I hope you find yourself well as you embark upon reading this blog post for the next 5 minutes. If you’re reading this then it’s evident that you know we can all be doing more in our lives to be living with more happiness, purpose, meaning, fulfilment and success. In order to do so, in order to make the impact we believe is possible in our lives and in others’ we must become increasingly better at making that impact, we must raise our level of effectiveness in all areas of our lives to make a greater impact.
So what would it mean to be highly effective and why is it so critical?
Mastering effectiveness is a life-long journey of constant learning and growth. It means to be able to dictate our own direction rather than being a victim of circumstance. It means having a greater sense of meaning and purpose that inspires us to take progressive actions every day. We genuinely have the best interests of others at heart and build strong, meaningful relationships around us by always expressing our care and desire to connect and understand others. Through this we are able to unite in order to evoke powerful change in all areas of our lives.
To the degree to which we commit to mastering effectiveness is to the same degree to which we inspire happiness, freedom, fulfilment and positive change in our lives. But we can’t do it alone. We must come together and seek the help and support of others along this journey to learn and apply the fundamental knowledge and wisdom of highly effective people.
So What Are The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People?
Based upon the landmark material of Dr. Stephen R. Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, here is an overview of what the habits of high effectiveness are:
1 – Be Proactive
What is it like to live the opposite? – We’re emotionally reactive, we can feel negative and struggle to turn our state around, perhaps we need a cigarette or drink to calm us down, we don’t believe in ourselves and struggle to follow through on basic commitments.
What does it mean to live this habit? – Someone who is proactive is willing and able to take more responsibility to make things happen. If we look at the word responsibility, it implies that people are more able to respond, but the key here is to respond through conscious choice rather than an unconscious reaction. As Covey wonderfully describes, between stimulus and response is a space, and in that space is our freedom to choose. However, when we react, there is no space, it means that our external environment dictates our actions because we react, with no conscious choice, based up conditioned programs from our past. We cannot create a new future if we are always living out the past. Being proactive means you’re not a victim of your environment or your past, you’re not pointing the blame at people or situations for your own life-situations. Proactive people always focus on their circle of influence, on what they can influence rather than constantly draining energy focusing on and complaining about what they can’t change.
The starting point of being proactive is firstly to become a student of yourself, become curious about your reactive patterns and start trying to spot them an often as possible. Secondly, starting small, make commitments and keep them. Every time we extend ourselves to follow through with a commitment we govern what happens in our lives, not circumstance.
2 –Begin With The End in Mind
What is it like to live the opposite? – We feel demotivated, everything seems mundane, we can often feel like we’re living on a treadmill, maybe we start something and don’t finish it and don’t really know where we’re going in life.
What does it mean to live this habit? – If you ask most people ‘what would you like to do in your life?’, many are unsure or are lacking in definitive clarity. Is it any wonder that our happiness and fulfilment is so shallow and fleeting? Having a greater sense of direction and purpose in our lives brings so much more meaning to each moment. Covey shares the story of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps of World War 2. Thankfully due to his level of awareness of his mind he was able to direct his thoughts and attention to a meaningful outcome after the war which enabled him to bring a sense of meaning to the horrific suffering. He attributes this as being the reason he survived those atrocities. If you have a strong enough vision that inspires you then the challenges along the way always seem so much smaller and navigable – to such a degree that we actually begin to see the problems as opportunities. We come to appreciate that it is only through those opportunities do we increase our capacity to go on to take on bigger things in the future.
3 – Put First Things First
What is it like to live the opposite? – We feel like there is never enough time, we tend to put off some of the big things and sometimes we feel like we get hit by problem after problem.
What does it mean to live this habit? – It is so easy to get distracted, right? Of the endless array of stimuli we could devote our attention to, or the countless things calling for our attention in any one moment, only a handful of them will actively propel us toward what we wish to achieve.
Have you heard of the 80:20 Principle? Also known as Pareto’s Law, it dictates that 80% of the results flow from 20% of the actions. This means that some actions will have a far greater affect in propelling you towards your goals, commonly known as ‘high-leverage’ activities. The more we focus on doing those activities, the more effective we will be at achieving our goals. So this habit is about ‘organising and executing around priorities’ – being very clear with what your priorities are and organising yourself on a daily and weekly basis to keep your attention focused to follow-through consistently.
4 – Think Win-Win or No Deal
What is it like to live the opposite? – We feel that sometimes people take advantage of us, that sometimes we’re doing a lot for others yet they aren’t willing to help us out in return. Perhaps at times we feel like there is not enough to go around or feel that we don’t have enough time or energy to help others.
What does it mean to live this habit? – ‘The Law of Karma’, ‘what goes around comes around’, ‘you get out what you put in’. Do any of these sound familiar? Sure they do. If drop by drop you keep throwing waste into the very watering-hole that you drink from, eventually you will fall ill. That is no surprise. Our actions all have consequences to others, either directly or indirectly. If we act in a way in which the consequences of our actions are detrimental to others, at some point or another it will come back around and start to impact us adversely even if not in the most apparent way. ‘Think Win-Win’ is about stepping out of our own world, putting ourselves into someone else’s shoes and wishing to do them good, not just looking to take.
This is characteristic of someone with an abundance mentality – ‘there is always enough to go ‘around’, ‘there will always be more’. The underlying subconscious belief behind this is ‘I’m capable of finding, creating and attracting more’. The converse is the scarcity mentality – ‘I must hold on to what I’ve got because there may not be much more’. To get anything in life, you must first be willing to give whole-heartedly.
5 – Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
What is it like to live the opposite? – Maybe at times we don’t feel understood or feel that others don’t care. Perhaps we find that people talk over each other and that reaching a common agreement is a struggle.
What does it mean to live this habit? – The root of virtually all of our problems in relationships boils down to two things: 1– the level to which each person is living the first 3 habits themselves, and 2– their ability to community effectively to each other and know what that really means. How many of us feel like the other person really understands and feels deeply what we may have gone through? It is rare… because good listening is extremely rare. To listen well we must give our absolute undivided attention, this also means we must have the awareness, willingness and ability to suspend our judgements to try to really put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. We have done this effectively when we can describe back to the other person how they are feeling better than they have described it themselves. This is when people open up, when people suspend their judgements of you and begin the journey of cooperating effectively with the least amount of ego possible. Try really listening to someone!!! It is actually a lot more difficult than we often think.
6 – Synergise
What is it like to live the opposite? – We judge and are judged for our differences. We leave interactions feeling more drained and less clear than when we started. People struggle to get on with each other and there is an underlying atmosphere provoking people to talk behind each other’s backs.
What does it mean to live this habit? – ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’ So what does that mean practically? To be able to come together with others and achieve more than what we could all achieve individually. We benefit massively from tapping into the vast wealth of knowledge, experience, ideas and creativity amongst everyone. We all know this, however, in order to synergise we must actively value and seek value in everyone’s differences. It sounds simple right? Well, yes in principle, however, more often than not people don’t actively see the value because we unconsciously judge and limit the value we see in those differences. Synergising goes beyond just ‘that is what you want’, ‘this is what I want’ and then one person needing to compromise. It is through valuing those differences and seeking to find ideas, opportunities and solutions that a better, alternative solution can be found which is more beneficial for both than their own original ideas.
7 – Sharpen The Saw
What is it like to live the opposite? – We may feel lacking in energy or like things in our lives are stagnating – no progress.
What does it mean to live this habit? If you were to buy the basic version of a new car and wanted to increase its level of performance how well do you think it would perform if you left it out in the elements for 5 years, never cleaning or maintaining it? You’d be lucky if it even starts! If we wanted to increase its performance then we would need to make sure we are servicing it regularly, cleaning it, kept it in a garage, but furthermore, you would need to upgrade certain parts to ensure its increased performance. Well, why would that be any different for ourselves? Our lives can be so busy, but if we want to progress, or even just keep at our current level we must be treating ourselves well – giving ourselves space to reflect, relax, exercise, rest and learn.
How do we Learn to Live The 7 Habits?
Can you recall what it is like when you’re trying to push a really full and heavy shopping trolley around at the supermarket? You’ve got to put in a lot more effect to get it to turn. Well, it is similar to ourselves. We’ve lived for years, or decade even with the momentum of our limiting beliefs (many of which we’re not even aware of) carrying us away in a particular direction that we probably wouldn’t actively choose. The critical thing when it comes to learning these habits it to take them from an intellectual understanding to an internalised understanding which we can actually follow-through with and know how to apply in varying circumstances.
As Stephen R. Covey describes, we retain only 10% of the material if we just read it, 70% if we discuss it, 80% if we experience it, and up to 95% if we pass the knowledge on and teach it to others. Our personal development learning is far too solitary, we need to come together in groups, to discuss the material, to help each other digest it and learn from each other’s experiences so we don’t have to endure the same experiences ourselves in order to learn it.