Being Effective (part 1)

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (cover)
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (cover) [a]

Aloha! For this series of posts I’ll be delving into the lessons provided by Stephen R. Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The title itself is self-explanatory: the book is one out of many self-help books for individuals seeking to cultivate good behaviours and being effective – not productive – in what they do[1]. The path towards greater productivity has been greatly criticised if one has not realised (just an easy google search will produce many sources overthrowing productivity). Productivity simply does not work; in fact it distracts us from what we really want to achieve. The attempt to find ways of being more productive also fails most of the time, doesn’t it? ‘Being productive’ merely gives us more output than input or the same output with fewer units of input, but in the process of doing so, we neglect to take care of the producing capacity (I’ll get to that later) or asset that produces this output. To the extreme, we become single output-minded people pursuing endlessly for more and more; for the less disciplined or motivated of us, we get demoralised and ultimately achieve little or nothing.

Effectiveness, on the other hand, also means greater productivity, but with a sustainable idea behind it (you know, like sustainable development..?). Alternatively, if we succeed at being effective, we create a self-perpetuating or reinforcing cycle that produces greater success.

{Disclaimer: I’m not sure if I got that right, but it’s based on my admittedly superficial and shallow understanding of the concept thus far.}

Anyhow, since the book is titled the 7 HABITS of blabla, my previous post, “The Power of Habit”, or fundamentally the cue-routine-reward concept, may come in useful. This book has its own definition of habit, which is:

“the intersection of knowledge (what to do & why), skill (how to do), and desire (the motivation/want to do).”

Habit: Knowledge + Skills + Desire [b]

Covey also says that happiness is partially defined by the willingness to sacrifice or subordinate what we think we want now for what we want later – “change that is motivated by a higher purpose” – which seems rather enlightening (at least to me). When we forego the need for instant gratification for longer term, more enduring and rewarding goals, doesn’t it feel like an achievement? Both in our definition of success and self-discipline?

He then goes on to introduce the idea behind true effectiveness. He brings up an Aesop(!) fable of the Goose and the Golden Egg, delving into a deeper meaning behind this story. True effectiveness is a function of two things: what is produced (the golden eggs), and the producing asset/capacity to produce (the goose). If we are too focused on getting the golden eggs for money, forcing the goose to produce more and more, the goose may suffer in its health and eventually produce fewer and lower quality eggs. In fact the greediest of us may cut open the goose for the golden eggs, and in the end find none, and cannot have any more eggs produced. {Since I’m a student…} if we keep on cramming and memorising huge stacks of notes day and night without adequate rest and nourishment, in a bid to pass or ace our tests and exams, in a similar way we (the producing asset) may burn out and not be in our peak performance on that actual big day. At the end of the day, single-mindedly pursuing more and more output, neglecting the producing assets (either workers or yourself), is a big whoop-de-fail. Instead of seeking productivity, we should seek true effectiveness. When we want something from or through something/someone, we should care for that something/someone as well.

So hopefully I’ve summarised the ideas in just the Introduction as comprehensively as possible. Anyways the book is really a good read and understandable, with many examples and analogies to clarify certain ideas. However, reading and absorbing the contents is one thing, applying the concepts is another. Hopefully the book will strike a chord with you personally and inspire improvements of the self. The next post in this series will be on chapter 1!

The 7 Habits
The 7 Habits [c]

[a] ©

[1]: Reviews! Reviews! Reviews everywhere!: ; ;

[b] ©

[c] ©


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