Farewell to an Inspiration… Stephen Covey

FMI Show_Palestrante_Stephen Covey by Portal Abras

I couldn’t believe what I was reading the other day. Stephen Covey had passed away due to complications from a biking accident. What?! It was inconceivable to me that the man who’d influenced my life so greatly, a man whose ideas literally changed the path I walked down could ever die. Yes, I truly believed him to be immortal. And I guess in a very big way, he is.

His ideas on effective interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships are known around the world and across all ages. Whether it’s through his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, The 8th Habit, or his son, Sean’s, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, the impact he’s made on so many lives is tremendous.

There were some dark days in my past, when going to work seemed more dangerous than swimming with sharks. Luckily, my administrator noticed how far out on the ledge I’d gotten and put Covey’s book in my hands. I swear I could hear angels singing that day. I’d been given a new way of conducting myself in my life, a shift in paradigm from the one I’d grown up believing, and I could finally breathe.

The tenets of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People can be found and understood quite easily at http://www.quickmba.com/mgmt/7hab/ . The 7 habits are:

1.Be proactive
2.Begin with the end in mind
3.Put First things first
4.Think win/win
5.First seek to understand, then to be understood
7.Sharpen the saw

When I learned that I couldn’t control how people interacted with me, but I COULD control how I responded to them, it changed my world. I no longer feel like a victim, but empowered to respond to negativity with grace and diplomacy. I understand everyone walks around with a story inside them and it’s those stories that shape the way people communicate with others.

Having a personal mission statement and setting goals allowed me the opportunity to control my destiny. I achieved new heights of professional satisfaction and personal happiness. It  has gotten me to this point in my teaching and writing career. My pie in the sky dream was to become published. Well, I am. On to the next goal- to become a best-selling multi-published author and be able to write full-time. Not there yet, but I am multi-published. Understanding that I needed to put first things first enabled me to address my professional needs and personal needs and stay focused on my mission statement.

I’ve learned to go into a problematic situation with a win/win attitude, and help others to present solutions to problems and come away with one that works for all. That wouldn’t be possible if I wasn’t able to help people to seek to understand the other person first and then seek to be understood. We don’t spend enough time listening to each other. When we do listen and check for understanding, we open the door for astounding collaboration or a deeper relationship. When I’ve employed these habits at work, what we’ve come away with is a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

I maintain a balance of all these habits, reviewing, reflecting, altering and changing as necessary.

Through Stephen Covey’s work, I’ve been able to grow as an individual and become an integral part of a team. The 7 habits have greatly improved my work life and home life. I am eternally grateful to have been given such a precious gift as his first book. The world is just a little less colorful without him in it. But his teachings are infused in so much of what we do everyday that he is, in my opinion, truly immortal.

Thank you, Stephen Covey, for all of your hard work and dedication to the betterment of society. I know I am forever changed .

A Habit of Mind – Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits

I am forever trying to figure out the human psyche. What makes people tick? So when I went to college, I chose Psychology as my major. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. But I must say, that most of my training occurred after those four formative years. Life happened. 

And with Life came a host of possible paths, crucial decisions to be made, and a determination to discover who I am  in relation to this world. Upon having a horrible time dealing with a certain group of people at one point in my teaching career, and feeling all out of sorts, an inspirational Principal showed me a path of enlightenment, Stephen Covey‘s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. After reading this first book, my path was illuminated, and I have since become a stronger, more self-assured individual who is able to help others analyze and prioritize, and shift their paradigms to a more productive path as well.

Today I thought I’d share with you Habit One- Be Proactive.  Every paradigm shift has a beginning, and here is where it began for me. See what you think. Are you already there? Or do you see an opportunity here for a positive change?

I’d like to thank http://www.whitedovebooks.co.uk/7-habits/7-habits.htm#Habit 1  for this explanation of Habit 1. How can this improve your life immediately? Think on it, and if you find yourself enthralled or intrigued, do something about it right now to make today a great day for you and others, and then go get Stephen Covey’s book…

Covey contrasts being proactive or having a proactive mentality with being reactive. Reactive people, he says, are those who are resigned to the truth that whatever they do in the present can have no effect on their circumstances. And interestingly, for reactive people, it really is a truth, for whatever we believe in our heart affects our thoughts, words and actions. If we really believe that we can do nothing about our unreasonable boss or the daily events in our lives, then we simply do not make the effort.

Proactive people, on the other hand, simply will not accept that there is nothing that can be done about the unreasonable boss or the events of daily life – they will point out that there are always choices. It is by the decisions we make, our responses to people, events and circumstances that proactive people can and do affect the future. We may have no control over what life throws at us but we always have a choice about how we are to respond.

Now this notion that having a particular attitude of mind (which is really where this habit begins) can make such a huge and positive difference to almost everything we experience in life is foreign to those who have already internalised the opposite habit as a part of their personalities. For some people, the glass is always half-empty and the feeling of melancholy is a pleasant reminder that something is indeed missing. For such people, this habit represents a bitter pill to swallow – but, says Covey, it is also completely liberating.

When we are finally prepared to accept full responsibility for the effects that are manifest in our lives; when we have the strength of character to admit it when we make mistakes (even big ones); when we are completely free to exercise the options available to us in every situation; then it can be said that we have finally internalised this habit. The other six of the habits require that we first work on our basic character by becoming proactive and thereby transforming ourselves into men and women of integrity.

Hugs and snugs,

Habit 7- Sharpening the Saw

Practice makes perfect, right? Or as near to perfect as we can get! Well, the same holds true with how we conduct ourselves throughout life. So as we continue to make these HABITS ingrained in our lives, sometimes we need a little pick-me-up, a refresher, to help us through really difficult times or just to check an dsee if we are really adhering to the tenets of living effectively.

So, just as a saw’s blade gets dull and needs to be sharpened, so do we have to hone our skills of living in the habits of mind. That’s what Habit 7 is all about.

The following is taken from a WONDERFUL website, http://www.whitedovebooks.co.uk/7-habits/7-habits.htm, where you can learn more about the habits and purchase Stephen Covey’s books along with other great books:

Spiritual Exercise
Let us begin by considering Spiritual Exercise – this is the area which is perhaps the most misunderstood. I believe that, in the west, we have become spiritually blind. The progress of our science, education and technology has lead us to construct a view of the world and the universe that excludes the agency of God. Freud famously said that it was man that made God ‘in the image of his father’. It is, of course, a very clever statement and not one I wish to here challenge – whether this statement or the reverse is true is for you to decide. However, as the west has, by and large, abandoned faith in the creator God, so it has simultaneously abandoned the idea that life has any meaning or purpose; and it is purpose and direction in life that this habit refers to as Spiritual Exercise. Of course, if you are a religious person, then there will be a tie-up here with your personal faith; however, if you are not religious, don’t also abandon the idea that life holds a special purpose for you.

To exercise spiritually, I recommend that you consider engaging in some form of meditation. Meditation involves regularly sitting in a relaxed position and thinking about nothing for a period of about 10 or 15 minutes. Why this practice should bring about any material benefits is an interesting question. You might consider that you relax your mind quite enough when you sleep, but it turns out that we don’t really relax our minds when we sleep. The brain is active during sleep – during REM sleep, the brain appears to be processing information. Though it is not yet known exactly what it is doing, the brain is certainly not passive and so the mind is not relaxed during sleep. Meditation is the practice of disciplining the mind, It is difficult to do at first, but if you stick with it, positive health benefits will follow.

Making use of Jack Black’s House on the Right Bank is an excellent tool for combining what is really guided meditation with the practice of regularly reviewing your mission, your roles and your goals; and that is what Stephen Covey means when he talks about spiritual exercise – the regular, review and preview of the things that are most important to you in life. These are the first things that you must define in habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind.

Physical Exercise
Regular aerobic, physical exercise is essential for health, energy and a feeling of well-being. Naturally, you should always consult your doctor or physician before you embark upon any course of physical exercise; and it should be obvious that such professional advice as may be given, should always be taken into account.

To practice this part of Habit 7 requires that you commit to at least three sessions of at least twenty minutes per week. If you are not already engaged in this sort of exercise, you will find that after a period of about six weeks, you will feel much better, much healthier and indeed your body will become more efficient at processing oxygen – which is the key to energy.

Mental Exercise
Ask yourself these questions. What am I doing to sharpen my mind? Am I engaged in a programme of education or learning of some kind? What am I doing to improve my professional knowledge?

How you should go about this part of the habit is, of course, for you to decide, but you should ensure that you are reading regularly. What should you read? Naturally you want to put in the good stuff – so it’s not a case of reading for its own sake; it is reading carefully selected material which allows you to broaden and deepen your understanding.

You will naturally be paying particular attention to the important areas you defined in habit 2, but you should also consider reading all the great works of literature and also ancient wisdom literature which includes books like The Psalms and Proverbs..

This part is not really a discipline, as are the other three parts, it is really a commitment; and for me, I make the commitment during the spiritual part of the habit, that is, during a meditation. It is simply to commit to approaching inter-personal relationships by making use of habits 4, 5 and 6.

Even if people approach me making use of language, actions, or behaviour which I personally believe to be inappropriate, my commitment is to not react, but to use my proactive capacity to engage in the exercise of habits 4, 5 and 6 which I believe will lead to the best possible outcome in such circumstances.

Further Reading

The 8th Habit
7 Habits of Highly Effective Families
7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens
Biography of Stephen Covey

I wish you all peace and effective living!These are 7 Habits we don’t need to break! :D

Habit 4 – Win-Win

We have been conditioned to believe that compromise is how we get along. That in any relationship, each of us has to give up something. Sounds rather negative, doesn’t it? We go into each and every relationship with the full knowledge we will be giving up something. This way of thinking leads directly to years of pent-up resentment if we’re not careful. If we don’t communicate effectively. I am going to suggest to you a shift in your thinking, another paradigm shift.

Instead of thinking, “What must I give up” or “How much do I have to give in” why not think about how much you’re getting? Why not think about what each of you gains from working together toward the  same goal? What do I win? What do you win? How do we make this situation win-win? When we look at situations in this way, we are allowing our minds to be open to all possibilities and solutions to problems. Creative problem-solving leads to a win-win scenario.

I hope you employ this habit the next time you find yourself in a situation at work or at home that requires creative problem solving. Remember to point out to others how everyone benefits from the agreed upon solution.


Habit 3- Putting First Things First

Habit 3 is all about time management. It is so important to identify those elements in our lives that demand our attention and prioritize them so we can accomplish our goals throughout the day. Covey makes a quadrant for us to consider to help us effectively put our responsibilities in their proper place, assigning them the right level of importance and urgency. Everyone demands of us our time and energy on their issues: our family, our workplace, our friends. The quadrant helps us determine who and what to focus on first.

Check this out, from http://beanoriginal.net/coveys_habit_3_/:


Q1: the stress quadrantEisenhowermatrix

  • This is the important and urgent quadrant.
  • This is where you find the the crises, projects close to their deadlines, urgent problems and so on.
  • The strategy: Do Now!
  • It needs to be done, and it needs to be done fast!

Q2: the value quadrant

  • This is important, but not urgent.
  • This is where you find education, working on your vision, investing in people and so on.
  • The strategy: Schedule time.
  • It needs to be done, plan time to do it before it gets urgent.

Q3: the deception quadrant

  • It is urgent, but not important.
  • This is where you find most interruptions, some meetings, other people’s chores.
  • The strategy: Delegate.
  • It needs to be done fast, but are you the one that needs to do it?

Q4: the regret quadrant

  • It neither important nor urgent
  • This is where you find pass-times, some phone calls (you know them), the “too much” activities (too much television, too much internet).
  • The strategy: Eliminate
  • And why were you doing this again?


Think about yesterday and what needed to get done. Then consider everyone who impacted your day with questions and  needs you had to attend to. Place each of your activities and tasks on the quadrant above and see exactly where they fit. When you are able to categorize everyone’s needs, including your own, you are able to deal with first things first. Those items that are most important and most urgent are found in Quadrant 1. That is where you must begin to handle your issues to be most effective.

Now, mind you, people may come up to your desk at work, or your kids may come up to you at home with a matter that THEY feel is most urgent and important to THEM. You should validate that. And then determine where their issue fits on  your quadrant. See where you can place it to be the most effective to help them and to help yourself. For example, I may have an issue at work such as a conflict with a team member. I will tell my boss about it, asking for help. My boss will then have to consider where this conflict falls in the realm of urgent and important to the jammed-packed day that is scheduled. For me, it may be the only thing I can think about. For him, he’s got budgets and interviews and proposals maybe to go through. Only he can determine if my issue should come FIRST. Is the breakdown of a relationship between his staff more important than what he’s got on his plate right now, and urgent enough to drop those things to mend our broken fence? IT MAY BE. Or it may not. He may say, “Come on in and we’ll talk”, or “Can you come back in an hour?”

At home, as you are busily going about your business, your kids will come to you with their own URGENT/IMPORTANT issues. We must sort through them and blend them with our own.  The key is to put first things first. If starting dinner is most urgent and important, then dealing with your daughter’s friend crisis can wait until the water is set on the stove to boil. Even if she spends the entire time of you filling up the pot with water whining or such, dinner won’t get made if the water doesn’t get put on the stove to boil. Put first things first.

To be most effective in your life, it is best to stay mainly in Quadrant 1 and 3. Dealing with urgent and important matters both professionally and personally. Sometimes the two overlap and heavy decisions need to be made. One life will impact on the other. You must decide what comes first in your life. then attend to those needs requiring your immediate attention. This usually happens when a job wants to transfer you to another location or children, spouses, or other family members become ill and you must take care of them. You determine what comes first in  your life and plan accordingly. 

I hope this gives you much food for thought as we work towards creating a balanced, happy life.

Have a wonderful weekend!

A Habit of Mind – #2 Begin With The End In Mind

A couple of weeks ago, I presented Stephen Covey‘s first habit, Be Proactive. Today I’m going to talk about his second habit, Begin With the End in Mind. As a school teacher, I learned long ago that Backward Design was the best way to plan lessons. In Backward Design, you begin with an essential question and create the last part of the lesson, an assessment and rubric first. Then you build lessons that lead up to the assessment. Makes a hell of a lot of sense, actually, to know IN THE END what you want your students to take away from their experience.

Now let’s turn to our lives in general. If we BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND, we always know where we are headed. We know what our light is at the end of the tunnel. We have a direction. This is the time for dream-building, folks. Write that dream you have down on paper. Then under that dream, list the steps it’s going to take to make that dream a reality. Under each step, there are what I call, sub-steps, or smaller identifiable actions that need to be taken in order to say that particular step has been accomplished. When you have these items WRITTEN DOWN, you can then begin to work on achieving your dreams.

Let me use myself as an example. I’ve always had a proclivity toward writing. Back east, I had already begun writing poetry and submitting to vanity presses, not knowing any better. When we moved out to Arizona, I continued. No real direction, just something to do  to express myself. But one day, after read hoards and hoards of books over the summer, an idea niggled at the back of my mind. I acknowledged it, laughed, and then ignored it. But it came back.There was no ignoring a story percolating in my head nor the insane notion that I could write something as scary as a novel. However, I thought, how does one do it? Where do I begin? WITH THE END IN MIND!

After I got over the initial excitement of deciding to write a novel, I relied on the Habits of Mind, especially Number 1, BE PROACTIVE, to focus my energies. After all, what was I really doing here? Just playing around? I had to decide. For fun or for real and for the rest of my life? It took a bit to consider what my goal really was, but in the end, I had come to the determination that fun was definitely a huge factor, but also, I wanted to start writing seriously and do it for the rest of my life. I decided that Spring Break would be a perfect time to start. My kids were in school all week. I had a week of uninterrupted time to launch my writing.

So I got a piece of paper, wrote down my dream: I want to be a successful author.

And just how was I to do that? Well, step number one: I had to write something! Step number two: I had to research what it was to become an author. Step number three: I had to scope out a quiet place for myself to write and alert my family that I would be missing for hours at a time, but not to worry. They would learn how to fold clothes and cook. Step number four: Join a writing association. Step number five: Submit my work. Step number six: Learn about promotions and marketing. Step number seven: Keep writing.

As you might have guessed, each step to reach my dream had a variety of substeps. I didn’t let them scare me, though. There’s no time or place for fear if I wanted to do my damnedest to make my dream a reality. I JUST STARTED, and put a check next to each step I completed. That’s right. I dug right in to writing, because if I wanted to be successful, I needed to have something to share with the world. When I wasn’t writing, I was exploring the internet for information about the publishing world. I plowed through that list of steps like nobody’s business, and I came alive. I changed from a frustrated, stuck professional woman to one that was excited about work again. Thrilled by the unknown. Jazzed up by the creative energy coursing through me.

I’m living steps number seven and eight right now. Having TRINITY releasing on Tuesday, March 22nd has tested my knowledge of promotions and marketing. If I don’t know something, I seek out the answers. And I continue to write, because I have stories in me that must come out.

Can you see how Habit 1 and Habit 2 go together so beautifully? Once I had a dream, I was proactive and did something about it. I wrote down my dream and steps to achieve it. Then I acted upon those steps. I haven’t felt “stuck” in my life  since reading Stephen Covey’s Habits of Highly Effective People. The hardest part for anyone is actively making a change, shifting our paradigm of thought.

YOU CAN DO THIS, TOO! Just follow Habits 1 and 2 and you will see and feel a difference in how you view  and live in your world. And if you click on Stephen Covey’s name above, it will take you to his website.