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BUS-1177 Entrepreneurship Assignment - Lethbridge College, Canada
Topic - Critical Commentary on Stephen Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People"
Task - Read the ENTIRE book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey and write a critical commentary on the book. A critical commentary examines and analyzes the ideas and concepts put forward in the book, and supports such commentary with fact or reason.
Answer - Critical Commentary on - Stephen Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People"
After reading the book by Covey, the one thing that I understood very clearly, was that success is dependent on the individual, and not on the external factors. In other words, it was evident that all of us have the means and the talent to carve out our own path to success, provided we are consistent, and know how to persevere. The book helped me understand how important it is to develop good habits and maintain them if we wished to achieve long-term success. These habits are nothing but minor changes in the manner in which we function in our daily lives, which would ultimately help develop our character and ethical construct. In this assignment, I shall be presenting my own critical assessment of what all I deduced after reading the book, and how it has helped me understand my values and shortcomings.
Breaking down the seven habits
As described by Covey throughout his book, the first three of the habits can help individuals and budding entrepreneurs to master themselves and achieve independence in different aspects of their lives. The next three habits focus more on the development of communication skills, cooperation and teamwork, further helping the person gain a sense of independence. The last and the seventh habit emphasises the importance of continuous growth and development for further improvement of the other six habits. In this section I shall break down the aforementioned seven habits as discussed by Covey and analyse how studying about them has benefitted me and helped me understand myself even better.
Habit 1: Be proactive
Covey tells us that we are the ones who are in charge of our lives, and it is in our hands as to what we do in our lives. This is the most important step to developing self-awareness, which can help us be proactive in whatever we do, in addition to making sure that we know how to take responsibility for the choices we make. Us humans are different from other animals because we have the capacity to understand and improve our own character. In other words, our ability to introspect and change ourselves for the better in a proactive manner is what sets us apart from other animals. This also makes it possible to develop an image for ourselves and learn how to manage the various situations while assessing the extent to which we have been effective and successful. Thus, being proactive is the first step to being effective. The opposite of being proactive is reactive. People who are reactive often blame others and the situation instead of actively doing something to alleviate the situation and improve their lives. Reactive individuals believe that the problem is an external one and they often victimise themselves, thereby spiralling out of control.
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For instance, if I play in a badminton tournament and do not make it to the finals, as a proactive person my response would be to work harder and practice more so that I can perform better the next time. If I were to be reactive, I would be blaming my coach and my fellow players, saying that they had been unsuccessful in preparing me for the matches. However, being proactive is the better way out always, since in such a situation it is important for me to understand my own shortcomings and work on them to help myself grow as an individual. Thus, as Covey states, proactive people are responsible and choose to respond in a positive manner to any given situation or problem.
Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind
In this habit, Covey intends to tell us that it is important that we begin any task with the end result or the destination in mind. He states that we can always utilise our imagination and further develop an idea of how we wish to develop and improve ourselves. The conscience we have is a good measure when it comes to deciding what would be the values that guide us. This quality can also be said to be a part of leadership, as it deals closely with the way in which a person functions. In addition to leadership, management is another aspect that this second habit can help one develop and nurture. This is because in order to reach the intended goal or objective, it is necessary to manage the actions and the pathway to achieving those outcomes in an effective manner. Furthermore, having a clear idea of what the destination is can also hep us understand if our actions are pointed towards the right direction or not. Through this habit, Covey tries to tell us that it is important to optimise our actions in order to be efficient, and in the process, assert and learn more about our personal values. For this purpose, it is also important that we understand our own abilities in the best possible way, in addition to what constitutes our roots or the centre, since this aspect affects us in a fundamental manner and determines the actions, decisions and motivations that are part of the daily lives.
For instance, if my goal is to achieve an A grade in my semester exams, I would of course chalk out a plan beforehand to manage my time and maintain a steady schedule for studying as well as allot time to relax. Thus, having the objective of improving my grades is the destination, while the schedule I follow to achieve it can be prepared only after I have decided on what result I wish to achieve.
Habit 3: Put first things first
In this habit, Covey tells us that we need to prioritise what is important and get them done before anything else. In other words, we should have the capacity to understand what things are important, and what are not that urgent. This helps one develop a discipline about their life and manage things more efficiently. The previous habit was to set an objective and work on a plan to reach that goal. This third habit thus can act as a guideline on how to actually pursue those goals, since it explains to us how important it is to prioritise certain things and give them the needed concentration and focus. It is also important that we have the required willpower to work on ourselves even when it might seem useless and tiring. In other words, we need to act not according to our momentary desires or impulses, but rather based on our values and goals. The urgency and the importance of the activities should be considered when prioritising them. As Covey states, we must "think effectiveness with people, and efficiency with things." He further described four quadrants that we can utilise as a guideline to pursue this habit, out of which the second quadrant is the most effective out of all. This is because this quadrant focuses on effective management of ones personal aspects, while also indulging in exercising, building relationships and other long-term avenues that we should not neglect and therefore prioritise if we wish to achieve success.
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Habit 4: Think win-win
If we want to succeed in our activities and dealings, it is important that we establish relationships that are mutually beneficial to all the involved parties, in addition to being complementary to the interdependent relationship shared between them. In such a case, the best way out is to create a situation where neither one loses, and everybody wins. This is because in case one of them suffers a loss, it is possible that it would have a negative impact on the relationship that the people share. This mentality to have a win-win situation needs to be further backed up by a no-deal one. In other words, if the intended outcomes do not benefit all parties equally, it would be significantly better to simply let go of the plan instead of bringing loss to anyone. Covey tells us that there are two factors that should be considered for a win-win situation, which are courage and consideration. Thus, it is important to have a high level of courage along with a high level of consideration if anyone wishes to create a situation that is mutually benefitting for all. Furthermore, I believe that this habit of developing a win-win situation can never really survive in a situation or an environment where there is heavy competition, since in such a case the involved people or groups would be at each other's necks, without any plans of letting the other one win.
Habit 5: Seek to first understand, then to be understood
Covey tells us that humans have the tendency to either evaluate, probe, advise or interpret as a response to listening or understanding someone from their own perspective. When we evaluate, we either agree or disagree with what is being said. When we probe, we tend to ask more questions to satisfy our curiosity. When we advise, we try to counsel based on the experiences we have had, and when interpret, we attempt to understand the behaviour and motive of the person on the basis of our own. However, when we ditch these habits and practice the art of empathic listening, there will be a marked improvement in the manner in which we communicate with people around us. In relation to the previous habit, Covey states, "Seeking to understand requires consideration, seeking to be understood takes courage."
Similarly, I try to keep my ears and eyes open and observe the people around me instead of being forward with my own opinions in the very beginning. I have noticed that it has become easier for me to connect and communicate with people ever since I tried to understand them first and explained myself later, since it helps me develop a certain level of empathy and frame my opinions and actions accordingly.
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Habit 6: Synergise
Covey states that we can have the opportunity to create synergy if we learn how to understand and value the differences that another person has in terms of their perspective. This is because being open-minded paves the way for new possibilities and increases creativity. Synergy is the key to helping people achieve new heights by growing together once they get rid of their old prejudices and become open to learning different ways of doing things. Covey states that it is necessary for individuals to get rid of their comfort zone and venture into arenas that are unknown to them, since this helps them confront their fears and thus conquer new possibilities.
For instance, there have been situations where my friends and I had disagreed on where to spend our semester break, since everyone of us had a different suggestion to offer. However, once we decided to put aside our differences and value the difference in each other's opinions, it became easier for us to figure out where to go for the weekend, and the plans rolled out a lot more smoothly.
Habit 7: Sharpen the saw
Covey states that a person should surround themselves with practices that help them renew their physical, spiritual, mental and social dimensions. These four dimensions should also be regularly worked upon and need to be balanced in such a way as to "sharpen" the abilities one has. Thus, in order to renew ourselves physically, we must eat healthy, get appropriate amount of rest and time for relaxation, and exercise our bodies to make sure we are strong and flexible. In order to be spiritually strong, we can also indulge in good music or literature, or perhaps spend time meditating. The same can also be said when it comes to the mental dimension, as it is equally important to balance and exercise the mind as it is for the body. Emotional awareness is further necessary since it helps us understand what other people are going through, and for this purpose it is important that we learn how to listen and understand what people around us are trying to tell us, and then find ways to help them achieve success.
For instance, I play badminton and also go to the gym regularly to get sufficient physical exercise. I also try to read as many books as possible, particularly classics, when I get tired after studying and need a break to relax. I also try to be as empathic as possible to those around me, because I want to develop all the four dimensions and "sharpen" my abilities to become a better version of myself.
Thus, once I completed reading the book, it was clear to me that the strength I possess, along with the capacity to achieve success, is defined only by my own habits and practices, and not by external forces. Being proactive and empathic, in addition to developing the art of listening can work wonders when it comes to helping me develop and bloom as an individual. Furthermore, as a leader and successful manager, it will be imperative that I know how to plan as well as prioritise the activities for attaining any particular goal. Being physically, spiritually, mentally and socially aware can further help me enjoy success as these are the pillars through which good habits can be implemented and practiced.
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