In 1989, Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People started a landmark revolution in how we think about time and life management. In this book, Covey presents seven principles for developing effectiveness in our private and public lives. By developing these habits, one moves from being dependent on other people to being and acting independently. Then we learn how to move to the more advanced state of interdependence and successful cooperation. As a part of the seven habits, Covey introduces important and powerful techniques of time management under the habit of Put First Things First. Covey 145) It is necessary to understand and practice all seven habits so that the tools of time management can be learned and practiced in their natural setting. What I plan to do is to give a basic overview of these ideas as they were presented so that I can provide some insight as to why one should listen to Coveys ideas. The habits themselves are based on some important principles. One such principle is that of P/PC Balance(52). P refers to production of desired results, such as achieving a particular grade in a course.
PC refers to production capability or the ability to produce successful results. In managing our lives, we must be careful to balance not only the productivity of our lives, but also the abilities to achieve these results. For example, we cannot ignore the activities which help build or maintain our health, finances, relationships, ability to learn etc. , in our quest to do more, achieve more, and do all of this faster and more efficiently. Burnout is the inevitable result of imbalance! Another basic principle important to understand the 7 habits is the Maturity Continuum.
The 7 habits serve as a set of integrated approaches allowing us to move along the maturity continuum from dependence to independence to interdependence. Being dependent means that you depend on other people to take care of you and your problems You take care of me. (49) Being independent means that you have taken charge of your life I am self-reliant. (49) Being interdependent means you combine your talents with others to create something greater together than any of you could do alone We can do it. (49) The first of these habits focus on achieving private victories(51) which help move us from being dependent to being independent.
The next of these habits relates to public victories(51) which move us into the realm of interdependence where we can work effectively with others. The last habit, Sharpening The Saw,(287) encompasses all the others, and ensures we engage in activities of personal renewal so that we can maintain our PC abilities! Now that I have provided an overall appreciation for the ideals that Covey attempts to share, I would like to emphasize the three main habits that, above and beyond all others, begin to describe the lives of effective people.
The first habit that allows you to become highly effective is Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. The habit of communication. (235) We cannot listen while we are talking! Unfortunately, when we interact with people, we really do not listen in order to understand. Rather, as the other person is talking, we are already framing our replies. In effect, we are talking while they are talking. We are not listening. Covey suggests we engage in Empathic Listening(239) according to Covey we should do our best to get inside another person’s frame of reference and see the world the way they do.
This takes tremendous courage and ability, because we have to suspend our own framework to do this. We, in effect, make ourselves vulnerable to change. Keep in mind, however, that empathic listening does not have to mean you agree with the other person’s views, just that you make an all-out effort to understand them. Before we can effectively make ourselves understood, we must first understand what the other person is seeking to convey. Then, and only then, are we in a position to communicate in a way such that our own views can be understood.
As an example, suppose you find yourself in a confrontation with an instructor over a grade. You should first give the instructor an opportunity to tell their side, and try to truly understand their side. Perhaps there is a central piece of information you truly didn’t understand about how the grade was going to be assigned, or why it was being done that way. Many times an instructor who sees that a student truly didn’t understand is willing to encourage in a win-win agreement to resolve the situation. Complaining and not listening usually gets you nowhere.
The habit that I feel is critical to success is, Habit 6: Synergize. The habit of Creative Cooperation. Synergy refers to the fact that in most situations 1 1does not equal 2, but 1 1=3 or more! That is, through creative cooperation (not giving in or compromise) two or more people can produce results far better than either could do alone. This habit draws upon the previous five. It allows us to be effective in an interdependent setting! The key to developing this habit is to value differences among people. We must have the humility to recognize that our wn views are limited and preconceived, and that interactions with others of different values and mind sets allow us to reach creative solutions that are far better than what we could have achieved on our own. Teaching this habit removes bigotry and prejudice from our thinking and replaces it with respect and caring. A truly good liberal arts education is aimed at instilling just this very principal. College should be about having you confront your own pre-conceptions about the world and see that not everyone shares your views, that in many cases their views are equally valued, and in some cases better than yours!
Humility and cooperation replace intellectual, emotional, and philosophical arrogance. The last important habit, in my perspective, is Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw. The habit of Self-Renewal. (287) This habit involves engaging in those activities, which are aimed at preserving and maintaining ourselves! We should seek to have a balanced, systematic program of self-renewal in four essential areas: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. 1. Physical – in order to maintain our physical well-being we need three essential components, nutrition, exercise, and rest.
We need to educate ourselves on what constitutes good nutrition, and plan our diets to achieve this. Fad diets do not work over the long run, and can even prove to be dangerous! A regular exercise program is essential for good health. Unfortunately, people can become overly excessive about this! We probably all know about people who run four hours a day to keep fit while all other areas of their life fall apart because they don’t have the time to put in to them! A 30 – 40 minute aerobic exercise workout three times a week is usually more than enough for a person in reasonable health.
As with all other medical areas, be sure to consult your doctor about your own unique conditions. Rest is equally important. Without proper rest, the synthetic and renewal aspects of our physiology and biochemistry never get a chance to re-create us. Sleep needs are highly variable in humans and differ as we go through our natural life spans. A general rule of eight hours of rest and sleep seems to fit most people well. But be advised some need more. Don’t fall into the trap of losing your rest in a quest for being more productive by getting up extra early if this doesn’t fit your physiology. . Social/Emotional – here we engage in activities, which Covey says are aimed at making deposits into the Emotional Bank Accounts we have with others. An Emotional Bank Account is an idea which represents those social and emotional patterns we establish with others where trust, character, integrity, honesty, and caring can be either built up or broken down. How we treat others in our various roles both makes deposits into these accounts and thereby strengthens our relationships, or makes withdrawals from them and weakens our relationships.
If we truly put First Things First, we tend to engage in activities, which strengthen our relationships by doing those day-to-day things that build character, honesty, caring, etc. The goal of Quadrant II planning is to ensure that these activities do not get short-shifted and begin to wane. Commitment and keeping promises is important here. In conclusion, Dr. Stephen Covey prepared a well written manual for those desiring to develop into Highly Effective People leaving numerous examples for us to go by and learn from.
Applying this science is the most difficult part of then process, however Coveys method is meant to be toyed with and expanded on to relate to our own personal setting. I support a majority of the ideals Covey tries to convey, he has developed a very successful method of describing positive traits of successful people, however I feel his basic ideals are characteristics that unsuccessful people have. I am not certain that this may be considered as a science of success, but merely a theory for it.