When I was in high school I had the pleasure of having an excellent teacher who introduced us to a book titled “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” by Stephen Covey. The teacher told us most of the semester was based on this book, so reading it was a must. At the beginning, I was among the many who thought “Not again. Another ‘self-help’ book!”. But, to my surprise, it became one of my favorite books and one I remember often.
Years later I read the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by the same author, which is very similar to the one I read in high school. Since we are at the start of 2018, we have a big list of goals and things we want to improve in our lives, and this book is kind of a step-by-step guide on how you can achieve what you want.
Covey explains that habit is an important part of our lives because we base many of our choices on how we behave regularly, and our regular behavior is built from habits. He also explains that we need discipline and effort to change a habit we don’t like or learn a new one. If you repeat something for 21 days, you’ll have created a new habit!
Basically, the concept is that there are 7 important habits that will help us maintain an effective and better life:
Be Proactive - This habit gives us the freedom to choose our reaction to what happens to us. We decide how events affect us, and being aware of this keeps us from thinking something else, such as genetics, circumstances or conditions, are responsible for what we do. In this way, we are truly in charge of our lives.
Begin with the End in Mind – This means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of our desired direction and destination. Then, continue with proactive decisions to make things happen. We can start with little goals every day, no matter how little, as long as we truly complete them. Remember that creating a habit takes time, patience, and effort.
Put First Thing First - The third habit explains that we don´t need to do everything at the same time, instead, we need to learn to prioritize our to-do list based on the previous habit: With the end in mind. By starting with the important and meaningful things first, completing our to-do list becomes easier.
Think Win-Win, like Covey says, “it isn't about being nice” (2004). It’s always better if both parts benefit. It is based on collaboration and interaction, and it avoids the general thinking that for someone to win someone else must lose. It depends on how much you can agree and look for solutions when interacting with more people, but it is difficult to achieve since it also depends on a balance between being nice or tough.
Seek First to Understand, then to Be Understood - “You spend years learning how to read and write, and years learning how to speak. But what about listening?” (Covey, 2004) We usually first seek to be understood, but sometimes we fail to understand while trying to get our point across, and we listen with the intent to reply. This habit is the key to effective and positive human relationships and it leads to win-win agreements.
Synergize is based on teamwork, open-mindedness and the value of diversity - Learning to listen to others’ ideas and expertise will help us make discoveries that we wouldn’t have made alone.
Sharpen the Saw - It’s our ability to self-renew four areas of our life: physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual. This keeps us fresh and helps us perform better in all our roles.
The habits I try to follow are: Put the First Thing First and Begin with the End in Mind, because I’m the kind of person who is sometimes stressed about ALL the things that I must do. I want to finish everything in 1 day, and, imagine I, being a foreigner and living alone, sometimes create a huge to-do list: clean, cook, QA deployment, take out the dog, wash my clothes, finish my groopworks tasks, the new movie from Guillermo del Toro is in the movies! I forget to enjoy the little things, like going out with that loved person, or learning something new at work.
At least for me, it’s okay if you don’t follow the 7 habits like a recipe. I’ve known about these habits ever since I was a teenager, and while I haven’t learned them all, they have helped me. I think it’s good to be aware of what you want to change or learn, it just depends on what you are looking for and what you want to achieve. And you know what the best part of this is? You can either read the whole book or just a summary. You will get the main idea! Give it a try, and I really hope 2018 will be better than the past year for everyone.
Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic ([Rev. ed.].). New York: Free Press.
“Books - 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Stephen R. Covey, www.stephencovey.com/7habits/7habits.php.