For me, one of the unfortunate side effects of anxiety fuelled neurosis, aside from, say, mentally planning a camping trip down to the single food item details – 8 months in advance, is that my high speed mental anguish is often accompanied by an almost physical paralysis. Meaning that while my mind is busy inventing and solving inane problems to the point of lunacy, my actual doing self is rendered somewhat inert.
So it comes as no surprise that while at the op-shop the other day, a particular title caught my eye:
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”
At a time when the self help phenomena is providing the blueprint for our modern lives, it made perfect sense for me to consult the wisdom of Stephen Covey on how I might incorporate some utility into my life, because if the cover was anything to go by, there was only one place this would take me: straight to Success.
Habit 1: Be Proactive
Right away, I was told that this would lead to Private Victory, and after having just suffered a brutal loss trying to conquer a Satay sauce, I desperately needed a win. I was paying close attention. All I needed to do was “stand away from myself”. After a few futile attempts of standing in the corner, and then dashing to the centre of the room in a bid to leave myself behind, the penny dropped. Covey meant that I should stand in front of the mirror, and then take some steps backwards. I immediately did this, and felt better right away. I guess this was some kind of trick exercise, forcing me to take initiative and thereby master Habit 1.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
At first this sounds like some kind of sagacious riddle uttered by an old wizard tapping the tips of his fingers together and smiling cryptically, but it’s actually just a straightforward matter of Personal Leadership (and having a good imagination). It’s a bit like the everlasting wisdom found in the Field of Dreams movie; “if you build it, they will come”. In my case, I just pictured myself standing atop of a mountain making the victory symbol with one hand, and punching the air with the other. Now it’s only a matter of sitting back and waiting for Success to happen.
Habit 3: Put First things First
Not to be confused with putting first things last. The essence of this habit is actually derived from the seminal ‘Common Denominator of Success’, which found that, “successful people have the habit of doing things failures don’t like to do”. I’m not sure if it was typo to not capitalise “failures” as it was clearly being used as a noun, but regardless, I got the irony of the message; to be successful you have to clean the toilet.
Habit 4: Think Win/Win
This is Covey’s way of saying that the old adage ‘its my way, or the highway” has become redundant, and that we need to learn how to drive together to a “higher plane”. At first I thought this was advocating illicit drug use, but then I realised he was merely advocating mutually beneficial arrangements, much like the sexual act of 69’ing.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood
Here Covey tells us that, “all the well meaning advice in the world won’t amount to a hill of beans if we are not even addressing the real problem”. And while I have no idea how it is that a hill of beans has come to represent some kind of achievement, I did at least recall some torturous moments from my teenage years, where I would yell dramatically at my father “why don’t you understand me?” only to be greeted with doe eyed confusion. I see now, that had I taken in account his profound deafness, things might not have been so bewildering.
Habit 6: Synergize
I didn’t even need to read this one given that I once participated in a Contact Improvisation class. After experiencing the sensation of fifteen people coming together in a seamless, withering mass of human body contact in the name of ‘dancing’, I feel I have the kind of grasp on the concept of the ‘sum of the parts being greater than the whole’ that I am only too happy to let it reside unexplored in my subconscious. Forever.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
This one is pure practicality, reminding me that if I am to behead the likes of Stephen Covey, I best prepare my tools.