Live with a Purpose Bigger than Yourself

The book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” have been a best-selling book in business for many years. Even before I came to the US, its Chinese translated copy has been selling well in China. However, I am never a big fan of books with titles like “7 habits of xxx”, “3 golden rules…”, “5 ways to achieve…”, etc. I feel like they all offer quick-fixed approaches without tapping into the essence behind problems. Well, I am wrong for assuming that, at least for this book.

The author, Stephen Covey, firmly advocates principles centered life versus character oriented life. I stand by the seven habits, or principles he put forward, especially the first three. Let’s review them together.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Take initiative. Work on things in your circle of influence, not circle of concerns. Make small commitments and keep them. As we make commitments and keep our promises, we gradually develop a stronger sense of self-control that gives us more courage to accept more responsibility.

Rings true. Sometimes you complain: you feel powerless, you feel like you can’t do anything to change. This might be the case since you focus too much attention and energy on “circles of concerns” – things you are worried about but can do very little to alter. For instance, you are about to graduate but the economy is not doing well and unemployment rate is high. You can barely do much to improve the economic situation of the country, but you can do everything you can to improve your own skill sets and make yourself competitive in the job market.

Spend more time and energy on “circles of influence” – things you can make an impact on.

Habit 2: Begin with the end in Mind

This is my biggest take-away from this book: be goal-oriented. It resonates with lots of books I read or even movies that I watched. For example, the movie “The Secret” tells us how imaging achieving your goal in your mind will assist you reaching your goal more quickly.

The author argues that everyone should write a personal statement – a higher purpose to live for: what you would like to achieve in your life, in family, in your career, relationship, with friends, etc. In other words, how would you like other people to remember you at the end of the day. We should live our lives with a purpose. Something to look up to when you are confused. An effective goal concentrates on the results rather the activities. Many of us are troubled and concerned about trivia in life. However, if you constantly review your personal statement, you are less likely to be concerned with unimportant things, because you know it won’t harm much on your way to your goal.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

This one is about prioritization in time management.

Let’s start with a question: What one thing could you do in your personal and professional life that, if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your life? We will come back to this question later.

Things in our daily life are categorized in the following areas: urgent and important; not urgent and important, not important and urgent, and not important and not urgent.

Most of time, I spent way too much time on things that are urgent and important/urgent and not important. I was driven by how urgent a matter is. I become problem-minded.  However, it is argued, and I absolutely agree, that the heart of effective personal management should be things that are not urgent but important: building relationships, writing a personal statement, long-range planning, exercising, preventive maintenance, preparation.

For me, exercising, practicing writing, and networking are definitely two important things that I need to focus on. They are important but not urgent. However, in the long run, they will contribute tremendously to my personal and professional life.Fortunately, I have started exercising regularly, writing my personal statement, planning my blog strategy and looking for more networking events.

Habit 4 Think Win/Win

I endorse the definition of maturity as defined in this book:

Maturity is the balance between courage and consideration. Maturity is “the ability to express one’s own feelings and convictions balanced with consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others.”

Habit 5 Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Habit 6, Synergize

Habit 7 Sharpen the saw


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