If you want to be more effective in life, achieve more in work or have a better relationship with your partner, then you have to change yourself first. You have to develop better habits. It’s true that we are a creature of habits. Routines define our characters. So what are the habits that help you become more effective? All will be discussed here in the 7 habits of highly effective people free book summary.
The 7 habits:
Beginning with the end in mind
Putting first things first
Seeking first to understand, then to be understood
Sharpening the saw
If you want to change for good, you have to address your character, and not just your behavior. Stephen Covey concluded that there are 2 ways to strive for improvements in your life.
- Personality ethic – it is working on the skills necessary for the behavior you desire. For example, you want to improve your relationships with others, you might want to study communication and language techniques. You might think that this is the best way to improve oneself but it’s actually just a shortcut. This will never result in lasting personal growth.
- Character ethic – this is far more effective. It is working on your character. It’s the fundamental habits and belief systems that form your view of the world. He said that the only behavior stemming straight from your character will endure over time. Sooner or later, your true character will shine through. Character ethics emphasizes things like courage, integrity and the golden rule.
So, if you really want to change, you need to work from the inside out. For instance, you want to have a happy marriage, you need to become a positive person first and not just mastering a few techniques to make others like you more.
Now, how can you work on your character?
Align your way of seeing the world with basic universal principles.
When you are traveling in a foreign city, you know that having a map to navigate the streets is very useful. But when you navigate the world around you, instead of a map, you use your paradigms to guide you. A person’s paradigm is how they see or understand the world based on their beliefs and all the information they have gathered.
Everything we understand about the world depends on our own paradigms. So if a person with a negative paradigm got lost in an unknown city, he will perceive it as a frustrating waste of time. While someone with a more positive paradigm will see it as an unexpected adventure.
Paradigms are the core of our characters and by shifting our paradigms, it will help you make the lasting changes that you want in your life. Only in this way we can change our subjective realities and with them, our characters and behaviors. This is why you need to recognize your own paradigm so you would know which ones are holding you back.
Stephen Covey experienced a profound paradigm shift once on the subway in New York. It was a quiet and peaceful Sunday morning and everyone in the subway car was just reading their newspaper and resting with their eyes closed. Then a man entered the subway car with his children. Immediately the mood changed, his children started throwing things and shouting, disturbing everyone in the car while the father just sat down there and closed his eyes.
Stephen got so irritated that he asked the man to at least control his children. The father answered that he probably should, but that the children just lost their mother just hours ago and they were all in shock. Right away, his paradigm shifted to one of profound compassion and a desire to help.
Though not all paradigms shift this fast, each one can be just as powerful. So which paradigms should you strive for? The more effective are the ones aligned to larger, universal principles, like fairness, honesty and integrity. Attaining this kind of principle-based paradigm is exactly what the seven habits are all about.
First Habit: Be Proactive.
Take control of your own fate. Instead of just reacting to the world around us, we have the ability to proactively influence it.
Most people choose to be reactive rather than being proactive. They allow external circumstances to dictate their behavior and emotions. You can hear reactive people say phrases like “It’s out of my hands” or It’s not my fault”. People who are proactive on the other hand are more in control of their feelings. You would hear them say phrases like “I’ve decided to” or “Let’s find a solution to this problem”.
Reactive people worry too much over things they can’t alter while proactive people focus on the things they can control.
Proactivity can be an extremely powerful habit. The author used Viktor Frankl as one of his example. Frankl was imprisoned in multiple German concentration camps. His guards were always in control of his environment but he is still free to choose how he responded to his circumstances. While in misery, and terribly suffering under the hands of the German guards, he could imagine himself in the future, teaching and sharing his students his experience and what he learned in the camp. No one could take away this last freedom and it inspired those around him, including some of the guards.
You can definitely change your behavior and your emotions. To put this into practice, you have to commit to this 30-dayproactivity challenge. Whenever you thought of blaming someone or something for a problem you are facing, remember that the root cause is your reaction to the problem. Focus instead on finding solutions and own it.
Second habit: Begin with the end in mind.
If you are building a house, first you visualize what kind of house you want. You draw a layout in your mind of the rooms, kitchen and the garden, all before a single brick is laid. If you skip this step, there’s a big possibility that you will miss out on some of the important things like forgetting to leave room for stairs leading from the first floor to the second.
It is crucial to have a desired end firmly in your mind before you start any task. The more detailed the mental picture of the action is, the better its execution will be. Always remember that your thoughts will lead you to your feelings, which lead to your actions, then would lead to your results.
Most competitive runners, for example, are well practiced in visualizing how they will start their run, complete a perfect race and finish in first place.
Take the time required for visualization. To get started, think about one of your upcoming assignments or projects. Write down exactly what results you desire and what are the steps you need to do to attain those results and integrate it into your daily life.
Here’s a small mental exercise given by the author. Imagine that it’s three years in the future and, sadly, you’ve passed away. Take a moment to visualize your own funeral. Imagine your family, your loved ones, your best friend, perhaps your office mates or past schoolmates giving eulogies. What would you like them to say about you? What sort of person do you want to be remembered as?
Are you working towards a goal that matters to you? Do you know what you’re striving for and why you’re doing it? Don’t climb a ladder that’s set against the wrong wall. It’s like you’re making progress but in the wrong direction.
Third Habit: Put first things first.
This means rigorously prioritizing everything you do so that the important things are always taken care of first, while everything else is put aside and then dealt with or delegated later. So how can you tell which things are important?
Categorize all your tasks according to two dimensions: urgency and importance into four quadrants. First quadrant (upper left) will be the tasks that are urgent and important. Quadrant two (upper right) are tasks that are important but not urgent. Third quadrant (lower left) consists of tasks that are urgent but not important. For the last quadrant (lower right), these are tasks that are not important nor urgent.
Of these, the most important quadrant to focus on is quadrant two. By accomplishing tasks in quadrant two, you’ll find far fewer crises emerging in quadrant one. Your goal is to prevent tasks going to quadrant one.
A good first step in implementing this habit in your life is to identify a quadrant-two activity that you’ve been neglecting, one that would have a significant impact on your life if you did it well, and then commit in writing to doing more of it.
The fourth habit: Think “win-win.”
Most people have a win-lose paradigm. They look at life as a competition where they need to fight the other person for the bigger slice of the pie. But most situations in life don’t need to be competitions. There is usually enough pie for everyone that is why it’s better when all parties work toward a win-win solution that is beneficial for everyone.
It is also impossible to form a long-term positive relationship between two people who are in competition with each other.
For example, you are selling something, make sure that whatever you are selling adds value to the one buying it. Put yourself in the shoes of the buyer, do you think that the value is fair and will be worth it?
By thinking win-win, you’ll find yourself building lots of positive relationships because each interaction strengthens the relationship. Aside from thinking win-win, to build a long-lasting relationship you must always keep promises, be courteous and always try understand other people and understand what’s important for them. This leads me to the fifth habit.
The fifth habit: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
Imagine having a check-up with your doctor. While he listens to you absentmindedly for a few seconds, he suddenly told you “I’ve heard enough, here’s your prescription.” You probably wouldn’t put much trust in his advice, right?
Believe it or not, we actually often behave similarly in everyday life, particularly when talking with others. When we talk to people we don’t really understand and listen to what they have to say. If you want to be respected as a listener and an imparter of advice you need to develop the skill of empathic listening.
Studies say that the words we say account for just 10 percent of our communication, sounds account for 30 percent, and our body language accounts for 60 percent. So to master the skill of emphatic listening, you shouldn’t just listen to the words being said. Instead, you should know also how the person feels, learn more about the person’s behavior and the meaning behind them. What emotions do you see being communicated?
It takes time and effort to master this skill, but the later rewards are well worth it. If you learn to listen in a truly emphatic way, you’ll notice that many people are fully prepared to open up to you and to reciprocate by considering your opinions and advice. They just need a good, appreciative listener before they can do so.
The sixth habit: Synergize
We all have our own particular strengths and weaknesses. You can leverage the power of synergy by being open with others and valuing these differences. For people to truly synergize, they need to listen to each other, empathize, and use each and everyone’s strengths to create something great.
The author set David Lilienthal as an example. David was tasked to head the Atomic Energy Commission after World War II. He put together a group of highly influential and capable people. David gave them several weeks to get to know each other and to learn about each other’s hopes, fears and dreams. Many considered this inefficient, and he was criticized, but the basic human interaction helped the team get into an open, trusting and synergistic mind-set. Whenever there are disagreements, there was a genuine effort to understand the other person. This will result to a very respectful, creative and productive culture.
The seventh habit: Sharpen the saw
If lumberjacks spent all their time just sawing trees and didn’t even took a break to sharpen their saws, they’d soon have such dull tools that they couldn’t fell a single tree. Similarly, if you never pause and take care of yourself, you will have a hard time to grow. All the learning and knowledge you gained will be short-lived. You’ll soon exhaust yourself and won’t be able to maintain any of the good habits you’ve developed.
Sharpening your saw is essential for lasting effectiveness in each of the four key dimensions of your life:
- You need to exercise regularly, eat healthily and avoid being stressed.
- Regularly praying, reflecting, and meditating
- MentallyTry to avoid watching too much television show. Read plenty of good books.
- Socially and emotionally
- Build positive relationships. Seek to understand others. Go out, network and spend time with right people.
Here is an exercise that you can do right now. Write down activities that could contribute to your well-being in each of the four dimensions. Then pick one activity in each as a goal for the week and, afterwards, evaluate your performance. This will help you strive for balanced renewal in all areas.
For lasting effectiveness, adopt these seven habits:
- Be proactive: Don’t spend your time just reacting to external events and circumstances. Take charge and assume responsibility for your life.
- Begin with an end in mind:Have a vision for the future and align your actions accordingly to make it into a reality.
- Put first things first: Focus on what’s important, meaning the things that bring you closer to your vision of the future.
- Think win-win: When negotiating with others, find a division that is acceptable and beneficial to all parties. You’ll still get your fair share and build strong positive relationships in the process.
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood:We should first take time to really listen to the other person and only then make recommendations.
- Synergize: Teamwork. This will help you to achieve goals you could never have reached on your own.
- Sharpen the saw:Strive for a sustainable lifestyle that affords you time to recuperate and recharge, so that you can stay effective in the long-term.
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