This is actually going to turn out to be about a 9 part series. Anything I’ve written in quotes is taken directly from Stephen Covey. I will indicate if the quote is from someone else. I hope you enjoy this series and encourage you to pick up a copy of the book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. It has the potential to change your life.
This is the introduction to The 7 Habits. Stephen speaks of an “inside-out” approach to life. We are so quick to look at external forces as an explanation of why things happen. When we don’t get along with someone, when life throws us a curve ball, when people don’t do what we want them to do, we think it’s all their fault. Personally, I do not believe that any situation is ever only one person’s fault. I believe there are too many other factors at play. Our outlook … our attitude … how we perceive the situation.
“We must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as at the world we see, and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.”
“We began to realize that if we wanted to change the situation, we had to change ourselves. And to change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.”
While Stephen was researching success literature over the past 200 years, he noticed a trend. The first 150 years or so focused on the “character ethic as the foundation of success … things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty and the Golden Rule”. Shortly after WWI the basic view of success shifted to the “personality ethic … a function of personality, of public image, of attitudes and behaviours, skills and techniques, and positive mental attitude”. You can see how this difference has changed how people act and react. Previous generations were more concerned with who you are rather than what you do.
Emerson wrote “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say”. How incredibly true. When there is a disconnect between how you act and what you say … there is no trust. “Without trust … there is no foundation for permanent success. It is fairly easy to tell the difference between someone motivated by the character ethic as opposed to the personality ethic. You can instinctively trust someone motivated by the character ethic; personality ethic … not so much.
Paradigms. They are “a model, theory, perception, assumption or frame of reference … it’s the way we ‘see’ the world”. We are all influenced by our paradigms … the more aware we are of our basic paradigms, “the more we can take responsibility for those paradigms, examine them, test them against reality, listen to others and be open to their perceptions, thereby getting a larger picture and a far more objective view”.
Albert Einstein observed “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them”. We need to change our thinking … our paradigms … before we can begin to make significant changes in our lives. Insanity has been described as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. It’s just not going to happen.
We need to start working from the inside out. This approach says that “private victories precede public victories, that making and keeping promises to ourselves precedes making and keeping promised to others. It says it is futile to put personality ahead of character, to try to improve relationships with others before improving ourselves”. How can we possibly expect others to change if we, ourselves are not willing to look deep inside and make changes to our own self?
T.S. Eliot observed “We must not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time”.
In a nutshell … I believe that in order to improve our lives, before we can expect others to change, we must first look inwards …. Look at who we are … how we can improve ourselves and our lives and the lives of others around us.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this post.