"Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us," says Stephen R. Covey in his phenomenal book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
That book has touched my life as it has touched many others. It has helped numerous people -- a great success. Internationally it sold more than 25 million copies. Also, it was the first audio-book to sell more than a million copies. In 1996, Forbes called 7 Habits one of the top 10 business management books ever.
After Covey passed away last year on July 16th, Douglas Martin in the New York Times said: "Mr. Covey was a bit baffled by his success." And narrated him as " he was simply telling people what he thought they already knew: the efficacy of good behavior. All that people had to do was form habits out of their best instincts." Then named his seven habits as "nuggets of knowledge natural laws -- like gravity."
Those seven principles are:
1. Be proactive.
2. Begin with the end in mind.
3. Put first things first.
4. Think "win-win."
5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
7. Sharpen the saw; that is, undergo frequent self-renewal.
"What is common sense isn't common practice," Mr. Covey said. He continued his lessons for life in The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness in which he advises people to find their own uniqueness and to supports others in finding theirs.
Also, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families suggests some missions for families. "The Leader in Me" presents his ideas for educational change. I believe his goal was to change society through individuals, saying, "The reflection of the current social paradigm tells us we are largely determined by conditioning and conditions."
To me one of the most inspirational and influential parts of the The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was "paradigms and principles" when I first read it.
In this part, to change ourselves effectively Covey suggests that we first change our perceptions. "We see the world, not as it is, but as we are -- or, as we are conditioned to see it," he states. "We must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as the world we see, and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world," he points out.
When I read Covey's statement "The way we see the problem is the problem," I started thinking about my point of view on different things and realized I have to change the way I look at things because our perspective on facts will determine what we understand from them. It can vary greatly from one individual to another. All the time, our ideas shape our behavior; what is happening around us doesn't. Our reactions to what's happening to us can lead to an outcome that could be 100 percent different if we had chosen to react differently. As Turkish scholar Said Nursi says, "A man who sees positively will think positively, and such a person lets good things blossom within himself, think beautifully and truly enjoy life. We should keep our minds positive to achieve positive results. It is certain that we see the world not as it's seen, but rather how we look at it.
Since I read Covey's books I have been trying to adopt his seven habits into my life and have been focusing to keep my perception positive to remain sane, happy and calm because he taught me, "We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain things, we can accomplish those goals."
I learn a lot from him. I wrote down some of his statements and put them close to my desk. My favorite ones are:
"The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."
"Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important."
"Happiness, like unhappiness, is a proactive choice."
"The undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites and passions."
Nowadays, we work so hard to get things done because we have too many distractions, and we lack simplicity and wisdom. So often we might feel lost in the multiple tasks we struggle in, or as the late Mr. Covey put it, "We are lost in the thick of thin things." Then he suggests beginning each day with the blueprint of one's deepest values firmly in mind, and then when challenges come, making decisions based on those values.
I learned from him that when we balance family and work life we should put some time in just to improve ourselves spiritually. Every day, we should have some special time to remind ourselves of the timeless principles and connect with our soul and nurture it. It enables us to make better choices in every dimension of life and make our interactions with others more satisfying. Also, this way you notice your true self, and it also helps you to build a greater perspective, and naturally you feel more connected to what really matters most.
"We're responsible for our own lives," says Covey, and he also declares: "We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey."
Today, in a memory of Stephen R. Covey, I'd like to salute him in his eternal journey.
Rest in peace Mr. Covey and thank you...
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This article was previously published in Today's Zaman.