The Seven Habits, A Practical Summary: Habit 7 - Self-Improvement
Self-Renewal: Different Strokes for Different Folks
Self-Renewal and Self-Improvement
I suppose it would be wonderful if someone handed me a huge grant and said, "Sid, spend the next 5 years in self-transformation, letting go of old harmful habits and rebuilding your thoughts, feelings, words, and deeds. Come out a totally new person."
But that is not going to happen. Living the 7 Habits is like repairing a car while driving down the highway. Life goes on, and we do our best with the habits we have.
It makes a lot of sense to fuel up with frequent pit stops. That's self-renewal. And it makes sense to stop for repairs, dropping old habits and committing to new ones. That's self-improvement.
We can do this by building a renewal in our lives that Stephen Covey calls the P/PC (Production / Production Capability) Balance.
Day by day and week by week, we:
- Produce, doing the work that makes money, cleans the house, cooks the food, and keeps us happy and creative.
- Maintain production capability, renewing ourselves with rest and refueling.
- Improve production capability, engaging in self-improvement by letting go of old, ineffective habits and creating new, more effective ones.
Renewal and Improvement at All Levels
Stephen Covey says that self-renewal, or Sharpening the Saw, occurs at four levels: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. I have expanded that to six levels so that I can work with people of different beliefs, cultures, and backgrounds.
It is important to understand that self-renewal and self-improvement is more than, for example, losing pounds or running a 5K race. It is a matter of defining your personal mission and values, and creating the body, emotions, mind, and life that make them real. Here are some examples of Habit 7 for any one person in my six-level system:
- Our Body. Maintaining and increasing physical health through healthy eating and exercise. Enjoying physical activities, whether sports, dancing, walking, time in nature, playing or listening to music.
- Our Emotions. Being emotionally self-aware, and knowing what makes us happy. Being able to relax ourselves and also increase motivation and focus.
- Our Mind: Reading, writing, thinking, literature, art, history, poetry, philosophy, playing word games or chess.
- Our Energy: Working with yoga or qi gong, spending time in nature, working with visualizations and meditations.
- Our Soul: Connecting deeply within using vision quests (including Covey's funeral visualization from Habit 2), we can discover our unique creative gifts, our path of service, and who or what we are here to serve. Then we build a fulfilling, joyful life making a lasting connection of creativity and service in the world.
- Our Spirit: We connect to our common humanity, whether through faith, religion, philosophy and mediation evoking the spirit of unconditional love, harmlessness, and peace.
Renewal for Companies and Families
Renewal is not only for individuals. In fact, it is often easier in families, in companies, and with friends. Playing sports; having friends to complain to so we can sort things out; learning together; and growing in energy, soul, and spirit are all communal, as well as individual, activities.
Obviously, such shared activity can help each individual renew himself or herself and grow. But the marriage, family, friendship, or business itself also needs to be understood as a living system, full of wonder, and cared for. Companies that truly create a healthy team environment are rare. But they are exceptional, and make a real different for their employees and the community. For example, some of the best companies have built factories in small third-world villages, grown them into towns, and ensured lifelong employment for anyone they hire. If there is a slowdown, hours may be reduced, but no one will be laid off. A corporation that truly takes care of its own resources is a gift to the community, not a thief.
Renewal, Growth, and Transformation
The journey of a human life is one of open-ended excitement and wonder. Yes, there are painful parts. To put it bluntly, those fortunate enough to live a long life will outlive family and friends. Illness and other difficulties come to us all.
And, at the same time, if we renew ourselves, we will have the energy to face these challenges. And if we face them with awareness, imagination, conscience, and independent will, we will grow stronger in deep and profound ways. As Nietzsche said, "that which does not kill us makes us stronger."
So daily and weekly renewal keeps us on our game, doing our best. It's care for production capability (PC) day by day and week by week allowing production, and helping us be able to handle challenges well. Growth is what happens when we meet those challenges, survive, and thrive.
And then there is transformation. This is a deeper level, one that Dr. Covey links to paradigm change, or Aha! moments, moments of genuine insight where we let go of past limitations that we perhaps didn't even know that we had. Through transformation, we come to do what was, until now, impossible for us.
I book time for about three months each year to build retreat and reflection time into my life and work. I review my prior year and build my next year. I'll be doing that for the eighteenth time this fall, in 2012.The benefits of my 17th retreat, last winter, were truly profound. I've released 42 years of writer's block and begun to share my gifts with the world.
You are a gift to the world. Please make The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People your own, and bring an overflow of joy, creativity, caring, and wonder to the world!
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