If we want to change a situation, we first have to change ourselves. And to change ourselves effectively, we first have to change our perceptions.
We must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as at the world we see, and understand that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.
The Character Ethic, which I believe to be the foundation of success, teaches that there are basic principles of effective living, and that people can only experience true success and enduring happiness as they learn and integrate these principles into their basic character.
The Personality Ethic tells me there must be something out there -- some new planner or seminar that will help me handle pressures in a more efficient way.
But is there a chance that efficiency is not the answer? Is getting more things done in less time going to make a difference -- or will it just increase the pace at which I react to the people and circumstances that seem to control my life?
Could there be something I need to see in a deeper, more fundamental way -- some paradigm within myself that affects the way I see my time, my life, and my own nature?
If I try to use human influence strategies and tactics of how to get other people to do what I want, to work better, to be more motivated, to like me and each other -- while my character is fundamentally flawed, marked by duplicity and insincerity -- then, in the long run, I cannot be successful. My duplicity will breed distrust, and everything I do -- even using so-called good human relations techniques -- will be perceived as manipulative.
To focus on technique is like cramming your way through school. You sometimes get by, perhaps even get good grades, but if you don't pay the price day in and day out, you never achieve true mastery of the subjects you study or develop an educated mind.
We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be. And our attitudes and behaviors grow out of those assumptions.
Each of us has many, many maps in our head, which can be divided into two main categories: maps of the way things are, or realities, and maps of the way things should be, or values. We interpret everything we experience through these mental maps.
Many people experience a fundamental shift in thinking when they face a life-threatening crisis and suddenly see their priorities in a different light, or when they suddenly step into a new role, such as that of husband or wife, parent or grandparent, manager or leader.
"Objective reality" is composed of "light-house" principles that govern human growth and happiness -- natural laws that are woven into the fabric of every civilized society throughout history and comprise the roots of every family and institution that has endured and prospered. The degree to which our mental maps accurately describe this territory does not alter its existence.
Paradigms are powerful because they create the lens through which we see the world. The power of a paradigm shift is the essential power of quantum change, whether that shift is an instantaneous or a slow and deliberate process.
What happens when we attempt to shortcut a natural process in our growth and development? If you are only an average tennis player but decide to play at a higher level in order to make a better impression, what will result? Would positive thinking alone enable you to compete effectively against a professional?
To relate effectively with a wife, a husband, children, friends, or working associates, we must learn to listen. And this requires emotional strength. Listening involves patience, openness, and the desire to understand -- highly developed qualities of character. It's so much easier to operate from a low emotional level and to give high-level advice.
Borrowing strength bilds weakness. It builds weakness in the borrower because it reinforces dependence on external factors to get things done. It builds weakness in the person forced to acquiesce, stunting the development of independent reasoning, growth, and internal discipline. And finally, it builds weakness in the relationship. Fear replaces cooperation, and both people involved become more arbitrary and defensive.
As we look around us and within us and recognize the problems created as we live and interact within the Personality Ethic, we begin to realize that these are deep, fundamental problems that cannot be solved on the superficial level on which they were created.
We need a new level, a deeper level of thinking -- a paradigm based on the principles that accurately describe the territory of effective human being and interacting -- to solve these deep concerns.
The "inside-out" approach to personal and interpersonal effectiveness means to start first with self; even more fundamentally, to start with the most inside part of self -- with your paradigms, your character, and your motives.
The inside-out approach says that private victories precede public victories, that making and keeping promises to ourselves precedes making and keeping promises to others. It says it is futile to put personality ahead of character, to try to improve relationships with others before improving ourselves.
Inside-out is a process -- a continuing process of renewal based on the natural laws that govern human growth and progress. It's an upward spiral of growth that leads to progressively higher forms of responsible independence and effective interdependence.
Our character, basically, is a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character and produce our effectiveness...or ineffectiveness.
The Seven Habits are not a set of separate or piecemeal psyche-up formulas. In harmony with the natural laws of growth, they provide an incremental, sequential, highly integrated approach to the development of personal and interpersonal effectiveness. They move us progressively on a Maturity Continuum from dependence to independence to interdependence.
Dependence is the paradigm of you -- you take care of me; you come through for me; you didn't come through; I blame you for the results.
Independence is the paradigm of I -- I can do it; I am responsible; I am self-reliant; I can choose.
Interdependence is the paradigm of we -- we can do it; we can cooperate; we can combine our talents and abilities and create something greater together.
Dependent people need others to get what they want. Independent people can get what they want through their own effort. Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.
Achieving unity -- oneness -- with ourselves, with our loved ones, with our friends and working associates, is the highest and best and most delicious fruit of the Seven Habits. Most of us have tasted this fruit of true unity from time to time in the past, as we have also tasted the bitter, lonely fruit of disunity -- and we know how precious and fragile unity is.
Private victories precede public victories. You can't invert that process any more than you can harvest a crop before you plant it.
Effectiveness lies in what I call the P/PC Balance. P stands for production of desired results, the golden eggs. PC stands for production capability, the ability or asset that produces the golden eggs, the goose.
When two people in a marriage are more concerned about getting the golden eggs, the benefits, than they are in preserving the relationship that makes them possible, they often become insensitive and inconsiderate, neglecting the little kindnesses and courtesies so important to a deep relationship. They begin to use control levers to manipulate each other, to focus on their own needs, to justify their own position and look for evidence to show the wrongness of the other person. The love, the richness, the softness and spontaneity begin to deteriorate. The goose gets sicker day by day.
You can buy people's hands, but you can't buy their hearts. Their hearts are where their enthusiasm, their loyalty is. You can buy their backs, but you can't buy their brains. That's where their creativity is, their ingenuity, their resourcefulness.
Marilyn Ferguson observed, "No one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or by emotional appeal."
If you decide to open your "gate of change" to really understand and live the principles embodied in the Seven Habits, your growth will be evolutionary, but the net effect will be revolutionary.
Change -- real change -- comes from the inside out. It doesn't come from hacking at the leaves of attitude and behavior with quick fix personality ethic techniques. It comes from striking at the root -- the fabric of our thought, the fundamental, essential paradigms, which give definition to our character and create the lens through which we see the world.
We are not our feelings. We are not our moods. We are not even our thoughts. The very fact that we can think about these things separates us from them and from the animal world. Self-awareness enables us to stand apart and examine even the way we "see" ourselves -- our self-paradigm, the most fundamental paradigm of effectiveness. It affects not only our attitudes and behaviors, but also how we see other people. It becomes our map of the basic nature of mankind.
You can decide within yourself how circumstances will affect you. Between what happens to you, or the stimulus, and your response to it, is your freedom or power to choose that response.
The word proactive means more than merely taking initiative. It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.
The law of the harvest governs; we will always reap what we sow -- no more, no less. The law of justice is immutable, and the closer we align ourselves with correct principles, the better our judgment will be about how the world operates and the more accurate our paradigms -- our maps of the territory -- will be.
Don't argue for other people's weaknesses. Don't argue for your own. When you make a mistake, admit it, correct it, and learn from it -- immediately.
Copyright © 1994 by Stephen R. Covey