by Doyin Jaiyesimi
The name Stephen Covey is synonymous with the book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective, not just because Stephen is the author of the book but because his life was an embodiment of all the principles enshrined in the book. As author, Clayton Christensen put it, “Stephen was proactive. He began his career with its end in mind. And he put first things first.”
He passed, sadly, on Monday after a bike accident.
Born on October 24, 1932, Covey was a humanist. He believed in and strived to bring out the best in everyone he crossed paths with. Recognized by Time Magazine as one of the 25 most influential Americans, Stephen lived a life dedicated to demonstrating how every individual can truly control their destiny using timeless life principles and clear-cut guidelines.
‘7 habits’, Stephen’s best known book has been read widely by managers and leaders and has influenced millions of people. First published in 1989, it has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide and is available in 38 languages. The audio version became the first non-fiction audio-book in the U.S. publishing history to sell more than one million copies. The book is clear in its message; being principle-centered is one of the keys to achieving effectiveness and effectiveness is a habit.
So what is 7 habits all about and why is it so famous? The reason is simple – the book is based on tried and tested principles of fairness, integrity and human dignity which are important in all our endeavours. And also because the author buys what he is selling. He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. Stephen sums up his life philosophy in seven “unchanging principles” or habits that emphasize the traits needed to gain private and public victory. To be an effective person, you must:
- Be a proactive. Being proactive means taking initiative. You cannot go through life being a victim of circumstance or as Stephen puts it, being reactive. You are responsible for your life and have the power to choose how you respond to situations. Life does not define you; you define life.
- Begin with the end in mind. Before embarking on a new journey or venture, have a clear understanding or your destination. Know where are going and the steps you need to take helps you to stay in the right direction. You have to be able to create in your mind what you cannot see with your eyes. Imagine. Dream.
- Put first things first. This habit is all about practicing effective self-management; having your priorities defined. You know what needs to be accomplished and you focus on the results and not just on the methods.
A mastery of these first three habits, according to Stephen leads to victory in the private sphere thereby gaining independence.
The next set of habits focus on victory in the public sphere:
- Think win-win. Win-win is a frame of mind that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. It means going for a higher or better way, not just your way or the other person’s way. A win-win solution makes all the parties feel good about the decision taken and they become more committed to the action plan
- Seek first to understand, then be understood. This is the most important principle in the field of interpersonal relations. It involves a very deep shift in paradigm and also seeing life beyond ourselves. Practicing this habit leads us to become less judgemental and more empathetic.
- Synergize. Synergy is manifestation of all the other 7 habits out together. It is achieving interdependence on a greater level; that is being effective in teamwork, team building and developing unity and creativity with other human beings.
The seventh habit is the based on the principle of balanced self-renewal; sharpening the saw. Without it, all the other habits might as well not exist. Sharpening the saw involves continuous improvement in all aspects of your life. It is recognizing the need to sharpen the saw in the physical, mental, spiritual and social/ emotional dimensions. Doing so will lead to greater effectiveness and living a more satisfying life.
Although ‘The Seven Habits of Effective People’ was written more than 22 years ago, the habits and principles remain timeless. They are still relevant in helping people to solve personal and professional problems. It therefore does not come as a surprise that it was named the ‘#1 Most Influential Business Book of the Twentieth Century. Covey may have left the world, but his book will remain a prized possession for many, many people from across the world.