In The Authentic You, we introduced the idea that enduring happiness and success occur with principle-centered life. Dr. Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” provide the powerful and timeless lessons we need to get there.
Are the 7 Habits Relevant Today?
Covey published The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in 1989. That was thirty years ago, and the world is different. Some of the challenges we face today didn’t even exist then.
The world is certainly different. New challenges, include the Information Age, automation, and global markets. They bring new economic, social, and personal changes. And the rate of change is faster and keeps increasing.
We are, naturally, more aware of the changes we face in our lives. But, the reality is many generations faced their own “unimaginable change” in their time. Change has been one of the few constants over history.
The essence of Covey’s 7 Habits is we can survive, even thrive on change if we have a core of changeless values. Correct principles don’t change, and we can depend on them. In contrast, the things centered on the personality ethic based on social paradigms or people change frequently.
Covey would argue the powerful and timeless lessons of The 7 Habits worked for effective people over centuries of change. They are more relevant today than ever. He distilled The 7 Habits from the fundamental principles used by effective people for our use.
The 7 Habits provide powerful and timeless lessons on how to recognize and manage change.
The 7 Habits lead us to personal effectiveness based on natural human laws effective over the years. Laws that are just as real and unchanging today as the laws of science.
And We Have an Advantage
As we discussed in We Are Our Choices, there are amazing gifts available for our benefit. Gifts available through the efforts of many before us. Further, our ancestors sacrificed much for us.
That is to say we now have plentiful food through modern farming, roads and efficient transportation. Similarly better education, medicine, a longer life span, and as much free information as we can absorb.
That is what Isaac Newton meant when he said four centuries ago; “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” Think about how many more gifts we have today than Newton did.
The Maturity Continuum
The 7 Habits align with the natural laws of learning and growth. They provide a sequential and practical approach to develop personal and then interpersonal effectiveness.
Dependence to Independence to Interdependent
First we all start life being dependent on our parents, and then others, for support through our early years. The dependence paradigm is about you: You took care of me or you didn’t, and if you didn’t, you failed, not me.
Then as we grow, we’re encouraged to become independent. The independent paradigm is about me; I can do it; it is my choice. I am self-reliant. Independence is a significant accomplishment and the goal of most social paradigms.
Finally the highest level of maturity and effectiveness is the paradigm of interdependence. Therefore it is the paradigm of we; where we can do it better, we can cooperate to accomplish more by combining our talents for a greater good.
Interdependent people achieve the highest level of effectiveness and success. As a result, this advanced concept is more suitable for an increasingly complex world.
You share with others in a meaningful way, and they with you. Similarly, it utilizes the vast resources of other people, as they do you, to be effective and become more successful.
There are No Shortcuts
Sure, there are quick and easier techniques that appear to work for a while. When good things happen to others, we naturally want it too. But the quick fix doesn’t address root cause issues.
So, problems resurface, and the cycle starts over.
The 7 Habits
Covey defines a habit as the intersection of knowledge, skill, and desire. First, knowledge is knowing what to do and why. Then, skill is knowing how to do it. Finally, desire is the motivation to do it. To make something a habit, we need all three.
The 7 Habits:
- Be proactive
- Begin with the end in mind
- Put first things first
- Think win-win
- First understand, then be understood
- Sharpen your saw
The 7 Habits must follow in sequential order. Habits 1, 2, and 3 deal with self-mastery. They move us from dependence to independence. Dr. Covey calls them the “Private Victories,” and they are the essence of the character.
Genuine independence lays the foundation for working on interdependence, or the “Public Victories.” Publc Victories include teamwork, cooperation, and communication. Public Victories encompass Habits 4, 5, and 6.
Habit 7 is renewal and continuous improvement. Therefore reaching: “new levels of understanding and living each of the habits as you come around to them on a progressively higher plane.”
A Purpose Driven Life
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People provides powerful and timeless lessons. They result in a new level of principle-based thinking. Consequently. principle-based thinking changes our paradigms, character, and motives from within.
The changes uncover your purpose in life, your true north, the authentic you. And, that is an inspiring and engaging mission. You go from making a living to making a purpose-driven life.
There is nothing more motivating from within than a purpose-driven life.
There is an old story that illustrates this well. A pilgrim went to the construction site for what would become a Cathedral and asked the stonecutters what they were doing.
One tersely replied, “squaring this stone.” Another answered with some pride, “Squaring this stone to build a strong wall for a church.” And the third, with joy in his heart, said with a smile, “Building a great cathedral to honor the glory of God!”
What stonecutter do you want to be?
It’s A Choice
In We Are Our Choices, Jeff Bezos, a successful entrepreneur and businessman cautions us to make the correct choices in life.
Practicing “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is a choice for a principled center life. And, one of the most important choices you can make.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
– Will Durant, philosopher
“Because [habits] are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character and produce our effectiveness or ineffectiveness.” – Stephen Covey
The choice of working through The 7 Habits starts with one baby step. But, it may be one of the most important choices of your life.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, author, lecturer, championed individual action over society’s pressure summed it up well: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
What We Learned
- Highly effective people live a principle-centered life.
- Covey distilled those principles in “The 7 Habits.”
- The 7 Habits take us sequentially from dependence to independence to interdependence.
- These powerful and timeless lessons also help us uncover our true north and purpose.
- There is nothing more motivating than a purpose-driven life.
- And it is an essential choice you should consider.
Are you ready to start? Let’s start with the first habit, “Be Proactive,” in the next article.