PsychItBetter on 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Books to change the way you look at the world. Part 1.

In this post I am going to sum up why you should read a books which will change the way you interact with the world psychologically. That’s right – PsychologyItBetter is having a go at “sort-of” book reviewing! If I enjoy writing it, and you all read it, there are a bunch more to follow! We start with the classic ‘7 Habits Of High;y Effective People’ by Stephen Covey.

Not just ‘self-help’

7habitsWhen choosing books to discuss, I tried to avoid just picking a bunch of self-help books. Rather, I’m trying to pull together a bunch of very different books which point to one idea – if you change the way you think about the world, and behave towards it, your relationship to it and your ‘effectiveness’ will change also. Well, that’s the idea (we’ll see how it goes!). I’ll be upfront – the links at the bottom will take you to Amazon, and you should follow them and immediately buy the books. I’ll get about 2 pence a pop. If you all do it I may treat myself to a chocolate biscuit come the end of the month.I have read all the books I review in the past, and I am looking forward to revisiting them now. I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride!.

No.1. Seven Habits of Effective People

This one is a old-school classic by Stephen Covey (with the original edition coming out in 1989). It outlines, as you may guess, seven key habits which, if we adopt, should make us more effective. What are these habits? Well, they are broken into three sections – Private Victory, Public Victory and Renewal.

Private Victory

The first section concerns internal transformation – thinking about getting into the habit of being proactive – basically not reacting to events and only focusing our mental and physical energy on things we can influence (so called ‘proactive focus’). We should also start with the end in mind. Yep, this a late eighties book, and so involves develop one’s own “personal mission”. An easy target for fun, and the bane of many employees asked to buy into soulless corporate mission statements. But also, if you actually step back from the monster such things have become (I have worked with mission statements which needed explanatory notes!), a powerful self-motivator. Spending some time working out what is important to you, what drives you, and then focusing on those things is actually time well spent. The final part of your Private Victory is to use these things to put first things first – and Covey explains this marvelously – linking the importance of the goals you set out previously to day to day prioritizing, saying no, not asking the impossible of others, and generally managing your time towards you ‘mission’.

Public Victory and Renewal

Once you are ‘fixed’ yourself, you can start to look outwards more effectively. We then away from self-management move to Public Victory. the key principle here is interdependence – realising we all exist in interpersonal systems, and rely on others for our own success. If we behave honestly with people (and genuinely apologise when we do wrong) we build social capital which lets us relax, be more flexible, creative and able to call it in this capital. Covey argues we can develop this resource though getting in the habit of looking for win-win solutions. I’m not sure I need to say more about this, except it works! To help this, the sixth habit is to seek first to understand, then be understood. A bit of a homily perhaps, but the idea that understanding others motivations does make it easier to find win-wins, and understand (and remove!) peoples’ reasons for not behaving as you would like them to. It also builds rapport, trust, and good things like that. The final habit is to cultivate synergism. Now, stop smirking. Synergy here is not cheesy. It simply means looking and valuing differences, differing drives towards risk vs reward, approach and avoidance and varying view points and coming up trumps. Covey boils it down to understanding the differences between you and others, and being open minded about it. Finally, the book looks at renewal, in the final habit sharpening the saw – this is basically about renewing you practice- making sure you nurture your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual self. Good advice for driven people methinks.

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The verdict

So – that is basically it. Does it help us ‘PsychologyItBetter’? When you get over the ‘guru’ness of parts of it (apparently, according to the blurb, “when Covey talks, Executives listen!”, and some of the phrasing sounds a bit ‘and I say unto thee – be synergistic!’) this book is phenomenal. Why? Because it is not about bending people to you will, or quick fix tricks. Rather it says if you basically be thoughtful and principled, act in others interests where you can, try and be fair / empathetic, and to step outside your pre-conceived beliefs, the world will be yours for the taking (?inspiring?). Of course, all effectiveness books claim this, but my own experience is that you do get at least a bit more effective, and get to be more happy / pleasant to boot. Everyone wins – and when PsychologyItBetter says that, people should listen 🙂

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