“If I really want to improve my situation, I can work on the one thing over which I have control – myself.”
“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
― Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
We are all unique creatures. We have our own paradigms based on our perception of the world — defined by our upbringing, beliefs, values and experiences — that shapes our view of almost everything under the sun. This is the reason two people who watch the same movie, docuseries or presidential debate may have polar opposite opinions.
Instead of paradigms, we must focus on principles. While paradigms are subjective and inaccurate, principles such as honesty, compassion and human dignity are self-evident and timeless. And that’s why it’s much better to have a principle-centered paradigm as it is the most constructive way to view people, situations or events.
In order to cultivate this approach, you must follow character ethics not personality ethics. This means you must aspire to cultivate virtues like courage, self-discipline, integrity and humility and act in accordance with them, instead of becoming a social chameleon who changes their behavior repeatedly to successfully manipulate situations.
Character ethics lay the foundation of human achievement. And each of the seven habits of highly effective people are rooted in them.
First, we must move from dependence to independence and self-reliance, our “private victory” makes us more self-confident and leads us to a stronger character.
- Be proactive. Take 100% responsibility for your own actions.
- Begin with the end in mind. Figure out what you really want and design your life with intention.
- Put first things first. Focus on your core values and act in accordance with them.
Once we make the inner change, next we cultivate habits that take us from independence to interdependence, and secure “the public victory.”
- Think win/win. Seek a paradigm of cooperation and work towards mutually beneficial outcomes.
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Learn empathic listening and dial into other people’s viewpoints.
- Synergize. Open yourself to others and discover better creative results with trust and vulnerability.
And lastly, we must focus on ourselves. We must take good care of ourselves, maintain our new paradigm and continue with our growth.
- Sharpen the saw. Pay constant attention to self-renewal and strengthen your habits.
Becoming an effective person is an inside-out process and that’s why we need to focus inward first. Change starts from within — we must change ourselves before we work towards changing anything or anyone. As Wayne Dyer wrote, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
We must keep in mind that there’s no magic bullet or “quick fix” to become a highly effective person. It’s a process that you need to commit to perform and nurture day in and day out. This can be an arduous journey for sure, but in the long run, the rewards that you get out of it make your time and effort totally worthwhile.
PS: This essay is inspired by the landmark business book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I highly recommend reading this classic if you haven’t already. Here’s the Amazon link: https://amzn.to/35t0rvj
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