Insights from “The 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen R. Covey” – Private victories

During my last post I have discussed the first section of the book, I have majorly covered the section regarding principles and paradigms. You can access it through the following link Part 1.

In this second part I’ll be discussing the second section of the book on the private victories, How to implement the habit 1, 2 and 3 and attain self-mastery.

Private Victories : Habit 1, 2 and 3

The private victories are personal victories, they are the mastery of the personal challenges. They are 3 habits that can get you from being a dependent individual, dependent on your family, spouse or friends to a more independent individual that is not the sum of his circumstances, but an individual that acts and leaves through a principle centered paradigm, whose choices and decision are not the product of luck or hazard but a result of him choosing to cross a defined path he has consciously selected. The private victories is you acting on your reality and not being acted upon. It is you knowing what to do and where to go, and not hazardously living without a purpose nor a goal. It is also you organizing, planning, prioritizing your life effectively, not being held prisoner of the emergencies and the unplanned events.

In the private victories you are the master of your faith and the hero of your story because you commit yourself to the 3 following habits and you gain control of your life. These aren’t fancy word from a spiritual leader promising good fortune without required home work. These are fact based habits from extensive researches over 200 years of success and leadership literature.

Habit 1 : Proactivity

The word has been made famous with its use in management, while the word doesn’t have any etymological origin, it has been used in opposition of reactivity to designate the skill of an individual to be preventive,  farsighted, and actor in his environment.

As humans we are majorly affected by our environment. We are to a certain extent product of our environment, our genes and education. This is significantly true, biology has proven that species evolve in response to the conditions of their environment, that is also true for humans, we can develop new capacities if exposed to a stimulus in sustainable manner. My question then is how come that we can have two individuals going through the same experiences, poverty, modest education and normal cognitive capacities, and yet find one person that achieved success and not the other. It is safe to presume that difference is choice. Choosing your response to the circumstances while putting in practice the four endowments of the human being.

The four endowments of humans are self-awareness, consciousness, imagination and independent-will. By the use of the self-awareness, an individual is able to assess his mindset. Consciousness helps him being aware of his capacities, his skills, his fears. Through the endowment of imagination, he can think about his situation, he can imagine alternative realities and outcomes, he can create a new story in which he is not the victim but the hero, in which in he is not acted upon, but he is the actor. Finally with independent will, he is able to act independently of his conditions and according to his personal choices.

Stephen R. Covey has presented a model that is very useful and that embodies both the impact of our circumstances and our choice to act upon them. We have majorly two circles in our life, first our circle of influence, this is where all the things we are able to change are. It can be our job, our house, our behavior and so … The second circle is our circle of concerns, these are the things that we are concerned about but on which we have but few influence. It can be an unlikable boss, an unfriendly neighbor, an unreasonable brother. Proactive people focus on their circles of influence, and they manage to live with their circles of concerns. They mostly act upon what is reachable, work on it, develop it. They do their homework. if it is a relationship, they work on themselves, they ask question like what can I do to develop this relation ? what are the things I must change in myself ? their vision is, if change or action is to be done, I should do it first.

Another side but good effect of acting on your circle of influence is what we commonly call quick wins. These are the small victories, the satisfaction from achieving things that fall in our perimeter of action. Those victories, consciously and/or subconsciously, helps us reinforce our faith, enhance our self-confidence and build both the discipline and motivation muscles. Each journey starts with a first step.

Habit 2 : Begin with the end of mind

I recall one time, when I was watching one of Jim Rohn seminar video’s on YouTube, he was talking about his personal experience with Earl Shoaff. He was his early mentor. Earl asked Jim Rohn to show him his life goals. Jim responded that he doesn’t have anything to show. Earl asked him if he has left them home or somewhere else. But actually Jim didn’t have a list of his life goals. So Earl told  him that, they should start his teaching from there.

The main idea to capture from Jim Rohn’s anecdote is that you can’t build something unless you know exactly what you want. We can’t build a house without a blueprint. How come we can build our life without one. Yet our lives are more important than a house.

The idea may seem obvious, yet few people commit to this exercise. Can you count the time you sat by yourself and worked to determine what are the most important things in your life. In Entrepreneurship courses, we teach student, that they need to determine the vision and the mission of their future enterprise. Yet, if they don’t know what are their personal vision and mission how can they commit to their enterprise mission and vision. Private victories precede public victories.  Self mastery precede public mastery.

In the book Stephen R Covey described a very useful method to use in order to uncover the important things for us. Using this exercise you may find yourself attached to certain values more than what you expected, you will truly discover what is important for you.

The exercise suggested by Stephen R Covey, is to imagine your funerals. All the family, friends, colleagues and community members are reunited to honor your memory. One person from each group will speak about you. What are the words you want them say ?What are the stories you want them to tell ? What are the values, the trait of characters, the anecdotes you want to be remembered for  ?  if you faithfully commit to this exercise, you will certainly find that your life goals are totally different from what you may expect in the first place.

Now that you are truly aware of your inner and core values, you will, with the help of human four endowments of self-awareness, consciousness, imagination and independent will, work to proactively write the script of your life to be congruent with your values. It is easier to draw on values, they provide roots to plant your life tree.

Stephen suggests to possess what he calls a personal mission statement. This is a personal motto that acts like a rudder for your life. You may find yourself in positions when you can’t decide the right thing to do, this is when your personal statement is useful, it helps you keep on course, this is your long-term commitment, you may sometime loose the battles ahead but you will certainly win the war in long-term.

Working on your personal statement is a really deep,  and engaging task, it requires you to have a clear picture of your core values and your life goals. It requires you to be congruent or it will not have the necessary pull force to keep you on track. This is your personal compass that you use with your map (Principle centered paradigms) to navigate the territory.

The mission statement is not only useful for you personal life, but it also something you can do in your family or organisation. This is an exercise that helps to clarify the vision, when sharing the same values. It can be used by couples in their relationships, it can be something like committing to support, understand and help others both in professional and personal matters.

Finally the mission statement is not immutable, it can change with time to include new concerns, may be the birth of a new child will force you to review your priorities, or a new job opportunity, may be an engagement.

Habit 3 : Putting first things first

The third habit of putting first things first is about effectively managing your time and priorities.

Time management tools

The work place have known several time management tools. From generation to generation this tools evolved to respond to the needs of productivity and efficiency.

First generation of management tools, was mostly interested on checklists and items. These were the long list of things that needed to be done, without any attention to other criteria. Second generation management tools, are the tools that helps you plan and schedule. These are the agendas and the planners. Yet these are still only planned checklist. The third generation has done a new step further and included prioritization management. Most impacting items on the checklist are planned and prioritized upon less important things.

While these third generation time management tools may look very advanced they lack something very important. They don’t take into account the individual that is also part of the equation. They consider the individual as someone who undergoes the things he needs to do, they don’t take into account the proactivity, the fact that the individual needs to be master of his time not a slave of his schedule.

Stephen R Covey, presented a model that incorporate the individual into the equation. The tool is designed as a matrix using two dimensions. Importance and Urgency.

the Quadrant Time management tools is devised into four quadrants with the following combinations :

Q1 , Important and Urgent matters, these are the things that majorly act on you like you work, your bills, these are the things you can’t escape from.

Q2, Important but not Urgent, these are the quality time activities like reading, working on on a future business, having good time with family. These are the truly important things for you, there are the good investments you should make.

Q3, Not Important but Urgent, these are the activities that you think are important but finally they have but few importance. Like responding to another phone call, or to another email. May be attending a special event in your community.

Q4, Not important and not urgent, these are the activities that have no value, facebooking, watching Reality TV, Sitting at the coffee.

The important thing that Stephen R Covey remarked, is that when we are consumed by Q1 activities we unconsciously turn to the Q4 activities. Q1 activities pump you all your energy, they press you and keep you prisoner of daily emergencies. Yet, while putting all the effort, you are not effective in achieving your personal goals.

A better approach, as suggested by Stephen R Covey, is to focus on your Q2 activities. If you take the time to plan your Q2 activities, put them on schedule and commit to realize them. You will start to work on the true things that make a difference. You will always be pressed with your Q1 activities but since Q2 activities are already planned on  your schedule, you find yourself coping between both Q1 and Q2 activities.

Simply put, eliminate Q4, reduce Q3, plan Q2 and cope with Q1.

The 3 habits of Private Victories – Proactivity, Beginning with the end on mind, and putting first things first – helps you travel from the Dependence to Independence. They help you take control of your life, to write the script of your story and to live it. The 3 habits provide you with the necessary tools and guidance to start working on yourself. First, acting and not being acted upon. Second, visualizing your life ad defining your life roles and goals. Third, living and effectively managing your life.

Through the private victories, the self-mastery, you are ready to engage, into the public challenges, into relationships and into interdependence.

This was the second post of 4 I’ll be sharing about the 7 habits of highly effective people.

The next post will be about “Public Victories, managing effectively your relationships”.

I hope you enjoyed this post. As usual, don’t hesitate to give me your feedback.

Do you have any thoughts on this principles and paradigms ?
If you already have read the book, please share with me your insights.


References :

“The Seven habits of highly effective people” – Stephen R. Covey

I do not own any of this material, this is a simple post about the book. All credits for the materiel discussed should go to the owner of the book.


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