Many know the best selling business title “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R Covey. People live by the habits and can name them easily, although how many remember the first part of the book the very essence.
Covey could see that much had been written about Personality Ethic in self help books, how to improve time management, communication and other outside skills. He believed that you needed to start from the inside, you needed to change your character first.
The book starts with him describing him and his wife worrying about their son. They can see that he is not doing well academically or on the sporting field. They realise after a long period that there is nothing wrong with their son, it is their perception and other people’s perceptions. They need to work on their own characters to see their son differently. It took a long time of understanding that they were looking at the measure of success for parenting shared by others and themselves and not loving their son’s uniqueness.
Real change comes from the inside out. Trying to master external techniques without altering your thinking and yourself as a person, will not bring many fruits.
Other examples of working on the inside out approach are:-
- To create a happier marriage, be the person who creates the positive energy needed to create a happier marriage instead of empowering negative energy
- If you want to have a more cooperative and pleasing teenager, be a more understanding, empathic and loving parent.
- If you want people to trust you more, be more trustworthy to people.
The inside-out approach says that it is futile to try to accomplish better relationships (something external) without having changed the internal (your character).
The character ethic is based on the idea that there are fundamental principles to live your life by eg. 10 commandments. Values are more personal and also define your character.
- Thou shall not steal – (principle)
- Honesty (value)
We can work on our attitudes and behaviours, however Covey says far better to look at paradigms “perceptions, assumptions our frame of reference”. Another way to look at paradigms is to see them as maps. They can be split into two categories “The way things really are “Reality”…and “The way things should be …”Values”.
We see our own paradigms not as it is but as we are. What we see is highly interwoven as to who we are. Being is seeing. We can’t go very far to change our seeing without simultaneously changing our being.
In order to improve ourselves we look within and work on our character and our paradigms. To make a major change we may need a paradigm shift. If the paradigm is the lens through which we see the world the shift might be instant or it maybe slow and deliberate process.
Examples of paradigms shifts:-
- email replacing the way we communicated before
- Photographic film to digital
The book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is about a principle centred, character based “inside out” approach to personal and interpersonal effectiveness. “Inside out” means to start with self, your paradigms, your character and your values. It is futile to put personality ahead of character, you will never improve a relationship unless you improve yourself first.