Good things come in 7s… seas, dwarves… seven is lucky.
The number 7 is also the key to being your best self, doing your best work, and living your best life, thanks to the timeless classic, Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
I know what you’re thinking. In a word: YAWN. “That old chestnut…isn’t that book, like 100 years old?”
It’s true that the phrase “highly effective” is a little eye-roll-y, and it’s true Dr. Covey wrote the book 25 years ago. (I remember feeling the same way back when I’d see the book in every airport newsstand and high-level executives’ bookshelves.) But then one day, snowed in at an airport for hours, I figured, hey, I could stand to be more effective, so I finally bought the book and read it.
It’s no exaggeration to say it changed my life.
There’s a reason this book is such a widely-read classic. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People isn’t just seven tips, or seven pieces of useful advice. The book’s based on universal principles and built upon the idea that when you become a certain type of person, a person whose character follows these seven “true north” principles, you will organically become more effective and successful. And not for nothing, you’ll not only develop into an effective person, you’ll become a really good human being.
The book is absolutely worth checking out, but, in a nutshell, here’s a very cursory summary of the “7 habits”:
1. Be Proactive
Taking initiative is the number one habit, and the number one thing you can do to make your life a success. Take responsibility for your choices, and if you don’t like something in your life, take action.
2. Begin With the End in Mind
You can’t get to where you want to go unless you know where –and what, and why, and WHO – that is. You need clarity about what you want, what your values are, who you are, and who you want to become.
3. Put First Things First
When you know who you are, what you want and where you’re going (habit #2), It’s time to prioritize what really matters. Don’t get side-tracked. Instead, learn to focus and follow-through on what’s truly important and necessary, not just what’s urgent and loudest.
4. Think Win-Win
Valuing and respecting others and working toward a mutually beneficial solution is a much better long-term resolution than thinking only of yourself. Besides considering and collaborating with others really will make you more successful in the long run.
5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
It’s the “first” and then the “then” that are the key words here. Listen carefully and you may find you actually want the same thing as someone else, or that you can solve that person’s problem or assuage their concerns, all without having to try to sell, persuade or manipulate anyone.
By making Habits #4 and #5 part of the way you do things, you’ll find that 1 + 1 often = 3. By collaborating and combining people’s strengths, you can achieve much more than either party would have if done alone.
7. Sharpen the Saw (Maybe my favorite!)
If you keep sawing away at a giant tree trunk, without ever stopping to sharpen the saw, you’ll eventually fail. You need to remember that it’s important to refresh, nurture, and renew your resources and energy in order to be your most effective. That may mean reading, meditating, taking a vacation –or even a nap. You have to take care of your health (physical, mental and spiritual) in order to sustain long-term productivity and success.