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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

One of my favorite books over the years is Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The book is essentially about mastering your life through fundamental governing principles/universal laws. I’m not sure why the book resonated so deeply with me back in the early 90’s, but I’ve been applying it to my journey ever since. For those who may not be familiar with the book here’s a little overview… with an occasional slant toward health and fitness.

Independence (Understanding your power. Habits 1 – 3)

Habit 1 – Be Proactive

Taking responsibility for your situation is empowering. Of course, there are things beyond our control, but your power comes from those things that are within you. We control our thoughts and behaviors and should focus on that over which we have influence. Rather than waiting for things to happen, proactively anticipate and act upon them.

Habit 2 – Begin With The End In Mind

Habit 1 advises changing your life to act and be proactive, habit 2 is about devising the plan. Knowing what you want and why you want it will have an extremely powerful influence on how to get it.

Your goals should align with who you are and who you want to be. They should be based on fundamental governing principles, not some whimsical fairy dust. Goal achievement requires a willingness to learn, grow and adjust throughout the journey. There are consequences to every action, so devise the plan thoughtfully, check it twice, anticipate obstacles and adjust as necessary.

Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.

- Norman Vincent Peale

Habit 3 – First Things First

This is the strategy of getting things done. Prioritizing those things that are important and not just those things that are urgent. In the 7 habits, Covey uses the Eisenhower Matrix as a tool for decision making.

Quadrant I. Are the must “Do” things in your day. They are both urgent and important.

Quadrant II. is about “Planning” the important things into your day. They are not urgent, but they can be very important. While Quadrant II. has the most meaningful impact on our lives, it can easily get lost if it is not scheduled into your day.

Quadrant III. should be either delegated or ignored. It may be urgent, but it’s not important. The urgency of quadrant III. Is often confused for important and can suck the life from those Quadrant II. actions that truly are important.

Quadrant IV. These are the time wasters that are neither urgent nor important. Things like idle gossip, mindless TV and tabloid reading are examples of these time wasters and should be minimized or eliminated from your day.

Interdependence (The power of your tribe. Habits 4 – 6)

Once you have mastered the first 3 habits, these next 3 can bring you to new heights of success.

4 - Think win-win

Most of us do not live alone on an island. Our decisions about meals, expenses and time devoted to exercise often impact the lives of others. How you structure your needs and goals to align with others can create either a supportive synergy or a disruptive obstacle. Discovering ways to achieve your goals while lifting up others in the process will almost guarantee success.

5 - Seek first to understand, then to be understood

You must recognize, understand, and validate your supporting cast. These people in your circle of influence need to be heard… empathically heard. This is about truly listening and understanding there needs, not merely waiting to talk at them. If you are genuinely looking to understand their thoughts, you create an atmosphere for mutually uplifting problem-solving.

6 - Synergize

We are stronger together! When we join forces with others in positive teamwork, we can achieve goals far beyond anything we could accomplish alone. Synergy by definition is designed to produce a combined result greater than the sum of their separate parts.

Growth (Continuous growth and improvement. Habit 7)

7 - Sharpen the Saw

This habit is about keeping yourself sharp through continued mastery of skills as well as renewal of mind, body, and spirit. Sharpening the saw can include quality reading, movement and meditation or meaningful social interactions. Anything that stimulates or reinforces growth.

If you have not had the opportunity to read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People or listen to the audio version (narrated by Stephen Covey) I would strongly recommend you check it out.

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