The first three habits, 1. be proactive, 2. begin with and end in mind, and 3. put the first thing first, are grouped together in a category called private victory. Private victories are personal and relate to you as an individual person. In contrast, the following three habits are grouped together as habits geared towards public victory, and are related to your social success and in working effectively with others.
Habit 1: Be ProactiveEdit
"There is no real excellence in all this world which can be separated from right living" – David Starr Jordan.
Being pro-active is the opposite of being re-active. Both are active, but the first is coming from an inner impulse inside yourself, powered by own desires, while the latter is reacting to outer circumstances. The worst case of being reactive is only acting on outer stimulus without any inner reflection, drive or initiative. To cultivate this initiative is achieved by taking full responsibility for your own life , by becoming response-able – able to choose your response to the world from the inside, before the world is showing you, that you have to act. The space inside of us between stimulus and response is the space of our freedom to choose, to chose our response. It is what makes us human, and not stimulus-response animals. We are able to choose our reaction. "Act or be acted upon" is one headline that illustrates the point here. The Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence. The Circle of Concern are all areas in life that we are concerned with, that we have "on our radar", may it be our health, our children, the national dept or global warming. The Circle of Influence are those areas inside the circle of concern, that you actually can do something about now. My favorite example is the bad news on TV. Usually you can do absolutely nothing about it and you won’t do anything except saying "Oh look how bad this is". Why should you pollute your mind with it and distract your focus to something you are helpless with? Can you see how futile and self-defeating this is?
If you are proactive you focus only on your Circle of Influence, where you actually can influence the situation. By doing so, you not only enable yourself to do something of value you also increase your Circle of Influence. If an event on the corner of your Circle of Influence is happening, you have the choice to act on it mastering the situation and so increasing your Influence, or you can move backwards which will decrease your Influence. An example would be if you lose your driving license because you can choose to do the tests again to regain it or you can choose to retreat from driving and then lowering your mobility, thus decreasing your Circle of Influence.
Habit 2: Begin with the end in mindEdit
"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us" – Oliver Wendell Holmes.
This habit is based on the principle of Personal Leadership, which means you decide what you want , you lead yourself in the direction you choose. There are always two creations of everything that we do. The first of the creations is mental, in our heads and not yet materialized. This is what the second habit is about. The second creation is in the material world. This is what the third habit is about. Beginning with the end in mind says that we need to develop a vision, a clear picture of what we choose to be and create in our lifetime. Stephen illustrates this succinctly by suggesting that you write your own funeral speech! What kind of person have you been, what did you stand for, what did you create? What were your contributions to the people you love and what difference have you made in their lives? This is a fantastic visualization exercise that connects us deeply with ourselves and it is the perfect illustration of Begin with the End in Mind. Having such a personal vision rooted in our own values acts like a guidance-system. That is what the habit does: if you think from the end, you become like Michelangelo in the great metaphor of sculpting the statue of David out of a blog of stone, where he simply cut off the pieces of stones that were still in the way of his vision to materialize.
Habit 3: First things firstEdit
"First Things First
"Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least" – Wolfgang von Goethe.
The third habit is where you make your plan happen – where you develop an action-plan and execute it in the best way possible. While the second habit is the Leadership habit, this is the Management habit. And you do this in an effective way by setting priorities for the most important things first. Then you work on these first things until they are done. You exercise your discipline powered by your vision and goals where you know what you have to do to create this vision into reality. It is to really live your decisions, to walk your talk. There are several tools here that can improve walking your talk. Setting the right priorities is one of the most important tasks. To set priorities, you first have to execute habit one and two of course, because otherwise – as Stephen also explains it – it happens to you that your ladder of success is leaning toward the wrong wall. If you have not taken full responsibility and clearly decided what you want in life, the priorities you set cannot have a deeper meaning to you. It just does not happen by accident. So choose proactively what you want first, then create an action-plan, set priorities and act on them.
One of the most helpful things in execution is to effectively manage the time that we have available. Basically there are four areas where we spend our time. You can divide them into four quadrants by categorizing each task on a) Importance and b) Urgency:
A task is important or not important and it is urgent or not urgent:
1. Quadrant of DEMAND – important and urgent This is usually the core of a busy person, tasks that are important and also urgent, you just can not put them off and they have to be done now. It is important and should be well executed.
2. Quadrant of THE ZONE – important but not urgent This is where you plan, improve, develop, build relationships and see opportunities. It is the basis for real success and the heart of leadership.
3. Quadrant of ILLUSION – not important but urgent The quadrant of illusion is a serious problem in personal management because it deludes you into thinking that the tasks you do are important. However, they are only made urgent by demands from outside agents or by wrong judgments of yourself. In reality, they have no profound impact on your achievements at all.
4. Quadrant of ESCAPE – not important and not urgent This is the area you need to avoid altogether if you are interested in success. It is the escape from what matters by distraction, because of fear, irresponsibility or fuzzy goals.
What you need to do is move as much time as possible into The Zone (Quadrant II) and spend the rest of time in Quadrant I, the important and urgent demands. What you can do to raise awareness of your tasks is make a list of all tasks you do over the day or week. Then put all tasks honestly to the quadrant where you really spend your time doing them. Remember that it serves no purpose at all to be nice to yourself here, total honesty to yourself is always the most empowering thing you really can do. Then get rid of tasks in quadrant III and IV (not important) as soon as possible and move into Quadrant I and II. The best managers spend at least 50% of their time in Quadrant II and those are the most effective.
If you are really overwhelmed by Quadrant I and also III tasks (urgent), here is what you can do: • Do less: Say "No" more often, focus more on the most important tasks, your highest priorities, do less better! • Delegate more: give tasks to people who can do it better, are more efficient, more qualified or more suitable for the task than you. • Go into The Zone to create more resources for the urgent matters or lessen the urgency by better preparation and proactive planning.
Please also take a look at my later article: A Beginners Guide to Time Management. These were the three habits for private victory as described by Stephen Covey. I think they are principles in fact. They are like natural laws for personal development and effectiveness. I’m looking forward to hearing your views and experiences with these three habits! What kind of successes or disappointments have you dealt with? Share them in the comments, I will also join in and answer questions of course.