Thursday, October 17, 2013

Key Learnings: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen R. Covey

The main idea of this book is the formulation of integration between a person’s character and his personality aiming to reach a state of integrity.
“The best challenge is to be what you pretend to be”
PERSONALITY: all what you see and what you do (20%)
CHARACTER: what you really are (80%)
Whenever your character is different from your personality, this is called disintegrity.
Nowadays, most people stress all efforts on the 20% of personality, which causes a lot of psychological problems, as people pretend to be what is not true about them.
This phenomenon even affected the quality of marriages, for couples build their relationships on fake qualities & superficial techniques, which soon shows up after marriage and cause disastrous problems.
That is why we should focus first in the “Inside Out” of ourselves, meaning that we should try to develop ourselves and work on our character (80%) before trying to decorate our personality (20%), or even trying to change people around us.
However, in most of our short-living relationships, we can use personality skills to get by and to make favorable impressions, but be sure it won’t last long.
A person’s behavior is directed by three main factors:
Paradigms (How you see things through your own eyeglasses—point of view)
Knowledge + Skill = 20% effective
Paradigms = 80% effective

The way you see things affects the way you think about things, affects the way you feel things, affects the way you do things.
Story by Stephen:
I remember one Sunday morning, on a subway in New York; people were sitting quietly- some reading, some lost in thought, some resting or sleeping- Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car.
The children were so loud that instantly, the whole climate changed. The man sat down next to me and closed hi eyes, apparently neglecting the situation.
The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, it was very disturbing and yet the man sitting next to me did nothing.
I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to leave his children like that and doing nothing about it.
So finally, with unusual patience, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more.”
The man lifted his gaze as if to come to consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right, I guess I should do something about it, we just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to do, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.
At that moment, my paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, behaved differently, my irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about my attitude or my behavior, my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. “Your wife has just died? Oh I’m sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?” Everything changed in an instant. This is called the “Paradigm Shift”

In fact, we don’t see the world as it really is, but we just see it as we were conditioned to see it.
Therefore, if you want to solve a problem, you have first t change your style of thinking away of the same time the problem was created.
We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are, or the way they should be, then our attitudes and behaviors grow out of these assumptions. When other people disagree with us, we immediately think something is wrong with them, but in fact, they just have a different paradigm than yours.
That is why, when we open our minds to describe what we see, we in effect describe ourselves, our paradigms, our perceptions.
Therefore, the more aware we are of our basic paradigms and assumptions, and the extent to which we have been influenced by our experience, the more we can take responsibility for these paradigms, examine them against reality, listen to others and be open to their perceptions, Hence, getting a larger picture and a far more objective view.

Principles--------------Values God---------------------- Humans
Don’t change -------------Change
Timeless -----------------Have time Boundaries

Values of people change over time with changes of cultures, customs and traditions.

A habit: something we do repeatedly, unconsciously = Knowledge + Skill + Desire
To break a habit, we need the same three things.

Efficiency = Good use of time
Effectiveness = good use of Human Resources

There is a story of a poor farmer who one day discovers in the nest of his pet goose a glittering golden egg. At first, he thinks it must be some kind of trick. But as he starts to throw the egg aside, he has second thoughts and takes it in to be appraised instead.
The egg is pure gold! The farmer can’t believe his good fortune. He becomes even more incredulous the following day when the experience is repeated. Day after day, he awakens to rush to the nest and find another golden egg. He becomes fabulously wealthy; it all seems too good to be true.
But with his increasing wealth comes greed and impatience. Unable to wait day after day for the golden eggs, the farmer decides he will kill the goose and get them all at once. But when he opens the goose he finds it empty. There are no golden eggs – and now there’s no way to get any more. The farmer has destroyed the goose that produced them.

Most people see effectiveness from the golden egg paradigm; the more you produce the more effective you are. But in fact, true effectiveness depends on two factors:
1- What is produces (the golden egg)
2- The producing asset ( the goose)
Therefore, we have to take care of three types of assets (Physical asset, Financial asset, and Human asset)

Maturity Continuum

Dependence Stage (Private Victory)
1. Be proactive
2. Begin with the end in mind
3. Do first things first

Independence Stage (Public victory)
4. Think win/win
5. Seek first to understand then to be understood
6. Synergize

Interdependence Stage 7. Sharpen the saw

The seven habits should be followed in order; you can never jump from one to another.

Habit #1: Be Proactive

Proactive vs. Reactive
Pavlov’s experiment of stimulus and response only worked on animals, but it didn’t work well with humans, because humans have their own choice to be good or bad and the choice to be affected by outer determinism or not.

There are mainly three factors affecting responses:
Genetic Determinism
Psychic Determinist
Environmental Determinism

Pavlov started his experience on animals by trying to prove that stimulus causes response
Stimulus → Response
But afterwards, the experiment was modified to humans, so it became
Stimulus → GAP Response
This GAP is a chance for the person to think about his response so as not to act as animals and produce quick spontaneous and natural responses.
That is why, responses varies from one person the he other.
There are four Human Endowments that differentiate Humans from Animals and they best work on the GAP
Self Awareness: The ability to get out of yourself and see yourself
Imagination: The ability to visualize your future
Conscience: a clear light from inside that makes you know the rights and wrongs
Independent will: your freedom to do whatever you want

Overall, every person should know that he is responsible for what he reached, and that everything is a result of his responses.
To become more aware of his own degree of productivity, a person should look at where he focuses his time and energy.
By working on ourselves instead of worrying about conditions, we are able to influence the conditions.

The problems we usually face in our lives fall in one of three areas:
1.Direct Control (problems involving our own behavior)
These problems are solved by working on our habits (circle of control)
2.Indirect Control (problems involving other people’s behavior)
These problems are solved by working on changing our methods of influence (ex: using empathy, confrontation, persuasion,…)
3.No Control (Problems we can do nothing about, such as past or situational realities)
These problems involve taking the responsibility and peacefully accept these problems and learn to live with them, so as not to empower these problems to control us.

The circle of concern is filled with the Have’s (If I had …)
The circle of influence is filled with the Be’s (If I can be…)

The proactive person stresses on the concerns that he has direct control on, then he moves to the concerns he has indirect concern on.

A reactive person always blames others, so he has no circle of influence, as he believes that people and situations are the main cause of all problems.
We can only control our actions, but what we reap depends on our principles (God)
The proactive approach to a mistake is to acknowledge it instantly, correct it, and learn from it. This literally turns a failure into success. It looks at the weaknesses of others with compassion, not accusation.

Reactive Language
There’s nothing I can do
That’s just the way I am
He makes me so mad
I can’t
I must
If only

Proactive Language
Let’s look at our alternatives
I can choose a different approach
I control my own feelings
I choose
I prefer
I will

Habit #2: Begin with the End in Mind

Just close your eyes and imagine yourself in your own funeral, and people (friends, parents, children, spouse, boss, workmates…) are giving a speech about you, what would you like them to say about you? What character would you want them to have seen in you? What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember? What difference would you like to have made in their lives?
If you carefully consider what you wanted to be said of you in your funeral experience, you will find your own definition of success.

Management = doing things the right way
Leadership= doing the right things (planning)
“Measure twice and cut once”

So as to plan for your future, you have to write your own mission statement, which requires honesty with yourself.
The personal mission statement is a philosophy, or creed, it focuses on what you want to be (character) and to do (contributions and achievements) and on the values and principles upon which being and doing are based.
Because each individual is unique, a personal mission statement will reflect that uniqueness, both in content and form.
You can call your personal mission statement a “personal constitution”, it is the written standard, the key criterion by which everything else is evaluated and directed.
If this constitution is based on correct principles, these principles will empower the constitution with a timeless strength.
People can’t live with change if there is not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.
Our personal environment is also changing at an ever-increasing pace. Such rapid change burns out a large number of people who feel they can hardly handle it, so they become reactive and essentially give up, ,hoping that the things that happen to them be good.
The essence of logo therapy is that many mental and emotional illnesses are really symptoms of an underlying sense of meaninglessness and emptiness. This is cured through having a mission statement, by having the vision and the values which direct your life.
In order to write a mission statement, we should begin at the very center of our circle of influence whatever is at the center of our life will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom, and power.

Security = your sense of worth
Guidance = your source of direction
Wisdom = your perspective on life
Power = your capacity to act
Security and clear guidance bring the wisdom, and wisdom becomes the spark to release and direct power. The location of these factors on every aspect of your life is a function of your center; the basic paradigm is at your very core.
There are some alternative centers
How to identify your center?
Ask yourself two questions
· When are you extremely happy?
· When are you extremely sad?

Never Judge others because:
· You yourself never know the reality of things, you just see things from your own opinion and lens.
· You can never totally understand what is going inside the minds of other people, even if you know them really well

There is something called the “Brain Dominance Theory”, which says that each hemisphere of the Human Brain tends to specialize in a certain function, process different kinds of information, and deal with different kinds of problems.

Left Hemisphere
More logical / Verbal
Deals with words
Deals with Parts and specifics
Deals with analysis (break apart)
Deals with sequential thinking
Time bound

Right Hemisphere
More intuitive / creative
Deals with pictures
Deals with wholes and relationship
Between the parts
Deals with synthesis (put together &
Deals with simultaneous and holistic
Time free

We live in a primarily left-brain-dominant world, where words, measurements, and logic are enthroned, and the more creative, intuitive, sensing, artistic aspect of our nature is often subordinated.
The mission statement is concerned with the right hemisphere of the brain, ,as the more we are able to visualize, to synthesize, to transcend time and present circumstances, to project a holistic picture of what we want to do and to be in life.

There are two ways to tap the right brain
1. Expand Perspective
Sometimes we are knocked out of the left brain environment by facing hard experiences. The proactive person doesn’t wait for hardships to create a perspective expanding experience; he can simply create his own, through:
· Visualizing your own funeral
· Visualizing your 25th wedding anniversary
· Visualizing your retirement from your job
Expand your mind, visualize in rich detail. Involve as many of the senses as you ca. There are a number of techniques using your imagination that can put you in touch with your values because it makes you think in larger terms than today and tomorrow.

2. Visualization and Affirmation
Personal leadership is not a singular experience. It doesn’t begin and end with the writing of a personal mission statement, but rather to integrate your personal mission statement into your life through affirmation. A good affirmation has five basic ingredients: it is Personal, Positive, Present tense, Visual, and Emotional.

The left brain on the other side, helps you identify your roles as a husband/wife, father/mother, son/daughter, brother/sister, Christian, neighbor, employer, scholar or manager; and goals of your role.

Habit #3: Put First Things First

Effective management is putting first things first, while leadership is deciding what “first things” are.

Q1 (Urgent/Important) Crisis
Pressing Problems
Deadline-driven Projects
Q2 (Not Urgent/ Important) Prevention
PC Activities
Relationship building
Personal Mission Statement
Long-Range Planning
Exercising (sports)
Spiritual Maintenance
Recognizing Opportunities
Q3 (Urgent/ Not Important)
Some Calls
Some Mails
Some Reports
Some Meetings
Q4 (Not Urgent/ Not Important)
Trivia, busy work
Some Phone Calls
Some Mails
Time WastersPleasant Activities

“The enemy of the best is the good”, even if the urgent is good, the good can keep you from the best if you gave the chance.

A person should remember that he does what he wants to do, so why cheat ourselves?
Ex: a student came to his professor at college and told him, “I’m sorry doctor, I wish to attend the class, but I have to go to the tennis game”. In fact, it is the opposite that is true, he wants to go to the tennis game and doesn’t want to attend the class.
Just say loudly what you really want to do, do not give excuses, and do not try to hide the truth from people because those people will over-estimate your relationship and will be a load on you afterwards.

A person should follow two types of organization simultaneously
1. Long-Term Organization
Mission Statement → Roles → Goals
2. Short-Term Organization
Roles → Goals → Plans <>There are two types of delegation:
1. Gofer Delegation
“Go for this, go for that, so this, do that, and tell me when it’s done.” Actually, this type is not really effective
2. Stewardship Delegation
It is focused on results instead of methods. It gives people a choice of method and makes them responsible for the results. It takes more time in the beginning, but well invested. Regarding expectation in five areas:
a. Desired Results – Create a clear mutual understanding of what needs to be accomplished, focusing on (what) and not on (how). Spend time, be patient, visualize the desired results.
b. Guidelines – Identify the parameters within which the individual should operate. These should be as few as possible, but should include any formidable restrictions. If you know the failure paths of the job, identify them. Be honest and open. Let people learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others, but don’t tell them what exactly to do. Keep the responsibility of the results with them.
c. Resources – Identify the human, financial, technical, or organizational resources the person can draw on to accomplish the desired results.
d. Accountability – Set up the standards of performance that will be used in evaluating the results and the specific times when reporting and evaluation will take place.
e. Consequences – Specify what will happen, ,both good and bad, as a result of the evaluation. This include such things as financial rewards, psychic rewards, different job assignments and natural consequences tied to the overall mission of an organization

TRUST is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people.


You may try to lubricate your social interactions with some personality skills and techniques, but while doing so, you might truncate the vital character base. Don’t ever make your goal impressing people, for people are being impressed by different things according to their own values and centers. Just look at yourself, you have to like yourself before you can like others, but what if you don’t know yourself?
Interdependence is a choice only interdependent people can make. The most important ingredient we put into any relationship is not what we say or what we do, but what we are.

The Emotional Bank Account
Every word or action that gets out of you towards a person is either considered a debit or a credit in your emotional bank account inside him.
Don’t say, “He knows that I love him”, it’s true you should make suitable actions to show people that you love them, however, you have to tell the how much you love them through words, don’t be lazy, it makes a great difference.
There are six major deposits by which you can build trust in someone.
1. Understanding the Individual
You have to understand the person in front of you and identify his center. You may do something, thinking it would be a deposit, but it ends up being a major withdrawal.
Ex: - a family centered man, you shouted at his son
- A self centered man, you embarrassed him in front of people
- A possession centered man, you lost or spoiled his precious things
All these are major withdrawals you do them unintentionally and unconsciously.

2. Attending to little things
+ Smile x Unkindness
+ Compliment x Ignoring people
+ Being Kind x Over reacting
+ Ask about someone x Disrespect
Build your relationships on right basis, little things do matter a lot.

3. Keeping Commitments
When you promise you build home, and when you commit, you build trust, but breaking a promise is a major withdrawal.

4. Clarifying Expectations
Tell people or make it clear to them by any means how you would like to be dealt with and don’t assume that they would know what you like and what you don’t like by themselves.
Also, let people know where they exactly stand in your life, don’t let them expect more than you can give them or let them over estimate your relationship.
Ex: if you made someone think that he’s your best friend while he’s not. He will consider many normal things you do as a major withdrawal of carelessness, or may be you be overloaded with fake duties towards him.

5. Showing Personal Integrity
Being Truthful, being committed to parents, respecting others and showing good qualities in front of others make them trust you. “When you defend those who are absent, you retain the trust of those present.”

6. Apologizing Sincerely
- Great Deposits come in Sincere Words.
- It takes great deal of character strength to apologize quickly out of one’s heart rather that out of pity.
- People with little internal security can’t do it. They feel it makes them appear soft and weak.
- Sincere apologies make deposits; repeated insincere apologies make withdrawals.
- People usually forgive mistakes, because mistakes are usually mistakes of the mind, or mistakes or judgment. But people don’t easily forgive mistakes of the heart, the ill-intention, the bad motives, the prideful justifying, and covering-up of the mistakes.
- Don’t give unsolicited excuses.. It makes great withdrawals, especially when repeated.

Habit #4: Think Win/Win

“Overdrawn Emotional Bank Accounts had created a culture of low trust.”
There are six major paradigms for human interactions.
1. Win/Win
Is based on the paradigm that there is plenty of everything for everybody and that you can gain and make others gain as well (Abundance Mentality)

2. Win/Lose
Believe that life is a whole cake, if you took 1/4, others will take 3/4, so you have to take as much as you can on the expense of others (Scarce Mentality)

3. Lose/Win
He believes in popularity more than personal benefit, so he sacrifices his things, comfort and well-being for people’s sake with no specific reason. However, this type is even worse than win/lose, because the time comes when he discovers that he’s always losing for nothing and explodes and turns into evil.

4. Lose/Lose
The biggest example of this type is the devil.

5. Win
He always seeks his own benefit, not caring whether other people will win or lose. It’s not a must that he makes others lose.

6. Win/Win or No Deal
This is the best option of them. Id we can’t find a solution that would benefit us both, we agree to disagree agreeably.

How to Approach a Win/Win Attitude?

Courage ▲ Win/Lose Win/Win
Lose/Lose Lose/Win
> Consideration

1. Character
a. We need character integrity
b. We need an abundance mentality
c. We need maturity

2. Relationships
This deals mostly with the emotional bank account, the more deposits and trust you can gain with people, the easier you can reach win/win agreements.
The best test to know if you are a win/win character is to deal with win/lose people and see to which extent you will reach win/win agreements.

3. Agreements
There should be an agreement from both dealing sides to maintain a win/win relationship.

4. Systems
There should be a system that supports win/win attitude, because if you talk win/win and reward win/lose, this would be a losing program.

5. Processes
You can only achieve win/win solutions through win/win processes, where the ends and the means are the same.

Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

If you want to interact effectively with people and influence them, you first need to understand them.
We have a fatal social problem; we didn’t learn how to listen. People usually don’t listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.
* Levels of listening:
· Ignoring Stage (not listening at all)
· Pretentive listening (acting as if listening, but in fact he’s not)
· Selective listening (selects what interests him from what’s being said)
· Attentive listening (listens to everything, but without being himself involved or affected)
· Empathic listening (listens to everything and puts himself in the place of the speaker.)

Listening = 20% skill + 80% attitude
We usually understand people 10% through words and language, 30% through voice effects, and 60% through body language.
There are four bad responses we give while listening, that stop the empathic listening:
1. We always listen through our own paradigm, so we tend to evaluate what the other person is saying (agree/disagree) → When the speaker feels this, he automatically and unconsciously tries to change his words to more fit our opinion, so he no more becomes frank.

2. We also sometimes use probing to fetch the words said for a very other thing that interests us, so we miss the whole point of the speaker, and hence, don’t understand him.

3. Sometimes we use interpreting, by stopping at every word and being extra critical, so the speaker gets bored and stops talking comfortably.

4. Advise also sometimes stops empathic listening. You’d better give your advice only when being asked for it, not between words, because thinking of the advice you want to give causes your skipping of most of what is being said by preparing for what you are going to say next.

6. Other levels of Misunderstanding that appears before listening (Prejudgment)
- Appearance (age, sex, language, style…)
- Association (home address, job, sports club, relatives…)
- Interests (reading → boring, skiing → crazy …)
- Thoughts and Feelings
- Values and Beliefs
Prejudgment usually drives us to conclusions without listening to the person himself. Hence, we only see the 20% of personality, neglecting the 80% of character. Therefore, to really practice empathic listening, we have to neutralize all prejudgment effects and focus on the person himself.

Then Seek to be Understood
To let people understand you easily, you should have:
1.Ethos (ethics): your personal credibility, the faith people have in your character.
2.Pathos (passion): this deals with the emotional bank account and the empathic side of your character that raises emotions of people.
3.Logos (logic): all your words have to go with logic, common sense and reason, through giving examples and illustrations for what you are saying, or using convincing proofs to support your opinion so that people would understand what you are saying.

Habit #6: Synergize

What is Synergy?
It means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The essence of synergy is to value differences, respect them, and build on strengths to compensate for weaknesses.
Ex: in a football team, differences between players in skills create the strength of the team.

The key to valuing differences between people is to realize that all people se the world, not as it is, but as they are. So when I become aware of the difference in our perceptions. I say, “Good you see it differently, then help me see what you see.” Simply, if two people have the same opinion, then one of them is unnecessary.

The Force Field Analysis

Restraining Forces

Driving Forces

Increasing the driving forces may bring results for a while, but as long as the restraining forces are there, it becomes increasingly harder.
But when you introduce Synergy, you work directly on the restraining forces. You create an atmosphere in which it is safe to talk about these forces into driving forces.
You involve people in the problem, immerse them in it so that they feel it is their problem and they tend to become an important part of the solution. As a result, ,new goals, shared goals, are created and the whole enterprise moves upward.

Habit #7: Sharpen the Saw
(work on the PC through….)

1. Spiritual Renewal
· Value Clarification
· Commitment
· Bible Study & Reading
· Meditation & Prayer

2. Mental renewal
· Reading
· Planning
· Visualizing
· Writing

3. Social/Emotional Renewal
· Service
· Listening
· Empathy
· Synergy
· Love
· Intrinsic Security

4. Physical Renewal
· Exercise
· Nutrition
· Stress Management

This is the single most powerful investment we can ever make in life-investment in ourselves. To be effective, we need to recognize the importance of taking time regularly to sharpen the saw in all four ways. Working on one dimension will have a positive impact on all others, because they are highly interrelated.

Scripting Others

Most people are a function of the social mirror, scripted by the opinions, the perceptions, and the paradigms of people around them.
We are a part of that social mirror. We can choose to reflect back to others a clear, undistorted vision of themselves. We can affirm their proactive nature and treat them as responsible people. We can help script them as principle centered, value based, interdependent, worthwhile individuals. And with the abundance mentality, we realize that giving positive reflection to others in no way diminishes us, on the contrary, it increases us because it increases the opportunities for effective interaction with other positive people.
When they are directed by the social mirror to take the lower path, you inspire them toward a higher path because you believe in them, so you encourage them to be proactive.
We have so much we can invest in the Emotional Bank Accounts of other people. The more we can see people in terms of their unseen potential, the more we can use our imagination rather than our memory. We can “see” them in new fresh ways each time we’re with them.
“Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”

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