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7 habits one must cultivate to be highly effective

We are what we repeatedly do, Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.

7 habits of highly effective people is a bestselling book by Stephen R. Covey. In this book he talks about the habits that helps us build our character. Because habits are consistent, often unconscious patterns which express our character. He said, these habits can be learned as no one is born effective. He coined a term Character Ethic, which can help us cultivate qualities like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience and industry. If there is not deep integrity and fundamental goodness behind what we do then our true motives will be on surface, empty from inside and our short term success will be replaced by the relationship failures. So it is of paramount important to understand and inculcate these values in our character and bring in our life as habits. But it is a very painful process and it must be motivated by a higher purpose.

Here are some of my learnings from the book.

Habit one — Proactive

Proactive in simplest sense is to take the responsibility of our own lives. We always think that our life is like that because of the conditions around and that is how we escape from the responsibility of being responsible of our own actions. We become reactive rather than being proactive. But let me tell you one thing, once we take the responsibility of our life, in that moment we get the power to change it.

With great power comes great responsibility but it is true other way as well, with responsibility we get the power. All we have to do is to recognise our responsibility, accept it and work for it to make things happen. Be a light, not a judge; be a model, not a critic; be the solution, not the problem.

There was one term he used — Circle of influence. This constitutes the people and things around you which will help you carve a better person out of you in every dimension possible. We usually misunderstand it with circle of concern which constitutes everyone around us. Circle of concern is very dynamic but circle of influence is static, it changed at a very low pace. It revolves around our purpose, our mission and our vision. Vision is the activity but behind the vision there is a mission which derives it and behind every mission there is a purpose from where it originated and articulated. So it is our responsibility to spend more of our energy and time on our circle of influence.

Habit Two — Begin with end in mind

It starts with questions. What character would you like each one of your friends, family, colleagues and acquaintance to have seen in you? What difference would you like to have made in their lives?

Once we answer these questions, it brings a lot of clarity and peace. We visualise it than journey seems so easy, there will be very few surprises and if there will be than we will be ready to deal with them. Because thriving on changes requires a core of changeless values. And the best part it makes the process and journey more interesting. Things will fall in place as we want but in a more beautiful way that even we would have not expected.

To get this clarity, best way is to start with a personal mission statement which describes us what we want in life. It should be a concise expression of our innermost values and directions. Their can be minor changes with time as years bring new insights. Actually we discover rather than invent our mission in life.

Habit three — Put first thing first

This also starts with a question. What one thing could you do- which you are not doing right now-that if you did it regularly, would make a tremendous difference in your life?

So all we need is to give our time to that one thing lets say every day or every week. It all boils down to what is important and what is what is urgent. If it is both than it is must be done right away and usually people do it. But the confusion comes between the work which is urgent but not important and the work which is important but not urgent. And we mostly ended up doing the urgent but not important task. Here the most effective people distinguish from the common. Because the task that is not urgent right now but important, if not given attention will soon become urgent as well so its better to complete it first.

We don’t manage time, we can only manage ourselves.

Habit Four — Seek to understand, Then be understood.

Emphatic listening is with the ears, eyes and heart-for feeling, for meaning.

The skill to learn empathy. The essence of empathy is not that you agree with someone, it is that you fully understand him, emotionally and intellectually. This may sound like easy but its difficult to develop. As all our life we are tuned for listen to answer and not to understand. But we can understand others point of view by getting in that persons shoe. It bring acceptance. For this we have to be neutral without any bias.

Habit Five — Think “WIN/WIN”

Above four habits was for private victory and now these habits will be for public victory.

Think win/Win is the fifth habit to cultivate. But this needs a lot of courage to look for someone else than yourself. This process becomes easy when we empathise with people. When we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, we will be able to understand the things more clearly. This will give the clarity about one’s action and it will also help you understand yourself better. It will transcend your senses. And this way we are investing in the emotional bank of that person. This will built a trust in the relationship.

In a relationship or in a partnership also our attitude should be, “I want to win, and I want you to win” and if we can’t hammer something out under those conditions lets agree that we don’t make deal this time. Maybe we will be make one in future. Because if a deal hurts them it will definitely hurt you as well.

This habit needs three traits which needs to be cultivate first.

Habit Six — Synergise

Preparation is — if not the key to genius, then atleast the key to sounding like a genius.

Regular exercise of all other habits will prepare us for the habit if synergy. This will help us understand our pure potential. If we achieve our pure potential than we will be observing the things around us very clearly. It will help us to become more humble, so that we don’t have mental barrier. Cultivating synergy in itself is a creative process, because we don’t know what is going to happen and where it is going to lead. For this we have to recognise the limits of our own understanding and insufficiency of our experiences. In relationship also the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Once people have been through synergy, they are not the same.

Habit Seven — Sharpen the Saw:

This is the habit that will make all other habits possible. To sharpen the saw means to renew the spirit in all aspect of our nature.

Be it physical, mental, socio/emotional or Spiritual. And all of this is equally important. Mostly we ignore the physical but in reality how much time we need to spend on it. It is like a drop in the bucket. For this we have to be proactive. Sometimes we might have self doubts or lethargy sometimes which lets us down. That time we have to be proactive to come out of that state of mind. And to not fall in that state again, we have to work on other aspects of our nature like mental or spiritual through reading, visualising writing, studying and meditation.

These habits surely very hard to develop and practice but once acquired will make everything, every task easy.

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