The 2015 Pixar cartoon Inside Out brought up the importance of the interior world of the emotions in the way we deal with the real world. Long before, the term was used to help understand how we have to look at the world in order to interact effectively.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is a book that has helped millions. The edition celebrating 30 years claims that over 30 million copies have been sold. And this is only the original book. There are several sub-categories that have also been powerful. The subtitle is also important: “Powerful lessons in personal change.” This second line of the title is often missed. I think it tells a lot of the story.
To read the book looking simply to become more efficient seems to me to miss the point. I am a fan, not because I want to be more efficient, but because I want to be a better person. Is it really possible to change? We can be helped by the psychologist Albert Bandura’s explanation of self-efficacy. “Self-Efficacy is a person’s particular set of beliefs that determine how well one can execute a plan of action in prospective situations” (Bandura, 1977). “To put it in more simple terms, self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their ability to succeed in a particular situation” (Lopez-Garrido, 2020). Reading through the book of 7 Habits and attempting to put its lessons into practice is a great way to change oneself positively.
People experience an “inner hunger, a deep need for personal congruency and effectiveness and for healthy, growing relationships with other people” (Covey, 1989/2004, p. 24). Too often, we look for quick fixes and easy tricks that can help us be more efficient in what we are trying to accomplish. Rather than focusing on external obstacles and benefits, we can learn to look inside to find our true strength.
We can look at the difference between personality and character ethics. A personality ethic focuses on projecting the right image, without too much attention being given to the core of the person. Character ethic, on the other hand, focuses much more on making the person into an integral human being. Personality ethic is “more a function of personality, of public image, of attitudes and behaviors, skills and techniques, that lubricate the processes of human interaction” (Covey, 1989/2004, p. 27). Character ethic focuses on “things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden Rule” (Covey, 1989/2004, p. 26).
One of the key concepts is the paradigm. A paradigm can be seen as a map. It does not identify directly with the terrain it is trying to explain. But it does give a key to understanding it. We are constantly using paradigms to understand the reality of the world around us. In psychology, this is known as a construct. “Psychological constructs refer to concepts that are not directly observable but are hypothesized to be influential in determining or explaining behavior” (Maltby et al., 2017, p. 6). Sometimes, we are functioning with the wrong paradigm. If you have a street map of Chicago, it will not help you navigate the streets of New York very well. So, we have to see which paradigms are ruling our lives and see what we need to change.
We have to deal with the way things are, or reality; and the way things ought to be, or values. Our values have to align with reality if we are going to navigate our world successfully. A paradigm shift occurs when we see our priorities in a different light and align our attitudes and behaviors to the newly perceived reality.
Principle of Growth and Change
In order to understand the growth we are trying to effect, it is good to look at the farmer. A farmer is always looking for organic growth. This is opposed to the growth expected by stock traders or those involved in Bitcoin speculation. There, prices are driven up quite simply by the law of supply and demand. The organic growth expected by a farmer has to respect the constraints of time. A seed turns into a sprout which, God willing, turns eventually into the mature plant and gives its fruit. The farmer who wishes to hurry this process ends up facing disappointment.
The Way We See the Problem
We can be tempted to look at the world in such a way that there is always a quick fix. Some seminar, some training sessions, seminars, new personnel, something will make the world change. But, often, we actually need to work on our own character. When you are facing a problem on the outside, look inside – at yourself.
A habit is “the intersection of knowledge, skill, and desire” (Covey, 1989/2014, p. 55). We need a theoretical paradigm, an ability, and motivation to form a habit. It can then be at the base of our future behavior in such a way that we are aligned to our goals. Habits are formed by repeated actions, but must also combine these three elements of knowledge, skill, and desire.
“The Seven Habits are habits of effectiveness. Because they are based on principles, they bring the maximum long-term beneficial results possible. They become the basis of a person’s character, creating an empowering center of correct maps” (Covey, 1989/2004, p. 61). Then the individual can “effectively solve problems, maximize opportunities, and continually learn and integrate other principles in an upward spiral of growth” (Covey, 1989/2004, p. 61). It is all about personal growth that helps social growth. If you become a more effective person, based on the character ethic, you will build up those around you.
This effectiveness is principle-based. It is important to respect the “P/PC balance.” “P stands for production of desired results… PC stands for production capability, the ability or asset that produces” (Covey, 1989/2004, p. 62) the desired results. There are three types of assets: physical, financial, and human. Effectiveness requires using each one appropriately to achieve the final goal.
Personal and Public Victory
The seven habits begin with three habits focused on personal victory, or self-mastery. They help the person look inside and see what is going well and what can get better. This sets the stage for the following three habits, which lead to public victory, or a successful interaction with the larger world. The final habit makes sure that everything continues to work in the future.
By learning to take true responsibility for our own actions, we are better equipped to deal with others. The 7 habits are a help to take stock of our own abilities and live at peace with ourselves and others.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory (Ser. Prentice-hall series in social learning theory). Prentice Hall.
Covey, S. R. (1989/2004). The seven habits of highly effective people. Powerful lessons in personal change. Simon and Schuster.
Lopez-Garrido, G (2020, Aug 09). Self-efficacy. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/self-efficacy.html
Maltby, J., Day, L., & Macaskill, A. (2017). Personality, individual differences, and intelligence (4th ed.). Pearson Education Limited.
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