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Welcome to the second part of my blog on Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
You may wonder why you should care about the seven habits. The answer is, that they are the foundation for a happy, conscious, and, you guessed it, effective life. I was completely transformed when I started living by the seven habits. I’ve tested this system and I can a guarantee it works. Like most things, it requires your time and effort to make a difference. I’m doing my best to lessen what it would take from you, so that you can get to where you want to be that much quicker. If you would first want a quick recap of the first 3 habits, discussed last week, or if you haven’t read that blog at all, I recommend you head over to this webpage.
The first three habits will help you get from dependence to independence. The following four will help you move way beyond independence.
Let’s dive right in with Habit number 4: Think Win-Win
The win-win habit is a frame of mind in which you look for a common gain in all your interpersonal relationships. With this perspective you can’t be egotistical or jealous. You understand that everyone needs to win from a relationship if it is to be healthy and advantageous in the long run. You’re not sucking the energy out of another with a win-lose mentality or out of yourself with a lose-win mentality.
Here, the notion of an abundance mindset comes into play. Do you have it? Ask yourself if your first impulse when you hear someone else share good news is to feel happy or lousy. Do you truthfully congratulate them, or do you become bitter and only outwardly share their excitement? The first step towards an abundance mindset is to learn to feel happy for other peoples’ successes. This is surprisingly difficult and it comes from realizing there is more than enough to go around for everyone. Life is not a zero-sum game. Their joy does not have to equal your misfortune. The abundance mindset comes from having a high self-worth and security and leads to sharing profits, recognition and responsibility.
Suppose there are two executives who are praised for their division’s high performance at the company’s award ceremony. The first executive hogs all the praise for himself and describes exactly how he made it all happen. He goes into excruciating detail about how he set the place straight, and got everything finally running smoothly. As he talks you can see the faces on his team become resentful. You can be sure he will not be receiving a reward next year.
The other executive is thinking win-win, so he shares the praise. He goes all out to point out that this award is not his alone, but his teams’. He makes every member stand up and personally gives each one a compliment on his good work this past year. This executive is going places. A winner knows that his wins are rarely his alone. Look around to all the really successful people you know and you will find that they rely on win-win thinking.
What can you do to embrace win-win thinking and an abundance mindset? Always think about creating win-win situations in every area of life. Practice it at work, at home and at social gatherings. Always look for ways to share the praise and responsibility for a job well done. When approaching deals think of ways you can get both parties happy with the end result. Make thinking win-win a habit and you will soon reap the benefits.
Habit number 5: Strive first to understand and then to be understood
I often see people talking, but almost never do I see people listening. Most participants in a conversation are thinking about what they are going to say next and are simply waiting for their turn to speak. The end result is that nobody feels like they got heard. There’s major gains to be had in actually paying attention to what other people are saying.
Leaving that aside, even if you are a person who truly listens, do you usually strive to understand another’s viewpoint before you speak or after you speak? Pay attention to the people in your life and you will see that the most successful are rarely the ones who speak the most. In fact, they are the ones who first try to understand what is being said by others, and only then they might venture to offer their opinion.
This habits means that you do both those things. You not only listen, but you also do so before speaking. The essence of successful communication is to let the other person know you’ve heard and understood them. Then they will be much more responsive to what you’ve got to say. Furthermore, this cultivates and demonstrates respect for the person who is talking. And when a person feels respected, he will in turn be respectful back. It all starts with this simple habit.
This is what leaders in all walks of life do and this is what you must do. To cultivate this habit you need to remember to bring yourself back to the conversation if you feel you’re getting sidetracked thinking of what to say next. Also, first thing to do after having a conversation with another is to ask yourself if you really understood what he was trying to say. Attempt to summarize his points in a few sentences. See if you can do it. If not, it’s time to go back to that person and ask him to revisit some of them. He or she will appreciate it, rather than be annoyed by it. Just be sure to actually pay attention this time.
Habit number 6: Synergy
To obtain synergy means to capture a third way to do things - not mine, not yours, but a third, better way, than all the rest that we could think of on our own. This habit is cultivated by your respect, appreciation and celebration of the differences between individuals. You don’t look down on others because they think differently, rather you use those differences to come up with better ways to do things. This is the essence of all effective cooperation. It is the way through which 1 + 1 can equal 3.
To capture synergy is also the key to more effective interpersonal relationships and teamwork. No two people are ever exactly alike and that is what makes life so beautiful, so learn to celebrate those differences.
Andrew Carnegie, once the most prosperous and powerful person in America, credited this habit for his success. He claimed it was his mastermind group that lead to all his great decisions in business. In effect, he knew how to capture the synergy between a lot of great people and use each person’s strengths and weaknesses to form a better strategy. So did Henry Ford. Once famously asked a bunch of questions to which he did not know the answer to, he got flustered. In the end, he finished his interview with a I don’t know the answers, but I know the people who do. You also need to learn to tap into the potential of others and thus build synergy.
The way to master synergy is to always look for the best in others. Learn to recognize and appreciate their strengths, as well as recognize and avoid their weakness. Through synergy you can truly get more than the sum of the parts.
Habit number 7: Sharpen the blade
In this example, you are the blade. If a blade isn’t sharpened in a while, it grows dull and useless. The same happens with you. You need to sharpen your life by constantly refreshing and replenishing yourself in the four distinct areas of life. Physically, socially/emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. This habit will allow you to increase your capacity to do all the other habits and make all the difference. It will not only enable you to live better, but it will increase your capacity to do so.
What does it mean, specifically, to sharpen the blade? Physically it means to exercise and take care of your body. Pay attention to what you eat and give yourself time off. Socially and emotionally it means to try to make more friends. Also spend more time with the friends you do have - nurture those relationships. Mentally it could be as simple as reading this blog, committing to reading more books, or in any other way work to increase your potential and skill set. Spiritually, it means to take more walks in nature. Go to more museums or see a play. Laugh more often, remind yourself to enjoy life. Make it a habit to do monthly, if not weekly, recaps on how you are doing in each area of your life and what you can do to increase success.
With the seven habits under your belt there’s nothing anyone can do to stop you. They are not only forever, but they are also universal. You should, and you can, use them to become a better version of yourself no matter your situation.
The best way to get started is to make a decision to commit. I’d love to hear from you. Make a comment down below about how you intend to use the 7 habits to improve your life. You can also talk about anything that interested you or anything that you want to hear more about. I personally take the time to respond to each comment.