While many people are fans of the book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” many of us struggle to ingrain those principals into our lives. It takes an estimated 21-28 days to transform an action into a habit. For close to a month, one must remain diligent about both his attitude and actions in order to adopt these 7 worthwhile habits. What I hope to provide is a basic overview of each of the habits, as well as a few actions you can do right now and in the future in order to instill these life lessons into one’s everyday life.
Habit#1 Be Proactive: Proactive is often a word we hear being emphasized by people in various management positions. To be proactive is to go beyond the commonplace definition of taking initiative, and to be responsible for one’s own decisions and behavior. Many people take a reactive response where they blame the environment for their misfortune. How many of us have said phrases such as, “If only my boss wasn’t a jerk, I would be doing better” or “My life is terrible, no one appreciates anything I’m doing.” Rather than taking a reactive response to everything, the book encourages its readers to take responsibility for their behaviors. One’s behavior is based on one’s attitude so in order to change the behavior; one must change their own attitude and not worry about any external factors. Tips to Being Proactive: 1) Listen to the language you use during the week. When you hear yourself using words/phrases such as I can’t or if only, write down two thoughts that are more proactive ideas- I can, I will, I prefer, etc. 2) If a stressful situation arises, use the MASTER acronym to assess the situation and come up with the appropriate response Measure the importance of the situation from a scale of 1 to 5 Asses your initial reaction See how you would normally respond in this situation Think of a more proactive response Engage or exit- leave the situation or use the appropriate proactive response Review your response to ensure you are making the right decision.
Habit#2 Begin with the End in Mind The phrase, “youth is wasted on the young” comes to mind when discussing this section. The idea behind this habit is to remain aware of the big picture of everything. Too often, people are stressed about work or situations that in a year they will barely remember. The key to this section is asking yourself the question if you died today, what would matter most? What would be your biggest regrets? What relationships matter most in your life? If a person begins with the end in mind, they will try to realign themselves with work that meets those end goals Tips to Begin with End in Mind: 1) Create a personal Mission Statement- something that focuses on what you want to be and to do and the values you base your life on. For example, “I will seek to balance career and family as best I can since both are important to me.” 2) Write for your own funeral, what would be the speech you would give to all of your closest friends and family? What kind of principles and values would you like to remembered for? Do you think how you would be remembered and your current actions are aligned similarly? If not, this would be a great time to re-evaluate your life and align yourself with your key principals.
Habit#3 Put First Things First: This section is simple, put the aspects of your life that you consider most important first with your time. This takes a bit of time management as one will need to prioritize their lives. Allocate time for the things you have always wanted to do but have yet to do. Most importantly, develop the skill of saying “no”. It’s not the end of the world if you say no and can actually be very gratifying to put yourself and your passions first. Tips to Put First Things First: 1) Identify an activity you know has been neglected in your life that if done well would have a significant impact on your life. Write it down and commit to implement it. 2) Commit yourself to start organizing on a weekly basis and set up a regular time to do it.
Habit #4 Think Win/Win Today, now more than ever, people are ever focused on immediate self-gratification. The 7 Habits doesn’t condone this type of attitude when it comes to a person’s key relationships, because in the end, any healthy and supportive relationship is based on balance. Balance of feelings, balance of action and support are all key deliverables for anyone who is trying to expand their network successfully. In order to develop a win/win mindset, the thoughts that come to mind when dealing with relationships is really to maintain the balance between having the courage to voice one’s opinion and having consideration and empathy for the other person. Without a win/win attitude, one won’t be able to develop long, mutually beneficial relationships. Tips to Developing Win/Win Attitude: 1) Try to identify a model of Win/Win thinking. Determine now to more closely watch and learn from the person’s example. 2) Identify three key relationships in your life. Give some indication to the significant others about how you feel your relationship is balanced: mutually beneficial or unbalanced towards one side. Write down some specific ways you can re-establish the balance.
Habit #5 Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood This habit is mostly focused on the definition of empathy. Empathy is defined as the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings (such as sadness or happiness) that are being experienced by another semi-sentient being. In order to be able to empathize with another person, one must be able to understand the other person’s situation. In order to truly understand other people, one must first seek to understand the situation before putting their own personal spin on something. How many of us have dealt with a situation where we were sharing our feelings with someone and all they did was only respond with something relating the conversation back toward themselves. To develop relationships, one must be able to listen. Tips to Develop Understanding: 1) Share the concept of empathy with someone close to you. Tell him or her you want to work on really listening to others and ask for feedback in a week. How did you do? How did it make that person feel? 2) This next one is good for having body language which shows empathy; the next time you have an opportunity to watch people communicate, cover your ears for a few minutes and just watch. What emotions are being communicated that may not come across in words alone?
Habit #6 Synergize After developing effective listening skills through Habit 5, Habit 6 is all about taking those other viewpoints and combining them with your own to create a third alternative solution for situations. While some people may have conflicting viewpoints or styles of learning, there is always something can be learned from someone completely different from you. The most effective leaders are those who can interact with all different groups, because they are able to learn from the prospective groups and put their own style into it. Tips to Synergize: 1) Make a list of people who irritate you. Do they represent different views that could lead to synergy if you valued the difference? 2) The next time you have a disagreement or confrontation with someone; attempt to understand the concerns underlying that person’s position. Address those concerns in a creative and mutually beneficial way
Habit #7 Renewal Let’s face it, life can be extremely tough sometimes and can wear down even the most ambitious of individuals. Renewal is the final habit, because sometimes you need to enjoy and smell the roses. One must renew in four key dimensions: physical (exercise, nutrition, stress management which can have a wear on the body), social/emotional (empathy, synergy, service for others), spiritual (value commitment, study, meditation, and prayer), and finally mental (reading, visualizing, planning and writing). All four aspects must be maintained and well-conditioned in order to live a fulfilling life. The most important way to stay renewed is remaining committed to activities that can refresh the mind and body. Tips to Renew: 1) Select an activity that could keep you in good physical shape, that can fit into your life-style, and that you could enjoy over time. For example, participating in local sports or yoga class for a half-hour three times a week can easily fit into a person’s schedule if they remain committed about renewing the mind and body. 2) Commit to writing other “renewal” activities in all four dimensions: physical, spiritual, mental, and social every week and gauge the performance and results. The best method is to slowly institute all 7 habits into your daily life by participating in the tips discussed earlier. This way it won’t take as large of a time commitment.