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Covey's 7 habits of Highly Effective People

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Steven Covey's stuff is about developing 'habits' that can make us more effective in whatever life-goals we are trying to achieve. Alot of the stuff was derived from a 'business' model, and is a bit 'American' if you know what I mean- you'll find Covey's books in the 'Business & Management' section of WH Smith as well as the 'self- help' section- which made me quite resistant at first- but if you too harbour those sort of prejudices it's worth overcoming them and checking out his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People where you will find much that can be transfered to permacultural practice.

SummaryEdit

Most of us (by 'us' I mean society at large) have learned habits through our culture, upbringing, etc that tend to make us ineffective, we tend to focus on problems, get caught up with 'negative' campaigning, don't manage our time effectively, behave competitively, etc, etc. Covey argues that just as these 'bad' habits have been learned and become ingrained, we can learn and develop 'good habits' that increase our chances of being effective within our lives, and in achieving both personal and public 'victory'.

  • HABIT 1; Be proactive, or 'seek to act before you are acted upon'.

This is about being being PROactive rather than REactive, and introduces the idea of 'circles of concern' and 'circles of influence'. We are all CONCERNED about many things, war in Iraq, nuclear power, global warming might be examples, but many of these we can't directly influence or do much about. If however we tend to focus our enegies and time on the things we CAN directly influence (our own gardens, local food sourcing, local community projects, personal relationships, etc), our circles of influence will tend to expand outwards. To me this principle mirrors very much the permaculture tool of Zoning (and the diagram in Covey's book resembles it too!), where we remember Mollisons quote about 'start at the end of your nose', and focus our energies on the things closest to the house or that is closest to us.

  • HABIT 2; Begin with the end in mind-

This principle is about visualising where we want to get to- research has shown that most high achieving athletes, etc, have very clear and detailed visualisations of themselves crossing the finishing line. It's also about being 'principle centred'- working from core ethics and beliefs rather than more short term motivations like money, imeadiate pleasure, status, etc. So habit 2 asks us to spend time developing a very clear vision of where we want to go and why- in effect to develop a personal 'Mission Statement'. Again, parallels with the 'What is your long term goal?' question used in Permaculture Action Learning sessions (and the one we are meant to spend the most time addressing during AL sessions...).

  • HABIT 3; Put First Things First-

Based upon effective time management. Basically how we use our time can be broken down into four categories or quadrants; Tasks that are URGENT and IMPORTANT (crises, pressing problems, deadline driven projects) Tasks that are NOT URGENT and IMPORTANT (forward planning, relationship building, establishing routine maintainance systems, focusing on principles (eg, creating mission staement or vision support, adequate recreation and self care, etc, etc) Tasks that are URGENT but NOT IMPORTANT (interuptions, some phone calls, some meetings, etc) Tasks that are NOT URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT (trivia, 'looking busy', wasting time, office gossiping, computer games, etc). Most peolpe tend to spend their time in quadrants 1, 3 & 4, leading to short term fixes, crisis management culture and 'putting out fires' at best. Effective time management OTOH is about putting most of our efforts into quadrant 2, ie, spending lots of time designing effective support systems. Again parralel to the permaculture 80:20 principle, ie, that we spend 80% of our energy in designing and setting up a robust and durable system and 20% maintaining it, rather than 20% setting up and 80% maintaining as is the 'destructoculture' norm.

  • HABIT 4; Think Win Win.

Look for mutually benefical relationships where everybody benefits. Co-operation not competition, not just as a happy side effect in some situations, but as a fundemental core value in all dealings with others. PC equivalent- guilds and stacking and beneficail associations.

  • HABIT 5: Seek To Understand Before You Seek To Be Understood. IOW

Learn to listen to others, and truly understand their point of view. Properly, not just make assumptions about what you THINK others think, nor to be prejudicial. Again, listening isn't always a skill that comes easily to us in this culture, but listening skills can be learned- but of course us permaculture designers all know that don't we through our design client interviews, Action Learning support group methods and of course the good ol' Think & Listen tool...

  • HABIT 6: Synergise.

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. When we come from a 'win:win' paradign and learn to listen to the other person, not only do we create mutaully relationships that are beneficail to both parties, often we can create something that is much better for all. Just as flour, eggs, water, oil, sugar and dried fruit are all very well and good on their own, bring them together in the right way and you create a delicious cake! Again, parallels with PC principles- it's not the number of elemnts but the number of benefical connections that can be made between them... Also edge.

  • HABIT 7: Sharpen The Saw. IOW peoplecare or self-care.

Covey tells the story of a woodsman he met cutting down a tree. The man was exhausted and straining away with a saw that was getting blunter and blunter. Covey said, "why don't you stop to sharpen your saw?" The man replied breathlessly, "I can't, I havn't got the time..." Covey reminds us that to be trully effective we have to 'balanced self- renewal', paying attention to self care in areas such as spiritual, mental, emotional and physical development.

Further readingEdit

  • The Seven habits of Highly Effective People' - Steven Covey

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