Dependence to Independence
Last week I told you the story of how I went on Amazon, typed
habitsin the search box and bought the first five books that popped up. I shared with you how two of those books ended up changing my life for good. One was The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business and the other was Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
In the next two articles I will go over Covey’s seven habits. His book is logically split into two parts. The first half is dedicated to attaining self-mastery by moving from dependence to independence. The second half is dedicated to attaining mastery in working with others by moving from independence to interdependence.
Let me first explain what it means to move from dependence to independence. What comes to my mind when I think of dependence is a physically weak individual. This isn’t necessarily derogatory. It could also represent a baby, a very young adult, or a very old person; these are all people who simply can’t take care of themselves, due to reasons that we can all understand and appreciate. Dependence, however, could also refer to the emotionally or spiritually weak person. In Covey’s book, he describes a situation in which a person’s choices are based on feelings and circumstances, rather than values and principles, as dependence.
Independence is when a person’s choices are based on values and principles, instead of feelings and circumstances.
Independence then, is when a person makes his choices based on values and principles. The three habits that I will talk about today will empower you to do just that.
Habit number 1: Be Proactive
To be proactive means more than just taking the initiative. It means to take responsibility for the choices you make. It also means to make those choices based on principles and values instead of how you are feeling. Proactive people make the choice to direct their own lives. They don’t think of themselves as victims and blame others. Most of all, they don’t make rash, reactive choices, based off of what is happening to them. Regardless of life’s challenges, they choose where they want to go and work consciously to get there.
You should use the concept of the Circle Of Influence and the Circle Of Concern to guide you. People always live inside one of these two circles. A dependent person lives his life from inside of the Circle Of Concern. He waits in a reactive mode to see what will happen to him and only then takes action, if at all. Similarly, an independent, proactive person, is living from inside of his Circle Of Influence. He doesn’t wait, but always acts to expand this circle, because he knows that the bigger it is, the more independent he is.
Imagine the Circles as pets. The more you feed one of them, the bigger it becomes. As the Circle Of Concern gets bigger it also requires more food, and so it starts to feed off of your independence. The more time you spend inside it, the more you lose of your self-control and the more you start responding to the things that are outside of your control. In the same way, the more you feed your Circle Of Influence, the bigger it becomes. However, as this Circle gets stronger, it also makes you stronger. It improves your control over your life and your influence over your world. You become a powerful person of principles, values and influence. Be careful that you feed the right Circle.
The way you expand your Circle Of Influence is by acting on things that you can control, instead of worrying about things that you can’t. For example, let’s say you have an exam coming up. You can either choose to worry about what is going to be on it, how well the other students are going to do, and what grade you need to get. OR, you can accept that an exam, just like any other challenge in life, isn’t something that just happens to you. You can take responsibility for the outcomes by working on your sphere of influence. In this example, the only thing that you can influence is how much you study. Therefore, that is what you should do. Leave the worrying for the dependent people.
Habit number 2: Begin With The End In Mind
People, families, teams and organizations that have this habit make their own future, by first creating a vision in their mind for what they want to achieve. They don’t live without an end goal in mind and they are always directing their efforts into making their goals a reality.
This habit is simple to explain, but sweet nonetheless. A surprisingly vast amount of people don’t consider where they want to go in life. As everything else worth building, our lives also require a blueprint. Of course, this blueprint might end up differing greatly from the resulting masterpiece, but how will you go about making your goals a reality, if you never sit down and think through them?
An independent person always works to build his life around his values and principles. One of the best ways to clarify for himself what those are, is by taking a hard look into what he wants to accomplish.
You should begin by asking yourself what you want people to say at your funeral. What do you want others to think when they think of you? Will they say that you lived an independent and happy live, always working towards your goals with determination, or will they be disappointed by your lack of purpose and all the wasted potential?
In order to live with purpose, you have to begin with the end in mind.
Habit number 3: Put First Things First
To put first things first means to organize your life according to your priorities. This is the final step towards independence. It means that whatever the circumstances, you remain dedicated to the principles that are important to you and not by the urgent and often unnecessary tasks around you.
To become an independent person you need to be able to prioritize and distinguish between what is important and what is urgent. The two things do not always match. To do this I recommend the following system. Draw a square, split into four quadrants that are marked 1 to 4. This is corresponding to the level of priority you need to give to each one with 1 being the lowest and 4 being the highest. The biggest part of your day should go towards checking things off of quadrants marked with a 4 or 3. Begin with tasks that are both important and urgent. Then move onto things that are important and non-urgent. After that comes quadrant 2, the urgent, but not-important. Finally the least amount of time in your day needs to go towards quadrant 1, the non-urgent and non-important. You would be surprised how much time we spend each day in this quadrant. Answering email, for example, can, in most cases, be filed under exactly this category.
The final step towards independence is to organize and live your life according to your priorities.
I am splitting my discussion of
The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Peopleinto two parts, both because of it’s high importance and because of the book’s logical split. In my opinion it is one of the best books on self-improvement ever written, because it talks about the habits everyone needs to adopt in order to lead a successful life.
The first three habits discussed today can be boiled down to one simple instruction. Make and keep your promises. The first habit - that of being proactive - has to do with the ability to make promises. The second habit - that of beginning with the end in mind - has to do with what the promise is. The third habit - that of putting first things first - has to do with keeping that promise.
To master the first three habits, learn to make promises and to keep them