“A picture is worth a thousand words” is a quote I would use to describe how Stephan R. Covey depicts an image to show that we can see the same thing yet differently. In Coveys’ book titling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he explains that we are in control of how we perceive life in general. By implying several principles to our life, we can be strong and know that we have the power over our own success.
Covey begins this very in depth book by describing the personality and character ethics. In the past hundred and fifty years or so, books about success were written directed towards the character ethic. This ethic includes values such as integrity, humility, fidelity, courage, justice, simplicity, modesty, and of course The Golden Rule (Covey 18). However, after WWI, success begins to take on the role of the personality ethic. Success became more of personality and public image, attitudes and behaviors, which lubricate the process of human reaction (Covey 19).
These ethics are used as models for the author to clarify how to utilize The Seven Habits. These habits embody the fundamental principles of human effectiveness (Covey 23). They are primary and basic, representing the uniting of correct values that help us to convey happiness and success. The Seven Habits are geared around a new level of thinking, habits that are principled centered, character-based, and has an “inside side-out” approach to personal and interpersonal effectiveness (Covey 42). Because these habits are supported by principles, they become the basis of a person’s character.
Covey portrays that The Seven Habits lead to effectiveness. After the recap of the fable of “The Goose and the Golden Eggs”, he explains that effectiveness lies in a balance that he calls P/PC. P is the production of desired results, the golden eggs; and PC is the production capability, the ability that produces the golden eggs (Covey 54). To maintain the balance can often be a difficult decision, balancing the short-term result with the long-term result.
It is up to each of us to take the initiative of being responsible to make things happen. Consistent with principles, people can get the good jobs, the good grades, the best deals, by taking the initiative to be proactive. It starts by listening to our language. “I can’t”,” if only”, “that is just the way I am”, can simply turn to “I choose”,” I will”,” I can use a different approach”. The problem with reactive language ( I can’t) is that it turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy (Covey 79). If people are determined by this way of thinking, they start to produce evidence to back it up. To be proactive, one must use love as a verb. To sacrifice, to give of you, should be our actions because our feelings direct our motives.
A way to become self-aware is to look at where we focus our time and energy to (Covey 81). The things that have no mental or emotional involvement are our circle of concern. On the inside of that circle is the circle of influence, the things we can control. How we go about it determines the size of the circle. Because of certain environmental factors, some circles of influence are larger than their circle of concern. The problems that we face are categorized in three areas, direct control, indirect control, or no control (Covey 85). In all three categories, we should take them as a proactive approach, and this is the framework of Habit 1.
To begin with, the end in mind is the foundation of the next habit. It means to start with a clear understanding of your destination and know where you are going (Covey 98). Many people struggle to achieve the things in life that make life grand, only to come to realize their greatest goal doesn’t matter any more because time has passed by achieving them. The best way to begin is to develop a personal mission statement (Covey 106). By developing this, we can also develop uniqueness about us, both in satisfaction and shape.
Habit 3 focuses more on the actualization, the fulfillment of Habits 1 & 2. It is the exercise of having independent will toward becoming principled centered (Covey 147). The derivative of this is simply putting first things first. This leads to time-management creating us to be more effective in our lives. The focus is being more effective, not efficient (Covey 178). It is the same principle doctor’s use: don’t treat the symptoms, but treat the problem.
There are six paradigms of human interaction which is the combination of who wins and who loses. A Win/Win philosophy is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks benefit in all human interaction (Covey 207). This is Habit 4, the belief that there is a third alternative, a higher way for all to benefit from.
Habit 5 in general states that we should first seek to understand, then to be understood (Covey 240). The first part is by empathic listening, that is with the intent to understand. The latter can be achieved by personal credibility, feelings that you have, and by using logic. All of this combined can become a very powerful force inside your circle of influence. This leads to a more viable way of being effective in everyday life.
Understanding synergy is the background for Habit 6. It is the highest activity in all life-the true test and manifestation of all of the other habits put together (Covey 262). Synergism focuses on the motive to Win/Win, empathic listening, and the essence of principle-centered leadership. Because it is everywhere in nature, plants and animals working together to achieve mutual benefits, synergy is the most empowering and most unifying of all habits. In general, it is the fact that the whole is greater than its parts.
According the sociologist Kurt Lewin, synergy can work in a “Force Field Analysis”. This describes any current level of performance or being as a state of equilibrium between the driving forces that encourage upward movement and the restraining forces that discourage it (Covey 279). Driving forces are the positive, logical, economic influences in ones life. On the other hand, restraining forces are the emotion, illogical, unconscious, negative influence surrounding us.
Synergy is the crowning achievement off all the other habits because it actually works. The relationship of the parts empowers the creation of a synergy-based culture inside a family and relationships. The more genuine the involvement, the more sincere and sustained the participation in analyzing and solving problems, the greater the release of everyone’s creativity, and of their commitment to what they create (Covey 283).
Finally yet importantly is Habit 7. This is the process of sharpening the saw and taking time to do it. It is the PC, renewing the four dimensions of one’s nature- physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional (Covey 288). To renew is like a good exercise program consisting of endurance, flexibility and strength. Each helps make muscle stronger than it has ever been and if not exercised consistently, will deteriorate over time. The muscles that Covey implicates are the emotional muscles, such as patience, love, and understanding.
By evoking these habits and principles into everyday life, anyone can achieve numerous public and private victories. Perceiving is believing, and in my opinion, this book can help anyone grow within his or her self and out into the world. Material things are not what makes a person successful, only letting love and patience into your heart will open anyone’s eyes to see the true meaning behind life itself. Stephen R. Covey has written an excellent book for anyone to read who wants more to life than what can be seen with your eyes.
Covey, Stephen R. 1990. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Free Press. ISBN: 0743269519