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The 7 Habits – A Personal Reflection

posted Jeff Zarling on 1 May 2017
The 7 Habits – A Personal Reflection
Many of the entrepreneurs and business leaders I know feed themselves a steady diet of books and other information as a source of inspiration and continuous improvement to better themselves and their organizations. I myself am continuously reading, or listening to, business books, magazines, and other such sources.

I am often asked about the latest books I’ve read or what I might recommend. Beyond the latest releases, I like to recommend some of the classics that are widely read and what I would call “foundational” or “required” reading for entrepreneurs, business leaders, and anyone who wants to improve themselves or their organization. One such book is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The book was released nearly 30 years ago by Stephen R. Covey in 1989 and has sold over 25 million copies. It became the first non-fiction audio-book to sell over one million copies. Covey presents the seven habits organized in three categories – Independence, Interdependence, and continuous improvement.

Independence

The first three habits are focused on self-mastery and moving from dependence to independence:
1 – Be Proactive
2 – Begin with the End in Mind
3 – Put First Things First

Interdependence

The next three habits are focused on developing teamwork, collaboration, and communication skills, and moving from independence to interdependence.

4 – Think Win-Win
5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
6 – Synergize

Continuous Improvement

The seventh habit is focused on continuous growth and improvement, and embodies all the other habits.

7- Sharpen the Saw

Habit 1 - Be Proactive

In the first habit, Covey highlights our self-awareness and ability to choose how we respond to the things around us, to determine the response as a proactive decision and not a passive reaction.

He introduces the story of Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and holocaust survivor. While held in Nazi concentration camps, Frankl realized that we can always choose our response, no matter what happens to us. Although he could not control what was happening to him, he could decide how he would respond in his behavior, emotions, perceptions and actions.

People who do not consider their ability to choose their response are reactive and often blame others or things outside themselves for what happen. People who are proactive acknowledge their ability to decide the response and affect or determine the outcome.

Circles of Influence and Concern

A key to being proactive is focusing on the Circle of Influence that lies within our Circle of Concern. In other words, we must focus on the things we can do something about.

My circle of influence includes those things I can control such as my work, where I live, the leadership positions I hold, the skills I learn, the books I read, and the places I invest my time and effort.

My circle of concern includes things such as the news, the weather, the broader economy and geopolitical developments. There are many things that happen that fall within my circle of concern but over which I have little influence.

My son recently asked how concerned I am over the development in Korea and we discussed this very concept. While I’m concerned about the action of North Korea and the potential for conflict, I have little control over the situation and therefor minimize my amount of worry and energy.

Covey asserts that proactive people focus their energy on their Circle of Influence and the things they control which ultimately increases their circle of influence. Whereas, reactive people focus on things that are in their Circle of Concern but out of their control which leads to blaming external factors causing their Circle of Influence to shrink.

Personal Impact

I read the book for the first time in 1992 at the beginning my career. I had just been fired from a restaurant management position by the general manager for what I believe was related to my National Guard service and inability to work some weekends.

The event shocked me and shook my view of the future. I had a vision for ascending the management ranks and running a region or developing my own group of franchises. My thoughts about the future were overcast with doubts by what had just happened to me.

I had never been much of a reader but I had just been given The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and was actually reading it. The concepts and principles outlined in the first few chapters and Habit 1 – Be Proactive made an immediate impression on me.

My perspective soon changed. I no longer saw myself as a victim of unfairness but viewed the circumstances as an opportunity to look beyond the restaurant industry for other opportunities. The event eventually led me to a position at Zeos International, a computer manufacturer, and my career transition into technology and business consulting.

Discover or Revisit a Classic

I recently completed The 7 Habits for about the third time over the past 25 years. It reinforced for me some core concepts that I rely on such as carving out Quadrant 2 Time and Sharpening the Saw.

Whether those terms are new to you, a faint memory, or clearly understood, I encourage you to pick up The 7 Habits and discover more about all of the seven habits.

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