It’s been almost a decade since I read the infamous self-help book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey, but it’s such a helpful tool that it came as no real surprise when I recently felt compelled to re-read it. As I did so, I found myself wondering if I had addressed or implemented the particular habit introduced in each new chapter. By the time I finished those chapters, I was delighted to find that I had, in fact, embraced them since my initial reading of the book. Of course, I had also adapted the suggestions or guidelines in the book concerning the habits to tailor them to my own unique needs and experiences. This discovery reminded me that we each determine our own level of success.
Covey encourages readers of his best seller, which has sold 15 million-plus copies in almost forty languages since its first printing in 1991, to embrace the seven habits he outlines so they can implement them in their own lives to increase their success or effectiveness as well as become more satisfied with their accomplishments at the end of an established time frame. I think that almost all people can benefit tremendously from Covey’s book, whether it be in their personal life, professional life, or both. Indeed, reading and expanding your awareness of new trends, thoughts, and perspectives is an important part of embracing a life-long approach to learning.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People begins with the author examining a survey of 23,000 full-time executives, managers, and other full-time employees. The survey found that a mere 50 percent were satisfied with what they accomplished in one workweek. Additionally, only 37 percent described themselves as understanding their company’s goals, and a paltry one-quarter of the respondents were enthusiastic about these goals.
Covey took the results of this survey and compared them to a soccer team of eleven players in which only half the members are happy at the game’s conclusion, four know which goals were theirs, and two actually cared. That’s a frightening assessment, isn’t it? Take a moment to consider your own workplace or the company or small business you’re hoping to build. Can you think of signs or signals you’ll need to be on the lookout for to prevent your employees from ending up with this same kind of dissatisfaction, disillusionment, or apathy?
Try these techniques to practice the first three of Covey’s seven habits:
- Be Proactive Our freedom and power as individuals to choose our responses lies in the space between stimulus and response. People who are proactive are able to choose a response that allows them to focu on finding solutions.
- Start by Knowing Where You’re Going When you begin with the end result in mind, you embrace the habit that centers around the understanding that all things are created twice. The first creation occurs mentally when you have the spark of the idea and carefully consider it, and the second creation occurs physically when you actually implement your plan. To embrace this habit, it’s often helpful to articulate your goal in a mission statement that outlines what you want to be, what you want to do, and what you want to know.
- Put First Things First When you embrace this habit, you focus on your highest priorities above and beyond everything else. Typically these priorities are related to results and relationships. When you start focusing your attention on what you put first, it will affect your success.
That said, sometimes people find it difficult to effectively prioritize their decisions or tasks. If you’re one of those people, you might find it helpful to use a tool like the Time Management Matrix. This matrix, which is set up in four quadrants like you would find in algebra, is outlined below.
Quadrant I: Urgent Activities (top left corner) These include crises, deadline-driven projects, and pressing problems.
Quadrant II: Important Activities (top right corner) These include planning, prevention, recognizing new opportunities, and relationship building.
Quadrant III: Unimportant Activities (bottom right corner) These include interruptions or calls and meetings that don’t have to be addressed right away.
Quadrant IV: Trivial Activities (bottom left corner) These include time wasters that will have no positive impact or benefit on your time, work, or accomplishments.
Highly successful individuals have their heart focused in Quadrant II, whether the activities make a quantum positive difference on your ability to achieve success if you do these activities on a regular basis because they focus on being proactive and working to prevent stressful situations and crises from developing or coming to a head. Spending time in the other quadrants, however, means that you end up wasting time or being stuck doing crisis management. When this happens, you’re forced to be reactive rather than proactive.
To begin working toward being more proactive and effective, consider starting small be choosing activities that will allow you to achieve the end results you desire like writing a personal mission statement rather than one for your business. Consider also writing a mission statement for your family as well if the end result involves them. Remember, if you embrace a proactive approach to living, have a clearly defined vision for yourself, and set realistic priorities that support your vision, then you’re implementing habits that will make you a more highly effective person.
Until next time, embrace your inner wisdom.