7 Habits

There are numerous examples available aimed at helping people become more effective or efficient in their performance. These are not just sports specific but many come from personal development, self-help or corporate settings. In previous blogs goal setting has been discussed, highlighting the importance of short-term goals as stepping-stones to long-term success; however it is equally essential to ensure that those short-term goals are actually leading somewhere. Regularly people emphasize the short-term results without consultation to the long-term effects, and it appears that there is often more concern with doing things as quickly as possible rather setting solid foundations for development. One of these approaches, Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”, has been used by a number of people I work with as a means to help create the building blocks for achievement. The process is based around a principle from Albert Gray:
“Successful people have a habit of doing things failures don’t like to do. They don’t like doing them either, necessarily, but their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose”
Habits themselves are patterns of behaviour composed of three overlapping components: knowledge, attitude and skill. There is debate over whether these are innate or can be learned (and I have no intention of entering the nature versus nurture debate here), but it is known that these can all be developed and improved (or unlearned as may be necessary). Covey’s approach recognises that successful people build habits of effectiveness into their daily lives. These habits are mutually supportive of each other and are passed through in sequential order, guiding an individual to regular success. The process can be implemented into all areas of our lives and can help in guiding us on the most effective path.

Habit 1: Be Proactive – simply take responsibility for your attitudes and actions. Covey breaks the word responsibility into two parts: response and ability; suggesting proactive people develop the ability to choose their responses, making them more of a product of their values and decisions than their moods and conditions. Everyone has the ability to decide how they are going to act or re-act to certain situations and often people allow their minds to run free with negative thoughts like “what if” or “what could have been” rather than staying present in the moment and assessing the best response or course of action. One of the key components in a number of the hypnosis scripts that I write is related to not stressing about past or future events, unless there is something constructive that you can do about it. It sounds clichéd that we should learn something from everything that we do, but it is an effective approach to take.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind – It is really important to know where you are trying to go. How else is it possible to create and effective pathway to get there? This is the habit of personal leadership; creating a clear direction. It is essential to create a mental picture or strategy before the physical performance can be implemented. Covey notes that effective people write mission statements and use them as a frame of reference for making future decisions. By clarifying your values and purposes it is possible to prioritise what is most important for yourself. Again underpinned in a lot of the hypnosis strategies I use is the push to let go of old habits (usually developed from someone else’s opinion of what you should or shouldn’t do) that do not serve your purpose.

Habit 3: Put First Things First – Building on our ability to prioritise, this habit encourages organization and time management. The Pareto Principle (from the work of an Italian economist) suggests that 80% of our desired results will come from 20% of our activities. The learning from this is to identify what is most important for you and spend more time working on these areas, spreading your time between the urgent and not urgent. Further to become more effective within this we should devote less time to urgent but unimportant things (i.e. interruptions; distractions) and more time to important but not urgent things (i.e. preparation; planning). By neglecting these important, non-urgent topics there is a greater possibility for these to create emergencies that will disrupt your ability to achieve. Covey proposes that if you only plan daily rather than weekly you will live in a constant state of reaction and your planning will only prioritise your problems.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win – This is the habit of interpersonal leadership, where effectiveness is largely achieved through the cooperation between invested members. Where problems can occur is when individuals approach these relationships with an independent mentality. I often see this in gyms where personal trainers appear to have no interest in their client’s success and therefore just regurgitate the same exercises over and over, rather than investing some time into planning to create a quality program that their clients would then recommend to others (n.b. This is one of the reasons why I create individualised programs in all the face-to-face packages). Win-win thinking is an attitude of seeking mutual benefit. Really begin to think about how you can create positive outcomes for yourself and others around you, considering the desired results, resources, accountability and consequences.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood – Effective communication is crucial to develop this win-win relationship. One of the key aspects of effective communication is listening to develop empathy. Breakdowns regularly occur when there is a difference in perception (or when people have a greater desire to respond than to identify the meaning), but this can be resolved by understanding the situation from all sides. Listen to whole story, as this will provide more knowledge and information to act upon.

Habit 6: Synergise – It is important to bring these components together and create a cooperative approach, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We can use the information that each part brings, seeking to find the best course of action that will ensure quality results. Synergy comes from bringing together different perspectives. Don’t just rely on one way of doing something, rather be open-minded to suggestions and incorporate methods than can enhance performance.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw – The aim is to remember to take care of yourself in order to ensure that you work most effectively. Covey postulates that it is important to keep production capability and production in balance, with the notion that while you may be effectively sawing the tree currently you still need to ensure that the blade stays sharp to allow for future success. Similarly within one of the hypnosis scripts that I use one of the lines is “putting more fuel into a car will not fix an engine temperature problem”. Think about how you can maintain future production and what strategies you need to implement to allow you to be more effective. There are some great examples of this within golf, with players such as Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods, and even Rory McIlroy, while at the top of the game, winning regularly, realised that in order to reach the next level they needed to re-invent their swing. Don’t be scared to take a step backwards, in order to surpass your previous best.