescribe solutions without doing a detailed diagnosis so we shouldn’t take the same approach when we communicate with others to solve problems as well.

When you can present your own ideas clearly, specifically, visually, and most important, contextually – in the context of a deep understanding of other people’s paradigms and concerns – you significantly increase the credibility of your ideas.

Habit #6 – Synergize

Synergy means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When cooperating with others, value your differences and build on each others’ strengths to compensate for each others’ weaknesses. Ideas that stem from different perspectives can often be leveraged and merged into a better solution.

Habit #7 – Sharpen the Saw

Sharpen the saw is preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you.

I’m a firm believer that the best investment you can make is to invest in yourself. The knowledge you gain, the skills you learn, and the character you develop will always stay with you and benefit you.

When investing in yourself, remember to invest in all four dimensions of your nature – physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional. The physical dimension involves caring effectively for your own physical body. This means eating healthy and exercising regularly so you will have the energy throughout the day to accomplish your daily goals. The spiritual dimension is your core, your center, your commitment to your value system. Establish your value system and reflect regularly upon it to see if you are abiding by it. The mental dimension involves education, reading, and writing. Allocate time for learning so your mind is constantly improving and gaining new knowledge. The social/emotional dimension is about communication with others. This is something that we constantly do all the time naturally. Throughout these communications, try to be a better listener, a more creative problem solver, and a better communicator.

Summary

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a book I highly recommend to anyone. The concepts themselves are simple but it’s how Stephen Covey implements them that makes the book so insightful. I’ll personally try organizing on a weekly basis rather than on a daily basis as well as try to become a better listener. As always I’ll love to hear your feedback and happy new year to you all! I’ll reflect on my 2018 goals and share my goals for 2019 with you soon. 🙂

I’m currently reading The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill.

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