Paradigms and Principles
The Character Ethic is the basis on which motivational literature was based for hundreds of years, but shortly after World War I, the personality ethic was introduced into motivational literature.
The character ethic was based on basic principles like:
Returning to the character ethic is at the heart of the book.
Covey suggest that you start 'inside out'. This means that you have to work on your character first and build up a set of core principles by which you live. These core principles will ensure that you develop highly effective habits and enable you to achieve your goals and dreams.
He goes on to say that you need to get Private Victories first and Public Victories second.
His Maturity Model describes the phases that you will go through on your road to self development. The phases are:
1. Be Proactive
Being reactive is described as reacting to stimulus without thinking. Animals behave like this.
Being Proactive, according to Covey, means that, unlike animals, humans are able to create a pause between stimulus and response. It is during this pause that humans can choose their response. The response you choose is based on your character development. The better your character is developed, the better your response will be.
2. Begin with the end in mind
You are asked to do a visualization exercise. Picture the end of your life, as this will be the frame of reference by which you will build your character. As yourself what principles you would like to be remembered by. By keeping the principles by which you want to be remembered by firmly in your mind, you will start to develop habits that grow and enforce the principles in your daily life and guide all your actions.
Covey uses a concept called Roles and Goals to help you define what you would like to be remembered as. At any point in life, you could play the following roles:
3. Put first things first
This topic will normally be classified as Time Management. Covey says that time management is easy. All you have to do is organise around priorities. He quotes Goethe that said: 'Things which matter most should never be at the mercy of things which matter least.'
The two items that determine this are importance and urgency. By prioritizing around this you are easily able to say no to unimportant things. Use the Roles and Goals of the previous section to help you determine this.
Also, by focusing on important, not urgent matters you will become proactive, which in Covey's terms means the opposite of reactive.
According to Covey, Interdependence is better than Independence, but you need to have Independence first. Private Victory comes before Public Victory. By focusing on the first three habits, you will get Private Victory. You will then be able to go on to the next habits.
4. Think Win Win
The goal of this habit is to think win win. You must go into all your dealings thinking of what is in it for everybody involved. By doing this you will create an abundance mentality, which believes that there is 'enough to go around'. You don't have to get ahead at the expense of someone else. Take them along with you.
To do this you have to balance consideration and courage. You need high consideration and high courage to negotiate win win solutions. By having these qualities, you will ensure that all deals benefit everybody involved. In fact, your motto should become 'Win Win or No Deal'. You must have the courage to call off the deal if you feel that somebody will lose along the way.
Thinking Win Win is not the easy solution. It the solution looking for the third alternative, the solution that neither thought of, the solution that benefits everyone. This is a better solution than a compromise, which requires at least one of the parties to lose, or settle for less.
5. Seek first to understand then to be understood
Covey describes this habit as the single most important principle that he has learned in the field of interpersonal relations. This habit is the key to effective communication.
It consists of the following:
As quoted in the book:
"... When properly understood, synergy is the highest activity in all life - the true test and manifestation of all the other habits put together... "
In terms of outcomes, I see this as the single most important outcome of 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.'
When Synergy is reached:
7. Sharpen Saw Physical
Remember that the difference between us and animals is the gap between stimulus and response. By pausing after receiving a stimulus, you create the freedom to choose your response.
Practice this by 'standing' in the gap and visualising a stimulus. Can you choose your response? Can you influence the stimulus?
If you can, then you are well on your way to being Proactive and mastering the 'Seven Habits of Highly Effective People'.