Having established a sound foundation, and provided some context for understanding the Seven Habits, let’s take an overview.
Aristotle’s famous saying is, “We are what we repeatedly do: excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” That being said, following the Seven Habits – consciously or unconsciously – is key to excellent performance not just in work but also in life. I say consciously or unconsciously because we all know people who ‘do’ excellence, but they may never have read the book. But they’re ‘doing’ what’s in it.
Habits, according to Horace Mann, are like a cable – individual threads of behaviour intertwine until they become a cable of habit than is almost unbreakable. Covey argues it isn’t unbreakable but the initial effort to get out of a habit is metaphorically like that of rockets escaping the earth’s atmosphere. All the real effort is in leaving the gravitational pull and once that is done, the rest is freewheeling. But that first effort can be immense. Ask any smoker.
A Habit is defined as the intersection of knowledge (what and why), skill (how) and desire (want to). To illustrate in the room I have, think of picking your nose. It becomes a habit when all three are present, then remains so even if one is missing.
To the same degree, a good habit also requires all three elements, and is also harder to break once the cable has been twisted into shape. For our purposes we consider good habits to be those that serve us – productivity, respect, excellent performance, etc. But they serve us not only in our working life but also in those important relationships we treasure.
If we want greatness, then, we need to thread great habits. Returning to the See-Do-Get Cycle, seeing that better habits and the application of principles will bring the results we want means we then start to behave in a way that is in keeping with that ‘seeing’ and the results we get reflect that effort. And the better our results, the better we understand where we can improve even further, and the Being-Seeing-Doing (Getting) spiral wends its way ever upward.
Another way to explain this, and to demonstrate how the 7 Habits work, is to use a diagram called the Maturity Continuum (see below). We develop as individuals, workers, spouses, parents and in other respects along it. We start at a level of Dependence – you do it, you show me – and over time become Independent – I can do this. This is Private Victory, mastery over self. But we achieve most successes at the level of Interdependence – we can do this. Everything we do we do with, for or because of others. Life is Interdependent. If we can work at that level we synergise with others to produce much better results. It’s ecology. It’s like one plank supports 100kg, but two planks support more than 200kg. This is Public Victory, the ability to work with others to get what we all want.
Think about this: interdependence – the ability to work with others – is a choice only Independent people can make. A dependant (immature) person is wholly reliant on others for results. But a team member must be independently capable if they are to contribute at a meaningful level.
Surrounding the progressive Continuum is a reality – that we must train, prepare and maintain ourselves through Personal Renewal, a renewal that serves us physically (health and fitness), mentally (knowledge and ability), socially (relationships with ourselves and others) and spiritually (our sense of meaning).
Overt he next days we’ll get into all that in greater detail, of course. But for now, think about that Continuum – how, if we can master ourselves, we are better able to work with others to get some kind of mutual benefit; and that self-mastery includes being at our best (through renewal).
Tomorrow – Effectiveness Defined.