Seven Habits – Day 14 – The Beginnings of Public Victory


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If, as I would hope, you have accepted your own responsibility for ‘life’ and have started focusing in your Circle of Influence, creating and working on a plan that serves your legacy, you need to work with other people – which can be fraught. Working your Emotional Bank Account through Habit 4 is a great way to do that. It is the beginning of Public Victory.

Many people confuse the name of this Habit. When asked what it is, they say “Win/Win” with gusto. Wrong. It is “THINK Win/Win.” As you cannot predict or demand any response from A.N. Other, you can only focus on your own attitude and approach as that is firmly within your Circle of Influence. You have to take 100% responsibility for communication.

There are 6 takes on agreements. They are Win/Win, Win/Lose, Lose/Lose, Lose/Win, Win, Win /Win or No Deal. Think of them like this –

  1. Win/Win good; the ideal opening “thought-salvo” to any negotiation;
  2. Win/Lose; “I will beat you into the ground to get what I want at your expense”;
  3. Lose/Win surrender; “Walk over me, everyone else does.”;
  4. Win – also selfish but with no regard for the other;
  5. Lose/Lose is used a lot in divorces; “If I can’t have it neither can you!”; and
  6. Win/Win or No Deal, which means we can decide to disagree, agreeably, and not do the deal.

Only Win/Win and Win/Win or No Deal establish and maintain good relationships – all of the others fail that test and actually prevent future discourse.

There are 5 Dimensions of Win/Win, applied in turn in order to achieve the best ‘deal’. By the way, by ‘deal’ I mean any agreement from a merger between Pepsi and Coca Cola to getting your teenager to clean her room. The dimensions executed in order are Character – what you are as a person, e.g. congruent and reliable; Relationship – established and firmed up before proceeding; Agreement – results focused and made, confirmed, and described in a way both parties understand and accept (see DR GRAC); Systems – for making the agreement work; and Processes – for detailed execution of the agreement.

Character is also described as the nexus of Integrity, Maturity (balance of courage and consideration) and an Abundance Mentality (an acknowledgement that there is enough pie to go around). Maturity means having the courage to seek what you want but having the consideration to do so with the other’s needs firmly in mind and part of the solution.

Once you have the character to start negotiating – i.e. you enter with Win/Win as your objective – then you start to establish or improve a relationship so that open conversation can take place with a view to then entering into the DR GRAC element of the agreement. Once the agreement is reached, then systems for accountability, reward and execution can also be agreed and implemented.

In The Seven Habits book, Stephen Covey provides examples of each of the 6 levels of agreement, and examples of how this kind of thinking has worked in the home and in business. Indeed, his example of establishing such an agreement with his son, through DR GRAC, is now legendary in the world of personal development. It can be viewed on YouTube HERE. His son says he was framed.

Approaching any potential agreement with Win/Win in mind is the Root of interpersonal success. Tomorrow and Thursday we will look at the shoot and the fruit of the Public Victory.

Seven Habits – Day 12 – Habit 3 – First Things First


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As Habit 2 is the habit of personal leadership, Habit 3 is the habit of personal management. The crux is that leadership is doing the right thing, management is doing things right. It is the ‘art of control’ and Habit 3 – time management – is the art of controlling events. How do you execute with leadership and vision in mind?

Time management addresses two measures – urgency (time critical) and importance (mission critical). In the 21st century, due to the immediacy of personalised communication and broadband, many of us have adopted an urgency mentality – it pops up, it must be read/assessed/done NOW! And that is all done regardless of (a) its level of importance and (b) whether it should ever actually be done at all. Habit 3 invites (demands?) that you use the ‘independent will’ in your Stimulus-Response Gap to make an assessment as to where, in a matrix, the task lies. The matrix looks like this:

I won’t insult you with a detailed explanation but as you can see, the most important things lie ‘above the line’, and this is the point at which you must decide where your task lies. If it’s below the line, it can wait. If it’s above, do it. If it’s above and to the left, do it now!

The best place to be is ‘Quadrant B’ and it’s where you do the preparation: planning, proper recreation, envisioning, etc. It’s where you ‘think’ so that ‘stuff’ like emergencies either don’t occur, (thus shooting you unprepared into Quadrant A), or are anticipated, meaning QA isn’t so uncontrolled. But you can’t prepare in QB unless you have done the work in Habit 2 to assess your mission, which requires work in Habit 1 to help you recognise you are responsible, that what you intend is in your Circle of Influence or Centre of Focus, and that you are seeing things as they should be (paradigm).

You see, now, how the Habits and basics all gel?

The way to plan is to find a tool into which you can place your TANC – tasks, appointments, notes and contacts (although the need for the latter has been electronically usurped since the book was written in 1989). You manage your time by keeping a one-stop shop for this stuff. Then, when you make an appointment, you record a note about how/why it was made, write down the appointment, and plan any preparation for that appointment in the task list so that it’s all done in QB before the QA appointment takes place.

There is a whole lot more in the book about time management but this page really boils it down.

Covey wrote a whole book in 1994 about interpersonal time management, i.e. on Habits 2 and 3, which I recommend. It’s called First Things First.

Tomorrow, delegation.

Seven Habits – Day 11 – What’s at Your Centre?


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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.

Seven Habits – Day 10 – Habit Two. Begin with the End in Mind.


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We read over the past few days how we have the ability to choose our response to any event that happens to us. So how do we address the biggest event of all? Through Habit Two – Begin with the End in Mind.

On first sight of that term, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we do that any time we plan a project, be it going to the shops, applying for a job or planning a holiday, for example. My response would be that you’d be surprised how little effort many people put into even those projects. And rarely to the biggest project of all.

Have you ever gone shopping, then got home and realised you forgot to get something you planned, or more likely forgot to plan to buy something you needed. Beginning with the End in Mind is often something to which only lip-service is paid. But I digress.

Beginning with the End in Mind, remember, is a Habit of highly effective people. Not just a tenet, it’s a way of life. And this is where it can have the most impact – life. As one writer put it – we spend more time planning our holidays than we do planning our lives.

The most impactive and profound exercising of Habit Two occurs when what you have in mind as beginning – is the rest of your life.

All things are created twice – there is a mental creation, which gives rise to the physical creation. A building is planned in meticulous detail before ground is broken, so why not your whole life. Your physical, mental, social and spiritual lives can all be planned, selected – chosen. Beginning with the End in Mind is leadership – self-leadership. It is deciding how you will live the rest of your life. It is establishing a vision for the legacy you will leave, and then making it happen. It is using the four endowments discussed earlier – self-awareness, creative imagination, independent will and conscience – to decide how you will achieve what you want to achieve.

When you exercise Habit Two, you approach as many experiences as possible with a plan – what is the objective of what I am about to do? Conversations will have new purpose, relationships will be more rewarding, projects will have a higher success rate – if you know what the objective is before you even start. Including your life.

Viktor Frankl is famed for suggesting, from his experiences in concentration camps, that having a purpose beyond ones self is a sound basis for living a long and happy life. He called his theories ‘Logotherapy’ from logos – meaning. A man or woman with a purpose is a hard thing to oppose!

What we choose – or fail to choose – to do in the face of this knowledge predetermines our sense of personal self-esteem and our levels of success. If we know what we are for, and set about it, every success is a victory, every setback just means we change direction, just as an aircraft does on a flight. It gets buffeted by winds but always gets back on course, arriving at its intended destination despite all that buffeting.

Covey promoted the creation of a personal mission statement, a document created by an individual in which they stated in clear terms what they wanted to achieve (vision) and how they would behave in order to achieve that (values). I have found that having such a document can be extremely empowering – particularly when, having stated therein that I wish to be fit and healthy, I don’t want to exercise. I read it – I exercise. I reinforce my own desire towards a particular ‘end’ when I state, in advance, what the end actually is. Like writing this series of articles to convince others to read a book that can change their lives.

Tomorrow – what is at the centre of your life?

Seven Habits – Day 9 – The Third Circle and Inner Peace


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Yesterday we covered the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence, but there is a third Circle the Stephen Covey omitted in the 7 Habits but which he described in his 1994 book First Things First, so today we’ll briefly cover this one that, if accepted, might just change your view of how you do your work. Then we’ll finalise Habit 1 with another consideration and a recap of how Being Proactive can breed our success.

The third Circle lies within the Circle of Influence and Covey called it The Centre of Focus.

While the Circle of Influence was where we should focus our mental efforts in preference to the Circle of Concern, the Centre of Focus he described as containing ‘the things we are concerned about, that are within our ability to influence, that are aligned with our mission, and are timely.’ He went on, ‘when we set and achieve goals that are in our Centre of Focus, we maximise the use of our time and effort.’

So many people, and so many organisations (particularly public sector) dissipate and diversify and dilute their efforts by adopting new work, imposing new protocols and practices on their front line staff, so that what was once their primary aim becomes just another thing to get done. This is an example of where, instead of bearing down on their Centre of Focus, leaders try to expand their Circle of Concern in the mistaken belief it provides influence, to the point at which the Circle of Influence actually shrinks, and then throttles the Centre of Focus. (Ask any police officer dealing with another ‘partnership’ initiative. Well meant, but dilatory.)

Working in your Centre of Focus means being better at what you do, better service provision, and greater self-esteem.

The final example of proactivity is how we address mistakes. Making a mistake has consequences, we know that. The first time we make a mistake, we reap the consequences and we learn. That itself demonstrates a principle – we can choose and control what we do, but the consequences are dictated by principles outside of our control.

Covey suggested that mistakes are in our Circle of Concern – they are in the past, unchangeable. Once made and the lesson learned, our next choice is in our Circle of Influence – we choose better. Focusing on the error is reactive, focusing on the solution is proactive.

All in all, many things lie in the Circle of Influence, the ultimate locus of Proactivity and exercise of Habit 1. Making and keeping commitments, punctuality, goal-setting and acting with those goals in mind, taking responsibility for communication, defining your personal mission, thinking ‘we’ not ‘me’, personal renewal and personal integrity – everything succeeds or dies in the Circle of Influence.

If you are reactive and let emotions, moods and circumstances direct your reaction, you are not living – you are ‘being lived’. If you live a life based on your values and not your moods, you are truly going to discover that your life is effective. You will get the results you want, and you will achieve them consistently.

Dr Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Centre at the University of Pennsylvania, says three things control happiness – genetics, circumstances and the things you can control. But of the three, it is the latter – being in control – that has the most impact. In essence, he is saying you should spend as much time as possible in your Circle of Influence, ideally in your Centre of Focus. Charles R. Hobbs and Hyrum W. Smith said the same thing – that greater personal leadership and management are precursors to the higher levels of self-esteem that bring peace of mind.

Tomorrow we start to explore where you find what makes you happy.

Seven Habits – Day 8 – Life’s Circles


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Having concluded after yesterday’s entry that we have the capacity to choose our response in any given situation by using our self-awareness, creative imagination, independent will and conscience, the first and arguably most important choice to make about effectiveness is to ask ourselves “Where do I focus my thoughts and activities?” Covey’s first suggestion is that we look at life through two circles. They are the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence.

The Circle of Concern is all-encompassing. It contains anything and everything that is part of our lives. It includes social, political, environmental, psychological and any other ‘concerns’ that you know about. Right now that includes BLM, Cancel Culture, Brexit, green issues, ISIS, Donald Trump and any thing that makes you pause, think, worry, bemoan, support, decry – anywhere you might spend emotional effort.

The Circle of Influence is within that broader Circle and contains the things you can do something about. Which means for most of us it excludes a lot of the aforementioned list. We can be concerned about Donald Trump but unless we are US citizens and have a vote we can pontificate and worry all we like – won’t change a thing. However, within this Circle of Influence is your ability and willingness to do all the effective things – have greater relationships, use your initiative to solve problems, do an excellent job, act with patience, plan your work and your life.

Here is where you can ask, “What can I do about (this)?” and decide upon an actionable response. This is where you ask yourself whether the problem you are addressing is even solvable.

There are three kinds of problems. Direct Control, where you are able to affect any outcome because it is well within your Circle of Influence; Indirect Control, where you probably need others to assist with the challenge, can delegate or in respect of which you can seek help. If you like, things on the outer edge of your Circle of Influence. And No Control, where you can’t do anything about something in your Circle of Concern, where your proactive response is to smile and get on with something else.

You can’t really affect the size of the outer circle – it just ‘is’. But by focusing on the inner circle you can actually expand your influence – get better at your job and get promoted, become an authority on your profession, lead its development. By focusing on things outside your influence you waste valuable time and the inner circle effectively shrinks while you tweet mercilessly about a President you can’t vote in or out, or get emotionally upset about a statue that no-one cared about and that you walked past daily, and in blissful ignorance, until someone you never met pointed it out as racist.

Effective people ‘live’ in the Circle of Influence. They extend emotional and physical effort only towards the things that matter to them. They don’t get upset or even engage in debate about that which is of no consequence to them, and they don’t get caught up in the ‘if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem’ dichotomous thinking that surrounds our world of 2020.

I have a line of thought that says, “I may not be an environmental activist but I’m glad there are people out there to whom I can delegate responsibility for saving the planet.” The same goes for many other protests, campaigns, etc. As long as they are peaceful and well-argued, we should encourage debate and appropriate activism. But don’t expect everyone to feel as strongly as you do about things that aren’t as important to them as they are to you.

It’s synergistic. While you are arguing for your cause, they are serving you by arguing for theirs, for working in an industry that serves you. They are in their Circle of Influence so that you can be in yours.

Tomorrow we go even deeper into proactivity.

Seven Habits – Day 7 – Intro to Habit 1 – Be Proactive


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Habit 1 is ‘Be Proactive’. Most businesses look upon that as meaning ‘anticipate events and prepare accordingly’. That’s only part of it. That is a way of being Proactive, but that isn’t what Covey meant. Here’s my take based on study and attendance at many 7H courses over time.

In the book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, this Habit was sub-titled, “The Principle of Personal Vision’ and it still is. But in later course workbooks the subtitle was changed to The Principal of Choice which I think better reflects the intent.

Be Proactive reflects the fact that as humans we have the ability to pause in the gap between stimulus (what happens to us) and our response (what we do about it). Stimuli can be prevailing circumstances or something that blindsides us. The advice is the same. But I get ahead of myself.

Being proactive requires that we recognise and utilise our ability to self-analyse, to understand ourselves and to use and change that knowledge for the better. Covey opined that we all tend to default to our social mirror, in that we reflect back to others what we think they want from us. He called that the Case of Mistaken Identity and the result of determinism, where we accept and take on characteristics of those we respect. Other psychologists call this Belong – Believe – Behave, where our desire to join a group is followed by unthinking adoption of its credo and then behaviour in accordance with that credo. Discuss the Nazi Party as an illustration.

Being Proactive essentially means overcoming that auto-response to social nurturing and deciding for ourselves what we want to be, do and have. And how we wish to live, and to be seen. In order to do that we must use our four endowments, which Covey identified as self-awareness, creative imagination, independent will and conscience. He suggests that in the gap between the aforementioned stimulus and response, then instead of just reacting instinctively, ‘the way we always have’ or according to influence, we utilise those endowments to choose our response. Or to use a Covey-ism, to act as if we are Response-Able.

When we do that we subordinate moods to our values, we do the right and better thing instead of the easiest or most convenient thing. We move towards principled living and effective success instead of just clearing the problem away only for it to come back again, harder.

Covey quotes something he said he read in a university library – I suspect he came up with it himself –  and says, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and capacity to choose our response. And in that choice lies our growth and our happiness.”

How often have I wanted to snap back at something someone has said only to think, in that space, “Is this a victory worth winning at the expense of the relationship?” – and shut the hell up.

Do you have experiences where you wish you hadn’t hurriedly done something? If you’d been proactive you might not have transgressed, and what did happen, may not have. That is how powerful this Habit can be. It stops us making mistakes.

It also means we can constantly redirect our efforts away from the convenience of ‘now’ and towards the effectiveness and success of our future. Or, as Covey and others put it, sacrificing the present for a better future.

Effective people are consistently proactive. Not in terms of anticipating trends – even that is a reaction to the data that identifies that trend. No, they are proactive in that they take a moment to make better decisions.

Tomorrow, we look at where those choices should be directed.

Seven Habits – Day 6 – Effectiveness Defined


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Anyone reading management and leadership articles and books will be familiar with Drucker’s Maxim, “Efficiency is doing things right: Effectiveness is doing the right things.” But all too often the experience of the led is that no-one is applying this common-sense approach to their lives. Perhaps if they read The Seven Habits they’d start to think differently.

Taking that Maxim as the title for the book, Covey explained that (in my words) success is all very good, but if you can’t replicate it then success is transient, a one-off. Effectiveness means being successful in such a way as to be able to repeat the feat with consistency. Effectiveness means that success is the result of careful and considered application of P/PC.

P is production, it’s the results. It is what we aim for, why we do what we do. In the working arena it’s about creating products, selling, marketing and making a profit so that the concern can benefit and make progress. ‘Production’ implies work, but production can just as easily be manifested through hobbies, contribution and, most important for ‘people’, relationships.

PC is Production Capability. It’s about maximising our ability, both in terms of skill and resources, to continue to produce the results we want. Looking back at the Maturity Continuum from yesterday, it’s the all-encompassing circle of Habit 7, of Sharpening the Saw, of personal and practical Renewal.

P/PC applies to individuals and it applies to organisations – the methods may differ but the principle remains sound (as do they all) – if the ‘entity’ does not take time for renewal, it atrophies. Thatis why we train our personnel. That is why we maintain our equipment. It all goes badly wrong when we do neither and just keep churning out David Allen’s Widgets. We get tired or bored, and/or the widget-cranking machine wears out, rusts and breaks, and suddenly we have no production capability.

P/PC is a balance. It is not emphasis on either. It’s making sure that what we want to do is done, but also that we remain capable of doing it. There may be times when the balance is slightly out of kilter: carefully monitoring the well-being of the person or thing is essential if it is to remain effective, but too much training time affects productivity. Too little does the same! Being successful, consistently, requires careful consideration and application of both.

That’s pretty much it for the foundational understanding, the ‘Three Rs’ that we need to know if we are to fully appreciate the 7 Habits.

Finally, Covey suggests that the best way to learn is to teach. That is part of my motivation – I understand the Habits and myself better through teaching them. You can do the same. Take a moment to review the articles written so far and try to bring the content up in conversation, thus training others in a different/better/alternative way of thinking about their own effectiveness. If someone seems a bit overly-reliant on help, suggest they consider becoming less dependent. If someone sees things one way, see if you can help them see an alternative, even if they don’t agree with it. If someone has an issue, as k them how they see the issue, not just what it is. If something isn’t working, ask whether the problem is being looked at properly. And if someone does need a good telling off, consider instead whether the problem is one relating to knowledge (training/philosophy), skill (training) or desire (attitude/motivation) – the response is best if it addresses the right issue.

Tomorrow, coincidentally the 7th of July, we look at Habit 1 – Be Proactive.

Seven Habits – Day 5 – Habits Defined, and the Maturity Continuum

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.


(c) FranklinCoveyInc