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The Seven Habits, A Practical Summary: Habit 7 - Self-Improvement

Updated on July 26, 2012

Self-Renewal: Different Strokes for Different Folks

Some men like to knit . . .
Some men like to knit . . . | Source
. . . and some women like to skydive!
. . . and some women like to skydive! | Source

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!


Do you take time for self-renewal?

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    • SidKemp profile imageAUTHOR

      Sid Kemp 

      6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Fall is a great time to renew our commitment to personal growth with a nourishing refresher course!

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks for the great summary on Covey's 7th habit. I will be reviewing the others as well. It has been a while since I have looked at them, and I can use the refresher course!

    • SidKemp profile imageAUTHOR

      Sid Kemp 

      6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thank you, Tim. Take good care of yourself!

    • timthechirpinbyrd profile image


      6 years ago from Newport News, VA

      Inspiring. Thank you.

    • SidKemp profile imageAUTHOR

      Sid Kemp 

      6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      I'm glad I wrote it - once I write something, I feel I have to live up to it, and that's another reminder!

    • SidKemp profile imageAUTHOR

      Sid Kemp 

      6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Yes, please make the link. We can all share and help others more and more.

    • g-girl11 profile image


      6 years ago

      Sid, great hub! Great, practical reminders of what we need to do to live our best life. Voted useful.

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 

      6 years ago from The City of Generals

      Hello SidKemp - I like that idea of Produce, Maintain and Improve (PMI), great words of encouragement for busy minds . Very inspiring hub, just reading it makes me feel great how lucky we all are to be a gift to the world. Thank you. I'm sharing this. Hope you don't mind, I would love to link my hub "Try to Avoid Burnout from Routine Stress" to this. Your tips would teach many of us improve ourselves and our lives. My votes up!

    • SidKemp profile imageAUTHOR

      Sid Kemp 

      6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Hi Robert - I'm glad you liked them. As I looked at your hubs this month, I made a note to take time in August to really get to know you and your writing - you've got such wonderful titles!

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 

      6 years ago from California

      Sid! I have loved your hubs on the 7-Habits. It's such a great book and I appreciate your summaries and thoughts on it. Keep up the great writing and I will certainly be reading more.

    • SidKemp profile imageAUTHOR

      Sid Kemp 

      6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thanks for your thoughts, Inglenook! The name Franklin Covey is actually the result of a merger initiated by Covey himself. He had created a set of planners using his system, and chose to seek win-win synergy with Franklin Planners, rather than compete.

    • InglenookObserver profile image


      6 years ago from Southwestern Wisconsin

      You must be a Covey fan. Sad for me that when you look him up, the website says "Franklin Covey", though without the Franklin marketing, these sound ideas might not reach others. His passing may not be noticed, but certainly his ideas are.


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