Monday, May 9, 2011

Book Club: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Oh, how I love the idea of starting with the end in mind! This principle has truly revolutionized my life since I first read this chapter seven or so years ago. (As a side note, I only read the first three habits long ago, which all help one move toward independence. Maybe now I'll be ready for the last four habits and can move toward interdependence!).

For better and worse, I have integrated this idea deep into my very being. When I plan something, I habitually start with the end vision first, whether it's a birthday party, a wedding, an online course, or my life. Even if I plan a staff meeting, I think, "What do I want people to walk away thinking, feeling, or doing?" Further, Teach For America includes this idea as the first of their "Teaching As Leadership" pillars: Set big goals.

Although I didn't actually complete the exercise, I cried when I thought about my own funeral and what I would want people to say about me. It's such a powerful way to think about one's life. I agree with Covey that "it's incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover it's leaning against the wrong wall. It is possible to be busy--very busy--without being very effective."

The idea of "scripts" really resonated with me, too. I have had to work really hard to break free of the scripts handed to me by family and society. It's something I still struggle with, and it makes sense that they "rise out of our deep vulnerabilities, our deep dependency on others and our needs for acceptance and love, for belonging, for a sense of importance and worth, for a feeling that we matter."

I like the idea of writing a personal mission statement, so that our values and principles shape our actions instead of the scripts handed to us from places outside of ourselves. Of course our values and principles are shaped by the family from which we come and the society in which we live, but we have agency to choose which values and principles we want to align our lives with.

So now I need to revisit the mission statement I wrote a few years ago. It's something like: "I live to develop in myself and inspire in others environmental consciousness, honest and nurturing interpersonal interactions, and an active commitment to make the world more just for all." I'll save that for another post. In the meantime, here's the family mission statement that Matt and I came up with.

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ErikaM said...

Oh no, I'm getting behind. I finished the 2nd chapter, but I didn't make any comments. I'll read it today at lunch and tonight (not a fast reader)!

kacey said...

Ack I fell behind too! (and am behind in commenting...) I go both ways on starting with the end's important to know what you care about and to work toward that cause, but I think being overly driven toward one goal can shut out a lot of other possibilities. For me, being open has given me a clarity I couldn't have dreamed of when starting my career. So, I guess I'd advocate focused flexibility? BTW, I often use the eulogy tactic when motivating myself to lead an active and meaningful life. A little narcissistic, but definitely effective!

Kate S. said...

I, too, fell behind in my reading/posting, but this is really important to me so I'm hoping to catch up tonight and tomorrow. I am really enjoying this book and eating up every thought (which is why it's taking me so long to read!) and post by Sara and everyone else.

I LOVED the idea of thinking about my funeral and what I would like to have meant to the world. It's not a mission statement, but I've often thought that my purpose in life is to do "something great enough that it's worthy of being written about in a book" so I'm hoping to use Covey's suggestions throughout this chapter to clarify this and my other values a little more and mold them into a personal mission statement. Sara, I'm really inspired by yours as well as your family mission statement so my husband and I are going to try and plan a mini-family retreat to talk about this stuff and put it down on paper.

I also liked this chapter's discussion of leadership vs. management. Lately, I've been caught up in the management aspect of my job, but not embracing my own leadership potential. I really liked the quote by Drucker and Bennis, "Management is doing this right; leadership is doing the right things." As I set off on my job hunt, I've been inspired to think about my skills as a manager, but my talents as a leader. Interesting stuff!

Lastly, I also appreciated the section on identifying "your center." I think my center shifts a lot, which means that it's not truly principle focused. But as Covey stated, "Whatever is at the center of our life will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom, and power" so I need to go back to identifying my principles and think about my first creation. :-)

Katie Z said...

I am sorry for being MIA for a few weeks, I finally had time to do some catch up on the plane yesterday so I’m eager to get back on track. Sarah, I was really interested in seeing your reaction to this chapter because you can see that it is something you really value from your blogs. My first experience with this concept actually came about 3 years ago now when I was planning a wedding (and reading your blog) and taking a leadership class where we were writing a personal mission statement. That wedding never happened and I think that this concept is a big reason why although I may not have realized it then. For me, the end I had in mind for my life, my mission, just didn’t mesh well with the person I was supposed to marry and as a result I just couldn’t figure out how to make it work.

That mission statement that I wrote back then, has had a huge impact on the direction of my life. For the first time I very clearly identified what I value and how I want to be in the world. The decisions that I have made in my career and in my volunteer roles since then have been heavily guided by my mission. What I realized, however, as I was reading this chapter is that my mission is all about my career and my interaction with my community. I completely left my personal roles out of the equation. I spent little time thinking about how my individual future including my health, my relationship and my interaction with my family play into my goals to make a difference in the world through my work and volunteering. When I try to put myself into the equation I almost feel selfish.

I think I may need to start to explore some of my personal “scripts” to help me to understand why I have such a hard time adding myself into this equation and how to move past it. So my key takeaways from this chapter include:
-Use Coveys tool to think about more of my roles and what I would like the outcome of those roles to look like
-Revisiting my mission statement and adding some additional roles into it
-Examining the scripts that make me hesitant to take on any role that I perceive as a traditional caretaker

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