This week, Life Training Online is reviewing First Things First: To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy, by Steven Covey, the twelfth of fifty-two books in the 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks series.

Chapter 11: The Interdependent Reality

If you think about it, everything that we identify as important in our lives has to do with others. Even seemingly independent things like “health” or “security” are sought after so that we can have more resources and time to spend with our families and friends. As Ghandi said we are social beings. Our greatest joy as well as our greatest pain comes from the relationships we have with others. It’s no surprise then that quality of life is, by nature, interdependent.

Despite the reality of life being blatantly interdependent, we still tend to see success as something of an independent achievement. But a lot of effectiveness is wasted in the “I’ll do it on my own” approach.

Functioning in an interdependent reality creates a powerful fulcrum where tremendous leverage can be found.

Chapter 12: First Things First Together

Much of our society seems scripted with a win/lose mentality. In order for us to “win”, then someone else must need to “lose”. We see this in athletics, academics, and on-the-job ranking systems. But contrary to what we might believe, “to win” doesn’t necessarily imply somebody else has to lose; it means we accomplish our objectives. And when we cooperate with each other, so many more of these objectives can be accomplished. To illustrate this, Covey shares a great analogy:

Suppose one of us were to challenge you to an arm wrestle. The objective is to win as much as you can. The time limit is 60 seconds, and we have an observer who has agreed to give the winner a dime whenever one of us gets the other one down. We’re poised and ready for action.

Now suppose for the sake of the example, that we immediately get you down. But instead of keeping you there, we immediately release the pressure and let you get us down. We quickly respond and go for another down. Out of habit, you resist. You want to win…But in the midst of the struggle, it suddenly occurs to you that each of us now has a dime. If you were to give us another win, and we gave you another win…we’d both end up winning a whole lot more. So we work together, going back and forth, back and forth quickly — and in 60 seconds we each make three dollars instead of one of us settling for ten cents.

Adopting this mindset of win/win will create amazing results in your organizations like your work, family, scout troop — whatever organization you’re involved in. It requires shared vision and synergizing the roles and goals of all involved. But it’s well worth it.

Chapter 13: Empowerment from the Inside Out

Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world. There is hardship, politicking, corruption, struggle and vicissitudes. This is part of life. However, when we begin to think that the problem is “out there,” that thought in reality becomes the problem. By casting the blame on what’s outside ourselves, we in effect give away our power. We empower the weaknesses and circumstances of other people to control us.

Principle-centered living allows us to empower ourselves. It’s what helps us to focus our energy on our Circle of Influence. We don’t point the finger or accuse, but instead see where we can use our influence to create the environment that we desire. Covey suggests three ways anyone can use their Circle of Influence to create change:

  1. Cultivate the Conditions of Empowerment:

    Empowerment doesn’t just simply happen. Effort is required to make it grow. If you want to create change in your environment of choice, you must cultivate conditions that create empowerment. This includes becoming trustworthy by being integrous and competent, looking for win-win agreements with all involved and having the ability to direct yourself — not having to be told to do every detail.

  2. Seek Feedback:

    As you’re building your character and competence, one of the highest-leverage activities you can do is to seek feedback. Seeking out feedback requires humility and courage, but the payout is well worth it. As you begin to improve upon those things that are pointed out to you, you create massive amounts of trust.

  3. Become a Leader/Servant:

    If you’re in a formal leadership role (a parent for example) what should you be spending your time doing? Being a leader/servant means that you create shared vision. Instead of micro-managing, you strengthen, coach, and mentor to help develop the capacities of those under you. You build relationships of trust. In other words, you spend time doing important, non-urgent Quadrant II activities.

Chapter 14: From Time Management to Personal Leadership

What Covey is trying to teach in this book is that this system goes beyond mere time management. It’s personal leadership. In this chapter, Covey shares some real-world examples to show how different personal-leadership is from standard time-management. I won’t go into any details with his examples (you can check out the book if you’d like to read more) but basically it shows how powerful Quadrant II living in our daily lives can be.

Chapter 15: The Peace of the Results

Peace of mind — what Covey is referring to here — is one of the characteristics that develop when living a principled-centered, Quadrant II life and putting first things first. Here are some more characteristics that people will develop:

  • They’re more flexible and spontaneous
  • They have richer, more rewarding relationships with other people
  • They’re more synergistic
  • They’re continually learning
  • They become more contribution-focused
  • They produce extraordinary results
  • They develop a healthy psychological immune system
  • They create their own limits
  • They lead more balanced lives
  • They become more confident and secure
  • They’re better able to walk their talk
  • They focus on their Circle of Influence
  • They cultivate a rich inner life
  • They radiate positive energy
  • They enjoy life more

Covey concludes with saying that as you develop the capacity to listen to conscience and plan and organize effectively to do first things first, you’ll be able to make many contributions in your life — which is ultimately why we’re here.

There is great peace that comes with principle-centered living. As Emerson said, “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”

First Things First is the twelfth of fifty-two books in Life Training – Online’s series 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks.

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