November 15, 2010

Revisiting The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Good Habits To Apply With Discipline

My copy of Stephen R. Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is signed by the author and constantly referenced. Most noticeable is that it is dog-eared, and well worn,—a sign not of neglect, but rather of its indispensability and enduring appeal over the years. I find its ideas as relevant and meaningful today, as when they were first introduced over 20 years ago.

One passage in particular always strikes a chord:

“…[I]f you want to have a happy marriage, be the kind of person who generates positive energy and sidesteps negative energy rather than empowering it. If you want to have a more pleasant, cooperative teenager, be a more understanding, empathic, consistent, loving parent. If you want to have more freedom, more latitude in your job, be a more responsible, a more helpful, a more contributing employee. If you want to be trusted, be trustworthy. If you want the secondary greatness of recognized talent, focus first on primary greatness of character.”

What resonates is the premise that we must look within to find the change we seek and to become our best selves. We must first earn self-mastery and develop great character—what Covey calls achieving the “private victories.” Only then, can we achieve the “public victories” of teamwork, cooperation, communication, social recognition and influence. And to sustain this success, we must internalize “Seven Habits” that embody fundamental principles at the foundation of true effectiveness, such as fairness, integrity, honesty, dignity, service, quality, potential and growth.

These “Seven Habits” express a simple yet compelling idea: To be effective, we must adopt a principle-centered, character-based approach. We must work from the “inside-out,” guided by the habits that correspond with each stage along the “Maturity Continuum.”

Habits 1 (Be Proactive), 2 (Begin with the End in Mind) and 3 (Put First Things First) make up the private victories that move us from dependence on circumstances and other people to greater independence, self-reliance and personal accountability. These first three habits help us build the character base from which we can progress to interdependence, the stage when we cooperate and work successfully with others to attain “public victories” that are greater than anything we could accomplish independently. All of the Habits are just that, habits and principles that we can incorporate in our daily lives through discipline.

Habit 7, “Sharpen the Saw,” makes all the other habits possible through self-renewal and continuous improvement. This habit focuses on balancing the doing with our ability and capacity to do, so we preserve and enhance our most valuable asset—us.

At whatever stage along the path to maturity we may be, the “Seven Habits” offer us a powerful framework to solve problems, maximize opportunities, enrich relationships and continually learn and grow. For over two decades, the “Seven Habits” have given us the tools to create the lives, livelihoods and relationships we most desire—effective, productive and purposeful.

Each of the Seven Habits will be the topic of our blog for the next several weeks. Focusing on these is in itself a good habit.

–          Vera Quinn