I am excited to discuss Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I’ve read this book a couple times when I was 25/26. I was working part-time for Franklin Covey, which was the reason I first picked up the book. I attended several Covey seminars during the couple of years that I worked for the company. While reading the book the past couple of weeks to get ready for our book group discussion today (and the next three weeks), it struck me how differently the book affects me now, at age 40. At 25, I was working full-time in downtownChicago, working part-time at Franklin Covey, and working on my Master’s. In my 20’s, I was caught up in that selfish decade where life was all about me and having fun and enjoying life. Now, at 40, I am in the middle of my career, volunteer my time for several worth-while charities, and value and work hard on the personal relationships that are important to me. I know I am completely different from the 25 year-old that first read this book. However, it also is very apparent that the principles in this book are as relevant to me now as they were 15 years ago.
We read the introduction and the first habit for our book group discussion today. There is a lot of information in these first 100 pages – and I know they affect everybody differently, so I’m going to just touch on the points in his book that affected me personally, since I am no expert in Covey’s teachings and would hate to pass on mis-information. I would love to hear about what stood out for you when you were reading the intro and Habit One.
In the first chapter, “Inside Out,” Covey talks about the Character Ethic vs. the Personality Ethic. Character Ethic he describes as integrity, humility, fidelity, courage, justice, patience, etc. The Personality Ethic he describes as such things as influencing and power strategies, communication skills, and positive mental attitude. The Character Ethic was common in literature (i.e., Ben Franklin’s “13 Virtues”) and popular thinking in the early years of our country. After World War I, the concepts of the Personality Ethic became a more popular avenue of thought and literature. Covey makes the point that the Personality Ethic, which is so saturated in our thinking nowadays, is not, on it’s own, the way to live. If you don’t have the Character Ethic to back up the Personality Ethic, you are truly not walking the walk. I think we can all agree that this is true, right?
My big “Aha!” moment came when I was reading the sections about paradigms and paradigm shifts. Covey defines a paradigm as how we perceive, interpret, and understand the world around us. A paradigm shift is when we learn a different way of perceiving, interpreting, or understanding the world around us. I place a big importance on deadlines and meeting my deadlines at work – a deadline is a commitment and represents great integrity to me (Character Ethic). When I have a deadline at work, I am sure to communicate (Personality Ethic) with my boss the status of my progress. It works well for me and I almost never miss deadlines. If I do, I beat myself up about it. I think this is a good example of the Character Ethic (commitments) and Personality Ethic (communication) working well together for me. A couple years ago, I had assigned a project to someone to complete with a set deadline. I expected that the person would treat deadlines the same as me – work hard to complete and keep me informed. The deadline passed and I never thought that the work was not done (because I was never told otherwise). A couple days after the deadline, I specifically asked this person about the project and how it was received. Not only did she miss the deadline, but she failed to communicate it to me and the others who were dependent on the project! She flat out told me that it wasn’t important that she get it done so she didn’t do it! I was shocked, upset, and angry! I have a good friend, Amy, who is also an excellent sounding board. She really helps me put things into perspective – when I called her that evening very upset about the situation and wondering how this person could not understand that missing the deadline was important, all she said to me was “Krista, she is not you.” Wow! So true! Why hadn’t I thought of that? That was a major paradigm shift for me! My perception of deadlines (firm commitment) and her perception of deadlines (a moving target, maybe?) were completely different! I had not communicated with her how important the deadline was – while self-evident to me, not so evident to her, therefore, not meeting the deadline was OK. While I still get upset about things not going the way that I expect, I try and step back and put myself in the other person’s shoes and see what his/her paradigm may be (honestly, I still struggle with this but I have excellent people around me who help me to shift my paradigm). Did you have any “Aha!” moments when you were reading this section, too? Any paradigm shifts of your own recently that you would like to share?
I loved the section on principle-centered paradigms. I agree that principles seem to be the foundation for happiness and success: fairness, integrity, honesty, human dignity, service, quality/excellence, potential, growth, patience, nuturance, and encouragement. Covey describes principles as a fundamental map of our lives. The more closely we align our maps (paradigms) to these principles, the more correct the map or guide to our lives.
Covey sums up that the Seven Habits are about a “principle-centered, character-based, “inside-out” approach to personal and interpersonal effectiveness” (pg 42). He says we need to work on ourselves first – work from the “inside-out” – how true is that? How many times have we experienced the truth of improving ourselves in order to improve our situation? Is anybody working on a something from the “inside-out” that you’d like to share?
In the next chapter, “The Seven Habits – An Overview,” Covey describes a habit as the convergence of knowledge, skill, and desire. Creating or changing a habit requires work on all three of these areas. I recently met someone who lost 120 lbs – amazing, right? And he did it on his own, with lots of hard work and no quick fixes. Obviously he created new habits for himself – a perfect example of knowledge, skill, and desire working perfectly together. Covey says that changing or creating habits can be a “painful process” (pg 47). Would my friend agree that changing his habits in order to lose the weight was very difficult? Undoubtedly. Would he tell you that he stumbled along the way? I’m certain he would…there are no great successes without failures. Is he much happier now with his new habits and lifestyle? Absolutely! I am working on my own weight loss journey and he is definitely an inspiration to me! Is anybody working on changing any habits? How is it going for you? Are you finding that it’s a struggle?
Covey writes about dependence/independence/interdependence. I struggle the most with interdependence. I am very independent. I like to do things on my own, I take lots of pride in the things that I accomplish on my own, and have a hard time asking others for help. In fact, I hate asking for help. Last year I needed help with something in my home that was physically impossible for me to do on my own. I knew I needed help and finally made the decision to ask my boyfriend at the time for help. So I called him and asked him to help me the next time he was coming over. He told me I could do it myself. I argued that I could not – and, really, I physically COULD NOT do it myself. He finally said to me, “Can’t you do anything yourself?” Wow, I already hate asking for help and that made me feel worse! I am less likely than ever to ask for help since I got that reaction from him. Physical, emotional, and intellectual interdependence are something that I know I have to consciously and continually work on. I’m curious if you struggle with interdependence or can offer some good advice on what has helped you?
Covey explains that effectiveness is the balance between production and production capability –what he calls the “P/PC Balance.” I have witnessed the breakdown in the P/PC Balance with a couple that I am close to – they are going through a divorce and it is obvious that they were not focused enough on the PC end of the relationship – the want a good marriage (P), but are distrustful of each other (PC) and will not work through the problem together. They are persistent in their belief that the other is not trustworthy. Have you experienced a good P/PC Balance in your life? A bad P/PC Balance?
Finally! Habit one – Be Proactive. Covey introduces this Habit by first talking about how the human ability to make choices sets us apart from animals and the choices we make determine if we are proactive or reactive. Reactive people make choices based on their environment. Proactive people make choices based on their values – independent of the environment around them. I have a friend whose mood is completely dependent on others’ actions. For instance, if she walks by and I don’t say hi to her, she thinks I am mad at her! She chooses to believe that I’m mad at her. The reality may be that I did not see her or I was talking to someone else, but she does not choose to believe that. She chooses a belief that hurts her feelings. What a depressing way to live!
Covey talks about reactive vs. proactive language – this totally reminds me of the words used to create vibrations that Michael Losier talks about in his book “The Law of Attraction” – did anybody else feel the same way? Reactive language examples that Covey gives are “I can’t do that” or “They won’t allow that” – just like the words that give off negative vibrations per Michael Losier. Proactive language identified by Covey, like “I choose” or “I will” or “I can” are words that can create positive vibrations according to Michael Losier. Interesting that proactive language can be equated to a positive vibration and reactive language is really a negative vibration!
Covey draws diagrams of two ideas – the “circle of influence” (things within our control) and the “circle of concern” (things outside our control). Proactive people focus on things within their control and Covey states that positive energy enlarges the circle of influence. Law of attraction, again? Seems that way to me! Covey emphasizes that by focusing on our “circle of influence” we are working on ourselves – the “inside-out” that he mentioned in his introduction.
I was very excited that Covey wrote about making and keeping commitments! Like I mentioned earlier, I take commitments very seriously and was excited to read that our integrity in relation to the commitments we make is the “essence” of our proactivity! Yay, me! I am happy to know now that the dedication I make to my commitments means that I am proactive! What really hit home for me is the parallel he makes between making a promise and setting a goal – they’re essentially the same – keeping a promise is keeping a commitment to others and achieving a goal is a keeping a commitment to self. I find myself more committed to keeping promises to others – yet I am pretty lax about keeping the commitment to myself. Wow, I did not realize that by not achieving my goals, I am violating my own dedication to commitment! I know that is something that I have to work on – my “inside-out” project.
Covey ends the chapter with a 30-day test of the principle of productivity. I know what my focus will be – I will be looking at my goals and re-aligning my commitment to my goals to make sure that I keep the commitments to myself! What hit you when you were reading about his first habit “Be Proactive?” What will you do to test your principle of productivity?
I am excited to read what you thought of the book and what resonates with you so far! Leave comments below and don’t forget to join in our live discussion on the introduction and Habit One “Be Proactive” of the book tonight from 9 pm – 9:30 pm CDT.
Questions for discussion:
- Did you have any “Aha!” moments when you were reading the section about paradigm shifts? Any paradigm shifts of your own recently that you would like to share?
- Are you working on a something from the “inside-out” that you’d like to share?
- Are you working on changing any habits? How is it going for you? Are you finding that it’s a struggle?
- Have you experienced a good P/PC Balance in your life? A bad P/PC Balance?
- Do you struggle with dependence/independence/interdependence? Can you offer some good advice on what has helped you with interdependence?
- What hit you when you were reading about his first habit “Be Proactive?” What will you do to test your principle of productivity?
- Please feel free to ask us questions or make comments below!