The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a business self-help book I was introduced to during my Business Management program while in school for fashion design. I was never thrilled to have to read for class, but I became hooked on this one. It’s written by Stephen Covey and became one of his best-sellers, selling over 25 million copies worldwide. After reading it, I became inspired, and I felt heavily influenced to align my goals and ambitions to these habits. The 7 Habits are as follows; Be Proactive, Being with the End in Mind, Put First Things First, Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood, Synergize, and Sharpen the Saw. Read ahead to learn how I apply all 7 to my hectic lifestyle.
The first habit centers on accepting responsibility for your own life while envisioning what you want and not letting others or your environment determine how you live. Proactive people do not let their past affect them.
I choose to be proactive by making my own decisions and not letting others make them for me. It took a while to get to this point because I constantly feared I would disappoint friends, family, and coworkers. Recently, I was proactive by leaving a job that no longer made me content. I was working in a toxic environment full of of unhappy people. I left because it was an unhealthy work setting and I refused to allow that atmosphere to continue to affect me. After leaving, I realized how much happier I am and see how negativity continues to affect my colleagues who still work there. I cannot stress enough how important it is to quit anything you feel is holding you back. That is the first step in being proactive.
Habit 2 focuses on imagination. Covey states that all things are created twice; mental and physical creation. I work in a creative field so this principle applies to my everyday world. Sometimes I get so caught up in trying to finish a certain number of sketches a day that I don’t stop to consider if the garment construction is practical. This reminds me of the “work smarter, not harder” concept. This habit encourages visualizing an idea or desire before continuing to implement it or acquiring it.
For me, this is one of the easiest habits because I tend to overthink something before attempting to achieve it. My advice is identify your goals and figure out how you will get to achieving them yourself, with no outside influence. This has been beneficial in my life because it has helped me become a better designer. I have developed a keen eye by taking time to analyze the “mental creation.”
Habit 3 is about prioritizing what is most important. Sometimes life can get hectic and we have multiple priorities we feel we cannot get to. This habit coincides with the first two. Even though there are multiple things on our to do list, there will be responsibilities that will be more urgent than others.
My weekday schedule is HECTIC. I’m used to the everyday routine of going to my job, hot yoga class, and then heading home for dinner. I’m so used to this schedule that when something new would pop up during the week, I would stress out about how am l going accomplish them, while still committing to my normal routine. I have resolved this issue by recognizing it is all about time management and understanding that you do not have to stick to the norm. It is okay to miss a yoga class or want to head straight home after work because you’re tired. Implementing this habit has eased my stress levels because I am not pressured to be perfect. At the end of the day, responsibilities will always be there. I encourage you to not be too hard on yourself and do not feel defeated if you cannot accomplish all the tasks you had outlined.
Habit 4 changes the concept of competition to please both sides of the argument and create “cooperation.” It encourages each side to reach a decision in which all are satisfied with the results. There are three character traits to a person who understands the notion of win-win; integrity, maturity, and abundance mentality.
I learned to acquire this way of thinking in the workforce. My job requires me to work in a team environment so there is no room for rivalry. Being in a creative field with other fashion designers brings along many opinions and talents. I learned to stop trying to be competitive because we are all working towards the same goal. If you have not yet learned this, make changes to do so. A lot of things we do in life are about teamwork and if you lack this characteristic, you will have a hard time thriving in this world.
Habit 5 is about listening and it’s the most important principal of interpersonal relations. We are often so quick to respond, without processing what was communicated to us.
I happen to be guilty of not fully carrying out this trait and am trying to work on it. I find myself listening to someone with the answer already in my head; sometimes I don’t even let them finish. I am working on this habit by fully hearing someone out and putting myself in their shoes before giving them a response. Think about it—would you want to have spent your time telling a friend about an experience, to which they cut you off with their reply? Most likely not. Next time when engaging in a conversation, keep your ears open and analyze what the other person is saying before responding how you feel or offering advice.
Habit 6 is about “synergizing.” To synergize, means to cooperate and accept that two minds are better than one. This way of thinking is all about teamwork and being open to resolving conflict with opposing viewpoints. Habit 6 ties back to habit 4 because they both deal with the overall situation instead of just one individuals point of view.
I practice this on a daily basis. I am often in creative team meetings and present my collections. There are times when multiple people have various insights on how I can improve my collection. I appreciate these meetings because of the feedback (positive or negative) which allows me to see things I may have not seen myself. I highly encourage adopting this habit because it allows you to learn things from others and gain new perspectives.
The final habit is 7, and it reinforces the importance of improving oneself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. This step is crucial because it allows you to continue succeeding in the other 6 steps. It’s all about re-energizing and maintaining a balance. By re-energizing, you train yourself to handle more challenges. Remember to take time for self-care. If you’re overworked, take a break!
Whenever I’m exhausted or feeling overwhelmed, I take time to do the things I love. It can be as simple as reading a good book, taking a lavender bath, going for a run, or even having a day off. I practice “sharpening the saw” every day by taking a 20 minute nap during my lunch period. When I wake up, I feel re-energized and ready to welcome the rest of the day without that extra cup of coffee.
The 7 Habits changed my mindset and approach on attaining my future goals. I read it at a point in my life when I was trying to figure out what direction I wanted my career in fashion to take. It turned into a “self help” guide for me; almost therapeutic. I have read it three times since, and each time I process what Covey states with a different mentality. The most positive thing I took away from this book was the emphasis of balancing what is the most important, so you don‘t burn yourself out. If you get the chance to read the 7 Habits, I guarantee you won’t be able to put the book down. It will change your perspective on life for the better!