lIn “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey helps people become more effective when dealing with the significant challenges of life. In details, Stephen Covey provides guidelines for managing time and balancing studies, social life, job, and other priorities. The first three habits are focused on personal victories. They teach how to develop self-mastery and dependence. Those three habits are: Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, and Put First Things First. Habits four, five, and six address interdependence, the success in working with others.
Habit four: Think Win-Win, habit five: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood, and habit six: Synergize. The seventh habit: Sharpen the Saw, talks about building one’s personal production capability through self-renewal and continual improvement. After reading this book, I was encouraged to think about what I can do to develop myself and become the best of me. Therefore, I have decided to take the following steps to improve myself: improve my communication and teamwork skills; keep myself focused on what matters the most; be being proactive; and take the time to renew myself and nurture my body, mind, heart, and spirit.
My first recommendation to myself is to improve my communication and teamwork skills. Habit four: Think Win-Win and habit six: Synergize, made me realize the importance of teamwork. Habit four taught me that teamwork and long-term relationships require cooperation by seeking mutual benefit. For every problem, there exists a solution that allows everyone to succeed. According to the book, most people learn to base their self-esteem on comparisons and competition with others. They regard their success as the failure of someone else. If they win, others lose.
Other people are the opposite. They think if they lose, others win. They accept loss just to make other people happy. People with such mentalities, find it hard to share the recognition and power of others. They cannot be happy for the successes of others even those closest to them. However, a person with win-win mentality is respectful and assertive at the same time. “It’s not you or me. It’s both of us. It’s not a matter of who gets the biggest piece of the pie. There’s more than enough for everyone. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet. The other habit that encouraged me to improve my communication and teamwork skills is habit six. It showed me how people produce more together than the sum of what they could produce separately. This habit mainly says teamwork and trust should be built by creatively cooperating with other people and identifying the contributions of them which is synergizing. There are several examples of the synergetic situations. Stephen Covey gives a couple of them. One example is about two politicians being able to get 1 million votes each, but when working together they are able to get 2. 5 million votes.
This example represents the classic 1+1 = 2. 5 equation. Another example is about two people who are too short to pick apples from a tree. But when working as a team with one on the shoulders of the other, they can pick many apples. Stephen Covey also illustrates how to create a synergetic model. To produce a synergetic climate one needs to assess three specific habits: have a win-win attitude (habit 4), seek to understand before to be understood (habit 5), and believe you can achieve more together than alone (habit 6). Moreover, valuing the differences is the essence of synergy.
To synergize, one needs to acknowledge and appreciate the differences between people. To believe that those differences are not annoying, but they are precious and there is much to gain from accepting them. After realizing how important teamwork is, habit 5 teaches how to develop a powerful communication skill: listening. Habit 5: Seek to Understand, Then to Be Understood, helped me to understand the concept of listening. Seeking first to understand requires getting inside the talking person’s frame and see the situation the way she/he sees it.
You need to understand his/her point of view but not necessarily agree with them. When listening to other people, you should not be thinking about what you are going to say next when the other person stops talking. Instead, you should really listen to what they are saying without interrupting them. You need to try to understand them which will build a bridge between your paradigms and the paradigms of them. This way you will more likely have a stronger influence. My second recommendation to myself is to stay focused on what matters the most to me.
This recommendation came in to my mind after reading the second habit: Begin With the End in Mind. This habit taught me how to live with a purpose. It is based on the principle that things need to be created mentally before they are physically created. For example, a plane is first created in someone’s mind before it is actually built. Effective people determine their own futures. First, they mentally plan it according to their values and principles. Second, they physically create it through their positive actions and behaviors.
During my college life, I have always had busy weeks in which I had to deal with lots of exams, home woks, quizzes, and projects. In such weeks, I tend to spend all my time only doing my school responsibilities. However, as Stephen Covey says in the second habit, “most people on their death beds don’t wish they had spent more time at the office! ” By the end of each semester, I see myself getting good grades but still not satisfied because deep in my heart school is not my only priority. In order to stay focused on what matters most, I will first determine what matters most to me.
In his book, Stephen Covey lists various questions that I will explore when I try to discover myself. After I find out my sense of purpose and meaning in life, I will begin to write my personal mission statement. It will act as a leading constitution by which I will evaluate my daily decisions. Moreover, when trying to keep my focus on the task at hand, I will use Stephen Covey’s life-management quadrants. In the third habit: Put First Things First, he uses a chart with four quadrants that are the result of two axes: urgent and important. Urgent activities call for immediate attention.
Important activities are valuable and add to the personal mission, values, and high priority goals. To put first things first is to organize and manage time and events according to the values and vision the person defined in his/her personal mission statement. I always get caught up in day to day crisis, which represent the urgent and important things, and I get distracted from what it is important to me. What I need to do is to spend more time in the important but not urgent quadarant. I will also use a planner to schedule my tasks and activities each week.
I will always re-valuate my plans based on my personal mission statement. Those two habits also reminded me that I need to start planning my career path. I will go to my advisor to discuss my career opportunities. I will also take an aptitude test to help me evaluate my talents, abilities, and interests so I can use that information when choosing my career path. I will also write down a list of the most important skills I need to be successful in college and work to improve each one of them. Another thing I want to develop in myself is to increase my proactivity.
A lot of times it happened that I receive a grade that I think is unfair and I get upset, which gets me nowhere. Habit one: Be Proactive taught me that whenever I get a grade that I think I do not deserve, I should make an appointment with my professor to discuss it and see what I can learn. To be proactive is to have a choice and control over the situations. A company can be proactive rather than to be under the mercy of the industry. For example, if an industry is facing a downturn, a company can be proactive by developing a plan to cut down the costs and use the industry downturn to its benefit by increasing the market share.
Proactive people do not blame other people or circumstances for their own mistakes. They understand whatever they do is what they have chosen to do. They accept responsibility for their choices. When facing a stimulus, they stop and allow themselves to choose a response based on their personal values. In contrast, reactive people do not choose how to respond to stimuli; instead they react immediately without thinking and based on their feelings at that moment. “There is a gap between stimulus and response, and the key to both our growth and happiness is how we use that space. In the book, Stephen Covey advises his readers to divide events and circumstances into two categories: circumstances they can influence through choices and circumstances they cannot influence at all. Proactive people focus their effort on the things they can control which Stephen Covey calls the Circle of Influence. They do not worry about the things they do not have influence on which he calls the Circle of Concern. By doing so, they increase their control on more and more of those things that are in their Circle of Concern. Reactive people focus on their Circle of Concern.
They blame other people or circumstances which both are beyond their influence, for their failures. To be more proactive, I plan to do the following things. I will write down a list of the things in my Circle of Concern that I am always worrying about then I will work on letting go of them one by one. I will pay more attention to my behavior and language and identify the reactive ones. For example, whenever I say “I can’t do it” I will change that to “I will try. ” Also, from now on I will not let other people’s bad mood rub off on me and ruin my day. This is my choice” will be the attitude I will always adopt. My last recommendation to myself is to take care of my body, mind, heart, and soul. The seventh habit says to be effective one should balance between the production and the production capacity. I will not be able to effectively do the previous recommendations without renewing myself and nurturing my body, mind, heart, and soul. Stephen Covey clarifies this point with the example of the goose and the golden eggs. A poor farmer had a goose. The goose suddenly started to lay a solid golden egg every day and the farmer soon became very rich.
The farmer also became very greedy and began to think the goose must have all the golden eggs within it. In order to get all the golden eggs immediately, he killed the goose. As soon as he did that, he discovered there were not golden eggs within it. The moral of the story is that the need of the balance between production and production capability is critical. If one tries to increase the immediate output without considering the production capacity, this capability will be lost. The need for balance between production and production capability applies in physical, financial, and human asset.
For example, a person in charge in a factory can increase the output of a machine by stopping the scheduled maintenance and using that time operating the machine and maximizing the production. However, in the future, more maintenance will need to be performed on the machine and the future production will be greatly minimized. That person may be blamed for causing such a mess. The production and production capability applies to customer loyalty as well. A restaurant may have a good reputation for serving great food.
If the owner decides to cut down the costs and lower the quality of the served food, the profits will rise immediately. However, as soon as the customers sense the change in the food quality, their trust will be lost. The profits will definitely decline. The need for this kind of balance also applies to the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual assets. One should take the time for self-renewal; to preserve and enhance the four human assets. Renewal increases the person’s capacity to undertake the challenges of daily living. It creates growth and change in that person’s life.
Without this renewal, the body becomes feeble, the mind mechanical, the emotions dead, and the spirit insensitive. Therefore, I plan on doing the following activities. To preserve my body, I will start an exercise program and I will choose something I really enjoy like badminton. I will also make sure to get at least seven hours of sleep every day. Lastly, I will continue to eat my balanced diet. To nurture my mind, I will start to read more books and solve at least one puzzle every day. To take care of my heart, I will try to build new friendships and have meaningful connections with others.