Reading is the catalyst that activates the mind. As a man or woman thinks, so they become. Words are the food of the soul. What we internalize is what we will eventually externalize. We become what we read. When we read good books, we are extending the reins and capacity of our minds. By reading, we are challenging our minds to think more. According to Richard Nixon, we are “exercising our brains” when we read. In a jet-set-age, as we live in today, a lot of people sit under the heavy influence of the television. Very few people make out time to read. Great minds will look for avenues to feed their intellect via the concept of reading a good book. Readers eventually will become leaders. Today on the Oaekpost Book Review Bookshelf, we will be reviewing the book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Let’s make reading a habit.
“Reading not only enlarges and challenges the mind; it also engages and exercises the brain. Today’s youth who sits mesmerized by a television screen is not going to be tomorrow’s leader. Television watching is passive. Reading is active” – Richard M. Nixon
The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “First say to yourself what you will be: and then do what you have to do.” To want success is easy, but to do what it takes to become successful is the hardest part of a personal change. It requires us to change our habit, the way we think and view life, what we say, when we say it, how we mean it and to whom. Personal change requires a total character overhaul and consistent development and retooling of new habits over time.
A goldsmith would tell you that the process of refinement to take gold from its most unpurified state to the stage where it becomes priceless is never easy. It takes time, dedication, and a lot of effort to actualize such a change process. Likewise, to achieve personal success and live our best lives, the phases of character purging and purification must take place and should start with the determination to do what is right.
Having a comprehension of the right thing to do and taking actions to accomplish it are two worlds apart. One guides you through idealism and escapism while the other brings you closer to reality, discipline, and accountability. The differentiation factor between the two boils down to the choices and sacrifices we are willing to make to begin the change process from negative to a more proactive pattern.
Change can only start when we audit our habits, emotional outbursts, attitude, and behavior towards the people within our immediate environment. This self-audit is the first step towards loving ourselves and believing that it is possible to change our present circumstances regardless of how many mistakes we have made and to choose to live life by design.
One book that comes to mind that I readily recommend to anyone whose purpose is to live life by design is Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The author, Stephen Covey, describes the seven habits as a compilation of success indices which those whose desire to lead a more productive life can follow to redirect their mindset and recreate their lives.
The seven habits state that habits are formed when we repeatedly behave in a particular manner or show a consistent attitude toward an issue. Sometimes, these actions might be a conscious effort at change, while at other times, we are not aware of it. This book is a framework for personal effectiveness. The author emphasized the connection between character formation and repeated action. To him, a character is a collection of habits consistently repeated over time.
Habit plays an influential role in everyone’s life. In the words of Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. The concept of excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” (Paraphrased). An Ade Okerende, a Pastor, once said that “Where you are now is as a result of how you spent your “yesterday.”” You determine where you will be “tomorrow” by your present actions. We are accountable for where we are right now. It reflects our choices.
Changing our habit to improve our chances of building a successful life and a valuable network will not be a natural process. If we do not have a reason for why we do what we do, or why we want to be successful, the motivation to sustain the change required to succeed will not be there. In other to change our habits, the process needs to be deliberate. Why we do things must be governed by the vision of what we hope to achieve at the end of the day.
To choose to work toward the seven habits, we must be motivated by a higher purpose, and by the willingness to commit to the change process. The higher purpose forms the foundation of our becoming. Acquiring the seven habits of productive people takes us through the stages of character development. In other to change a current given situation, we must change ourselves. The process of changing ourselves requires us to modify our current perceptions.
Habit 1 – Be Proactive
Proactive people control their environment; they don’t let it control them. They anticipate circumstances before facing them, giving them a perspective on how to act in those given situations. Being proactive means recognizing that we share a responsibility towards creating the life and circumstances we want to see. Proactive people pre-occupy themselves with work in their circle of influence; the people and things they can reach and add to their success network while spending less energy on negative things that derail their vision.
Blaming genetics, circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for the situations we find ourselves in are not a reflection of a proactive nature. For instance, your language is a good indicator of how you see yourself. A person with a can-do mentality uses positive and definite language – “I can,” “I will,” or “I prefer;” while a reactive person uses words such as – maybe, “I might,” “I wish,” or “if only.” Individuals who react in given situations believe they are not responsible for what they say and do. They feel they have no choice in circumstances they face and have no control over the outcome.
Habit 2 – Begin with The End in Mind
This is the habit of goals, objectives, mission statements, and action plans. It’s all about having a sense of direction, having foresight on where you are heading to, so you can start from where you are to map out the right blueprint and then take the next step in the right direction. Organizations need mission statements, and so do individuals. Forming a personal mission statement for your life is very crucial. A personal mission statement will help guide every decision you make and the actions you take. It gives you clarity, a perspective of your anticipated end in mind.
Habit 3 – Put First Things First
Without order, chaos reigns. Life must have priorities. There is a time for everything, and everything has its place in life for balance sake. To be a competent manager of yourself, you must organize and execute around priorities. Remember that it is impossible to replenish time. We can only control ourselves to work within the time we have, hence the need for time management. We often face the dilemma of being caught between the urgent and the important. Something compelling requires immediate attention, it’s usually visible, and it presses on us but may not have any bearing on our long-term goals.
Essential things, on the other hand, have to do with results; they contribute to our mission, our values, our goals and the bottom line. These are of paramount importance in our lives, failure to do them would result in us failing in our personal mission statement. These are things that have a bearing on our long-term goals. Learning from habit one, by being proactive we must not react to urgent matters but must act to take care of essential issues even as pressing things to scream for our attention. The capacity to put first things first is where the ability to prioritize from what is critical and what is not, takes precedence.
Habit 4 – Think “Win/Win”
The habit, “Think win/win,” entails finding a way both you and others can benefit from your interaction. Have a generous heart that is not self-centered. Ensure that you have an abundance mentality; many people don’t. The abundance mentality recognizes that the possibilities for growth and success are potentially limitless and sees in others the opportunity to complement its strengths. So, next time, don’t just think selfishly about how you alone can benefit. Think also of what the other party can gain from being in your network. Lose some today to gain plenty tomorrow.
Habit 5 – Seek First to Understand then to Be Understood
This part of the book addresses the habit of listening, which is one of the fundamental qualities of a leader. A Chinese Proverb says that “God gave a man two ears and only one mouth. Why don’t we listen as much as we talk?” Listening is an art that successful leaders must learn. Listen but not with intent to reply, to convince, or to manipulate. Listen to understand and to see how the other party sees things. Concentrate first on understanding the other person before seeking to be recognized.
The skill to develop here is empathy. Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships of another person while empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It is having emotional intelligence. Stephen Covey establishes that “You have spent years of your life learning how to read and write, years learning how to speak. However, what about listening?” A La Rochefoucauld once said that “The surest rule [for excelling in conversation] is to listen much, speak little, and say nothing that you will be sorry for.”
Habit 6 – Synergize
Through synergy, we create new untapped alternatives; things that didn’t yet exist. We unleash people’s most significant powers. We make a “whole” more significant than the sum of its parts.
Working as part of a team to deliver goals on schedule and budget is the best form of synergy. Together your team is stronger than one individual in your firm. The word team simply means together everyone achieves more. Always remember that synergy is energy. Don’t go it alone, always team up to achieve more.
Habit 7 – Sharpen the Saw
Habit seven is taking time to sharpen the saw. It is essential to understand that you are the saw. You must be proactive to do this. No one can do this for you. To sharpen the saw means renewing ourselves, in all four aspects of our natures. First, we must restore ourselves physically via exercise, nutrition, and stress management. Second, we must renew ourselves mentally via reading, visualizing, planning, and writing. Third, we must replenish ourselves socially or emotionally via service, empathy, synergy, and security. Finally, we must renew ourselves spiritually via spiritual reading, study, and meditation.
To summarize, the seven habits is to move from a place of reliance and confusion to independence. Habits 1, 2, and 3 are focused on self-mastery and moving from dependence to independence. Habits 4, 5, and 6 are focused on developing teamwork, collaboration, and communication skills, and moving from independence to interdependence. Habit 7 is focused on continuous growth and improvement and embodies all the other habits.
Remember that life doesn’t just happen. Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you. We are the architects of our own destinies, the captain of our own future. Our actions today are the building blocks that create our tomorrow. The choices, after all, are yours. Just remember that every moment and situation provides you with a new chance to make better decisions for a better tomorrow. This ability gives you a perfect opportunity to do things differently to produce more positive results.
(NB. This is just a short synopsis of the book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.” As you can see via the highlighted precepts in the review that this book will add value to your mind. I hope it motivates you to want to read. If yes, grab a copy for yourself and get the full bulk of its message).