“Watch your thoughts because they will become words.
Watch your words because they will become actions.
Watch your actions because they will become habits.
Watch your habits because they will build your character.
Watch your character because it will shape your destiny.
And your destiny will be your life.
Our character is made up of our habits. Habits are powerful factors in our lives. Since they are consistent patterns that we repeat constantly and daily, they end up expressing our character and generating our effectiveness or ineffectiveness. The good news is that they can be learned and forgotten, although doing so is neither easy nor quick: it involves a tremendous process and commitment.
The first 3 habits that Stephen Covey describes in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People have to do with self-control and discipline: they take you from dependence to independence. They are the “private victories,” the essence of character development, that precede the “public victories. You can’t reverse that process, just as you can’t reap a harvest before sowing: it’s from the inside out.
We all begin our lives as beings totally dependent on others. Gradually, we become more and more independent, and we become aware that life is also interdependent, that part of our success depends on relationships with others.
Dependent people need others to get what they want. Independent people get what they want through their own efforts. Interdependent people combine their efforts with the efforts of others to achieve greater success.
It is after working through the first three habits that one becomes truly independent, as one has a basis for effective interdependence. It has a base character from which one can work more effectively on “public victories”, which are more oriented towards personality, teamwork, cooperation and communication.
That is why for Covey, the last four habits are
- Thinking about Win-Win: developing a mentality of material and spiritual abundance, where life does not imply that for me to win someone has to lose.
- Seek to understand first and be understood later: respect for others is the key to effective human relationships and makes it possible to reach agreements of this kind.
- Generate Synergies: Cultivate the ability and attitude to value diversity through teamwork and innovation.
- Sharpens the Saw: renew ourselves physically, mentally, socially and spiritually to have a balance between all the dimensions of our being and be effective in the different roles we play in our lives.
The last habit is that of renewal: a regular and balanced renewal of the four basic dimensions of life. It encompasses and embodies all the other habits. It is the one that creates the spiral of upward development that leads us to new levels of understanding and to live each of the habits on a higher and higher plane. This is the habit that leads the human being to go out of his comfort zone, not to stagnate and to innovate.
Each of the seven habits is related to one of the four brains and we can analyze its application financially. The first two (being proactive and having an end in mind) have to do with the neocortex, with the why. Let’s remember that before doing anything successfully, we have to find the motivation. The next two (first things first and win-win) are related to the reptilian brain: survival analysis, basic expenses and needs analysis. The fifth and sixth habits (understanding the other and synergies) depend on the limbic brain: relationships, processes and respect. And finally, the seventh habit is that of purpose, the pre-frontal brain: we always seek to improve, evolve, transcend and find purpose.
Routine somehow prevents us from being aware in the present, which is reflected in our body day by day because we do all our functions systematically like a machine. When we have to modify some of our functions, we do it consciously in our mind and then we put it into practice. Who hasn’t made a plan to start doing sports, get up earlier, modify their diet or change the way they study or work? Before we do something different from what we are used to, we first think about how we are going to do it.
Success is not just about getting to know each other and having good habits. Success lies in excellence, in doing well whatever we set out to do, as long as we are consistent and aware. All great deeds have begun with a courageous decision, and surely a great commitment: to acquire new skills and constant efforts over time. But the starting point is always the same: to decide to try and give the best of oneself at every moment.
The references made in these articles to brain structures are made from a simplified method, not exhaustively scientific, in order to facilitate their understanding and application to everyday life.
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Rocío Ledesma del Fresno
Manager of Dextra Corporate Advisors and director of Navis Capital Desarrollo, SGEIC