Recently I’ve had reason to revisit the book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.’ It occurs to me that the observations and thoughts presented by Stephen Covey in this book are something that all of us who seek to have better relationships [with our family members, schoolmates, colleagues in the workforce, management. . .well with anyone we spend time with] could benefit from some discussion about Coveys points.
In general structure, there are some habits that are about your personal internal growth. . .and there are some that are about interacting with others. The first habit is about personal internal growth. You must reach a level of personal maturity before you can have successful interactions with others.
The first habit Covey describes is “Begin with the end in mind.” If we interpret this on a personal level, the importance of this habit is know yourself. Know what is important to you. Know how you want to be perceived by others. Create a vision of this. Then you can work to unfold the vision. When you are gone from this earth, how do you want to be remembered? What is the one single thing which is most important to you, for which you’d like to be remembered?
By narrowing down to the most important characteristic which you’d like to express, you can create a mission statement much as organizations do. A mission statement is direct and serves as a compass for decision-making. If you know yourself, and you create a mission statement that is consistent with your highest priority, and you live your life making decisions according to that mission statement. . .the likely outcome is that you will be remembered for the thing which you most highly valued.
My Mother always told me she hated nothing more than a liar. I grew up with that message playing in my head. Still, I told my share of lies growing up. If I said or did something for which I was ashamed or even embarrassed, I felt compelled to lie about it, rather than face the shame or embarrassment.
But there came a point when I evaluated the pros and cons of lying. I realized that if I made a commitment to never lie, I would then not do things for which I might feel embarrassed or ashamed. Think about that. So I did make that commitment and took control of my decision making in a way that required me to think about the consequences before I said or did that which would shame me.
Creating a mission statement works in much the same way. It gives one a consistent direction for their decisions.
I was fortunate to have taken a class based on the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In that class we did an exercise to create a personal mission statement. That required a great deal of soul searching. It is not easy to recognize the single thing which you value most. I finally came to this. When I pass from this earth, I want people to say about me: “She was always there for me.”
Knowing that was my highest priority changed everything. It changed my perspective on work and on what I felt I had to do to help others in that environment. It changed my perspective on career. . .which never totally went away but became less and less significant over time. It changed my perspective on responding to others in need in some cases. It expanded my commitment to my children. . .to others.
We humans are limited. We cannot do everything for everybody. . .nor should we. We should want everyone to be empowered to take care of their own needs. But all of us experience times when we reach a limit. If in those times, I can offer anything helpful, I hope I do so. At times, the only thing I have to offer is prayer and perhaps that is the greatest gift I can give to those in need.
I find it interesting that this topic has returned to my life. I have been invited back to Rogers Park Presbyterian Church to meet with young people in their summer program. The theme of their program is ‘Peacemaking.’ Pastor Paton believes the book “The Star Who Almost Wasn’t There” can be the basis for giving these young folks the message that you must know yourself first, know your relationship with God, know the gifts you have been given, in order to be a peacemaker.
So now I am reflecting on how knowing yourself, enables you as a peacemaker. It seems to me the very process of coming to know yourself is required to understand others. Not necessarily to agree with them, but to understand where they are coming from. . .what they value most highly. . .and how they came to that perspective. And this is the beginning of meeting people where they are and connecting with them in a real way. It is the start.
I hope that many of you will give this topic some thought and share your ideas in comments. Perhaps the next blog will expand on “Begin with the end in Mind” and I will be able to share your thoughts and observations. Dialogue is a 2 way street.