Planning and organization have always been something I try to incorporate into my everyday. So it should go without saying, when a company provided me with a work planner when I started, I was over the moon. The planner was very detailed, everything I could ever need for keeping track of my day. I explored the pages and noticed that each one had a “habit” written on the bottom. I wasn’t sure at the time what they referred to, but each one seemed to have a positive message.
In my time with this company, I would come to learn more about these seven habits that they were so passionate about. I even started incorporating them into my life outside of work. These habits are the work of the author, educator, and speaker, Dr. Covey, and come from his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The seven habits are meant to transform the ways we handle our work and personal lives, such as managing our time more efficiently, staying motivated, and cultivating relationships. Here are Stephen Covey’s seven habits and what we can learn from each.
7 Life Lessons from Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People”
Habit 1: Be Proactive
The first habit is one you’ve probably been told before, be proactive! Covey refers to proactivity as simply taking responsibility for your life. How you respond to situations can affect the overall outcome and sometimes we forget we have the freedom to control that. Those who think proactively tend to focus their efforts on what they can do something about. They think in terms of, “I can”, “I will”, “I prefer”.
When we respond to things reactively, we tend to think we are not responsible for what happens to us and that we have no choice. Reactive people focus on things they cannot change and think in terms of “I can’t”, “I have to”, “If only”. It may sound easier said than done but try it! Even in a smaller situation, you’ll realize that you become more aware of how you react, focus your time on what you can control, and overall feel better about a situation.
Habit 2: Begin With The End In Mind
This habit circles around one word, goals. Beginning with the end in mind requires you to use a little imagination. Look into the future at what you want to do in life, where you want to be. Then, use that vision to plan what you’ll do today to help you get there.
This can refer to your personal life, a project at work, or a relationship. What is your end goal and what can you do to reach it? This habit interlocks with being proactive by encouraging us to make things happen!
Covey suggests building a Personal Mission Statement to help you keep on track. You can write your own, or have help to create one here. Having a mission statement is something that can help you focus on your goals and what you can do to meet them.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
This habit when put simply means to prioritize. When you put first things first, you’re taking the time to assess what you have to do, but understanding some things can wait.
You don’t have to overextend yourself. Instead, have to look at what is most important. Although it can be hard, we should be spending most of our time in Quadrant two.
Covey states, “Putting first things first means organizing and executing around your most important priorities. It is living and being driven by the principles you value most, not by the agendas and forces surrounding you.”
By implementing habit three when we can, it allows us to access a more balanced life.
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
This habit looks at putting your attention less on competition and more on collaboration. Thinking win-win seeks not only mutual benefit for both people but also a solution.
This habit, like the others, can be used in a work setting or in a personal relationship. When you take the time to look at what benefits both parties, it shows respect, maturity, integrity, and confidence. Thinking this way can positively affect your character and improve relationships.
According to Covey, “In the long run, if it isn’t a win for both of us, we both lose. That’s why win-win is the only real alternative in interdependent realities.”
Habit 5: Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
Communication, specifically listening, is the basis for this habit. So many times when people are speaking, telling a story, explaining directions, we have the sudden urge to jump in with our thoughts.
What’s so bad about that? By doing this, we don’t always give ourselves the chance to connect with the other person and you may miss their point entirely.
When we communicate, most times we listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. When you change this way of thinking, you may realize your entire response changes. Doing this is another great way to work on understanding someone on a deeper level and improving the relationship.
Habit 6: Synergize
Synergy refers to teamwork. Covey describes synergy, a word he coined, as “not the same as compromise. In a compromise, one plus one equals one and a half at best.”
When people experience synergy, they are taking the time to truly accept the other person’s differences. You then use that understanding to feed off of each other and gain new insight into your situation.
Synergyzing offers a way to problem solve by being open-minded. According to Covey, there are ways you will know you have experienced synergy. If you:
- Have a change of heart.
- Feel new energy and excitement.
- See things in a new way.
- Feel that the relationship has transformed.
- End up with an idea or a result that is better than what either of you started with (3rd Alternative).
Next time you’re in a difficult situation, try out the path to synergy and see where it may lead!
Habit 7: Sharpen The Saw
This final habit focuses on the most important thing you have, you. When you ‘sharpen the saw’, you are taking the time you need for self-renewal.
Unfortunately, thinking this way can easily cause us to get burnt out. If we aren’t at our best, we’re limiting ourselves from the growth and goals we spend all this time trying to reach.
Sharpening the saw is what keeps the rest of the six habits together. When our body and mind are empowered, we have no limits. Here are a few ways you can sharpen the saw according to Covey:
- Physical: Beneficial eating, exercising, and resting
- Social/Emotional: Making social and meaningful connections with others
- Mental: Learning, reading, writing, and teaching
- Spiritual: Spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through meditation, music, art, prayer, or service
We hope these seven habits will inspire and encourage you to focus on positive personal changes. Which habit do you think you will most benefit from? Let us know!