Dr. Stephen R. Covey is a hugely influential management guru, whose book “The seven habits of highly effective people,” became a blueprint for personal development when it was published in 1990. Over 20 million copies were sold in 38 languages.
Stephen Covey is a renowned writer, speaker, academician and humanist. He has also built a huge training and consultancy products and services business—Franklin Covey which has a global reach. It provides consultancy services and imparts training services to most of the world's leading corporations.
Stephen was born in 1932 in Utah. He completed MBA in Harvard University and Doctorate in Brigham Young University. Stephen has written more than 17 books of his own and 16 books with other co-authors.
The sevenhabits of highly effective people
Habit 1: Be proactive
We can choose to be reactive to our environment. For example, if the weather is good, we are happy. If the weather is bad, we are unhappy. Proactive people are driven by values that are independent of things happening around us. Mahatma Gandhi said, "They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them!" Our response to what happened to us affects us more than what actually happened.
Change starts from within and highly effective people make the decision to improve their lives through the things that they can influence rather than by simply reacting to external forces.
Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who survived the death camps of Nazi Germany. While in the death camps, Frankl realized that he alone had the power to determine his response to the horror of the situation. He exercised the only freedom he had in that environment by envisioning himself teaching students after his release. He became an inspiration for others around him. He realized that in the middle of the stimulus-response model, humans have the freedom to choose.
The 90/10 Principle:
We really have no control over 10% of what happens to us. We cannot stop the car from breaking down or the plane arriving late, which may throw our whole schedule off. But the other 90% is different. You determine the other 90% by your reaction.
Here is an example. You are eating breakfast with your family. Your daughter knocks over a cup of coffee onto your business shirt. You have no control over what just happened. What happens next will be determined by how you react.
You curse. You harshly scold your daughter for knocking the cup over. She breaks down in tears. After scolding her, you turn to your spouse and criticize her for placing the cup too close to the edge of the table. A short verbal battle follows. You storm upstairs and change your shirt. Back downstairs, you find your daughter has been too busy crying to finish breakfast and get ready for school. She misses the bus. Your spouse must leave immediately for work.
You rush to the car and drive your daughter to school. Because you are late, you drive 65 KM an hour in a 50 kmph speed limit. After a 15-minute delay and throwing Rs.300/- traffic fine away, you arrive at school.
Your daughter runs into the building without saying goodbye. After arriving at the office 20 minutes late, you find you forgot your briefcase. Your day has started terribly. What a terrible way to start your day! As it continues, it seems to get only worse. You look forward to coming home. When you arrive home, you find a small wedge in your relationship with your spouse and daughter.
Why? Why did you have a bad day?
A) Did the coffee cause it?
B) Did your daughter cause it?
C) Did the policeman cause it?
D) Did you cause it?
The answer is "D". You had no control over what happened with the coffee. How you reacted in those five seconds is what caused your bad day. Here is what could have and should have happened.
Coffee splashes over you. Your daughter is about to cry. You gently say, "Its ok honey, you just need to be more careful next time!" Grabbing a towel you rush upstairs. After grabbing a new shirt and your briefcase, you come back down in time to look through the window and see your child getting into the bus. She turns and waves. You arrive five minutes early and cheerfully greet the staff. Your boss comments on how great your day is.
Notice the difference? Two different scenarios. Both started the same way but ended very differently.
Here are some ways to apply the 90/10 principle. If someone says something negative about you, don't be a sponge. Let the attack roll off like water on glass. You don't have to let the negative comment affect you! React properly and it will not ruin your day. A wrong reaction could result in losing a friend, being fired, getting stressed out, etc.
You are told, you lost your job. Why lose sleep and get irritated? Instead, use your worrying energy and time into finding another job. The 90-10 principle is incredible.
Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind
“Begin with the end in mind” is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation and a physical or second creation to all things. The carpenter's rule is "measure twice, cut once!"
A personal mission statement:
To find out what your principles are, imagine your own funeral. Imagine that as your casket is being lowered down into the ground, your family and friends are standing around watching.
What are they thinking about? When they think of you and your life, what statements, images and memories come up in their minds? What do you want them to think, imagine and remember? It is precisely these statements, images and memories which ought to be your principles. You should live toward these principles every day. All of these principles combined make up your mission statement.
Visualization and affirmation:
Stephen saw a documentary film once about an Olympic high jumper who used visualization in his training. He said that he trained the same amount of time visually as he did physically. This meant that half of his training was sitting in a chair imagining every movement of the run up to the bar, then the jump, then the arched back, then the feet and the successful fall down to the mat. He ran it in slow motion, backwards and forwards until it was smooth.
Anytime there was a doubt, he stopped his visualization and checked where his feet were, where his hands were and how high his knee was. Then when he practised physically, his body and mind had already "experienced" a successful jump and knew exactly what to do.
This is the kind of visualization and affirmation that one can do with principles in a mission statement. If one of your mission statements is to be an understanding mother, visualize your daughter coming home from school and telling you that she failed a test. Visualize yourself being understanding in that situation.
Habit 3: Put first things first
First Things First provide you with a compass of purpose and values because where you are headed is more important than how fast you are going.
Stephen explains that most people are drivers by the concept of urgency. But to really effect a positive change in our lives, we need to reorganize the way we spend our time—based on the concept of importance and not on urgency. Study the following matrix of time demands.
We have no real choice when it comes to Quadrant 1 activity because Quadrant 1 operates on us; that is, the activity which falls into this category must be done. The real choice is when it comes to Quadrant 2. We can choose to spend time here or not but Quadrant 2 is the key to getting things under control.
Q2 is the key: Planning (long and short term), preparation, reading/expanding the mind, production capability, professional development, physical exercise, leisure/recreation, devising systems, implementing systems, prevention and envisioning the future. Time for Q2 activity, of course, must come from Q3 and Q4; minimise or eliminate the time you spend there.
Seeing problems as opportunities requires a paradigm shift. The flat tire on your way to an important meeting is still a flat tire but the situation becomes an opportunity to show your resolve to act in a crisis situation.
Take the example of William Least Heat Moon, author of the book Blue Highways: In a period of three months back in the 70s, his wife divorced him and his college fired him. So he put all the money he had in a shoebox, packed up his van and drove around America on all the blue (smallest) highways writing a book about his travels through small town American culture. Today the book is a classic. Yes. Effective people are not problem-minded; they’re opportunity-minded.
When parents see their children's problems as opportunities to build the relationship instead of as negative, burdensome irritations, it totally changes the nature of parent-child interaction as the most enduring and significant relationship in one’s life.
Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood
First seek to understand the other person and only then try to be understood. Stephen presents this habit as the most important principle of interpersonal relations. Effective listening is putting oneself in the perspective of the other person, listening empathically with feeling and compassion.
Habit 6: Synergize
Through trustful communication, find ways to leverage individual differences to create a new product that is greater than the sum of the parts. Through mutual trust and understanding, one often can solve conflicts and find a better solution than what would have been possible through either person's own solution. In simple words, “Synergy means one plus one equals three or more!”
Habit 7: Sharpen the saw
It means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have—you. It means having a balanced programme for self-renewal in the four areas of your life, viz. physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual.To be effective, one must find the proper balance between actually producing and improving one's capability to produce. Stephen illustrates this point with the fable of the goose and the golden egg. The goose was killed in order to get more golden eggs. In this case, egg is ‘production’ and goose is the ‘production capability’.
The lesson is that if one attempts to maximize immediate production with no regard to the production capability, the capability will be lost. On the other hand, if you only take care of the goose with no aim toward the golden eggs, you will not have the wherewithal to feed yourself or the goose. Effectiveness is a function of both production and the capacity to produce, i.e. E = P/PC. The need for balance between production (P) and production capability (PC) applies to physical, financial and human assets.
One of my friends, a trainer bought this book for around Rs.500/-, but earned more than Rs.50,000/- by teaching the seven habits in various workshops. These habits would go a long way in making us not only efficient but also effective in our lives. Mind you… “Motivation is a fire from within!”
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