I have to agree that ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ had an influence me on. I am not boasting that I was effective, but I have followed it to some extent and it did give an interesting, simple , actionable and coachable framework.
I had read the book around two decades back and I thought I might share with you on how I look at those seven habits now.
Please note that I am in no position to critique that wonderful book and whatever follows is my own funny reflection of the seven habits.
Be Proactive – I think Proactive was invented by Dr.Covey. Before this book it did not exist. It primarily means to take responsibility for your life and situations. In brief, I think it tells you to cultivate a possibility thinking.
I have had experiences in life , where I stepped into the kitchen for making a cup of tea or some dish, or buying some fresh vegetables that I found on the way from my office, stepping in to solve a co-worker’s difficulty, calling up a friend to give unsolicited advice, have all landed me in immense trouble. It was always interpreted as needless interference into another individual’s personal boundaries. I do not profess to be a saint and not all my intentions have been benign, but I have been on the wrong side of ‘Being Proactive’ umpteen times than necessary.
Begin with the end in mind – This makes so much sense. To have a vision of one’s own self and move towards it.
To supplement this I have used the quote “The only purpose of life is to live a life of purpose”.
I do not recollect how many times I have used this phrase to coax, cajole or just to get out of a situation where I had no clue what the other person was talking.
After this I ask myself “Do I know the end game?” or “I am just a compulsive liar?”
I think I am a situational liar.
Did someone not tell ‘Enjoy the Journey?’
What if I did not have a greater vision of my own self ? Does that make me a lesser mortal ?
Aren’t we all work in progress ?
First things first – This calls for the right to say ‘No’ and to focus on your highest priorities.
What would be your reaction when your boss calls you on a weekend and tells he needs something by the next day morning ? Assume you had some prior personal commitments. Assume your boss is otherwise a reasonable person.
What would be my reaction or what has been my reactions ?
What would be my expectation if I was the boss ?
Speaking for myself, the personal commitments will take a back seat . As a boss, the only thing I would have wished to hear is a ‘Yes’.
Think Win-Win – This is the most obvious, but how this is interpreted is just different. Both the persons in question think out coming that they made the other person a scumbag!
Seek first to understand, then to be understood – This places so much emphasis on listening.
However this has the side effect of you becoming deaf.
I have to balance my life between four women in my life. Please do not get me wrong. They are my mother, wife , sister and daughter in no particular order.
I do understand the first part of ‘Seek first to understand’ and I sense it ends there. I am yet to experience the ‘then to be understood’ portion of it.
It’s been generally no different in many corporate meetings, where a brainstorming session always ends by ‘Seeking to understand’. Eventually you will be branded as the one who will not “Speak Up”.
Synergize – This places emphasis on valuing the differences and presents a case for the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
I think there is a great opportunity cost on getting this synergy to work. I do not know about the current global McKinsey report or equivalent on successful Mergers and Acquisitions, but I can assure you that the percentage will be abysmally low. The case for finding common ground is excruciatingly painful.
I remember the quote, “With one watch, we know what the time is. With two watches, we never know”.
Where does the buck stop when we synergize ?
Sharpen the saw – Continuously improve your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being.
All I wish to say is, A blunt saw hitting the wood has more chances than the sharpened saw waiting for the right wood.
Can we ever be fully prepared ?
Please do not get me wrong. I will not stop advocating the seven habits nor stop following them.
However, I think I have realized now and possibly you would have realized even earlier, there is something called “Context” in applying any of these proven methods, habits or frameworks. This context is personal to you.
There are shades of grey, not the fifty shades of grey, in each of this habit and these habits are not binary.
Understand your context and master the habit.
Enjoy Maadi. (Have Fun).