Covey Habit #2 – Begin with the end in mind...

We all face the fact that our lives will end. Covey asks us to reflect on our activities of today and tomorrow in the light of this end. Having the end in mind gives insight: are the steps we take today in the right direction? You might be climbing really hard but your goal is atop of a different ladder. This is why you have to learn what your values and goals are first, in order to pick the right ladder towards your success and happiness. Covey’s second habit is about learning what values are important in your life and living accordingly. Double creation All things are created two times. 1) In the mind and 2) physical. Think about building a house: you will first create it in your mind, then in reality. When it comes to your behavior you can make the same distinction: 1) you plan how you act 2) you act. As a child you have little say in how things are done. By the time you get older a lot of designing has already taken place. How you plan and act have been determined for you to a large extent. Do not despair! There is a way out through adjustment, but it requires some work. Either you can leave your personality as designed by others, or you proactively redesign it yourself. Through self-awareness you can examine what your scripts look like and if you are satisfied with them. Be the first creator Through self-awareness you can understand the scripts that determine your current behavior. Some of these scripts do not fit the values we have in life. Conscience and imagination give you the capability to think about what a new script (or adjusted script) would...

Covey habit #1 – Why you should be Proactive...

“… Give me the courage to change the things which can and ought to be changed, the serenity to accept the things which cannot be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference.” (Covey) Unlike animals we are not our feelings, nor our moods, nor our thoughts. The fact that we can reflect on our feelings, moods and thoughts separates us from all other living creatures on this world. This ability to be self-aware gives us the opportunity to be proactive. Because we are self-aware we can look at ourselves and reflect on our way of looking at and interacting with the world. How your behavior is determined According to Stephen Covey behavior is determined by three main factors. These factors create your ‘Pavlov reaction’ through many repetitions. Genes: you inherited the character of your family; Nurture: you got your character from how your parents brought you up; Environment: you are influenced by everything in your environment (people, situations, economic and natural policies).   Our standard behavior can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yet we all know the feeling of escaping our normal reaction and surprising ourselves with personal growth. We experience this as having the freedom to determine our own behavior. Liberty and freedom Some people have more liberty than others in creating and choosing their environment. To give an extreme example we compare a free man to a man in chains. The man in chains has less liberty: he cannot position himself everywhere in the room, let alone somewhere else. He is restrained in the movements he can make. How much liberty we have does not influence our freedom. This might sound contradictory, but I will explain. We always have the freedom to choose how we respond...

A habit called personality – Covey introduction...

“A thousand-mile journey begins with the first step and can only be taken one step at a time.” This was written by Stephen Covey, in ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Efficient People’. The book is more than twenty years old, but still very high on management lists. Many people ask for his advice; even Bill Clinton wanted to know how he could use the seven habits in his presidency. In this book Covey conflates character and habits in an atypical yet interesting fashion. I think Covey has a valid point about our character: for a big part we are what we did and thought in the past. But, when we try to think about changing – our personality or our more direct habits – Covey’s focus is not always helpful. This blog is about his perspective on human beings, how we try to do the right thing and were our behavior comes from. See this blog as an introduction to a further series of blogs in which I go through Covey’s ‘seven habits’ and apply my own ideas about habits to his theory. Quick fixes versus character ethic Stephen Covey talks about two ways of fixing the problems we encounter while trying to live a happy and successful life. One is to think about our appearance and how to make a good impression on others. This approach is focused on trying to fix things quickly. It makes use of our knowledge about social appropriateness and creating a social image through techniques and knowledge of human interaction. Deeper problems that might be present are ignored (and resurface time after time). This approach is called the ‘personality ethic’. The opposite option is to work on our integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage,...

Brushing my teeth

Two weeks ago I decided to brush my teeth before breakfast. I always brush my teeth in the morning and did so for many years (longer than I can remember). The only difference is that I am used to brushing my teeth after breakfast. (If you are wondering why; I always drink orange juice and apparently you need to wait 30 minutes before brushing your teeth since this juice is so sour.)   Annoyance Small difference I thought; it is a matter of minutes.  But the stupid fact is that I only remember I intended to brush my teeth before breakfast after I ate my first bite. Obviously that was too late. Frustrating as it was, I decided to take a lesson from my own psychological insights and make an implementation intention to trigger myself. The problem Motivation and effort were not the problem: I already am used to brushing my teeth every morning, so it was only a matter of timing and finding a new trigger. I decided that putting on my make-up or doing my hair was not a good trigger, for I do this both before and after breakfast. However I do always use facial cream in the morning and before breakfast. The implementation intention My implementation intention became ‘after I close the bottle of my facial cream I will brush my teeth.’ Adding that I had to be in the bathroom, or that it would be in the morning did not make sense to me: it was too obvious. Success! Even while knowing this method to be proven, it still felt silly to actually formulate this implementation intention. However, it was successful! It triggers me to think about brushing my teeth, making me more successful...

Tales of a Thousand and One Nights...

I know a person who always intends to do lots of things and somehow doesn’t get to it. That person will be me. But I guess (and am pretty sure) that this is fairly recognizable. Willing to do something is not the problem, I really and genuinely intend to do what I plan. It just slips my mind. The problem is I just don’t remember I had an intention. In my former blog I talked about the difference between automatically and consciously started behavior. There are so many stimuli through the day and so many things to remember. It is almost special we remember to do a lot of things that are on our to-do-list. Automatic behavior can help us greatly for it makes the remembering less effortful. Unfortunately to get your desired behavior into a habit isn’t done overnights. Describe your future behavior Implementation intentions are a great way to easily remember planned behavior. They are also a great starting point for future habits. Implementation intentions are intentions that are as specific as possible. To make the remembering as easy as possible, you will have to make the circumstances of your planned behavior as clear and described as you can. This creates much higher chances of actually performing the behavior you planned (Gollwitzer, Gollwitzer and Sheeran). Try to plan where, how and when you will carry out your intended behavior (Gollwitzer, Bayer and McCulloch). Try this formula: “If situation X (where, how and when) occurs, I will demonstrate behavior Y.” All the described characteristics of the surrounding of our planned behavior serve as a reminder for the actual behavior. Optimizing: really tomorrow Making your own implementation intentions is your best option. This way chances are biggest you will...