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Where do you centre your life? I bet most people would answer ‘Family’ but my experience suggests that work always comes first if you have a job. My reason – the hours my colleagues spent earning overtime. We used to have a joke that Daddy spent so much time earning overtime to feed his (family’s) lifestyle that the kids would ask, “Who’s that man in your bed, mummy?” The kids would have all the gadgets, but never what they wanted. Attention from Dad. (BTW, that’s just as applicable to Mum, nowadays.) What’s going on?

Centres. Stephen Covey suggested we have a tendency to see things (paradigms) through the lens of our most important (to us) Centre. This Centre was the focus of our Security, Guidance, Wisdom and Power. The Centre gave us Security because it was a reliable source of our identity, self-esteem and strength. When asked about yourself, we all tend to mention our job, first. Guidance means that the work provides us with direction – for example, if you are Church-centred your religion’s demands dictate your mission. Wisdom – your experiences as provided (for example) by your friends dictates how you think. And Power – your ability to act is based on your ‘centring’ around having a lot of money and resources. The Centres I have used in the examples are work, church, friends and money. There are other examples: pleasure, possessions, enemies, spouse and family.

They may consciously – including the enemy – provide a way of looking at ‘life’ which heavily influences your decision making. If alternatives arise, your preferred Centre dictates which action you take. For example, if asked to work overtime, a money-centred person would work, as would a work-centred person. But a family person might decline if there was a family event planned. Note: alternative Centres may provide the same decision, but the motive for that decision will be Centre-based.

Covey suggested we look at things through Principles and ask, “What is the right thing to do?” instead. You might make the same decision, but this time you will do so not because of your emotional tie to a ‘thing’, but as a result of a more objective assessment.

Understanding this concept is part of defining your personal mission statement, as is another psycho-biological idea, that of left-brain v right-brain thinking. Left brain is logic, Right brain is creative. Using the two in tandem means you can create a PMS that is both imaginative and realistic. A logical thinker might just do what is possible, but a right brain approach might change what is possible. The right decides what/why, the left decides how.

In truth, this part of the book is valuable as a theoretical explanation and foundation for those of us who like a bit of depth, but the power of Habit 2 thinking lies firmly in the experience of sitting down, imagining what you would like to do with your life (the legacy you would like to leave), and the values and behaviours that will help that happen. Discovering the what, how and why of your life.

Such an approach – use of a PMS and principles-over-centres thinking – results in a life that serves the individual, their loved ones and those other relationships we all have. It causes us to try harder to consider the needs of everyone involved instead of just ourselves.

While Habit One is about self-awareness, Habit Two is about creative imagination and conscience. These are three of the elements we use in the Stimulus-Response Gap when thinking about and deciding how to respond to an event.

Tomorrow we start on Habit Three, the Independent Will that we apply to that Gap.