Now that we are a few weeks into the New Year, I trust that we are all much thinner, eat healthier, quit smoking, drink less, have saved money, found our way out of debt, and pray more.
What? You have not found perfection either? Well, quit looking, it will not come. We are imperfect beings, living in a fallen world. Although not a Biblical proverb, the quote “the roadway to hell is paved with good intentions” can summarize many well-made plans and New Year’s resolutions.
While I am all for setting goals and trying to reach them, the process is a personal demon for me. One thing in which I have found complete success is setting a goal and missing the mark. I know that I can always count on myself to continuously disappointment myself.
After years of setting myself up for failure with lists of goals and resolutions and plans and promises that I knew I would break, I tried to take a different approach. I have found an alternative to the resolutions of pop culture magazines in the writings of Stephen Covey, the late author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Through his contemporary teachings, Stephen Covey promotes living a life based on universal principles that serve as a foundation for lasting effectiveness. As opposed to building a house on sand, Covey’s value based philosophy emphasizes strengthening one’s principles as a starting point for meaningfulness.
A sampling of Covey’s focus includes:
Habit 1: Be Proactive
Take initiative in life by realizing that your decisions are the primary determining factor for effectiveness. This habit includes accepting responsibility for your choices and the consequences that follow.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
This habit includes identifying character values, life goals, and the development of a personal mission statement. It also includes identifying the accomplishments you see yourself making in the various roles you play such as: spouse, parent, employee, and citizen.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Prioritize, plan, and execute your day, week, month and, ultimately, life based on doing what is important rather than what might seem urgent. This habit can help reduce stress by supporting you to maintain focus when exposed to distractions and other time wasters.
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Genuinely strive for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
By truly listening, this habit can create a caring and problem solving atmosphere. “Shutting up” can create an environment of reciprocating listening and a better understanding and respect of others’ ideas.
Habit 6: Synergize
This habit focuses on the strength found in groups through positive teamwork. When everyone contributes and their personal talents are utilized, goals are easier to accomplish.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Through prayer, exercise, and mental renewal you can create a sustainable, effective lifestyle. This habit also includes incorporating service to society as a whole, such as through volunteering.
Stephen Covey’s lessons can be incorporated into many different areas of life. Business executives can use them to set strategic goals. Families can incorporate his suggested habits into strengthening relationships. The book was adapted by his son, Sean Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens . The book and supplemental materials help teens prepare for college, the adult world, and beyond. I have found The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens a useful resource in a leadership course for people with developmental disabilities that I facilitate at Frederick Community College.
As we find ourselves at the start of 2013, we can resolve to make more than just the typical resolutions.