The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is currently my one of my top five favorite self development books for success.
You know when you read a book and it truly speaks to you? You read it and you get that ‘AHA’ moment where you finally realize this is where you are in your growth process and this is what you need to do to improve?
Covey’s seven habits will get you there! But first let me tell you about the foundation of his book; Paradigms and Principles.
Covey delved into 200 years’ worth of self-help and popular psychology literature dating back to 1776.
In the first 150 years of literature he found that success was built on Character Ethics (integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty etc.).
In last 50 years success became a function of Personality Ethics (personality, public image, power strategies, attitudes, behaviors, skills, communication skills, techniques etc.).
Personality Ethics comprised of two main categories: positive mental attitude (positive psychology as we call it these days), and public relations techniques.
Covey argues the Personality Ethics approach to success is a quick fix to problems, but it does not address the root cause of problems in the way Character Ethics does.
In the Personality Ethics approach, people are encouraged to use techniques to get people to like them (like faking interest in someone’s hobbies). It encourages people to be positive in the face of adversity.
Covey uses the example of traveling to Chicago but being given a map to Detroit. With a positive mental attitude the person might be happy to be in the wrong place, but it does not fix the problem of having the wrong map and being lost!
It does not work when a person tries to change their outward attitudes and behaviors while their basic inner world view does not support their outward actions. The result is short lived.
Using trained smiles, fake friendliness and other manipulations endorsed in the Personality Ethics approach to build success is short term, because you can only fake it that long. After a while, people usually see through the strategy and it builds distrust instead.
In order to change our outer attitudes, behaviors, actions and relationships with others effectively, we first need to shift our inner paradigm or understanding and interpretation of the way we view the world.
“We need a new level, a deeper level of thinking-a paradigm based on the principles that accurately describe the territory of effective human being and interacting-to solve these deep concerns. This new level of thinking is what Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is about.”
Covey makes an interesting distinction between values and principles. “Principles are the territory” he says. Values are the maps of the territories. Principles are fundamental, permanent. They are the truth and they are self-sealing. Values are the maps of the territories.
Covey eloquently explains “Our character, basically, is a composite of our habits. “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny,” the maxim goes”.
Once we get rid of limiting habits (like procrastination, impatience, selfishness etc.) we also break old paradigms and our lives are really able to really take off.
While this change is uncomfortable, it also produces happiness. This change must be motivated by a higher purpose. We must be willing to rank what we want now lower than what we know is best for us in the long term.
Covey defines the term habit as the intersection between knowledge, skill and desire. Knowledge is what we do and why. Skill is how we do things. Desire is the motivation to do something. We need all three parts to make something a habit in our lives. In short we are the sum of our habits.
Paradigms are built on what Covey calls the maturity continuum. First there is dependence which stems from our early childhood dependency on our parents “you take care of me”.
If we don’t mature into the next step independence, we fall into the victim mindset, blaming others for the outcome of our lives. This is a very dangerous phase to be stuck in. It causes us to build our self-worth and emotional security on what other people think of us. It makes us dependent on letting others do the thinking for us.
When we have successfully learned to become dependent, self-reliant and responsible for our own actions, we build our sense of self-worth from within. Our self-worth would not depend on being liked by others or how we are treated by others.
The next step on the maturity continuum is interdependence and cooperation—combining talents to achieve something greater. Interdependent people become good leaders and team players, because life is by nature interdependent.
Interdependence also means that if we have a good sense of inner validation, we are also able to give and receive freely. Covey says; “Dependent people cannot choose to become interdependent. They don’t have the character to do it; they don’t own enough of themselves.”
The seven habits are based on Covey’s Principle centered, Character based and Inside-Out steps to personal and interpersonal success.
In part two of the book, Covey teaches us Habits 1, 2, 3 which helps a person move from dependence to independence by first working on private victories before seeking public victories.
In part three we learn about the Habits 4, 5, 6. These are the habits that will help you move from dependence to interdependence. You don’t already need to master habits 1, 2, 3. Self-growth is a continual back and forth lateral process. It is the process in which truly begin to understand who we are and how this impacts every interdependent interaction. Once we have gained personal victories we are able to move onto public victories.
In part four of the book we learn about Habit 7. This habit is a continuation (Covey calls it sharpening the saw) of what we have learned in habits 1-6 to become truly effective independent and interdependent people.
Are you by now as excited as I was to move on to parts 2-4 to learn about the seven habits that will help you move from dependence through independence to interdependence?
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is a must read self help book for anyone who wants to become a better person in all areas of life!
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