Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I am slowly making my way through Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (aka Seven Habits). I've decided that I will write periodic posts on my take on each of the habits. (If you want Stephen Covey's take, read the book. Honestly, it's a really useful read.)

I wrote about the first habit, being proactive, in my post on Deciding (2/19/10). This post is about the second habit, which Covey calls 'Begin with the End in Mind'.

Covey starts by talking about the difference between leaders and managers. He thinks that they're both necessary--and each of us needs to be able to lead and manage, at least in regards to our own life. To illustrate what he is talking about, he pictures producers (the ones doing the work) as cutting their way through a rainforest with machetes. The managers are the ones who make sure that they are well supplied with sharp machetes and anything else they need in order to do their work. The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree and surveys the land around them. And sometimes the leader realizes that the situation is not right and yells, "Wrong jungle!" And Covey claims that the managers and producers, more often than not, yell back, "Shut up! We're making progress."

The first step in remaking your life, is to be proactive, but once you have decided to be proactive, the next step is to figure out what your goals are. Without doing this, you can make lots of progress, but still be in the 'wrong jungle'. It reminds me of when someone wanted me to join a revolutionary organization and I wanted to know what their aims were. I didn't care what great actions they were doing as much as where they were headed. I feel the same way about intentional communities--I want to know what they want to achieve. I've made the comparison to getting on a bus; I wouldn't board a bus in the city before I checked its destination.

So what are your goals? How do you know what you want to be doing? What are the key values that you live by? Covey suggests making a 'Personal Mission Statement' to make sure that you have your direction clear. I found this useful to focus on what I find most important and to shape my life from there. (Yes, corporate executives write Mission Statements, but I suspect their missions are quite different from mine. I think anyone could benefit from trying to figure out what is important to them and using this to organize their lives.)

He further talks about 'Roles and Goals': what roles do you play in your life and what are your goals for each of those roles? The point is to have all this in line with what you see your mission as.

I first read Seven Habits years ago, but I wasn't ready to focus my life at that point. Now, with a clear sense of mission in my mind, with my life's goals in front of me, I am able to focus myself on accomplishing what is important to me. Before I try to start accomplishing things, I look to see if I am in the right 'jungle'. The next step is to begin the work.

Quote of the Day: "How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and, keeping that in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most." - Stephen Covey

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