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.

SEVEN

(c) FranklinCoveyInc

Seven Habits – Day 4 – Principles Apply

Covey identified Principles as another core understanding for effective living and working. Read through this and see why.

To continue using the map metaphor from yesterday, Principles are the territory. They are reality, whereas Values are the maps that we use to represent reality to ourselves.

Man has named Principles, but what they are (for our purposes) are timeless, extrinsic, universal and self-evident truths. Principles are not values, as values are selected or adopted by Man and do NOT exhibit those four characteristics unless we value principles.

Principles act everywhere, without judgement. They do not undermine, attack, argue with or otherwise seek to obstruct us. Principles just are.

Examples of Principles used by Stephen Covey include Truth, Respect, Honesty, Fairness, Integrity, Dignity, Service, Growth and Change.

To recognise them as Principles you can do two things. First, ask if they fit the definition above – universal (apply everywhere), timeless (have and will always apply) extrinsic (exist outside of us) and self-evident (make sense without thought). Second, see if their opposites make sense if they were to be applied to your life.

Principles are not religious, though religions adopt them. They cannot be broken without consequence. Think of Gravity as a principle – go break that.

The principle of Growth is sequential – you cannot alter the sequence of learning, even if you can speed it up. To quote Covey, you learn simple maths, then algebra and then calculus. Try the other way and see if that works.

What does all this have to do with Effectiveness and Success?

First of all, it means that true effectiveness is the result of recognising that principles apply, and that as much as working with them underpins success and effectiveness, working against principles will bring the opposite – failure and ineffectiveness.

Secondly, seeing things through Principles improves our ability to make good decisions and to act accordingly. If we recognise and apply Truth, we become integrated and are seen to be trustworthy. If we recognise and exercise Respect, we both give it and receive it, which is a core business and interpersonal requirement, is it not? If we recognise gravity, we will wear that parachute and we will  walk further away from the cliff edge.

The final thing to know about Principles is that they are not practices, although you can practice observing them. Principles apply everywhere while practices are situationally specific. That is why the See-Do-Get Cycle is important. Changing practices is the Do part of the Cycle and doing that can bring temporary or minimal benefit. But Principles relate to the See part of the Cycle and seeing things through Principles – truths – can change the way you do things at a quantum level and bring about massive improvement.

So you can now start to see the progressive, sequential and integratedness of The Seven Habits philosophy. Principles apply, seeing things through the paradigm of principles makes for greater effectiveness, seeing also improves doing improves results, and character makes for better seeing than personality.

Tomorrow we start looking at why the Habits are – effective.

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Seven Habits – Day 3 – The See-Do-Get Cycle

Yesterday we looked at the Personality Ethic and the Character Ethic, just after we explored Paradigms. Paradigms influence how we see thing, and we see things either through a lens of Character, or Personality. How does knowing about paradigms affect personal change?

Personality is a map; it is just someone’s subjective representation of the truth. But Character is the territory itself, it is the objective reality. Our maps tell us where to go – so we need accurate maps. Have the wrong map, you get nowhere fast. The territory only tells the truth.

Our Paradigms affect our behaviour – we cannot act outside of our perception and assessment of what we see.

Another way of understanding the effect and use of the concept of paradigms is to explore the See-Do-Get Cycle. The Cycle suggests that how we see – our paradigms – influences what we do, and what we do influences our results, what we get. Often, the response to challenge in our workplace is to change what we Do, but Covey proposes that all this provides is temporary relief before the new way of Doing no longer addresses the original problem. He suggests that changing the way you see the problem provides better results. What does that mean for personal change?

It means changing from the Inside, Out.

Returning to the idea that we are responsible for our response to what happens to us, how we see what happens to us requires an accurate paradigm if we are to address it correctly, with character. Assuming you have acknowledged and accepted the idea that having an accurate paradigm is an essential element of any improvement process, then you now have to decide what to do about it. As it is in work, so it is with personal change.

You have to see that you are the problem, and that the solution is within you.

Jim Rohn said you won’t get fit by getting someone else to do press-ups for you. Personal change requires you do the work, not someone else. Other people can be resources for personal change, but you are the one who has to make the changes and put in the effort, not them.

Personality Ethic people solve their problems by putting on wild clothes, being louder and even more whacky. They change their image and so the Outside sees them differently – but what Outside sees still isn’t reality. They change their Do, but the real problem isn’t addressed. They redraw their map but the territory stayed the same.

Character Ethic people look inside and ask themselves “What is the truth, what is the right thing to do, and am I willing to do it? And when they have an answer to those questions, they set about doing it. They change from the Inside, and Outside sees the change – and it is real. The world moved, not the drawing of it.

This process reflects that how Character Ethic people saw the problem was part of the problem, and now they see differently they get better results.

What Covey was saying is that lasting, beneficial change comes from within. It is not a false front that lasts as long as the current trend. If you want to change for the better, look inside, look at your paradigm of self, see what your current truth is, decide what the real truth should be, and base your next actions on that.

Tomorrow – we look at Principles.

Seven Habits Day 2 – Personality Ethic v Character Ethic

Yesterday I wrote of Covey’s concept of Paradigms, and of “How we see the problem is the problem.” Today’s entry is about one of the influences on how we see and behave. Today we will address the difference between the Personality Ethic and the Character Ethic.

“When Man first discovered the mirror, he lost his soul,” said the philosopher. This single sentence summed up what Stephen Covey had discovered in his study of 200 years of American ‘success philosophy’ literature. He noticed that for 150 years success was about diligence, effort, integrity and so on. But just before and since WWII success was suddenly all about ‘the power look’, manipulation, image, etc.

We have read about Kennedy wearing two vests on walkabouts because he couldn’t be seen to be cold. We watch as politicians waffle and fail to answer questions so as not to offend any potential voter, minority group, sponsor, lobbyist or reporter with anything so blunt as the truth.

The difference between the Personality Ethic and the Character Ethic is stark. We now venerate celebrities and value their opinions upon issues that they know nothing about. We judge people based on their (presumed) political persuasion when we don’t know the first thing about them, or we lump them all in with abusive terms. Personality Ethic thinking abounds, in the sense that many people think that their image is all they need to be. Watch any ‘reality’ show and ask yourself what all the preeners, whacky-dressers, overly camp and expressive talkers and other pretenders are hiding.

We live in a Personality Ethic World, and it shows.

But guess what? Character is STILL appreciated, lauded and respected. Ask Captain-now-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore, the centenarian veteran who walked 100 laps of his garden on a zimmer frame and raised over £30m for the NHS. People saw a man of character and were inspired.

Generally speaking, the difference between Character and Personality is that the first is truth and the latter is false. The difference is summed up in the motto of North Carolina State, “To be rather than to seem.”

Personality is front, it’s show, and when such people need validation they ride bandwagons and espouse whatever is opportune in the moment. They are always right and you are always wrong. Which means, taking paradigms into account, they see through the lens of self and self-importance and act accordingly.

Character is intrinsic, it’s who a person is, and is usually based on integrity, realism, values-based self-confidence. People with character acknowledge what is and respond after careful thought. They see themselves as capable of being wrong and are willing to learn, to be better informed. They can be trusted to be what they appear to be.

Do you see the world through character, or personality? More to the point, which lens would you rather have? Which would you prefer to be seen to have?

How does your (my) self-image affect my (your) paradigms and your behaviour? Do we act based on how we will be seen, or on what we know and believe to be the right thing regardless of image?

And how does that affect our willingness to change?

Find out tomorrow.

7 Habits Day 1 of 17 – Paradigms

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Before he got into the Habits themselves, Stephen Covey laid a foundation, a core set of bases for understanding what was to follow. One of my recent discoveries on my 25th year of study was just how much what mattered at the start, mattered at the finish. And in the part between.

The primary, possibly most powerful tenet of The Seven Habits Philosophy is that of personal responsibility. Make sure you understand that. Everything that we do about what happens to us – is our fault. I should emphasise, given a participant’s interjection that ‘not everything is our fault’ that not everything that happens to us is our fault – the tenet doesn’t say that. It states that what we do about it is our fault.

Which means that when events pressurise upon us, when we want things to change, when we realise we don’t know or understand something, then responsibility for addressing those challenges lies not with Mum, friends, the government or the media. It lies within us. We are responsible.

This is almost too much to bear for some people, and for some vulnerable people it is nigh on impossible. Understanding personal responsibility can be a curse as much as it is liberating, when it comes to judging situations. “Why don’t you just DO something?” is easy for one to say, hard for another to do.

Which brings us to the first idea we have to understand if we are to understand the remainder of the Habits, and life in general. (Incidentally, reading the book will raise your levels of understanding of psychology as well as philosophy.)

The first concept to understand is that of Paradigms. In essence, and to quote Dr Covey, it is summed up in the phrase, “How we see the problem, is the problem.”

Paradigm is based on a Greek word, Paradigma, meaning pattern. If you consider (my understanding of) Gestalt Theory, it means we see and assess things based on a pattern that our experiences have formed. Paradigms are why we pull on some door handles and push on door plates – our experience instantly tells us which we are approaching and we act accordingly. That is at a basic level, but at an advanced level it is why we judge people and situations – our upbringing, state of mind, prior experience and judgements all inform us and we usually assess and act without further thought.

In demonstrations, Covey asks half of his audience to look at a picture of a woman’s face while the remainder close their eyes. Then the audience changes places and he shows a picture of a saxophone player. Then the pictures close and all open their eyes. Then a third picture is shown, which to those in the know is a composite, a drawing utilising the same line structure but slightly changed detail, and the audience is asked to discuss. Half insist it is a girl, the other half a saxophonist. Debate takes place an eventually all see both.

This is where it gets interesting. Think on the idea that how we see things influences what we do about it, and that our past experience influences how we see things. This has two effects.

First,  if we see things differently from others, we act differently and if we see the wrong thing, we do the wrong thing. That is not too sinister. But secondly, we can be directed to see things a certain way – and therefore act as we have been ‘told’ to see.

What does this mean?

It means that it does not take long, or very much, to direct people’s thinking.

Advertisers do it. We know that. But the media does it, too. How often have you been told that ‘outrage’ has been caused by something a politician has done, when if you were to step away from being told that you are outraged to realise that only the Opposition has ‘been outraged’ – surprise – and what has happened is really quite insignificant. But the media primes the reader to be angered using adjective and adverb to exaggerate factual content.

Not only is it true that “How you see the problem is the problem,” but “How you are told to see the problem can cause problems.”

A lot of people I speak to are quite defensive when I speak of the 7 Habits. What I find from what they say is they haven’t a clue what they’re defensive about – but their experiences and paradigms are telling them that this is religion/psychobabble/not relevant/I’m nuts.

In essence, understanding Paradigms lets us ask ourselves several question about our issues, challenges and problems. They are:

  • “How do you see yours?”
  • “Am I seeing the situation correctly?”
  • “Does it really matter? And
  • “What am I going to do about it? If anything.”

Tomorrow we’ll look at the Personality and Character Ethic, and how even that influences how we see and act.

Seven Habits Review: Day 0. Introduction.

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I have written before about how many people confuse The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People with being a business book. It isn’t, never was. What it is, is a book about living effectively as an individual and as part of any relationship. It is not about fame or success, per se, but about living a principled life, which in turn can lead to those things – if they are what you want. But let’s be frank – most of us don’t want them or don’t see them as important as being a good person doing good work for the people they care about, while enjoying life – which this book promotes in spades.

I recall once attending a meeting of personal development teachers preparing to deliver the Seven Habits material to schools with the overall aim of teaching ‘leadership’, and I opined that what we would be teaching was  self-leadership, and this was even more important because while everyone has the potential to be ‘a success’ and a ‘boss’ the vast majority of young people would be the staff, the workers, the led – and they should be trained to be the best they could be at those things, too. Leaders – self-leaders – make great followers.

The Seven Habits are (and I quote) A principle-centred, character-based, inside-out approach to personal and interpersonal effectiveness.

Let’s break that down a bit.

Principle-Centred. We like to think we can control events, but while we can control what we do, principles (sciences, incontrovertible truths, systems) decide the results. I’ll get deeper into that in future articles but for now I’ll explain that it means that instead of letting fame, wealth, family, church, peers, friends, pleasure, friends, enemies or work dictate how we think and behave, we let principles lead our decisions and resulting actions.

Character-Based. Our personality is what we show other people deliberately, but our character is what we really are. Personality tends to make us follow fashions and popular thought and ‘the latest thing’ so that we can fit in and benefit from that fitting in. Character, on the other hand, requires sacrifice, work and effort. But it lasts well beyond fashion, fame and money.

Inside-Out Approach. There is a tendency for folks to wait for their external world to change so that it suits them, instead of either changing it for the better themselves by changing their approach towards the changes needed. In 2020 we see protest after protest of people demanding other people change to suit their agenda – then they go home and wait for it to happen instead of engaging those in power in an effort to persuade and influence the change they want. The Inside-Out Approach is about looking into yourself and deciding what you need to change in yourself and how you need to change your approach, in order to achieve what you seek. Waiting for ‘them’ to change is ineffective.

Personal and Interpersonal Effectiveness. Effectiveness is not ‘just ‘success. Effectiveness is getting the results you want in such a way as to get them consistently – not once, but as long as they are needed. And it is not just about ‘you’ – it’s about effectiveness with and through other people, too. I have often said ‘Everything we do, we do with, for or because of other people – everything.’ So relationships are important enough to pursue with diligence. Including those we have with ourselves.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, then, are about taking responsibility for making things happen for the benefit of all those you love or serve, including yourself, while acting with good character and respecting the realities of the world.

Over the next 17 days (long story*) I intend to expand upon Stephen Covey’s work with a view to encouraging any reader to take up their own study of The Seven Habits so that they can benefit, as I have, from a better self-understanding and an improved recognition of what is going on around them, how they can respond to the challenges of the modern world – and do so without offending or being offended.

A word of warning, though – as you understand the lessons Covey taught you will start to recognise how many people are trying to tell you how to live. Covey’s main lesson is that you have that choice and it need not be imposed upon you. Reading the book will make you aware of how the world is trying to condition you – not necessarily out of malice but out of a desire to make you agree with ‘them’. After reading it, you may still agree with ‘them’. But it will be a conscious rather than popular agreement.

In the end, a major tenet of this book is this.

You can live your life or your life can be lived for you.

I hope you enjoy the work to follow.

 

(* Michael Heppell, personal development coach, has proposed a 17 day project for his Facebook Group and this is mine. That wasn’t as long a story as I thought.)

Resistance is still futile.

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Since last month’s release of the 7 Habits 30th Anniversary Edition I have read it twice. Added to the 25 years or more of reading, courses and observations I have already learned and made, you may be forgiven for thinking ‘Why?’ Fair comment.

However, what I have found is that when reading this timeless book there is always something new to discover, to understand, or to interpret in a new, more modern context. This time I read every chapter, then read each again while I made notes. I made 295 separate observations, and that is far from the full number of lessons in this classic if you consider that some of my notes were ‘I know this…’ I also made new connections – correction, I recognised the connections I’d missed before – between the lessons in the early pages and their relevance to those in the middle and end of the book.

As I did for so long, I suspect that a lot of people will perceive the 7 Habits as a sequential list of things to apply to life, when in fact that is very far from the whole story. The Habits are sequential in the sense that they address the roots, shoots and fruits of effective living in first the personal and then the public senses of existence. They are easier to learn and understand in sequence, too.

And yet, this 25th year’s reading identified to me the depth of thinking that Covey put into this work over 20-plus years, because I started to discover for myself the intricate web, the extensive inter-connectedness of the 7 Habits. I saw the way each singular element impacts, underpins, and has synergy with all the others. There are no contradictions between what is said on one page, and what you find anywhere else. All is in synch with everything else. This book has an ecology of its own that is a complete parallel with nature’s own ecology. Everything in The 7 Habits ‘library’ works with, and because of everything else. And any failure in one area compromises success elsewhere.

I suspect that recognition of this ecology is why I also enjoyed his later works. They, too, extend the ecology of the original, iconic work. Just as reading the 7 Habits in its laid-out sequence enhanced my ability to understand what could be quite an intellectual work, reading the following books in sequence underpinned and extended one’s understanding of the first as much as reading the first underpins reading of the rest. It may sound a little conceited but I credit understanding this book with an increased awareness and understanding of everything I have experienced in life. Yes, it made me clever. I never wrote like this before 1995.

In moving forward from The 7 Habits, Stephen Covey gave us First Things First (Habits 2 and 3 in more detail), The 3rd Alternative (Habits 4-6 in detail), Principle-Centred Leadership and later The 8th Habit (personal and interpersonal management and leadership in detail) and reading them all – and applying the learning – covers all the principles a manager, leader and individual needs to know in life. Not just for work, and not in terms of ‘do this, do that’. Technique and processes are situationally specific but the philosophy, understanding and execution of principles, as espoused in these books, apply everywhere all the time, and these books are where you come to realise this.

Some resist reading these books, and the original in particular, because they don’t understand what they are about, possibly because they are often mis-filed in bookshops as business books. They aren’t.

They are, without a dount in my experience and opinion, the most essential personal effectiveness books you will ever read.

Anyway, to assist you in realising this and in order to enhance my own deeper understanding, I am going to spend a lot of July writing about some of the 295 sentences in my notes.

Strap in, and maybe I will convince you, too.

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