It is human nature to view success as an event, something that happens, and when it does it gives us happiness and fulfillment. But is success an event or is it a process? Maybe it’s even more detailed than that.
Stephen Covey, author of the 1989 best seller “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People,” viewed success as a habit rather than an event. The book sold more than 15 million copies worldwide and remains one of the most influential nonfiction business books. While the book is remembered as one directed toward to the business world, it is perhaps more beneficial if used by individuals to create positive habit change. Covey believed that individuals are part of a system, whether the system be a corporation, small business, team, or even a family. The book, however, gives sound advice to everyone as it preaches personal responsibility as well as collaboration with larger groups.
Covey contends that our character is really a collection of our habits. Most people develop habits in an unconscious, random fashion. The Seven Habits is about identifying positive habits and consciously creating the kind of character we would like to have. He identified three, broad, lifestages that we all move through. They are:
1. Dependence-This is the stage which we are born into and characterizes the first part of our life. In this stage we must rely on others to take care of us.
2. Independence-This stage is the stage in which we learn to take care of ourselves, and make our way independently in the larger world.
3. Interdependence-In this stage we cooperate with others in order to create and have life experiences that cannot be achieved independently.
During the era in which Covey’s book was written, most all books of the self-help genre focused on the individual as a separate entity. What makes Covey’s book relevant is that he views individuals as a member of systems, having responsibility to others as well as the self. A look at his seven habits reveals this. He emphasizes that in order to become a valuable member of an interdependent system, one must be independent and autonomous first. His first three habits focus on self control. Habits 4, 5, 6, address interdependence, and habit 7 brings it all together.
Here is a breakdown of the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People:
1. Be Proactive-If positive change is to be a habit, then it must come from within. Highly effective people make conscious decisions to improve their life, attempting to influence and control what they can. They live life in cause, not effect. They attempt, whenever possible, to exert influence rather than react to external forces.
2. Begin with the End in Mind-They ask themselves questions that clarify the reasons for their actions such as “What’s my goal here? Where am I going with this? What do I want to have accomplished when this is done?” In Covey’s booking he suggested the writing of a personal mission statement. Some of you may remember that mission statements were quite the rage in the 1990s, largely because of Covey’s influence.
3. Put First Things First-Here Covey is suggesting prioritizing, and doing things that are most likely to get you toward the end that you have in mind . Identify individual tasks and set a time frame for each one.
4. Think Win/Win-Here Covey is entering into the realm of interdependence. This win-win expression that has entered business language originated with Stephen Covey. This means to create relationships that are mutually beneficial in as many areas of life as possible. The business world loves this idea, but it also holds up well in our personal and private lives. People who have successful personal relationships intuitively engage in a give and take relationship with significant others.
5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood-Covey presents this habit as the most important principle of interpersonal relationships. This concept became a guiding principle for salesman, politicians, and people trying to influence others. While your goal may not be to become a slick politician or salesman, I think you can see how this would benefit your personal relationships. How much better would your relationship be with your wife, husband, significant others, and children be if you stuck to this principle?
6. Synergize-This again is one of those words that went mainstream because of Covey’s book. Combining the strengths and abilities of different people toward a common goal is what Covey meant by this term. He also used the words, teamwork and leverage in this section, two words that now permeate every business or organization.
7. Sharpen the Saw-This final habit emphasizes renewal and replenishing. Covey suggests that each person find ways to balance and renew personal energy, health, wellness, spirituality, and relationships. A healthier individual is capable of being both independent as well as interdependent.
Covey’s book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”, is much more detailed than this brief description. This article distills down the important parts of his completed work. This book, readily available on the Internet for free , is certainly well worth reading. This article was meant to give you a starting point.
Make success a habit!
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