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Getting the Most Out of This Book
Living the 7 Habits is a book of stories -- stories about people from all walks of life dealing with profound challenges in their businesses, communities, schools, and families, as well as within themselves -- showing how they applied the principles of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to these challenges, and the remarkable things that resulted.
What will these stories do for you? If you're already familiar with The 7 Habits, they will likely renew your understanding and commitment to the Habits and, perhaps more important, stir up new insights into other creative ways to apply them to meet your challenges successfully.
If you're not a 7 Habits reader, these stories will likely renew your faith in your own native abilities and wisdom. I believe these stories will enthrall and inspire you, as they have me, with a sense of excitement and with recognition of your own freedom, potential, and power.
But before I go any further, I should probably make a confession. I've not always been big on the value of stories. My main concern has been that the reader or listener might think I was prescribing the practice in the story rather than seeing the practice as an illustration of a principle. For more than forty years my wife, Sandra, has heard hundreds of my presentations, and almost inevitably, in giving me feedback, she counsels me to use more stories, to give more examples that illustrate the principles and theories I am teaching. She simply says to me, "Don't be so heavy. Use stories people can relate to." She has always had an intuitive sense for these things and, fortunately, has had absolutely no hesitation to express it!
Experience has taught me that Sandra was right and I was wrong. I've come to realize not only that a picture is worth a thousand words, as the Far Eastern expression goes, but that the picture created in the heart and mind of a person by a story is worth ten thousand.
I cannot fully describe the respect and reverence I have for every person who has contributed a story, for their willingness to share their inward struggles to live by universal and self-evident principles. You can tell that all of them are rich human beings who should be respected for what they represent, for what they are trying to accomplish, and for what they have accomplished. Their stories are splendid illustrations of profound change. I feel humbled by their humanity and profoundly grateful for their sharing.
But this is more than a storybook because there is a framework of thinking that permeates all of these stories. That framework is based upon the 7 Habits, which are in turn based upon universal, timeless, and self-evident principles. By universal I mean that the principles apply in any situation, in any culture, that they belong to all six major world religions, that they are found in all societies and institutions that have had truly enduring success. By timeless I mean that they never change. They are permanent, natural laws, like gravity. By self-evident I mean you can't really argue against them any more than a person can argue that you can build trust without trustworthiness. (A diagram of the 7 Habits and a brief definition of each Habit can be found on the inside of the front cover of this book for quick reference.)
It may sound presumptuous, but I believe that all highly effective people live the principles underlying the 7 Habits. In fact, I'm convinced that the 7 Habits are increasingly relevant in today's turbulent, troubled, complex world of change. To live with change, to optimize change, you need principles that don't change. Let me reason with you for a moment.
First, let's define effectiveness as getting the results you want in a way that enables you to get even greater results in the future. In other words, success that endures -- sustainable and balanced success.
Second, the Habits are embodied principles, principles that are lived until they become habitual, almost second nature. Principles are simply natural laws that govern our life, whether or not we know them, like them, or agree with them -- again, like gravity. I didn't invent the principles. I simply organized them and used language to describe them.
I've often been asked, particularly by the media, for examples and evidence. I've shared both extensively. But I find that the best examples and evidence come when I propose, and even challenge the questioners with, this task: "Think of any successful person or family or project or organization you've come to admire for his/her/its enduring success and there is your example and evidence." Whether the admired people are aware of the 7 Habits or not is irrelevant. They're living by proven principles. I've never had anyone seriously argue against one of the underlying principles. They legitimately may not like the language or the description of the Habits. That's okay. They may not relate to the stories at all. In fact, in their situation they may think of an opposite example of the same principle. But the principle of responsibility (Habit 1) is self-evident. So also are having purpose and values (Habit 2) and living by them (Habit 3). So are mutual respect and benefit (Habit 4), mutual understanding (Habit 5), creative cooperation (Habit 6), and the need for renewal and continual improvement (Habit 7). Principles are like the vitamins and minerals found in all kinds of foods. They can be concentrated, combined, time-sequenced, and encapsulated into a food supplement. So it is with the 7 Habits. The basic elements called principles are found in nature and can be expressed in many forms. Millions of people all over the world have found the time-sequenced encapsulation of the balanced set of principles in the 7 Habits useful. The "why" and "how" are shown in some of these stories. Give God or nature the credit for the source nutrients.
MY TWO ROLES
I will try to play two roles throughout this book, guide and teacher. First, guide: If you were a tourist, say, going up the Nile River, you'd probably want a guide to give you an idea of what to look for and of its significance. On the other hand, if you'd been there several times before or had prepared in your own special way for the experience, you might prefer to guide yourself. So it is with these stories. You decide if the guide is helpful or not. if not, ignore the preface.
Second, teacher: There's a short postscript to each story emphasizing a particular point or angle or an entirely new way of thinking that may enhance your understanding and/or your motivation to act in some way. Again, you decide. You may choose to come to your own conclusions or learning and to pass by the postscript. Great.
I've come to believe that repetition is the mother of learning and that if you really want to help people become consciously competent, you should repeat similar words and ideas again and again in fresh ways and from different angles. That's what this book attempts to do. Since it is a book about people trying to live the 7 Habits, the language of the 7 Habits will be found continually throughout the book. The storyteller has often identified the Habit being lived right in the middle of the story. Where he or she hasn't identified it specifically, where it is an important insight, and particularly if I don't mention it in my comments before or after the story, I have occasionally inserted the name of the Habit being practiced in brackets, such as [Habit I: Be Proactive]. If for some reason this annoys you, just forget it and move on, but I am persuaded that it will help most people, 7 Habits familiar or not, become more consciously aware of what principle is operating.
In the postscript I will often mention the Habit again, perhaps with another twist or angle or experience. Remember, the purpose of the book is to help you, the reader, deepen your understanding and commitment to the principles that are embodied in the Habits. Don't allow word symbols to turn you off. The key thing is the principle that exists in nature and governs the consequences of all actions.
Remember, also, that these are self-evident principles. I am only using language that identifies some of the truths you already know deep inside. I'm trying to make them explicit so that they affect the way you think and decide and act. Therefore, the very words of the 7 Habits are only symbols of a world of principles. They are like the key that opens a door to meaning.
These are all true stories and, in most cases, in the actual words of the storyteller. In some cases there needed to be some editing, but every effort was made to preserve the original meaning and intent, the tone, and the spirit of the storyteller. Most of the names of people in the stories have been changed to preserve their anonymity. The exceptions are those who are identified by name in the title of the story.
THE INSIDE-OUT STRUGGLE
As you read these stories, notice that, most often, the people take an Inside-Out Approach, usually requiring personal struggle and sacrifice of pride and ego, and often a significant alteration of life and work style. The alteration almost always requires painstaking effort, patience, and persistence. All four unique human gifts or endowments -- self-awareness, imagination, conscience, and independent will -- are usually exercised and magnified. Almost always there's a vision of what's possible and desirable. And almost always, marvelous things result. Trust is restored. Broken relationships are redeemed. Personal moral authority to continue the upward change effort is evident.
You'll identify with some stories more than others. Ponder the visuals. They were carefully selected to reflect the uniqueness of the stories. As you pay the price with each story and come to see the underlying universal principles involved, your confidence will grow in your ability to adapt and apply the 7 Habits framework to any difficult situation or challenge you may face now or in the future. You'll also begin to see an opportunity in your problems so that your creative powers are released. When we solve problems, we get rid of something. When we create, we bring something into existence. Ironically, the creative mind-set solves problems better than the problem-solving mind-set. You'll see this again and again in these stories. Enjoy them, learn from them, reflect on them. They will inspire hope and increase faith in yourself and in your own creative powers.
Copyright © 1999 by Franklin Covey Co.
From: Raising Teens (Or Is It Being Raised by Them?)
My First Broken Heart
Just as air is the deepest hunger of the human body, to be understood (Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood) is the deepest hunger of the human heart. Notice in this story the power of unconditional love, how simply understanding can heal.
When I was seventeen years old, I suffered my first romantic heartbreak. I will never forget the pain of that experience. The girl I had been dating, without warning and without mercy, broke off our relationship and immediately began dating a close friend. In one moment, my world came crashing down. I remember driving my 1952 Willys jeep out into the hills above my hometown of Redlands, California, determined that I would never, ever go back to school, or life, again. Finally, as evening set, hunger and pain drove me home. I said little, but the look in my eyes must have told my parents what happened. I could not eat, so I went into my bedroom, fell into bed, and began to weep. I sobbed and sobbed. After some time, the door of my bedroom quietly opened, and I sensed the presence of my father standing quietly by my bed. Gently, he pulled back the covers of my bed and climbed in beside me. He wrapped me in his strong, warm arms and held me closer than I have ever been held in my life. He pulled my heart, my body, my spirit into him. I felt his warmth and strength, as I continued to sob. And then, my father began to weep with me. I felt his chest shudder with his own sobs. His face was pressed into the side of mine, and I felt his warm tears leave his eyes and mingle with mine as they ran down my cheek. He said nothing. He just wept. Wept because I was in pain. Wept because he loved me and felt my pain. After long moments, my sobs began to subside and a growing light replaced the pain. My father got up, tucked the blankets around my chin, and rested his hand on my shoulder. He then said, "My son, I promise the sun will come out again. I love you." He then left as quietly as he entered. He was right. The sun did come out. I arose, dressed my best, polished my jeep, and headed for school.
Life went on, richer than before somehow, for I knew I was loved, unconditionally, by a father who taught me what empathy really means. Recently I quietly closed the lid on my father's casket. Before I did so, I paused, once more, to stroke the whiskers of his chin and remember that night, long ago.
Such profound emotional experiences last a lifetime and give powerful scripts to the next generation. My guess is that this person does the same thing with his children as his father did with him.
Copyright © 1999 by Franklin Covey Co.
From: Increasing Your Influence
Notice the metamorphosis this person goes through from fear to exercising some courage. See if it doesn't give you courage to take hold of your situation and improve it in some way.
When I came on board as director of human resources, I heard horror stories about what my boss was like. I was actually in his office when he lost his temper with an employee. If words had edges, the employee would have been standing in a pool of his own blood. I vowed then and there never to get on my boss's bad side. Nothing, not even the greatest frustration or biggest legal action, was worth running into him on a bad day. I made good on that promise. I spoke nicely to him in the hallways. I had all my reports in on time to his secretary. I made sure I wasn't one of the last people out of the office for lunch so he wouldn't single me out. I didn't even want to play golf with him in case I beat him.
A short time later, I started seeing myself in all my cowardly glory. I was consumed with things on the job that I had no control over. I'd spend precious creative energy devising solutions to problems that hadn't even happened yet. Because I was scared, I wasn't giving the company my best effort. I wasn't an agent of change. In fact, the only change I felt comfortable instituting was me changing to another company. I even had an interview scheduled.
Ashamed of myself, I canceled that interview and committed to focusing on my Circle of Influence for just ninety days [Habit I: Be Proactive]. I began by deciding I wanted above all to create a sound relationship with my boss [Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind]. We didn't have to be best buddies, but we did have to interact like colleagues. So with that goal in mind, I returned to the office thinking, "Just ninety days. I'll give it my all for just ninety days."
One day my boss came into my office. After some discussion and after swallowing and practicing the words in my head a few times, I said: "By the way, what can I be doing to help you be more effective here [Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood]?"
He was perplexed. "What do you mean?"
I forged bravely on. "What can I do to alleviate some of the pressure that you have in your job? It's my job to make sure your job gets easier." I gave him a big, sort of nervous, please-don't-think-I'm-weird smile. I'll never forget the look on his face. That was really the beginning point of our relationship.
At first, I was asked to do just little things, things I couldn't really screw up, like "Type this memo up for me" or "Do you mind making this call for me?" After six weeks of doing that, he came to me and said, "I understand with your background you know workers comp pretty well. Do you mind working on this aspect of insurance? Our rates are high, see what you can do." It was the first time he had asked me to do anything that had a significant impact on the organization. I took a $250,000-a-year premium and got it reduced to $198,000. Plus I got them to waive the fee for terminating midstream on our contract by negotiating over some mishandled claims. This was an additional savings of $13,000.
Once when we had a disagreement I proved to him that it stayed behind closed doors. He didn't hear about it later on from the marketing department. I soon discovered that my ninety-day test was paying off. My relationship and influence did grow by focusing on what I could do to change the environment in which I worked. Today, the trust between my boss and me is very high, and I feel I am making a contribution here.
Increasing your influence usually takes a lot of patience and persistence. As confidence in your competence and character increases, inevitably a larger trust is given. Ninety days is usually a good period of time to test something. Sometimes it can even be done in thirty.
Copyright © 1999 by Franklin Covey Co.
From: Back to School
Sharlee Doxey-Stockdale SIXTH-GRADE TEACHER, MONTE VISTA ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
As you study the objectives and methods of this outstanding teacher, notice how she encouraged her students not only to understand the 7 Habits, but to constantly refer to them in identifying different behaviors. A common social language is basic in culture building.
A couple of years ago, during an awards ceremony at Copper Hills High School in South Jordan, Utah, twelve students were presented with Sterling Scholar Awards for academic achievement and leadership. There was nothing unusual about the ceremony, except that one of the parents present noted that half of those students being honored had passed through the same sixth-grade teacher's classroom. They had all been my students. I hadn't been aware of that until the parent came to me and asked what my secret was for consistently turning out such high-achieving students. I told her it was no secret. It was simply the 7 Habits.
I recently put together a collection of letters handwritten by children from my classes, and while they are all very dear to me, there is one that will always strike a particular chord. It begins: "I came to Ms. Doxey's class one of the worst panikers [sic] ever. I have been proactive in learning to control my panic attacks."
This letter is from Heidi, who entered my fourth-grade class as a shy, withdrawn child whose intelligence nonetheless shone through her reticence. Still, the child was all but crippled by her fear of failure. Anytime she failed to respond correctly in class, she became distraught, crying and tormenting herself to the point that she often could not function for the rest of the school day. I have seen the situation many times in my more than thirty years in the classroom. I recognized Heidi's nervousness and emotional volatility as perfectionism. This little girl lived in great fear of failing.
Her paradigm was "I can't solve problems without help because I might make a mistake." She didn't trust herself, which is common with the gifted child. Perfectionism and fear of failure can seriously handicap bright children if they are not taught early that failure is part of the learning process. To help Heidi overcome her fears, I both modeled and taught proactivity. To help solve the problem of perfectionism, I have a poster on the wall showing the 7 Habits. This I present as "The Rules of the Room" and from the first day of class each year, I model the Habits and define what I am doing so that the students begin to understand. I go through the vocabulary and tell the students that these are the rules that govern our class. I also send a paper home to each of their parents explaining the Habits. The second week of school I ask the children to bring back examples from home for each Habit. In class, I consistently incorporate the Habits into my teaching by modeling them and by using examples in the curriculum. For example, when I identify a problem and begin to work on a solution, I tell them, "I am being proactive now" or "I am beginning this with the end in mind." I also have the children verbalize when they are being proactive or ask them questions such as, "If you were going to be proactive, how would you respond?" Students find proactive behaviors in stories, in history lessons -- even in math! Every subject can model the Habits.
Heidi had to overcome her learned behavior, which was primarily reactive, so for the first few weeks of school she was often frustrated by these exercises based on the 7 Habits. When she discovered she'd left a book at home the second week of school, she panicked. When she burst into tears, I said to her, "Let's look at the problem together." I listened to her talk about it and then I asked, "Now, what Habit am I practicing?"
She said, "You are seeking to understand what the problem is."
Then I asked, "What Habits are going to help you solve this problem?" She couldn't identify how to proceed, so we talked about being proactive, and what the possibilities were for her in this instance.
In the following weeks, I walked Heidi and the other students in the class through similar scenarios dozens of times with the goal of making them second nature. This was very difficult at first because panic was so ingrained as her response, but little by little she began to transform from a problem spotter to a problem solver.
To help the students understand the 7 Habits more clearly, I set up an Emotional Bank Account system. I give out little printed points certificates to reward appropriate behaviors such as problem solving, prioritizing, or proactive behavior. I also award them when the children make deposits into each other's Emotional Bank Accounts by being kind or thoughtful. I use these points as a physical reinforcement for using the Habits. Students can use the points for privileges or as makeup for a late assignment or a low score.
I encourage students to analyze their behavior in terms of the 7 Habits and I emphasize that students are expected to live the principles in my classroom. In social studies or math we find examples of the Habits being used. I integrate them into every lesson. The students quickly learn.
If a student says that his homework isn't done because his mother made him go to bed early, I call that "mommy dumping" and tell him it is an unacceptable solution. They pick up on that and become quick to identify the mommy dumpers and the proactive problem solvers.
To build self-awareness, I conduct role-playing sessions in which the children act out scenarios -- playing the role of historical figures, novel characters, parents, and children -- and identify behaviors that are not in alignment with the 7 Habits. It doesn't take them long to figure out that the problem wasn't that Mom made them go to bed, it was that they didn't put first things first and do the homework instead of playing.
I also have a problem board that students can sign. It entitles them to a private conference with me to resolve problems. If they left their homework at home, we work out a win-win solution but I require them to have evidence, such as a note from a parent saying that they did the work but forgot to put it in their book bag. If they come up with the evidence and a solution then there is no late penalty because they have been proactive. But if they don't have the assignment, and they don't have evidence, a zero is earned. They learn to be proactive, and also learn that there are negative consequences as well as positive ones for decisions.
Through this daily exposure to proactive behavior and the 7 Habits, Heidi slowly began to understand that she had a choice to rise above circumstances and to apply her intelligence in far more beneficial and satisfying ways.
One day six or seven weeks into the school year, she came to me with a solution instead of a problem. When she dared to take that risk, to come to me with her solution, I knew she had experienced a breakthrough. I witnessed many such moments since with her and hundreds of other children. I had the pleasure of working with Heidi again in sixth grade. She still uses the Habits!
Usually about halfway through a school year, the students will look at their own behavior and say, "I didn't put first things first when I played instead of doing my homework." They reach a level of awareness where they can identify the behavior that caused the problem; to me, that is an incredible step. I've even had parents tell me that students go home and scold their brothers and sisters for not synergizing enough or for not seeking to understand each other! They have internalized the Habits.
The letters my students have written offer the greatest testimony to the effectiveness of modeling and teaching the Habits. Here are a few more samples from those letters from my fourth-grade class:
I SOUGHT TO UNDERSTAND THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD WHEN WE WERE DOING COMPREHENSION CARDS AND MY PARTNER WAS BEING SLOW. I ASKED HER WHY SHE WAS BEING SLOW DOING THE CARDS. SHE SAID THAT SHE JUST READ SLOW. THEN I UNDERSTOOD.
I BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND WHEN BEFORE I PLAY I CLEAN AND DO HOMEWORK.
I HAVE BEEN PROACTIVE AT DOING MY HOMEWORK. I WAS ONE OF THE KIDS WHO NEVER DID IT. I HAVE GOTTEN REAL GOOD SCORES NOW.
THINK WIN-WIN. WHEN I PLAY I ALWAYS THINK I'LL PLAY A GOOD GAME, I DON'T CARE IF I LOSE.
SEEK TO UNDERSTAND THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD. I HAVE STARTED TO SEE WHAT OTHER PEOPLE WANT TO DO, IT'S NOT JUST WHAT I WANT TO DO.
WHEN I PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST...I GO TO THE STORE AND I GET THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS FIRST AND ALWAYS GET CANDY LAST.
THERE WAS A TEACHER STANDING AT THE FRONT OF THE ROOM. I COULD NOT SEE THE WHITE BOARD. SO INSTEAD OF ASKING THE TEACHER TO MOVE IT, I DID. THAT WAS AN EXAMPLE OF PROACTIVITY. ONE TIME WE HAD A PIONEER TREK AND OUR HANDCART FELL OVER AND WE SYNERGIZED AND CLEANED IT UP.
MY SISTER WANTED SOMETHING OF MINE AND I WANTED SOMETHING OF HERS. SO I MADE A DEAL WITH HER AND WE BOTH WON!
THINK WIN-WIN. MY FRIEND AND I WERE PLAYING BASKETBALL AND WE KEPT PASSING TO EACH OTHER AND WE WON THE GAME!
I've had a great deal of career satisfaction since I began using the 7 Habits in the classroom. I'm not always successful with every child, but my goal each year is to teach myself out of a job, to teach the youngsters to become independent so that they don't need a teacher, so that they are ready for life. It turns kids like Heidi, who was paralyzed by her fear of failure, into problem solvers and into functioning people who will take risks because they understand that failure is not a dead end. It gives the children the power to govern themselves, and if we teach them to govern themselves and expect them to do it, they will do it.
Incorporating the Habits in the classroom has produced classes that are delightful to work with all year long. No longer am I a stressed-out teacher trying to control thirty children. They are controlling themselves and synergizing with each other and with me. Together we are soaring! My work has become much more enjoyable because we synergize.
Instead of being the sage on the stage, I'm the guide on the side, and that is energizing. I don't have to know all the answers: my job is to help the students discover the answers for themselves and that gives us both a great deal more satisfaction. They are becoming problem-solving citizens of the world.
In his brilliant book A Guide for the Perplexed, E. F. Schumacher identifies four levels of being and their unique characteristics: the first level, rock, which is mineral; the second level, plant, which is mineral plus life; the third level, animal, which is mineral plus life plus consciousness; the fourth level, human, which is mineral plus life plus consciousness plus self-awareness, which is the ability to think about your thinking. Self-awareness is the least cultivated of the four unique human gifts (self-awareness, imagination, conscience, and independent will). Yet the more it is cultivated, the larger the space between stimulus and response becomes. People are no longer a product of their genes, their parents, or their present relationships and circumstances. They are a product of their choices in response to these things. The more people train themselves in the language of self-awareness, the more it is cultivated. Words are symbols of meaning; they are tools for ideas. People cannot think outside of their vocabulary. Just try it and you will see how your thinking is confined to your language.
When this marvelous teacher trained her students in the language of proactivity, Emotional Bank Account, and other positive behaviors, both their awareness and their behavioral repertoire increased. Also, when people move from being unconsciously effective to being consciously effective they can teach the principles to others by both precept and example. Such conscious effectiveness increasingly cultivates independence, rather than continued dependence upon a teacher. It also deepens understanding of why a principle works and why a particular practice that is not based upon a principle does not work. It's no wonder that so many of Sharlee Doxey-Stockdale's students were recognized for their outstanding performance!
Copyright © 1999 by Franklin Covey Co.
From: Raising Young Children
In the following story notice how one's awareness expands and deepens through proactive initiative and human interaction. Notice also the amazing wealth produced.
My oldest daughter, Tina, who was about nine at the time, and I were driving to see her grandmother. I remember thinking that with Tina, building an Emotional Bank Account was a key. So I thought, "What can I do in the thirty minutes we have together to make deposits in her bank account?" You know, this took a bit of courage. By the age of nine, a child pretty much has a good idea of the kind of behavior to expect from each parent. I'm not much of a chatterer when we travel. I might comment on the scenery every now and again, but mostly I drive in silence. So I was a bit nervous suggesting the game I came up with.
As we backed out of the driveway, I said, "Honey, why don't we play a game. What we want to do is say 'I feel good about you because...' or 'I liked what you did because...' The 'because' is important because then we know why the other person likes us. Okay? I'll start."
So I started off. I said something about her. Then she paused and said something about me. After about three or four things, I really had to start thinking. This was quite shocking to me. I love my child so much, but I was having difficulty thinking of specific actions that I loved about her. I was really searching for things to say. Tina found it easier. After about five or six, she started to break through the normal responses. I could tell she was looking at my life, and seeing me and what I did. She was grateful for the work I did, the walks to the park, the basketball in the driveway, the way I woke her up in the mornings. She could see all of me.
I was still struggling. Then, as I looked at this little girl's life, really looked at her and what she did every day in our family, I started to see. I saw her hugs, her little words, her thank-yous. I saw how well she was doing at school and how polite she was. I told her I loved it when she came home from school and gave me a big hug. When we started digging and looking, we couldn't stop. This was only a thirty-minute trip. We got to twenty-two, twenty-three items and then I had to call it off. I couldn't think of anything else.
Frankly, I was stunned by the game. I felt good on one hand but discouraged on the other. Good that Tina could see so much (she wanted to carry on), discouraged that I couldn't find more. More importantly, the rest of the trip we spent chattering to each other. I think the game started a dialogue that I hadn't had with her before.
When we arrived, Tina jumped out of the car and raced into the house, and that's when my heart almost broke. "Grandma, Grandma," she shouted. "My daddy knows so many good things about me. I didn't know he knew so many good things about me."
The word "respect" comes from the Latin root specto, which means to see -- to see another (Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood). The more we are self-absorbed, the less we see others as precious individuals with many layers of individuality, and with many facets to each layer. When we get out of ourselves, and truly listen to another, a marvelous journey of discovery begins.
Copyright © 1999 by Franklin Covey Co.
From Courage to Change
It's Never Too Late to Change
Observe in this story the basic elements of the change process: self-awareness, taking responsibility, authentic expression, group support, and accountability.
I am a teacher of adults. During the introductions of one of the seminars I was leading, when everyone was talking about why they were there, one gentleman stood up and said, "My name is Harry. I am seventy-six years old, and I am here because my wife sent me." Everyone started laughing, but he was very serious. He continued, "My wife told me that this is my last chance. If I don't straighten up, I'm out on my rear. You see, I've been a rascal all my life. Do you think it's too late for me?"
I answered, "It's only too late if you don't start now."
Well, as the workshop progressed, the group took him on as a personal project. Harry is a person that you hated to love, but you loved him anyway. He was just so cute, but he had this little impish way about him. You could see how his wife might have come to the end of her rope with him. The group could see that his wife's Emotional Bank Account was empty. He had made very few deposits and numerous withdrawals over many years. In fact, her Emotional Bank Account was so overdrawn it was close to bankruptcy. Through modeling and mentoring and teaching, he soon began to make deposits. At first his wife didn't believe he was sincere, and that was very frustrating for him. He was just so disappointed that she didn't automatically think, "Well look how this guy has changed!" He wanted to give up, but the group would not let him. The group said, "Your wife's bank account is so overdrawn, you have got to be consistently doing things."
So Harry started doing little household chores that he had never done before. He took out the trash, cleaned up after himself, took his dishes to the sink, and began to offer to help around the house. And that was a first for him. His wife apparently was so angry that she was thinking, "This is great, but it won't last." So he continued doing little things for her like making sure when she took the car out that he had it washed and filled with gas. If he came home and she was busy, he would ask, "Can I run to the store for you? Can I do errands for you?" and he consistently did this. He started taking her out to lunch, and doing all kinds of things. You could just see that love was being rekindled.
Our group was together two hours a week over an eleven-week period, so we would get a progress report each week. As the weeks went by, she began to trust him and feel like maybe he really was making a change. At the last session Harry walked into the room with a big smile on his face. He came to the front of the room and gave me a great big hug. Well, I kind of held him off at arm's length and I said, "Now Harry, this isn't some of your rascally behavior is it?" and he said, "Oh no, that hug is from my wife, and she baked cookies for the whole class. She wanted me to tell everyone that I could stay -- she said I could stay!"
True group support, a lot of genuine expression, and a sense of accountability not only gave this seventy-six-year-old man the power to transform his life, they are elements common to most successful change efforts. One-shot events may begin a change process, but they are usually insufficient. Both a process and systemic reinforcement based on self-evident, universal, timeless principles are needed.
Many years ago, at the end of one of my semester courses in college, I remember asking a speech professor, "If you were to do your career all over again, what would you do differently?" In addition to teaching, he was also a speaker of international renown. His response to my question was both interesting and instructive, and I am convinced that, among other things, it unconsciously had a marked influence on my life. He said, "I would build an organization." I asked him why. He said, "So there would be follow-through and lasting influence -- a process, not just an event." That very principle is what led me to leave a university many years later to start my own organization.
Copyright © 1999 by Franklin Covey Co.