This was the first book I finished for my Book Project. I actually finished it a while ago, but it's taken me until now to write about it. This was the perfect book to get me motivated! I read and loved the teens version when I was, well, a teen, so reading the "grown up" version was very interesting and fun.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, here they are:
1. Be Proactive
2. Begin with the End in Mind
3. Put First Things First
4. Think Win/Win
5. Seek First to Understand, Then be Understood
7. Sharpen the Saw
It's not my purpose to give a full-on summary of the principles taught in this book, so I'm just going to highlight a few that really changed my thoughts and attitude about life in general.
I learned a lot about thinking Win/Win. Covey spends a lot of time talking about how two people's ideas and needs can be combined to create solutions that are better than either of them could invent alone. I plan on applying this in more ways than one. For example, my husband and I have this silly conversation every Friday and Saturday night. It goes something like this:
Me: "What would you like to do tonight, honey?"
Tyler: "I want to do what you want to do."
Me: "Well, I don't know what I want to do. I'm good with whatever. So what do you want to do?"
Tyler: "I just want to spend time with you. I'm good with whatever, too. So really, what do you want to do?"
This usually continues until one or the other gives in and suggests something to do, for the sake of ending such a meangingless conversation. We sound like the vultures in Jungle Book, and it bugs the heck out of me. This might seem like a very trivial way to apply the win/win principle, but I think we can use it to start communicating better and come up with activities that both of us really want to do. :)
I think one of the wisest principles of this book is Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then be understood. I've never forgotten the cover page of this chapter in the teens version. It says, "You have two ears and one mouth-HELLO!" It is so tempting to do the opposite. I worry so much about people understanding me that I often walk away from a new acquaintance and realize that I had told them plenty about my life without troubling to remember the details of theirs. I really need to work on this!
My favorite and most life-changing epiphany I had was on being proactive. Lately, I've been rather reactive, and this always results in frequent spurts of frustration and grouchiness when things don't go my way (which they often don't). In the last chapter of The Seven Habits, Covey relates an experience he had with a paragraph from a book. Strangely, he didn't include the actual quote, but he explains what it said in a way that I love. He says:
"I read the paragraph over and over again. It basically contained the simple idea that there is a gap or space between stimulus and response, and that the key to growth and happiness is how we use that space. I can hardly describe the effect that idea had on my mind...I reflected on it again and again, and it began to have a powerful effect on my paradigm of life. It was as if I had become an observer of my own participation. I began to stand in that gap and to look outside at the stimuli. I reveled in the inward sense of freedom to choose my response--even to become the stimulus, or at least to influence it--even to reverse it." (pg. 310)
This is a powerful idea. The best thing is, it's a very easy one to remember. Just keeping that phrase in my head--"the space between stimulus and response"--helps me to choose my actions much more carefully. I love the thought of standing in that space and considering my options before acting.
Overall, I really feel that my experience with The Seven Habits has changed me for the better. Before I read this book, I was feeling sorry for myself and a little stuck. I felt like my identity was becoming lost among the endless piles of dirty diapers and dirty dishes (I'm sure you moms have never felt like that before ;) ). I still feel that way, sometimes. But mostly I feel empowered, purposeful, and important in my own little sphere of living, and this book, combining with other inspiring influences, helped me feel it. Thanks, Mr. Covey!
p.s. Reviews on Emily Dickinson's poetry and Napoleon Hill's How to Win Friends and Influence People coming soon!