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What Were You Doing in 1989? Developing Good Habits? 😁


I am guessing there is a good chance that back in 1989 you had A Brief History of Time sitting in a pile of books, the ones you planned to read “when you found the time.” (Pun intended.)


A Brief History was published in 1988; the following year, another book came out that may have also found its way onto your pile of books - Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.


What a great title for the 1980s! It was a time of hard charging, getting ahead, “greed is good,” Masters of the Universe. Everyone wanted to be highly effective in order to get ahead. Covey sold millions of his books and went on to much material success and fame.


Actually, Habits wasn’t so much about getting ahead; it was about being a good person. But the title reflected the times. If it were published today, the title might be changed to “Seven Essential Habits” with a subtitle of “Fundamentals for Being A Good Person.”


This past week I have gone back and revisited Habits - thanks to Audible and driving. As I listened, I recalled how I found the habits useful superficially back in the day; but like so many things, life got in the way and I never truly explicitly incorporated them into my life. (”Life got in the way” is a terrible excuse - it’s no excuse).

That’s my loss. Not that there is anything magical about the seven habits. We all naturally use them to some degree. But listening to them now, I understand how powerful they can be to helping to lead a fulfilling life. I certainly plan to make a renewed effort (after 30 years!) to inculcate them into my everyday life.

So what did Dr. Covey have to say that resonates with me? In case you are interested, here are my takeaways from the book.


1. A habit is the intersection of knowledge (the what and the why), skill (the how) and desire (the want)


2. We should focus on character ethic (below the water) not personality ethic (above the water). The character ethic is foundational and not subject to deception and shallowness.  It has always been the basis for long-term, enduring happiness.


3. The 7 habits are principle based.  Principles are “natural laws” such as honesty, fairness, integrity.  These principles are widely accepted as the basis for human effectiveness.  In Covey’s paradigm, principles are unchanging, while values can change over time in a person’s life. Might just be semantics?


4. Individually the habits are not ground breaking - in fact we all probably already know them, perhaps by different names. But do we practice them, use them everyday, are we expert in their use (e.g., listening).


5. Our character is a composite of the 7 habits. “We are what we repeatedly do.” Definition of paradigm - our mental image of how we see the world - is based on our experiences, our learnings, our values, our biases. We each see the world differently - our realities are our realities. in other words, our realities are subjective and unique. Our attitudes and behaviors flow from our paradigm.

6. Covey emphasizes the importance of paradigm shifts which result from new information. Paradigm shifts allow you to see the world in a different, more empathetic way.

7. Emotional Bank Account - it is important to maintain a large positive balance with others by keeping commitments and promises, trust, listening. Understand others‘ deposits/withdrawals from their frame of reference - how do I make deposits? How do I make withdrawals? Make sure expectations are clear and agreed upon. Define and agree upon roles and goals. Avoid duplicity- be loyal to those who are not present. Give feedback in terms of “I” not “you.” Apologize with sincerity. Forgive, let it go; no grudges.

8. Habit 1 - Be Proactive - your life is a product of your values and decisions, not your feelings or your conditions. You create your future. Not “I am what has happened to me.” Take responsibility for your life. Opposite of proactive is “being reactive.” We chose our attitude. “I am a separate person from my feelings, my genetic makeup, what has happened to me” - Victor Frankl. Fundamental Observation: Between the stimulus and our response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to chose our response. And in those choices lies our growth and our happiness. What enabled some to survive death camps - a vision of the future, a sense of meaning about a work or contribution yet to make. Circle of concern (outer circle), circle of influence (inner circle).  Proactive people focus on circle of influence.   You can grow or shrink your circle of influence through your proactivity or lack thereof.  No matter the circumstances, focus on those things you can influence.  The circle of influence is a function of you making and keeping commitments and promises.  Love is a verb.  You are the programmer.  Proactivity allows us to subordinate an impulse to a value - unless I’m thirsty and I really want a Dr. Pepper. 😁


9. Habit 2 - Begin with The End in Mind - Personal leadership.  Write the program.  You decide your value system.  Envision the future.   Everything is made twice - mental image, then physical reality.  Do not live someone else’s program.  Picture the future you want.  Groups should have a shared vision.  Idea of a mission statement - a personal one, a family one, an organization.  Contains both vision (what we are about) and principle (how we go about it, values).  Sense of purpose.  You uncover your vision.  What do you want your epitaph to say?  Mission statements should be timeless.  They are a work in progress.  They should deal with ends and means.  It should deal with our four needs - to live, to learn, to love, to leave a legacy (a meaning).  It should deal with each of your life’s roles.  Mission statement gives you a sense of direction.  It should be written, revised and used. This habit is about being centered, knowing who you are and making decisions based on that knowledge.





10. Habit 3 - Put First Things First - don’t manage time, manage self.  “Things which manage most should never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”  Habit of integrity, discipline - you organize and execute around the priorities you identified in Habit 2.  Focuses on relationships, not schedules.  You can’t be efficient in dealing with people - it’s not about time management (control and efficiency).  The first thing in our lives are always relationships.  Make a list of the most important things in your life and rank them.  The paradigm shift he wants you to make is to focus on relationships and principles, not things and schedules.  Discusses the four quadrants - urgent, not urgent, important, not important- (time management matrix) - focus on the two quadrants that are important; most relationship items fall into the quadrant (not urgent but important).   Say no to all those things that are not important even if they are urgent.  Organize your life around your mission statement, your principles, your values.



11. Habits 1-3 are internally focusedHabits 4-6 are relationship focused.


12. Habit 4 - Practice Win, Win - the Golden Rule, don’t compare yourself to others using social values - there is plenty (abundance) to go around; don’t think either/or, win/lose.  Principle based in equity and fairness.  Go for mutual understanding.  Empathy (“empathic understanding”), openness, sensitivity.  Explicitly agree on expectations and roles.  “How can you expect people to do what you want if you don’t discuss your expectations of them?”


13. Habit 5 - First Seek to Understand, Then To Be Understood - key to win-win relationships.   Most of us do these two morning in reverse order. We listen with intent to reply, not to understand.  We each live in our subjective worlds - need to listen to understand another. “I accept that you see things differently than I do.”  Listen to understand the other person’s frame of reference.  “Enter the other’s world without prejudice.”  Can’t listen efficiently, only effectively - listening takes time.  Be aware that we are the sum of our experiences and they form the filter that we use to try to understand - that’s the wrong frame of reference - need to listen from other’s frame of reference.  Don’t pretend to listen.  Work hard so that you understand and the other person knows you understand.  Care enough to understand.


14. Habit 6 - Synergize -  This is different than compromise - compromise results in something less than the sum of the parts.  Synergy results from valuing different perspectives and integrating them into the answer.    Results from both parties having a paradigm shift.


15. Habit 7 - Sharpen The Saw (continuous renewal) -  We must continuously revisit  and review the habits to keep them relevant in our lives.  There are four elements of renewal - our physical, mental  social/emotional and spiritual selves.  We need to focus on all elements to maintain our balance.



Deep stuff. That’s one of the reasons I am on my walkabout. Anchors up and jump right in!!

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