What is this book actually about?
The book examines the overall principle that the way that we see the world is based on our own perceptions. If we wish to permanently change a situation then the most effective route to achieving that is to change ourselves. In order to do that, we need to change our perceptions. I believe this is one of the best self-development books you can read
It illustrates this concept through the use of the picture below which asks the question of you “Who do you see in this picture, the young glamourous lady or the old lady?” The answer very much depends on how closely you look and think about what you are looking at. It is also dependent on whether you are open to looking at it in a different way or believing that there is a possibility of more than one picture to see.
Habit 1 – Be Proactive
In order to be effective, we must be proactive and take responsibility. The clue is in the word “responsibility”- breaking this word down into two words “responsible” and “ability”. We have the ability to choose how we respond to any given situation. We often tend to forget that we can only work on the things that we have some control or power over. Stephen Covey (the author) refers to this as “our circle of influence”. We should, therefore, concentrate our focus on the area within our circle of influence i.e those things that we can actually do something about.
Habit 2 – Start with the end in mind
Habit 2 suggests that for everything that we set out to do, we should first stop and take a minute or two to visualise the end destination, desire or outcome. I compare this a bit like going on a car journey. If you set out without a clear destination how will you ever know if you have got there or worse still how will you know what way to go. The same applies to business “What are we trying to achieve?”. This is why we hear a lot about setting goals and objectives so that we have a clear destination and then we can focus our time and energy on working out how to get to our desired place or position.
Habit 3 – Put first things first
In order to manage our time and energy effectively, we must constantly prioritise and focus on what is important and not necessarily the most urgent. Easier said than done!
Covey states that the real challenge is to “Manage ourselves and not our time”
This inevitably means that we have to say “no” to certain activities from time to time that on the face of it appear urgent but are not necessarily that important in the greater scheme of things
Habit 4 – Think Win-Win
Covey states that there are six possibilities to human interactions when looking at any given situation.
Obviously, in the interests of doing business and being successful, the optimum choice is the “Win-Win” scenario. This takes consideration and courage. We must be considerate of the other parties’ desires and what they are trying to achieve and we must have the courage to try to work towards both our own goals and the third party’s desires. To do this effectively you need to put yourself in the other parties’ shoes and try to see their desired outcome from their perspective and then ideally match that with what we can offer or provide as closely as we can. If both parties are in this mindset then a solution can be reached that is mutually acceptable to both parties.
Habit 5 – Seek first to understand then be understood
The majority of the time we provide the solution before we have fully diagnosed or really understood the problem. You have often heard that to seek to understand you must first truly listen, that is why we are born with two ears and one mouth. Covey recommends that we practice “empathic listening”. I found a Ted talk on this subject which can be found at this link.
If we can present our ideas clearly and relate them in the context of the other person’s requirements then we can dramatically increase our own credibility.
Habit 6 – Synergise
We all understand the word synergy and are aware of the simple example of when 1+1 is 3 where the resulting outcome is greater than the combination of the inputs. If you apply habits 4 and 5, you can contribute your ideas with the others in the group. This gives a feeling of not being on opposite sides but looking equally and collectively at a problem, understanding everyone’s needs and then together trying to come up with an alternative that will meet them. Synergy is then achieved.
Habit 7 – Sharpen the saw
Habit 7 is all about your own wellbeing. After all, to be effective you must take time to renew yourself physically, mentally and socially. Your greatest asset is yourself so it is important to look after your physical health by eating well, resting and exercising. One can never underestimate the importance of looking after your mental health, taking time out to undertake enjoyable activities with family and friends and ensure that you have ample “me” time that is aligned to your personal values. Social interaction and contribution to projects that improve the lives of others are equally important and by defaults aids wellbeing.
What have taken away from reading this book (now twice!)
- Being aware of these seven habits in the first instance means that I can now try and practice them in any given situation. Hopefully like anything the more I practice the better I will become at these. My desired outcome is being a better person, business leader and becoming an influencer in the future. In addition, I hope to improve my emotional intelligence.
- Starting with the end in mind prompted me to read another book that was recommended to me called “The top five regrets of the dying” by Bronnie Ware. This book is the memoirs of five patients in the final days of their life being interviewed about their biggest regrets. It focuses the mind around that we all have a short time on earth and that we should make the most out of it while we can, doing things that make us feel good, treat others with respect and help each other with their personal journey.
- “Sharpening the saw” is a great analogy to think about. Part of my personal goals in 2020 is to take one activity a week from each of the three dimensions and make sure that I undertake it. By committing to it in this way I hope that it will result in me being more effective in my life and business journey
If you haven’t already read this book, I hope this overview inspires you to. Perhaps you have read it some time ago and like me, you will pick it up and read it again and learn something the second time that you did not spot the first time around.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this book. Please feel free to get in touch in the following ways
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