Victim by choice?

May 29, 2008

One of the main ideas throughout The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is that people tend to blame their environment as the cause of their problems. Excuses run the gambit; from blaming your family, your genes, your job, the economic times, etc. Stephen Covey’s response is that “Quality begins with me.”

You’re not a victim of conditions, you’re a victim of your own decisions, your own choices.

-Stephen Covey

With this mindset, in most circumstances, accomplishing goals in life depends on personal initiative and determination. However, the scales can be tipped in either direction, from “My life isn’t what I want it to be because of other people”, to “I can do everything myself.” I feel it is important to not be arrogant by not accepting help from anyone, or to be foolish enough to believe that everything can be accomplished just by myself. Mr. Covey does talk about this in the book, and one of the pillars of “being effective” is synergism. In essence, he stresses the importance of being able to work collaboratively in teams and the immense benefits that can come if it, but that is another topic in and of itself.

The main theme I wanted to write about today was about taking control of the events in one’s life that are within one’s grasp. To be able to distinguish which events can be affected by you, and which events are simply out of your control is a skill that can be very powerful in life. Challenging may it be, I am going to try and get a handle on situations in my life, while recognizing those that are out of my control. With a mentality such as this, “luck” happens more often. I am becoming a fan of Ralph Emerson, and his many quotes that are so applicable to life: “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”

You Reap What You Sow

May 28, 2008

Stephen Covey used a quotation taken from Ralph Waldo Emerson that I thought was especially encouraging, yet basic at its core.

That which we persist in doing becomes easier—not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

In a point in my life where many of the daily tasks I am doing are relatively new to me, a lot of them seem appropriately daunting. I am learning valuable skills in these coming years that will be pertinent in relation to my life, career, and future family, and it is easy to try and look for an easy route. Most things in life have no “easy way out”, and Stephen Covey vehemently supports this notion, “You always reap what you sow; there is no shortcut,” He uses the idea of trying to cram on a farm, forgetting to plant in the spring, and brushing it off all summer, yet coming back in the fall to try to reap a harvest that you did not sow. It isn’t possible. While some special cases may occur, the general rule stands true, and should be in the forefront in all of our lives.

The Bottom Line: You reap what you sow.

Ethics in “7 Habits”

May 27, 2008

Throughout the entirety of the book, several quotes and excerpts stuck out to me, striking me on a personal level, forcing me to think and reflect for awhile. For the next couple of posts I plan on putting these reflections into words, and posting them a long with quotes, so that I can share the important ideas I was taught.

Just as junk food and lack of exercise can ruin an athlete’s condition, those things that are obscene, crude, or pornographic can breed an inner darkness that numbs our higher sensibilities and substitutes the social conscience of “Will I be found out?” for the natural or divine conscience of “What is right and wrong?”

This section in particular was important to me, and forced me to reexamine values that I have in life. In different parts of my daily life, there are things that I do because I fear the consequences if I am found out, where as other actions I take because I know, deep down, that is it the right thing to do. Stephen Covey urges us to become self-aware, of our surroundings and actions, and be conscious of why we do the things we do . Additionally he states that we should choose a set of principles to base our life off of, so that when situations present themselves, and we are able to choose our actions based not on consequences, but rather what is the right thing to do, reverting back to our standard set of life principles. Looking back on the philosophy class I took last Autumn, this essentially is contrasting virtue ethics and consequentialism.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

May 26, 2008

Currently I am reading this book by Stephen Covey . The basic overview is that there are a several principles for which people ought to live by. The habits he overviews is

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first
  4. Think win/ win
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the saw

Main theme throughout the book is to be Proactive. It is quite obvious in the beginning of this book that Mr. Covey desires to be in control of his emotions. He states many times throughout this section that he does not want to be reactive to outside stimuli. He gives an example “Chasing after the poisonous snake that bite us will only drive the poison through our entire system” (91). This is a neat analogy, often times I realize that in an attempt to fix the problem, I just do what I think is the best course of action at that moment, letting my emotions drive my actions. Upon later reflection, I realize that if I had just waited 10-15 seconds before taking action, my mind would have been much clearer and I probably would have chosen a much more logical course of action.

Another idea that he touches upon is that a person should not blame their problems on their environment, genes, family relations etc. He says be Proactive, not reactive. There is a period between a stimulus and a response, and it that in that time is the crucial decision to “Act or be acted upon” (76). He stresses the importance of recognizing what we believe “We have to do, must do, only do” and what we truly have the choice in doing. Too many people live their lives feeling stuck doing things they have no control over, when in reality, they do have control over these situations. Mr. Covey points out that often time, people are influenced by “Social weather”, meaning that “if people treat them well, they feel well.” Everyone is still influenced by outside stimuli, but what separates them is Proactive people “are driven by carefully thought about, selected and internalized values”, rather than being “driven by feelings, circumstances, and conditions” (72).

I really like the Illustration Steve Pavlina has on his blog about being a Reactive person VS a Proactive person. “If a reactive person were to captain a ship, the ship would flow with the currents”, and “If a proactive person were to captain a ship, however, the ship would go wherever the captain wanted it to go.” You should go check out his post about it, as his analogy goes much deeper and paints a great mental picture of what Mr. Covey is trying to get across in his book.

The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person.

-Stephen Covey