There is no real excellence in this world that can be separated from right living. David Starr Jordan
Surviving is about getting from one day to the next without regard to quality.
Living is about using your honed skills and talents to experience a life that overflows with potent achievement and meaningful happiness.
Now, search your heart and decide. Are you living life or are you just surviving it?
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is about making real positive change in your life. By adopting the habits, you will live a life that is directed by principles. Principles, like integrity, honesty and loyalty, are natural laws that we must abide by. A principle-centered life will help us achieve success and lasting happiness.
When I lived in Taipei from 2003 to 2007, I become hooked on audio books and one of the first books I bought was Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Instead of just listening, I listened while making notes so that I could really immerse myself in the material.
In this post I’ve done my best to distill the essence of Covey’s masterpiece and will hopefully convince you that The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People is life changing.
Habit 1 – Be proactive
Viktor Frankl was a psychologist who survived the holocaust. In a world strongly resembling hell, he learnt a profound truth. Everything can be taken from a man, but one thing – the ability to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances. Read more about Frankl in my post on The Best Book About The Meaning Of Life.
In the Nazi death camps, Frankl behaved proactively. Being proactive is about taking control. It’s about knowing that in every situation, good or bad, we have the power to choose our response. We are responsible. Responsible = response + able. Failing a test does not hurt us. We can learn from failure. What hurts us is the ranting and raving we do because of the failure.
Habit 2 – Begin with the end in mind
Imagine that you are dead. You’re sitting at your own funeral and your best friend is about to talk about your life and the person you were. What would you like him or her to say? How about, “John achieved little and no one will really miss him.” Or “Sally was a wonderful woman, an inspiration to us all.”
The image you have of your ideal funeral is your ultimate end or destination. You need to start each day with that image at the back of your mind. Decide what you want in life. Maybe it’s to be a basketball pro, a top accountant, a good father or just to speak better English. It is imperative that you figure this out because only by truly knowing what end we want, can we adapt our lives accordingly so that we can get it.
Habit 3 – Put first things first
How many people on their deathbed wished they had spent more time at the office or watching TV? Stephen R. Covey
Putting first things first is about realizing what’s most important in your life and then allocating time to it. In habit 2 we looked at deciding what we want. Now it’s time to work out a plan of action so that what we want becomes a reality.
Try saying this. No. Say it again. No. When you are focused on reaching for what matters most, you can say ‘no’ to people and other distractions without feeling guilty. If you are living a principle-centered life, honoring yourself and your goals should always take priority. This might mean turning off the TV or turning down your friends when they invite you to go partying.
Habit 4 – Think win-win
Getting ripped off is no fun. The store wins and you lose. But, since you’re unlikely to ever shop there again, the store also loses. When you’re thinking win-win, you see life as cooperative and not competitive. You respect the other party and you’re determined to find an agreement that mutually benefits and satisfies. By doing this you make people realize that you’re interested in their well-being as well as your own and they will begin to trust you.
Habit 5 – Seek first to understand then to be understood
In school, we learn how to read, write and speak but never to listen. When your friend has a problem with his girlfriend, if you don’t listen closely to all the details, you won’t understand the problem. If you don’t understand the problem, it’ll be impossible for you to offer advice or council. And that would make you a poor friend indeed.
Everybody is in love with the sound of their own voice. Nobody really listens anymore. If you truly care about people, try listening first. Once you fully understand the other person, then you can share what’s on your mind.
Habit 6 – Synergy
A person who is truly effective has the humility and reverence to recognize his own perceptual limitations and to appreciate the rich resources available through the interaction with hearts and minds of other human beings. Stephen R. Covey
Let’s face it. We’re all different and for the most part, we want different things. Synergy is about valuing, celebrating and respecting those differences. When you communicate synergistically with others, you open your heart and mind to new possibilities and alternatives. And when two people share this attitude, 1 plus 1 doesn’t have to equal 2. It could equal 10, 145 or 56034.
Habit 7 – Sharpen the saw
If you’re cutting down a tree, it’ll come down a lot easier if you take time to sharpen the saw. The same is true for us. We should take some time off every day in order to renew ourselves so that we’re healthy, strong and capable to reach our goals.
There are four dimensions of renewal. Physical – exercise often. Spiritual – allow yourself some me-time so that you can truly hear the needs of your soul. Mental – read more books and watch less TV. Also, keep a journal to help clarify your thoughts and insights. Emotional/social – practice habits 4,5 and 6 with those around you.
The French philosopher, Voltaire, tells us that the most important thing we can do is to cultivate our garden. By internalizing and living the 7 habits, we ensure that our garden soaks up enough water, nutrients and sunlight. It will be a garden that blooms the most unique and beautiful flowers. A garden that thrives with life and harmony.
Do you believe that The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People is life changing? Leave a comment below sharing your experience with this great book.
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If you really want to get serious about transforming your life through The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, I strongly suggest buying the audio book and listening while taking notes. Go through the workbook at the same time. That is what I did and it really helped me inhabit the material. The card deck is useful as a constant reminder to how the habits work.
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