The first version of the 7 habits of highly effective people that I read was the one for teens, written by Sean Covey’s son, Stephen. While I may not have been mature enough the absorb the entire book at the time, there were concepts that stuck with me until adulthood. As a woman juggling numerous roles as a wife, mother, editor, and entrepreneur, I am now constantly on the search for tools that will help me to be the best version of myself for the people I care about, and for the work that I do.
Here is how I believe I can apply the principles of Sean Covey for highly effective people on my life now as a mom.
1. Be Proactive
“We’re in charge. We choose the scripts by which to live our lives. Use this self-awareness to be proactive and take responsibility for your choices”
In this chapter, Covey makes the distinction between individuals who are reactive and those who are proactive. Reactive people have a passive stance on life. They believe that ultimately things happen to them and that there isn’t anything they can do about it. They believe the problem is out there, that they are victimized and out of control.
A reactive mom might say, “there’s nothing I can do about my inability to manage our household budget. I am bad with money, and that is just the way I am.”
A proactive mom might say, “I might be bad at managing money, but I can improve on this by getting advice from financial experts, reading books on financial literacy, and on using tools (apps, etc.) to help me with track expenses and create realistic budgets for our family.
A proactive mom will realize that while life is full of experiences with elements we cannot control, the way we will react to it is within our control. This is what Sean Covey calls “response-ability.”
“It is our willing permission, our consent to what happens to us, that hurts us far more than what happened to us in the first place.” -Stephen Covey
2. Begin with the end in mind.
“Start with a clear destination in mind. Covey says we can use our imagination to develop a vision of what we want to become and use our conscience to decide what values will guide us.”
“Habit 2 suggests that, in everything we do, we should begin with the end in mind. Start with a clear destination. That way, we can make sure the steps we’re taking are in the right direction.”
As moms, our days are full of household tasks, child care, work, and a seemingly endless list of errands. It would be easy for us to get overwhelmed, impatient, and desperate. But if at the beginning and at the end of each day, we remind ourselves about the kind of mothers we truly want to be, this will help us to deal with the small stresses we experience everyday, giving all that we do a higher purpose.
3. Put First Things First
“In order to manage ourselves effectively, we must put first things first. We must have the discipline to prioritize our day-to-day actions based on what is most important, not what is most urgent.”
As moms juggling many roles, our days may change on a regular basis. Thus it is so important for us to learn how to prioritize in such a way that we are not doing through our days responding to every single need the crops up.
Given, if we are the sole caregivers of our children, we cannot necessarily ask a baby to wait if she is hungry or her diapers need to be changed. But we can plan efficiently for the moments our hands are free–such as when our babies are sleeping, or when or when we know a trusted babysitter will be available. By being wise about our free time and knowing exactly what to do during those precious hours.
Covey goes further and provides a quadrant that makes distinctions about time, suggesting that we should dedicate our free time on two types of tasks: those that are 1) urgent and important, and 2) important but not urgent.
As moms, the needs of our children all under the items that are urgent and important, while planning one’s day, organizing our households, and other tasks of similar nature fall under the “important but not urgent” category.
4. Think Win-Win
“In order to establish effective interdependent relationships, we must commit to creating Win-Win situations that are mutually beneficial and satisfying to each party.”
Women are relational beings, and a huge aspect of our overall happiness is the status of our relationships, and Covey believes that in order to take care of them we should always try to strive towards creating mutually beneficial relationships.
We can apply this principle when we are speaking with our spouses, colleagues, household help, and even our children. The challenge here would be to be discerning about when to apply the principle of win-win to our children, because we are also meant to discipline our children…and often this may mean they do not understand that you have their best interests in mind when you reprimand them.
5. Seek first to understand, and then be understood.
“Before we can offer advice, suggest solutions, or effectively interact with another person in any way, we must seek to deeply understand them and their perspective through empathic listening.”
As women with good intentions, it is often difficult for us to hear a person out before offering advice. But we must remind ourselves that we cannot offer genuine help if we don’t know what the person really needs. As moms, this is just as crucial to all of our relationships, especially the most important ones–with our spouses and children.
“By understanding and valuing the differences in another person’s perspective, we have the opportunity to create synergy, which allows us to uncover new possibilities through openness and creativity.”
For moms, synergizing can simply mean teamwork. By working as a team, we are able to harness the different talents and perspectives of the different members of our household, and of our colleagues at work.
Synergizing teaches us, as moms, to value differences (because not all of our family members think the same way we do), encourage openness, and catalyze creativity when it comes to solving problems that affect our family.
7. Sharpen the saw.
“To be effective, we must devote the time to renewing ourselves physically, spiritually, mentally, and socially. Continuous renewal allows us to synergistically increase our ability to practice each habit.”
Just because we are moms, it doesn’t mean that is all that we are. We cannot allow ourselves to become stagnant in our personal growth. While becoming a mother does make all these challenging in terms of finding the energy and time, becoming a mother also does give us an extra motivation to become excellent in every aspect of our lives–simply because we want to set a good example to our own children.