Covey #7 – Four dimensions to renew your character...

“I don’t have time to sharpen the saw,” the man says emphatically. “I’m too busy sawing.” (Covey)  Sometimes we are so busy achieving a goal we forget to look for easier ways to achieve it. According to Covey there are four areas you need to focus on to ‘sharpen your saw’, or improve your character. Why is it so hard to focus on improving your method or technique? Because you will often feel rushed to arrive at your destination and therefore forget to even look at the road you are travelling. Living with a constant sense of urgency creates the feeling that you have no time to improve your method of getting there. Four dimensions to sharpen Covey distinguishes four areas where you can develop your character and wellbeing to renew your character. Physical dimension: care for your physical body.  Eat the right foods, get enough rest, and exercise regularly. Physical wellbeing usually only feels urgent when you do not take care of yourself for a longer period of time and start to gain weight, feel exhausted or unhealthy. But that is too late. Spiritual dimension: take time regularly to think about your values and goals. What are your goals and are you on your way towards reaching them? If your values and goals are not right, how can the actions that proceed out of them be right? Find a regular moment of inner peace to reflect on your values and goals. You might think about meditation, listening to music, or walking. Mental dimension: most people stop learning when they finish school. What we don’t stop with is watching TV: numbers vary between an average of 20 to 35 hours a week per person. This comes down to 2.8...

Covey #6 – Synergize – how to make 1 plus 1 equal 3...

Making one plus one equal three or even more, that is what synergy is about. Basically, synergizing is a combination of thinking win/win and understanding the other. Covey adds one aspect to these earlier discussed habits: we need to understand, seek and appreciate the differences. 3 things you need to keep in mind to synergize Your worldview is not objective. Everyone has different experiences and these experiences shape how we view the world. Realizing this is the case for your worldview too is necessary for creating synergy. Be different. New perspectives and insights can cause your worldview to change. If someone thinks exactly like you it is hard to achieve new insights through conversation. If you and your colleague or friend have different points of view it is worthwhile to understand where the differences come from. Appreciate the difference. Besides recognizing the other has a different point of view also appreciate this other perspective. The other must have good reasons to think this way, so try to understand and learn from him. Ask why the other is choosing his position instead of assuming his position to be nonsense beforehand. A limitation I would like to add Covey suggests that differences are not logical, they are psychological. I suppose this means you and I have different experiences and hence see the world differently. There is a more philosophical and deeper problem behind different experiences that might partly go together with this idea, but also complicates it. There are a few questions we will never be capable of answering. An easy example is the question whether God exists or not. We cannot prove he does, neither can we prove he does not. But you have an idea about that, just like...

Covey #5 – Seek first to understand, then to be understood...

There is a common tendency to try and fix things with ‘good’ advice. Things are not your problem and yet you immediately associate the problem with your own experiences and before you know you blurt out an advice. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? But how helpful is such an advice? And do you ever take it to heart? Our education has taught us how to read, write and speak. But who was ever educated in listening? I was, when I studied psychology, but that might be considered a bit late. The people around me had already suffered twenty years of me not listening to them properly! Psychology only taught me techniques; it did not teach me how I could really hear the other person. Covey explicitly puts a focus on listening by heart, which goes further than techniques can take you. Another person – your lover, employee or someone you just met – will notice that you are sincerely interested if he or she experiences that you are listening honestly. Only by listening sincerely will you notice the true feelings and ideas of your friend or colleague. And only this will help you give him or her the best possible advice. Mistaking talking for listening Do you ever wonder if you are listening sincerely? When you often give one of the following replies when talking to someone, you are probably doing anything but listening: “I went through the very same thing. Let me tell you about my experience.” “Oh, I know exactly how you feel.” How can you understand the other with a few words and reply with an entire story? Simple: you can’t! Most times, you try to understand someone else by relating his story to your own experiences....

Covey #4 – think win/win...

“Win/Win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win/Win means that agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial, mutually satisfying. With a Win/Win solution, all parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan. Win/Win sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena.” (Covey) This blog describes the different frames we can choose in our negotiations with others. The frame that is chosen influences the way we negotiate with others when both parties desire different outcomes or routes and is thus highly important. Covey talks in terms of frameworks, not of action or habits. This makes it hard to understand how one could use his insights in order to improve oneself. Therefore, I will formulate Covey’s arguments in terms of habits, to make it easier to implement them in our daily lives. Frame 1: the most wanted frame… 1. The win/win frame is based on the idea that there is enough room for everyone to be successful, we do not need to see our career as a competition. With this frame one does not focus on ‘your way’ or ‘my way’ but on ‘our way’. Frame 2: the most common frame 2. According to Covey most people are brought up with a win/lose frame, that has a focus on either ‘my way’ or loosing. Winning from someone else might be achieved by using power, position, possessions, personality or credentials. When you are in a win/lose frame you will only feel appreciated if you do as expected, or do better than others. Thinking in terms of win/lose makes us feel compared to others all the time. People with different capacities and different backgrounds are compared as if...

Covey intermezzo – emotional banking...

Last week we visited a good friend of mine in Stockholm. He lives in a nice (small) apartment and we could use his bedroom the entire week while he slept on his couch. A comfortable couch, but still… He has slept over at our house many times as well. We live in an even smaller apartment and our cat is usually inspecting him all night. Maybe we should offer him our bed too the next time? The main point is that we never rejected each other a good night of sleep, even when we had to work early when the other wanted to sleep late, when one was tired and the other not, or when busy schedules interfered with the time we could spend together.We always manage to keep into account the needs and wishes of the other.  If either one of us would not be able to do that, it would probably change our contact. Emotional banking Covey compares our relationships to an (emotional) bank account: you can withdraw money only after depositing or you will be in debt. To explain emotional banking, Covey uses the example of the relationship of a mother to her teenage child. If we only ask a child to do chores and tell it what not to do we are left with a small deposit. Improvement of a relationship does not happen instantly after depositing a first amount (after going to the movies once, or eating ice cream together once). A bank does not trust you by one good example either. (Re)building relations and trust takes time. You should keep this in mind when fostering relations that are new or that were not that good. Covey talks about six important deposits to improve...

Covey habit #3 – put the first things first...

Putting first things first Everybody has tasks s/he does not like. Recognizing when these tasks are so important they have become ‘the first thing’ and doing them first is what disciplined people do. But being disciplined is also about not doing tasks when they do not have priority. Covey thinks we should discipline ourselves. Does being disciplined make the tasks more fun? No! Only with a clear direction in mind will we find the strength to do the things we do not like and create time for those things we actually want to do. Climbing the right ladder is the first step. Once we are on the right ladder, the right technique might help us move faster. Habit number three is about how to climb once we know for certain we are climbing the right ladder. It is about living habit one and two every day. The urgent versus the important You should question yourself regularly whether the matter you are turning your attention to is urgent or important, or maybe both. Urgent matters are usually visible, they press on you. They are calling for action. You should wonder if the matter is urgent to you, or to other people. And if it is urgent to other people, do you want to put time and effort into it? Important matters are directed to your goals and values. Goals and values are less visible and hence less pressing. That is why you need more proactivity to get closer to your goals. It is about preparation and being prepared. It is about looking for opportunity instead of solving problems. Time management According to Covey the first generations of time management tools (notes, checklists, calendars and prioritization) are focused on those things...