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This week, Life Training Online is reviewing The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey, the fifth of fifty-two books in the 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks series.

Having achieved the “private victory” with Habits 1 – 3, you now have the foundation necessary to move on to the more difficult “public victory”. The public victory happens when you learn to integrate Habits 4 – 6 into your life: Think Win/Win; Seek First to Understand, then be Understood; and Synergy.

Today I’ll be covering these three as well as the final and 7th Habit: Sharpen the Saw — the habit of renewal.

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

If you can achieve the private victory through living Habits 1 – 3, you would have made quite an accomplishment in personal effectiveness that not too many people reach. However, to reach quantum levels in effectiveness, you must learn to work with others. This is where the Habits 4-6 come into play. And Habit 4, thinking win/win, is just the beginning.

Thinking win/win requires quite a paradigm shift in thinking for many people. Because our culture’s basis is competition — which in its own right is not a bad thing — it often triggers a belief in the scarcity mindset. This belief that there just isn’t enough to go around can be extremely self limiting.

Thinking win/win is the first step in understanding that someone doesn’t always have to lose in order for you to win. By having this as your dominant mindset, you are constantly seeking out opportunities for mutual benefit in your personal and professional lives.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then be Understood

To be a truly influential person, you must first be influenceable. What this means is that you must learn to give of yourself, both your attention and your empathy, in order to fully understand another.

For example, when communicating, most people are either talking or thinking about what they are going to talk about next. This isn’t effective listening at all and turns into what Covey refers to as the “dialogue of the deaf”. It is more effective to listen actively and empathetically, consciously trying to understand and see the world from the other person’s viewpoint.

This has amazing power to influence others. When they realize that you intimately understand them by becoming in a sense “vulnerable” yourself, the whole dynamic changes and you open doors to willing cooperation — the essence of the next habit:

Habit 6: Synergy

Synergy is the capstone of all of the previous habits. When you have successfully applied all the others — especially habits 4 and 5 — synergy occurs naturally.

Synergy is defined as when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and you see this frequently throughout nature. For example, when you burn a bundle of wood you’ll produce more heat for a longer period then if you were to burn each one separately — adding up the resulting BTUs over a distinct time period. Also, many species of plant can be found growing together, sharing both root space and soil. This creates an overall stronger bond and more nutrient-rich soil than they originally would have had, had they grown separately.

When this is pursued with others, the result of the cooperation will exceed the sum of what each of the members could have achieved on their own. As a side note, it’s interesting that you can see Covey walking his talk by virtue of his partnership with Franklin Quest what is now known as FranklinCovey. Together they are able to produce more value to more people than working individually.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

This is the habit of self-renewal and encompasses and supports all other habits. Just as any tool requires regular maintenance in order to function at its peak, you — the saw — require regular renewal or “sharpening” to remain most effective.

This involves regularly exercising the three dimensions which make up the human condition: your body, your mind and your spirit. This includes maintaining physical fitness through regular exercise, mental growth through continual learning, and spiritual development through studying the “wisdom literature” of the ages (The Bible, Bhagavad-Gita etc.).

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is the fifth of fifty-two books in Life Training – Online’s series 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks.

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