Today I had thought of creating a small list of good habits for personal development. Of course, one of those good habits was reading, and to talk about the impact of reading (especially good constructive reading, beyond what we do for the simple pleasure of reading), I had reviewed some titles that I had found very useful.
This fact caused me to completely change the focus of what I had prepared for today and, after all, as part of the celebration of International Book Day, it is not superfluous to highlight one of the titles that has changed the most lives, including my own, after reading it, in addition to Napoleon Hill’s indispensable “Think and Grow Rich”. I’m talking about Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.
This list of seven habits proposed by Covey is not a simple list with simple actions to perform, but through the pages of his book you take a very personal journey in which you will discover how you really react to life, how you see yourself and others, how you see your future and how you relate to your environment, among other things, to understand how to improve in all possible areas of your life. It is not a magic formula, a “step 1 and step 2”, but rather to gain an absolute knowledge and understanding of how you live and how you could live more effectively, more fully and successfully.
One of the things Covey points out is the need to become “interdependent” people, something that goes beyond independence (which is getting what you want on your own merits). Interdependence is combining one’s efforts with those of others to achieve greater success for all. It is not a habit, but something that is achieved through your recommended habits. In the next few lines, what I will do is summarize in a very brief and simple way the simplest essence of the habits and simplify them into actions that you can start putting into practice today. But remember: these tips are not a shortcut for not reading the whole book.
- Be proactive
Many people may confuse being proactive with always being busy or always taking the initiative. For the author, being proactive is much more about how you let what happens to you affect you. He separates two types of people: the reactive and the proactive. While the reactive ones simply react in an impulsive, emotional and often negative way, ignoring any possible control they may have over the situation, the proactive ones are the ones who choose to do something positive to overcome the situation.
Proactivity is not always about financial or professional success, but about how you approach life. It is about being responsible for your own life, especially if we understand the word responsibility as the ability to choose the response to experiences. That your behavior is only the result of your own decision, not of circumstances.
A simple way to be proactive as a habit is to start observing the way you think or express yourself about your circumstances, your plans or your tasks. Stop thinking or saying “I have to…” and change to “I’m going to…” or even think more often “I choose to do…” Think about whether there are things that you think you do out of obligation and to what extent is it really an obligation. What would be the result if you stopped doing them? What alternatives do you have?
Once you begin to be more aware of why you do the things you do and what else might be helpful to do in their place, you begin to become a really proactive person.
- It starts with an end in mind
All things have two beginnings: one in the mind, the other in the physical world.
This is the habit of vision, of knowing where we want to direct our life and what we want to do with all our projects and plans.
Covey proposes an interesting introspection exercise that will shake your whole life if you do it properly, but will also guide you to find a firm purpose. Instead of showing you the exercise, I invite you to do it with the book, as it will be much more effective than through these blog lines.
Applying the beginning with the end in mind:
To apply this habit you must start to be clear about what you want, what you want to happen in your life in the next few years and what legacy you want to leave behind. Write down a clear and detailed goal that you want to achieve, say, next year. Then map out the steps that will lead to that goal and work on those steps every day.
- Set the first thing first
This is the habit of personal management or, in other words, of priorities. As I said in the previous point, all things have two beginnings: the former habit was that of creation in the mind and this is the habit of creation on the physical plane, because this is where we create all the actions that lead us to fulfill our goals and our purposes.
The author says that it is not so much about time management as about managing oneself. And he is right because in the end time is what it is: we are all given the same hours every day and we decide whether to take advantage of them or not. Personal administration requires a certain amount of work and, in the book you will find different exercises and techniques to achieve efficient administration, but from this article we can start with the most elementary, paying attention to priorities.
Applying first things first:
In your morning, when you get ready to do your business, your homework, your studies… You must keep two important things in mind:
- Avoid all distractions. Today the Internet is a valuable source of information and resources, but it can also be a source of distraction. You should ignore any content, message or publication that is not intended to help you with your goals in the early hours of the day.
- Make a list of everything you want or need to do that day. Then sort that list according to importance and/or urgency. There may be urgent matters that are important, urgent but not important or important but can wait.
4. Winning Mentality / Winning
There is too much of a “for me to win, someone else must lose” mentality in the world, which is also “if that someone else wins, it’s bad for me”. The truth is that life is not a sporting competition, there is no trophy to be won. You can rejoice in someone else’s victory and your life will not be affected at all.
This habit proposes that we open our minds to a reality of abundance, in which there is more than enough happiness, success, recognition and benefit for all. Only for that reality of abundance to be a fact, we must actively participate in it.
Applying the Win/Win mentality:
It’s very simple, start to really assimilate that the happiness of others does not take away from your life. Be happy when your neighbor is doing well. Congratulate your partner on a job well done… The next step is to make mature decisions from a mindset of abundance when it comes to making an agreement, a partnership or a negotiation: you should always try to see the win-win scenario first and do your best to make that scenario happen.
5. Understand first to be understood
In other words, you learn to listen to people and understand their situation. The author mentions that we often tend to “prescribe” without having made the diagnosis, and that we simply think that what works for us should work the same for everyone. It is a habit that is all too easily acquired: we want to help, but only from our own personal experience.
There are as many realities as there are people, and something doesn’t always work the same for everyone. However, it is something that we do not fully discover until we start to listen carefully to what they tell us.
Applying understanding first to be understood:
Do you remember the last time you offered advice? Did you really listen to the person you gave it to? Did you know the whole story?
You propose to do an active listening, avoiding thinking about your own experience or what you want to say as soon as the other person stops talking. Sometimes, they may not even seek your advice, but only the need to express something, or to find understanding. Being more attentive to what others have to say will make your life much richer: you will understand different points of view, gain new experiences, get to know people better and have more tools to help them, and also to help yourself.
Synergy can be understood as a perfect collaboration in which all parties contribute some of their knowledge or talent to create something greater. According to the author, synergy means that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
So what exactly is synergizing, like action?
The habit of synergy skillfully combines the two previous habits, because it is about collaboration, about adding together, but also about understanding and valuing the different points of view. It is also the habit in which we see most clearly what Covey says about the importance of interdependence. It’s about combining efforts and talents to achieve greater success.
Applying the synergy:
Identify the differences of the people around you, in a working group for example, and analyse how these differences can be used to complement and reinforce the group. Value more often people’s differences, their varied experiences and their different ways of doing things: all this can be a source of richness rather than a source of division.
7. Renew yourself
Covey calls this habit “sharpening the saw,” for just as an unsharpened saw does not cut, if we do not make time to renew and improve our own skills, we cannot put them to use.
To renew yourself and “sharpen your saw” you must take into account these four areas: Physical, Emotional, Mental, and Spiritual. So here comes everything related to health and physical care, education or intellectual stimulation, socialization and values.
How to apply the renewal:
Although in the book this is a very complete chapter when dealing with so many dimensions of life, we can start in a very simple way: make a list of some activities that will make you feel good physically, that will help you feed your mind and your knowledge, that will help you strengthen the bond with the people around you. Include these activities in your planning, and finally, check that your principles and values are present in the process.
In the mental dimension, reading is especially important, so remember to read at least one book a month, especially if they are books like this one: The 7 habits of highly effective people.