There is no real excellence in all this world
which can be separated from right living.
David Starr Jordan
In more than 25 years of working with people in business, university, and marriage and family settings, I have come in contact with many individuals who have achieved an incredible degree of outward success, but have found themselves struggling with an inner hunger, a deep need for personal congruency and effectiveness and for healthy, growing relationships with other people.
I suspect some of the problems they have shared with me may be familiar to you.
I've set and met my career goals and I'm having tremendous professional success. But it's cost me my personal and family life. I don't know my wife and children any more. I'm not even sure I know myself and what's really important to me. I've had to ask myself -- is it worth it?
I've started a new diet -- for the fifth time this year. I know I'm overweight, and I really want to change. I read all the new information, I set goals, I get myself all psyched up with a positive mental attitude and tell myself I can do it. But I don't. After a few weeks, I fizzle. I just can't seem to keep a promise I make to myself.
I've taken course after course on effective management training. I expect a lot out of my employees and I work hard to be friendly toward them and to treat them right. But I don't feel any loyalty from them. I think if I were home sick for a day, they'd spend most of their time gabbing at the water fountain. Why can't I train them to be independent and responsible -- or find employees who can be?
My teenage son is rebellious and on drugs. No matter what I try, he won't listen to me. What can I do?
There's so much to do. And there's never enough time. I feel pressured and hassled all day, every day, seven days a week. I've attended time management seminars and I've tried half a dozen different planning systems. They've helped some, but I still don't feel I'm living the happy, productive, peaceful life I want to live.
I want to teach my children the value of work. But to get them to do anything, I have to supervise every move...and put up with complaining every step of the way. It's so much easier to do it myself. Why can't children do their work cheerfully and without being reminded?
I'm busy -- really busy. But sometimes I wonder if what I'm doing will make any difference in the long run. I'd really like to think there was meaning in my life, that somehow things were different because I was here.
I see my friends or relatives achieve some degree of success or receive some recognition, and I smile and congratulate them enthusiastically. But inside, I'm eating my heart out. Why do I feel this way?
I have a forceful personality. I know, in almost any interaction, I can control the outcome. Most of the time, I can even do it by influencing others to come up with the solution I want. I think through each situation and I really feel the ideas I come up with are usually the best for everyone. But I feel uneasy. I always wonder what other people really think of me and my ideas.
My marriage has gone fiat. We don't fight or anything; we just don't love each other anymore. We've gone to counseling; we've tried a number of things, but we just can't seem to rekindle the feeling we used to have.
These are deep problems, painful problems -- problems that quick fix approaches can't solve.
A few years ago, my wife Sandra and I were struggling with this kind of concern. One of our sons was having a very difficult time in school. He was doing poorly academically; he didn't even know how to follow the instructions on the tests, let alone do well on them. Socially he was immature, often embarrassing those closest to him. Athletically, he was small, skinny, and uncoordinated -- swinging his baseball bat, for example, almost before the ball was even pitched. Others would laugh at him.
Sandra and I were consumed with a desire to help him. We felt that if "success" were important in any area of life, it was supremely important in our role as parents. So we worked on our attitudes and behavior toward him and we tried to work on his. We attempted to psych him up using positive mental attitude techniques. "Come on, son! You can do it! We know you can. Put your hands a little higher on the bat and keep your eye on the ball. Don't swing till it gets close to you." And if he did a little better, we would go to great lengths to reinforce him. "That's good, son, keep it up."
When others laughed, we reprimanded them. "Leave him alone. Get off his back. He's just learning." And our son would cry and insist that he'd never be any good and that he didn't like baseball anyway.
Nothing we did seemed to help, and we were really worried. We could see the effect this was having on his self-esteem. We tried to be encouraging and helpful and positive, but after repeated failure, we finally drew back and tried to look at the situation on a different level.
At this time in my professional role I was involved in leadership development work with various clients throughout the country. In that capacity I was preparing bimonthly programs on the subject of communication and perception for IBM's Executive Development Program participants.
As I researched and prepared these presentations, I became particularly interested in how perceptions are formed, how they govern the way we see, and how the way we see governs how we behave. This led me to a study of expectancy theory and self-fulfilling prophecies or the "Pygmalion effect," and to a realization of how deeply imbedded our perceptions are. It taught me that we must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as at the world we see, and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.
As Sandra and I talked about the concepts I was teaching at IBM and about our own situation, we began to realize that what we were doing to help our son was not in harmony with the way we really saw him. When we honestly examined our deepest feelings, we realized that our perception was that he was basically inadequate, somehow "behind." No matter how much we worked on our attitude and behavior, our efforts were ineffective because, despite our actions and our words, what we really communicated to him was, "You aren't capable. You have to be protected."
We began to realize that if we wanted to change the situation, we first had to change ourselves. And to change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.
The Personality and Character Ethics
At the same time, in addition to my research on perception, I was also deeply immersed in an in-depth study of the success literature published in the United States since 1776. I was reading or scanning literally hundreds of books, articles, and essays in fields such as self-improvement, popular psychology, and self-help. At my fingertips was the sum and substance of what a free and democratic people considered to be the keys to successful living.
As my study took me back through 200 years of writing about success, I noticed a startling pattern emerging in the content of the literature. Because of our own pain, and because of similar pain I had seen in the lives and relationships of many people I had worked with through the years, I began to feel more and more that much of the success literature of the past 50 years was superficial. It was filled with social image consciousness, techniques and quick fixes -- with social band-aids and aspirin that addressed acute problems and sometimes even appeared to solve them temporarily, but left the underlying chronic problems untouched to fester and resurface time and again.
In stark contrast, almost all the literature in the first 150 years or so focused on what could be called the Character Ethic as the foundation of success -- things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden Rule. Benjamin Franklin's autobiography is representative of that literature. It is, basically, the story of one man's effort to integrate certain principles and habits deep within his nature.
The Character Ethic taught that there are basic principles of effective living, and that people can only experience true success and enduring happiness as they learn and integrate these principles into their basic character.
But shortly after World War I the basic view of success shifted from the Character Ethic to what we might call the Personality Ethic. Success became more a function of personality, of public image, of attitudes and behaviors, skills and techniques, that lubricate the processes of human interaction. This Personality Ethic essentially took two paths: one was human and public relations techniques, and the other was positive mental attitude (PMA). Some of this philosophy was expressed in inspiring and sometimes valid maxims such as "Your attitude determines your altitude," "Smiling wins more friends than frowning," and "Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe it can achieve."
Other parts of the personality approach were clearly manipulative, even deceptive, encouraging people to use techniques to get other people to like them, or to fake interest in the hobbies of others to get out of them what they wanted, or to use the "power look," or to intimidate their way through life.
Some of this literature acknowledged character as an ingredient of success, but tended to compartmentalize it rather than recognize it as foundational and catalytic. Reference to the Character Ethic became mostly lip service; the basic thrust was quick-fix influence techniques, power strategies, communication skills, and positive attitudes.
This Personality Ethic, I began to realize, was the subconscious source of the solutions Sandra and I were attempting to use with our son. As I thought more deeply about the difference between the Personality and Character Ethics, I realized that Sandra and I had been getting social mileage out of our children's good behavior, and, in our eyes, this son simply didn't measure up. Our image of ourselves, and our role as good, caring parents was even deeper than our image of our son and perhaps influenced it. There was a lot more wrapped up in the way we were seeing and handling the problem than our concern for our son's welfare.
As Sandra and I talked, we became painfully aware of the powerful influence of our own character and motives and of our perception of him. We knew that social comparison motives were out of harmony with our deeper values and could lead to conditional love and eventually to our son's lessened sense of self-worth. So we determined to focus our efforts on us -- not on our techniques, but on our deepest motives and our perception of him. Instead of trying to change him, we tried to stand apart -- to separate us from him -- and to sense his identity, individuality, separateness, and worth.
Through deep thought and the exercise of faith and prayer, we began to see our son in terms of his own uniqueness. We saw within him layers and layers of potential that would be realized at his own pace and speed. We decided to relax and get out of his way and let his own personality emerge. We saw our natural role as being to affirm, enjoy, and value him. We also conscientiously worked on our motives and cultivated internal sources of security so that our own feelings of worth were not dependent on our children's "acceptable" behavior.
As we loosened up our old perception of our son and developed value-based motives, new feelings began to emerge. We found ourselves enjoying him instead of comparing or judging him. We stopped trying to clone him in our own image or measure him against social expectations. We stopped trying to kindly, positively manipulate him into an acceptable social mold. Because we saw him as fundamentally adequate and able to cope with life, we stopped protecting him against the ridicule of others.
He had been nurtured on this protection, so he went through some withdrawal pains, which he expressed and which we accepted, but did not necessarily respond to. "We don't need to protect you," was the unspoken message. "You're fundamentally okay."
As the weeks and months passed, he began to feel a quiet confidence and affirmed himself. He began to blossom, at his own pace and speed. He became outstanding as measured by standard social criteria -- academically, socially and athletically -- at a rapid clip, far beyond the so-called natural developmental process. As the years passed, he was elected to several student body leadership positions, developed into an all-state athlete and started bringing home straight A report cards. He developed an engaging and guileless personality that has enabled him to relate in nonthreatening ways to all kinds of people.
Sandra and I believe that our son's "socially impressive" accomplishments were more a serendipitous expression of the feelings he had about himself than merely a response to social reward. This was an amazing experience for Sandra and me, and a very instructional one in dealing with our other children and in other roles as well. It brought to our awareness on a very personal level the vital difference between the Personality Ethic and the Character Ethic of success. The Psalmist expressed our conviction well: "Search your own heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life."
Primary and Secondary Greatness
My experience with my son, my study of perception and my reading of the success literature coalesced to create one of those "Aha!" experiences in life when suddenly things click into place. I was suddenly able to see the powerful impact of the Personality Ethic and to clearly understand those subtle, often consciously unidentified discrepancies between what I knew to be true -- some things I had been taught many years ago as a child and things that were deep in my own inner sense of value -- and the quick fix philosophies that surrounded me every day. I understood at a deeper level why, as I had worked through the years with people from all walks of life, I had found that the things I was teaching and knew to be effective were often at variance with these popular voices.
I am not suggesting that elements of the Personality Ethic -- personality growth, communication skill training, and education in the field of influence strategies and positive thinking -- are not beneficial, in fact sometimes essential for success. I believe they are. But these are secondary, not primary traits. Perhaps, in utilizing our human capacity to build on the foundation of generations before us, we have inadvertently become so focused on our own building that we have forgotten the foundation that holds it up; or in reaping for so long where we have not sown, perhaps we have forgotten the need to sow.
If I try to use human influence strategies and tactics of how to get other people to do what I want, to work better, to be more motivated, to like me and each other -- while my character is fundamentally flawed, marked by duplicity and insincerity -- then, in the long run, I cannot be successful. My duplicity will breed distrust, and everything I do -- even using so-called good human relations techniques -- will be perceived as manipulative. It simply makes no difference how good the rhetoric is or even how good the intentions are; if there is little or no trust, there is no foundation for permanent success. Only basic goodness gives life to technique.
To focus on technique is like cramming your way through school. You sometimes get by, perhaps even get good grades, but if you don't pay the price day in and day out, you never achieve true mastery of the subjects you study or develop an educated mind.
Did you ever consider how ridiculous it would be to try to cram on a farm -- to forget to plant in the spring, play all summer and then cram in the fall to bring in the harvest? The farm is a natural system. The price must be paid and the process followed. You always reap what you sow; there is no shortcut.
This principle is also true, ultimately, in human behavior, in human relationships. They, too, are natural systems based on the law of the harvest. In the short run, in an artificial social system such as school, you may be able to get by if you learn how to manipulate the man-made rules, to "play the game." In most one-shot or short-lived human interactions, you can use the Personality Ethic to get by and to make favorable impressions through charm and skill and pretending to be interested in other people's hobbies. You can pick up quick, easy techniques that may work in short-term situations. But secondary traits alone have no permanent worth in long-term relationships. Eventually, if there isn't deep integrity and fundamental character strength, the challenges of life will cause true motives to surface and human relationship failure will replace short-term success.
Many people with secondary greatness -- that is, social recognition for their talents -- lack primary greatness or goodness in their character. Sooner or later, you'll see this in every long-term relationship they have, whether it is with a business associate, a spouse, a friend, or a teenage child going through an identity crisis. It is character that communicates most eloquently. As Emerson once put it, "What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say."
There are, of course, situations where people have character strength but they lack communication skills, and that undoubtedly affects the quality of relationships as well. But the effects are still secondary.
In the last analysis, what we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do. We all know it. There are people we trust absolutely because we know their character. Whether they're eloquent or not, whether they have the human relations techniques or not, we trust them, and we work successfully with them.
In the words of William George Jordan, "Into the hands of every individual is given a marvelous power for good or evil -- the silent, unconscious, unseen influence of his life. This is simply the constant radiation of what man really is, not what he pretends to be."
The Power of a Paradigm
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People embody many of the fundamental principles of human effectiveness. These habits are basic; they are primary. They represent the internalization of correct principles upon which enduring happiness and success are based.
But before we can really understand these Seven Habits, we need to understand our own "paradigms" and how to make a "paradigm shift."
Both the Character Ethic and the Personality Ethic are examples of social paradigms. The word paradigm comes from the Greek. It was originally a scientific term, and is more commonly used today to mean a model, theory, perception, assumption, or flame of reference. In the more general sense, it's the way we "see" the world -- not in terms of our visual sense of sight, but in terms of perceiving, understanding, interpreting.
For our purposes, a simple way to understand paradigms is to see them as maps. We all know that "the map is not the territory." A map is simply an explanation of certain aspects of the territory. That's exactly what a paradigm is. It is a theory, an explanation, or model of something else.
Suppose you wanted to arrive at a specific location in central Chicago. A street map of the city would be a great help to you in reaching your destination. But suppose you were given the wrong map. Through a printing error, the map labeled "Chicago" was actually a map of Detroit. Can you imagine the frustration, the ineffectiveness of trying to reach your destination?
You might work on your behavior -- you could try harder, be more diligent, double your speed. But your efforts would only succeed in getting you to the wrong place faster.
You might work on your attitude -- you could think more positively. You still wouldn't get to the right place, but perhaps you wouldn't care. Your attitude would be so positive, you'd be happy wherever you were.
The point is, you'd still be lost. The fundamental problem has nothing to do with your behavior or your attitude. It has everything to do with having a wrong map.
If you have the right map of Chicago, then diligence becomes important, and when you encounter frustrating obstacles along the way, then attitude can make a real difference. But the first and most important requirement is the accuracy of the map.
Each of us has many, many maps in our head, which can be divided into two main categories: maps of the way things are, or realities, and maps of the way things should be, or values. We interpret everything we experience through these mental maps. We seldom question their accuracy; we're usually even unaware that we have them. We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be.
And our attitudes and behaviors grow out of those assumptions. The way we see things is the source of the way we think and the way we act.
Before going any further, I invite you to have an intellectual and emotional experience. Take a few seconds and just look at the picture on the following page.
Now look at the picture on page 26 and carefully describe what you see.
Do you see a woman? How old would you say she is? What does she look like? What is she wearing? In what kind of roles do you see her?
You probably would describe the woman in the second picture to be about 25 years old -- very lovely, rather fashionable with a petite nose and a demure presence. If you were a single man you might like to take her out. If you were in retailing, you might hire her as a fashion model.
But what if I were to tell you that you're wrong? What if I said this picture is of a woman in her 60's or 70's who looks sad, has a huge nose, and is certainly no model. She's someone you probably would help across the street.
Who's right? Look at the picture again. Can you see the old woman? If you can't, keep trying. Can you see her big hook nose? Her shawl?
If you and I were talking face to face, we could discuss the picture. You could describe what you see to me, and I could talk to you about what I see. We could continue to communicate until you clearly showed me what you see in the picture and I clearly showed you what I see.
Because we can't do that, turn to page 45 and study the picture there and then look at this picture again. Can you see the old woman now? It's important that you see her before you continue reading.
I first encountered this exercise many years ago at the Harvard Business School. The instructor was using it to demonstrate clearly and eloquently that two people can see the same thing, disagree, and yet both be right. It's not logical; its psychological.
He brought into the room a stack of large cards, half of which had the image of the young woman you saw on page 25, and the other half of which had the image of the old woman on page 45.
He passed them out to the class, the picture of the young woman to one side of the room and the picture of the old woman to the other. He asked us to look at the cards, concentrate on them for about ten seconds and then pass them back in. He then projected upon the screen the picture you saw on page 26 combining both images and asked the class to describe what they saw. Almost every person in that class who had first seen the young woman's image on a card saw the young woman in the picture. And almost every person who had first seen the old woman's image on a card saw an old woman in the picture.
The professor then asked one student to explain what he saw to a student on the opposite side of the room. As they talked back and forth, communication problems flared up.
"What do you mean, 'old lady'? She couldn't be more than 20 or 22 years old!"
"Oh, come on. You have to be joking. She's 70 -- could be pushing 80!"
"What's the matter with you? Are you blind? This lady is young, good looking. I'd like to take her out. She's lovely."
"Lovely? She's an old hag."
The arguments went back and forth, each person sure of, and adamant in, his or her position. All of this occurred in spite of one exceedingly important advantage the students had -- most of them knew early in the demonstration that another point of view did, in fact, exist -- something many of us would never admit. Nevertheless, at first, only a few students really tried to see this picture from another frame of reference.
After a period of futile communication, one student went up to the screen and pointed to a line on the drawing. "There is the young woman's necklace." The other one said, "No, that is the old woman's mouth." Gradually, they began to calmly discuss specific points of difference, and finally one student, and then another, experienced sudden recognition when the images of both came into focus. Through continued calm, respectful, and specific communication, each of us in the room was finally able to see the other point of view. But when we looked away and then back, most of us would immediately see the image we had been conditioned to see in the ten-second period of time.
I frequently use this perception demonstration in working with people and organizations because it yields so many deep insights into both personal and interpersonal effectiveness. It shows, first of all, how powerfully conditioning affects our perceptions, our paradigms. If ten seconds can have that kind of impact on the way we see things, what about the conditioning of a lifetime? The influences in our lives -- family, school, church, work environment, friends, associates, and current social paradigms such as the Personality Ethic -- all have made their silent unconscious impact on us and help shape our frame of reference, our paradigms, our maps.
It also shows that these paradigms are the source of our attitudes and behaviors. We cannot act with integrity outside of them. We simply cannot maintain wholeness if we talk and walk differently than we see. If you were among the 90 percent who typically see the young woman in the composite picture when conditioned to do so, you undoubtedly found it difficult to think in terms of having to help her cross the street. Both your attitude about her and your behavior toward her had to be congruent with the way you saw her.
This brings into focus one of the basic flaws of the Personality Ethic. To try to change outward attitudes and behaviors does very little good in the long run if we fail to examine the basic paradigms from which those attitudes and behaviors flow.
This perception demonstration also shows how powerfully our paradigms affect the way we interact with other people. As clearly and objectively as we think we see things, we begin to realize that others see them differently from their own apparently equally clear and objective point of view. "Where we stand depends on where we sit."
Each of us tends to think we see things as they are, that we are objective. But this is not the case. We see the world, not as it is, but as we are -- or, as we are conditioned to see it. When we open our mouths to describe what we see, we in effect describe ourselves, our perceptions, our paradigms. When other people disagree with us, we immediately think something is wrong with them. But, as the demonstration shows, sincere, clearheaded people see things differently, each looking through the unique lens of experience.
This does not mean that there are no facts. In the demonstration, two individuals who initially have been influenced by different conditioning pictures look at the third picture together. They are now both looking at the same identical facts -- black lines and white spaces -- and they would both acknowledge these as facts. But each person's interpretation of these facts represents prior experiences, and the facts have no meaning whatsoever apart from the interpretation.
The more aware we are of our basic paradigms, maps, or assumptions, and the extent to which we have been influenced by our experience, the more we can take responsibility for those paradigms, examine them, test them against reality, listen to others and be open to their perceptions, thereby getting a larger picture and a far more objective view.
The Power of a Paradigm Shift
Perhaps the most important insight to be gained from the perception demonstration is in the area of paradigm shifting, what we might call the "Aha!" experience when someone finally "sees" the composite picture in another way. The more bound a person is by the initial perception, the more powerful the "Aha!" experience is. It's as though a light were suddenly turned on inside.
The term paradigm shift was introduced by Thomas Kuhn in his highly influential landmark book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn shows how almost every significant breakthrough in the field of scientific endeavor is first a break with tradition, with old ways of thinking, with old paradigms.
For Ptolemy, the great Egyptian astronomer, the earth was the center of the universe. But Copernicus created a paradigm shift, and a great deal of resistance and persecution as well, by placing the sun at the center. Suddenly, everything took on a different interpretation.
The Newtonian model of physics was a clockwork paradigm and is still the basis of modern engineering. But it was partial, incomplete. The scientific world was revolutionized by the Einsteinian paradigm, the relativity paradigm, which had much higher predictive and explanatory value.
Until the germ theory was developed, a high percentage of women and children died during childbirth, and no one could understand why. In military skirmishes, more men were dying from small wounds and diseases than from the major traumas on the front lines. But as soon as the germ theory was developed, a whole new paradigm, a better, improved way of understanding what was happening made dramatic, significant medical improvement possible.
The United States today is the fruit of a paradigm shift. The traditional concept of government for centuries had been a monarchy, the divine right of kings. Then a different paradigm was developed -- government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And a constitutional democracy was born, unleashing tremendous human energy and ingenuity, and creating a standard of living, of freedom and liberty, of influence and hope unequaled in the history of the world.
Not all paradigm shifts are in positive directions. As we have observed, the shift from the Character Ethic to the Personality Ethic has drawn us away from the very roots that nourish true success and happiness.
But whether they shift us in positive or negative directions, whether they are instantaneous or developmental, paradigm shifts move us from one way of seeing the world to another. And those shifts create powerful change. Our paradigms, correct or incorrect, are the sources of our attitudes and behaviors, and ultimately our relationships with others.
I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly -- some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene.
Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.
The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people's papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.
It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, "Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn't control them a little more?"
The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, "Oh, you're right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don't know what to think, and I guess they don't know how to handle it either."
Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, and because I saw differently, I thought differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn't have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man's pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. "Your wife just died? Oh, I'm so sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?" Everything changed in an instant.
Many people experience a similar fundamental shift in thinking when they face a life-threatening crisis and suddenly see their priorities in a different light, or when they suddenly step into a new role, such as that of husband or wife, parent or grandparent, manager or leader.
We could spend weeks, months, even years laboring with the Personality Ethic trying to change our attitudes and behaviors and not even begin to approach the phenomenon of change that occurs spontaneously when we see things differently.
It becomes obvious that if we want to make relatively minor changes in our lives, we can perhaps appropriately focus on our attitudes and behaviors. But if we want to make significant, quantum change, we need to work on our basic paradigms.
In the words of Thoreau, "For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root." We can only achieve quantum improvements in our lives as we quit hacking at the leaves of attitude and behavior and get to work on the root, the paradigms from which our attitudes and behaviors flow.
Seeing and Being
Of course, not all paradigm shifts are instantaneous. Unlike my instant insight on the subway, the paradigm-shifting experience Sandra and I had with our son was a slow, difficult, and deliberate process. The approach we had first taken with him was the outgrowth of years of conditioning and experience in the Personality Ethic. It was the result of deeper paradigms we held about our own success as parents as well as the measure of success of our children. And it was not until we changed those basic paradigms, until we saw things differently, that we were able to create quantum change in ourselves and in the situation.
In order to see our son differently, Sandra and I had to be differently. Our new paradigm was created as we invested in the growth and development of our own character.
Paradigms are inseparable from character. Being is seeing in the human dimension. And what we see is highly interrelated to what we are. We can't go very far to change our seeing without simultaneously changing our being, and vice versa.
Even in my apparently instantaneous paradigm-shifting experience that morning on the subway, my change of vision was a result of -- and limited by -- my basic character.
I'm sure there are people who, even suddenly understanding the true situation, would have felt no more than a twinge of regret or vague guilt as they continued to sit in embarrassed silence beside the grieving, confused man. On the other hand, I am equally certain there are people who would have been far more sensitive in the first place, who may have recognized that a deeper problem existed and reached out to understand and help before I did.
Paradigms are powerful because they create the lens through which we see the world. The power of a paradigm shift is the essential power of quantum change, whether that shift is an instantaneous or a slow and deliberate process.
The Principle-Centered Paradigm
The Character Ethic is based on the fundamental idea that there are principles that govern human effectiveness -- natural laws in the human dimension that are just as real, just as unchanging and unarguably "there" as laws such as gravity are in the physical dimension.
An idea of the reality -- and the impact -- of these principles can be captured in another paradigm-shifting experience as told by Frank Koch in Proceedings, the magazine of the Naval Institute.
Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.
Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, "Light, bearing on the starboard bow."
"Is it steady or moving astern?" the captain called out.
Lookout replied, "Steady, captain," which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.
The captain then called to the signalman, "Signal that ship: We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees."
Back came a signal, "Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees."
The captain said, "Send, I'm a captain, change course 20 degrees."
"I'm a seaman second class," came the reply. "You had better change course 20 degrees."
By that time, the captain was furious. He spat out, "Send, I'm a battleship. Change course 20 degrees."
Back came the flashing light, "I'm a lighthouse."
We changed course.
The paradigm shift experienced by the captain -- and by us as we read this account -- puts the situation in a totally different light. We can see a reality that is superceded by his limited perception -- a reality that is as critical for us to understand in our daily lives as it was for the captain in the fog.
Principles are like lighthouses. They are natural laws that cannot be broken. As Cecil B. deMille observed of the principles contained in his monumental movie, The Ten Commandments, "It is impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the law."
While individuals may look at their own lives and interactions in terms of paradigms or maps emerging out of their experience and conditioning, these maps are not the territory. They are a "subjective reality," only an attempt to describe the territory.
The "objective reality," or the territory itself, is composed of "lighthouse" principles that govern human growth and happiness -- natural laws that are woven into the fabric of every civilized society throughout history and comprise the roots of every family and institution that has endured and prospered. The degree to which our mental maps accurately describe the territory does not alter its existence.
The reality of such principles or natural laws becomes obvious to anyone who thinks deeply and examines the cycles of social history. These principles surface time and time again, and the degree to which people in a society recognize and live in harmony with them moves them toward either survival and stability or disintegration and destruction.
The principles I am referring to are not esoteric, mysterious, or "religious" ideas. There is not one principle taught in this book that is unique to any specific faith or religion, including my own. These principles are a part of most every major enduring religion, as well as enduring social philosophies and ethical systems. They are self-evident and can easily be validated by any individual. It's almost as if these principles or natural laws are part of the human condition, part of the human consciousness, part of the human conscience. They seem to exist in all human beings, regardless of social conditioning and loyalty to them, even though they might be submerged or numbed by such conditions or disloyalty.
I am referring, for example, to the principle of fairness, out of which our whole concept of equity and justice is developed. Little children seem to have an innate sense of the idea of fairness even apart from opposite conditioning experiences. There are vast differences in how fairness is defined and achieved, but there is almost universal awareness of the idea.
Other examples would include integrity and honesty. They create the foundation of trust which is essential to cooperation and long-term personal and interpersonal growth.
Another principle is human dignity. The basic concept in the United States Declaration of Independence bespeaks this value or principle. "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Another principle is service, or the idea of making a contribution. Another is quality or excellence.
There is the principle of potential, the idea that we are embryonic and can grow and develop and release more and more potential, develop more and more talents. Highly related to potential is the principle of growth -- the process of releasing potential and developing talents, with the accompanying need for principles such as patience, nurturance, and encouragement.
Principles are not practices. A practice is a specific activity or action. A practice that works in one circumstance will not necessarily work in another, as parents who have tried to raise a second child exactly like they did the first can readily attest.
While practices are situationally specific, principles are deep, fundamental truths that have universal application. They apply to individuals, to marriages, to families, to private and public organizations of every kind. When these truths are internalized into habits, they empower people to create a wide variety of practices to deal with different situations.
Principles are not values. A gang of thieves can share values, but they are in violation of the fundamental principles we're talking about. Principles are the territory. Values are maps. When we value correct principles, we have truth -- a knowledge of things as they are.
Principles are guidelines for human conduct that are proven to have enduring, permanent value. They're fundamental. They're essentially unarguable because they are self-evident. One way to quickly grasp the self-evident nature of principles is to simply consider the absurdity of attempting to live an effective life based on their opposites. I doubt that anyone would seriously consider unfairness, deceit, baseness, uselessness, mediocrity, or degeneration to be a solid foundation for lasting happiness and success. Although people may argue about how these principles are defined or manifested or achieved, there seems to be an innate consciousness and awareness that they exist.
The more closely our maps or paradigms are aligned with these principles or natural laws, the more accurate and functional they will be. Correct maps will infinitely impact our personal and interpersonal effectiveness far more than any amount of effort expended on changing our attitudes and behaviors.
Principles of Growth And Change
The glitter of the Personality Ethic, the massive appeal, is that there is some quick and easy way to achieve quality of life -- personal effectiveness and rich, deep relationships with other people -- without going through the natural process of work and growth that makes it possible.
It's symbol without substance. It's the "get rich quick" scheme promising "wealth without work." And it might even appear to succeed -- but the schemer remains.
The Personality Ethic is illusory and deceptive. And trying to get high quality results with its techniques and quick fixes is just about as effective as trying to get to some place in Chicago using a map of Detroit.
In the words of Erich Fromm, an astute observer of the roots and fruits of the Personality Ethic:
Today we come across an individual who behaves like an automaton, who does not know or understand himself, and the only person that he knows is the person that he is supposed to be, whose meaningless chatter has replaced communicative speech, whose synthetic smile has replaced genuine laughter, and whose sense of dull despair has taken the place of genuine pain. Two statements may be said concerning this individual. One is that he suffers from defects of spontaneity and individuality which may seem to be incurable. At the same time it may be said of him he does not differ essentially from the millions of the rest of us who walk upon this earth.
In all of life, there are sequential stages of growth and development. A child learns to turn over, to sit up, to crawl, and then to walk and run. Each step is important and each one takes time. No step can be skipped.
This is true in all phases of life, in all areas of development, whether it be learning to play the piano or communicate effectively with a working associate. It is true with individuals, with marriages, with families, and with organizations.
We know and accept this fact or principle of process in the area of physical things, but to understand it in emotional areas, in human relations, and even in the area of personal character is less common and more difficult. And even if we understand it, to accept it and to live in harmony with it are even less common and more difficult. Consequently, we sometimes look for a shortcut, expecting to be able to skip some of these vital steps in order to save time and effort and still reap the desired result.
But what happens when we attempt to shortcut a natural process in our growth and development? If you are only an average tennis player but decide to play at a higher level in order to make a better impression, what will result? Would positive thinking alone enable you to compete effectively against a professional?
What if you were to lead your friends to believe you could play the piano at concert hall level while your actual present skill was that of a beginner?
The answers are obvious. It is simply impossible to violate, ignore, or shortcut this development process. It is contrary to nature, and attempting to seek such a shortcut only results in disappointment and frustration.
On a ten-point scale, if I am at level two in any field, and desire to move to level five, I must first take the step toward level three. "A thousand-mile journey begins with the first step" and can only be taken one step at a time.
If you don't let a teacher know at what level you are -- by asking a question, or revealing your ignorance -- you will not learn or grow. You cannot pretend for long, for you will eventually be found out. Admission of ignorance is often the first step in our education. Thoreau taught, "How can we remember our ignorance, which our growth requires, when we are using our knowledge all the time?"
I recall one occasion when two young women, daughters of a friend of mine, came to me tearfully, complaining about their father's harshness and lack of understanding. They were afraid to open up with their parents for fear of the consequences. And yet they desperately needed their parents' love, understanding, and guidance.
I talked with the father and found that he was intellectually aware of what was happening. But while he admitted he had a temper problem, he refused to take responsibility for it and to honestly accept the fact that his emotional development level was low. It was more than his pride could swallow to take the first step toward change.
To relate effectively with a wife, a husband, children, friends, or working associates, we must learn to listen. And this requires emotional strength. Listening involves patience, openness, and the desire to understand -- highly developed qualities of character. It's so much easier to operate from a low emotional level and to give high-level advice.
Our level of development is fairly obvious with tennis or piano playing, where it is impossible to pretend. But it is not so obvious in the areas of character and emotional development. We can "pose" and "put on" for a stranger or an associate. We can pretend. And for a while we can get by with it -- at least in public. We might even deceive ourselves. Yet I believe that most of us know the truth of what we really are inside; and I think many of those we live with and work with do as well.
I have seen the consequences of attempting to shortcut this natural process of growth often in the business world, where executives attempt to "buy" a new culture of improved productivity, quality, morale, and customer service with strong speeches, smile training, and external interventions, or through mergers, acquisitions, and friendly or unfriendly takeovers. But they ignore the low-trust climate produced by such manipulations. When these methods don't work, they look for other Personality Ethic techniques that will -- all the time ignoring and violating the natural principles and processes on which a high-trust culture is based.
I remember violating this principle myself as a father many years ago. One day I returned home to my little girl's third-year birthday party to find her in the corner of the front room, defiantly clutching all of her presents, unwilling to let the other children play with them. The first thing I noticed was several parents in the room witnessing this selfish display. I was embarrassed, and doubly so because at the time I was teaching university classes in human relations. And I knew, or at least felt, the expectation of these parents.
The atmosphere in the room was really charged -- the children were crowding around my little daughter with their hands out, asking to play with the presents they had just given, and my daughter was adamantly refusing. I said to myself, "Certainly I should teach my daughter to share. The value of sharing is one of the most basic things we believe in."
So I first tried a simple request. "Honey, would you please share with your friends the toys they've given you?"
"No," she replied flatly.
My second method was to use a little reasoning. "Honey, if you learn to share your toys with them when they are at your home, then when you go to their homes they will share their toys with you."
Again, the immediate reply was "No!"
I was becoming a little more embarrassed, for it was evident I was having no influence. The third method was bribery. Very softly I said, "Honey, if you share, I've got a special surprise for you. I'll give you a piece of gum."
"I don't want gum!" she exploded.
Now I was becoming exasperated. For my fourth attempt, I resorted to fear and threat. "Unless you share, you will be in real trouble!"
"I don't care!" she cried. "These are my things. I don't have to share!"
Finally, I resorted to force. I merely took some of the toys and gave them to the other kids. "Here, kids, play with these."
Perhaps my daughter needed the experience of possessing the things before she could give them. (In fact, unless I possess something, can I ever really give it?) She needed me as her father to have a higher level of emotional maturity to give her that experience.
But at that moment, I valued the opinion those parents had of me more than the growth and development of my child and our relationship together. I simply made an initial judgment that I was right; she should share, and she was wrong in not doing so.
Perhaps I superimposed a higher-level expectation on her simply because on my own scale I was at a lower level. I was unable or unwilling to give patience or understanding, so I expected her to give things. In an attempt to compensate for my deficiency, I borrowed strength from my position and authority and forced her to do what I wanted her to do.
But borrowing strength builds weakness. It builds weakness in the borrower because it reinforces dependence on external factors to get things done. It builds weakness in the person forced to acquiesce, stunting the development of independent reasoning, growth, and internal discipline. And finally, it builds weakness in the relationship. Fear replaces cooperation, and both people involved become more arbitrary and defensive.
And what happens when the source of borrowed strength -- be it superior size or physical strength, position, authority, credentials, status symbols, appearance, or past achievements -- changes or is no longer there?
Had I been more mature, I could have relied on my own intrinsic strength -- my understanding of sharing and of growth and my capacity to love and nurture -- and allowed my daughter to make a free choice as to whether she wanted to share or not to share. Perhaps after attempting to reason with her, I could have turned the attention of the children to an interesting game, taking all that emotional pressure off my child. I've learned that once children gain a sense of real possession, they share very naturally, freely, and spontaneously.
My experience has been that there are times to teach and times not to teach. When relationships are strained and the air charged with emotion, an attempt to teach is often perceived as a form of judgment and rejection. But to take the child alone, quietly, when the relationship is good and to discuss the teaching or the value seems to have much greater impact. It may have been that the emotional maturity to do that was beyond my level of patience and internal control at the time.
Perhaps a sense of possessing needs to come before a sense of genuine sharing. Many people who give mechanically or refuse to give and share in their marriages and families may never have experienced what it means to possess themselves, their own sense of identity and self-worth. Really helping our children grow may involve being patient enough to allow them the sense of possession as well as being wise enough to teach them the value of giving and providing the example ourselves.
The Way We See the Problem Is the Problem
People are intrigued when they see good things happening in the lives of individuals, families, and organizations that are based on solid principles. They admire such personal strength and maturity, such family unity and teamwork, such adaptive synergistic organizational culture.
And their immediate request is very revealing of their basic paradigm. "How do you do it? Teach me the techniques." What they're really saying is, "Give me some quick fix advice or solution that will relieve the pain in my own situation."
They will find people who will meet their wants and teach these things; and for a short time, skills and techniques may appear to work. They may eliminate some of the cosmetic or acute problems through social aspirin and band-aids.
But the underlying chronic condition remains, and eventually new acute symptoms will appear. The more people are into quick fix and focus on the acute problems and pain, the more that very approach contributes to the underlying chronic condition.
The way we see the problem is the problem.
Look again at some of the concerns that introduced this chapter, and at the impact of Personality Ethic thinking.
I've taken course after course on effective management training. I expect a lot out of my employees and I work hard to be friendly toward them and to treat them right. But I don't feel any loyalty from them. I think if I were home sick for a day, they'd spend most of their time gabbing at the water fountain. Why can't I train them to be independent and responsible -- or find employees who can be?
The Personality Ethic tells me I could take some kind of dramatic action -- shake things up, make heads roll -- that would make my employees shape up and appreciate what they have. Or that I could find some motivational training program that would get them committed. Or even that I could hire new people that would do a better job.
But is it possible that under that apparently disloyal behavior, these employees question whether I really act in their best interest? Do they feel like I'm treating them as mechanical objects? Is there some truth to that?
Deep inside, is that really the way I see them? Is there a chance the way I look at the people who work for me is part of the problem?
There's so much to do. And there's never enough time. I feel pressured and hassled all day, every day, seven days a week. I've attended time management seminars and I've tried half a dozen different planning systems. They've helped some, but I still don't feel I'm living the happy, productive, peaceful life I want to live.
The Personality Ethic tells me there must be something out there -- some new planner or seminar that will help me handle all these pressures in a more efficient way.
But is there a chance that efficiency is not the answer? Is getting more things done in less time going to make a difference -- or will it just increase the pace at which I react to the people and circumstances that seem to control my life?
Could there be something I need to see in a deeper, more fundamental way -- some paradigm within myself that affects the way I see my time, my life, and my own nature?
My marriage has gone fiat. We don't fight or anything; we just don't love each other anymore. We've gone to counseling; we've tried a number of things, but we just can't seem to rekindle the feeling we used to have.
The Personality Ethic tells me there must be some new book or some seminar where people get all their feelings out that would help my wife understand me better. Or maybe that it's useless, and only a new relationship will provide the love I need.
But is it possible that my spouse isn't the real problem? Could I be empowering my spouse's weaknesses and making my life a function of the way I'm treated?
Do I have some basic paradigm about my spouse, about marriage, about what love really is, that is feeding the problem?
Can you see how fundamentally the paradigms of the Personality Ethic affect the very way we see our problems as well as the way we attempt to solve them?
Whether people see it or not, many are becoming disillusioned with the empty promises of the Personality Ethic. As I travel around the country and work with organizations, I find that long-term thinking executives are simply turned off by psych up psychology and "motivational" speakers who have nothing more to share than entertaining stories mingled with platitudes.
They want substance; they want process. They want more than aspirin and band-aids. They want to solve the chronic underlying problems and focus on the principles that bring long-term results.
A New Level of Thinking
Albert Einstein observed, "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them."
As we look around us and within us and recognize the problems created as we live and interact within the Personality Ethic, we begin to realize that these are deep, fundamental problems that cannot be solved on the superficial level on which they were created.
We need a new level, a deeper level of thinking -- a paradigm based on the principles that accurately describe the territory of effective human being and interacting -- to solve these deep concerns.
This new level of thinking is what Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is about. It's a principle-centered, character-based, "inside-out" approach to personal and interpersonal effectiveness.
"Inside-out" means to start first with self; even more fundamentally, to start with the most inside part of self -- with your paradigms, your character, and your motives.
It says if you want to have a happy marriage, be the kind of person who generates positive energy and sidesteps negative energy rather than empowering it. If you want to have a more pleasant, cooperative teenager, be a more understanding, empathic, consistent, loving parent. If you want to have more freedom, more latitude in your job, be a more responsible, a more helpful, a more contributing employee. If you want to be trusted, be trustworthy. If you want the secondary greatness of recognized talent, focus first on primary greatness of character.
The inside-out approach says that private victories precede public victories, that making and keeping promises to ourselves precedes making and keeping promises to others. It says it is futile to put personality ahead of character, to try to improve relationships with others before improving ourselves.
Inside-out is a process -- a continuing process of renewal based on the natural laws that govern human growth and progress. It's an upward spiral of growth that leads to progressively higher forms of responsible independence and effective interdependence.
I have had the opportunity to work with many people -- wonderful people, talented people, people who deeply want to achieve happiness and success, people who are searching, people who are hurting. I've worked with business executives, college students, church and civic groups, families and marriage partners. And in all of my experience, I have never seen lasting solutions to problems, lasting happiness and success, that came from the outside in.
What I have seen result from the outside-in paradigm is unhappy people who feel victimized and immobilized, who focus on the weaknesses of other people and the circumstances they feel are responsible for their own stagnant situation. I've seen unhappy marriages where each spouse wants the other to change, where each is confessing the other's "sins," where each is trying to shape up the other. I've seen labor management disputes where people spend tremendous amounts of time and energy trying to create legislation that would force people to act as though the foundation of trust were really there.
Members of our family have lived in three of the "hottest" spots on earth -- South Africa, Israel, and Ireland -- and I believe the source of the continuing problems in each of these places has been the dominant social paradigm of outside-in. Each involved group is convinced the problem is "out there" and if "they" (meaning others) would "shape up" or suddenly "ship out" of existence, the problem would be solved.
Inside-out is a dramatic paradigm shift for most people, largely because of the powerful impact of conditioning and the current social paradigm of the Personality Ethic.
But from my own experience -- both personal and in working with thousands of other people -- and from careful examination of successful individuals and societies throughout history, I am persuaded that many of the principles embodied in the Seven Habits are already deep within us, in our conscience and our common sense. To recognize and develop them and to use them in meeting our deepest concerns, we need to think differently, to shift our paradigms to a new, deeper, "inside-out" level.
As we sincerely seek to understand and integrate these principles into our lives, I am convinced we will discover and rediscover the truth of T. S. Eliot's observation:
We must not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time.
The Seven habits -- An overview
We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
Our character, basically, is a composite of our habits. "Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny," the maxim goes.
Habits are powerful factors in our lives. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character and produce our effectiveness...or ineffectiveness.
As Horace Mann, the great educator, once said, "Habits are like a cable. We weave a strand of it everyday and soon it cannot be broken." I personally do not agree with the last part of his expression. I know they can be broken. Habits can be learned and unlearned. But I also know it isn't a quick fix. It involves a process and a tremendous commitment.
Those of us who watched the lunar voyage of Apollo 11 were transfixed as we saw the first men walk on the moon and return to earth. Superlatives such as "fantastic" and "incredible" were inadequate to describe those eventful days. But to get there, those astronauts literally has to break out of the tremendous gravity pull of the earth. More energy was spent in the first few minutes of lift-off, in the first few miles of travel, than was used over the next several days to travel half a million miles.
Habits, too, have tremendous gravity pull -- more than most people realize or would admit. Breaking deeply imbedded habitual tendencies such as procrastination, impatience, criticalness, or selfishness that violate basic principles of human effectiveness involves more than a little willpower and a few minor changes in our lives. "Lift Off" takes a tremendous effort, but once we break out of the gravity pull, our freedom takes on a whole new dimension.
Like any natural force, gravity pull can work with us or against us. The gravity pull of some of our habits may currently be keeping us from going where we want to go. But it is also gravity pull that keeps our world together, that keeps the planets in their orbits and our universe in order. It is a powerful force, and if we use it effectively, we can use the gravity pull of habit to create the cohesiveness and order necessary to establish effectiveness in our lives.
For our purpose, we will define a habit as the intersection of knowledge, skill, and desire.
Knowledge is the theoretical paradigm, the what to do and the why. Skill is the how to do. And desire is the motivation, the want to do. In order to make something a habit in our lives, we have to have all three.
I may be ineffective in my interactions with my work associates, my spouse, or my children because I constantly tell them what I think, but I never really listen to them. Unless I search out correct principles of human interaction, I may not even know I need to listen.
Even if I do know that in order to interact effectively with others I really need to listen to them, I may not have the skill. I may not know how to really listen deeply to another human being.
But knowing I need to listen and knowing how to listen is not enough. Unless I want to listen, unless I have the desire, it won't be a habit in my life. Creating a habit requires work in all three dimensions.
The being/seeing change is an upward process -- being changing seeing, which in turn changes being, and so forth, as we move in an upward spiral of growth. By working on knowledge, skill, and desire, we can break through to new levels of personal and interpersonal effectiveness as we break with old paradigms that may have been a source of pseudo-security for years.
It's sometimes a painful process. It's a change that has to be motivated by a higher purpose, by the willingness to subordinate what you think you want now for what you want later. But this process produces happiness, "the object and design of our existence." Happiness can be defined, in part at least, as the fruit of the desire and ability to sacrifice what we want now for what we want eventually.
The Maturity Continuum
The Seven Habits are not a set of separate or piecemeal psych-up formulas. In harmony with the natural laws of growth, they provide an incremental, sequential, highly integrated approach to the development of personal and interpersonal effectiveness. They move us progressively on a Maturity Continuum from dependence to independence to interdependence.
We each begin life as an infant, totally dependent on others. We are directed, nurtured, and sustained by others. Without this nurturing, we would only live for a few hours or a few days at the most.
Then gradually, over the ensuing months and years, we become more and more independent -- physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially -- until eventually we can essentially taken care of ourselves, becoming inner-directed and self-reliant.
As we continue to grow and mature, we become increasingly aware that all of nature is interdependent, that there is an ecological system that governs nature, including society. We further discover that the higher reaches of our nature have to do with our relationships with others -- that human life also is interdependent.
Our growth from infancy to adulthood is in accordance with natural law. And there are many dimensions to growth. Reaching our full physical maturity, for example, does not necessarily assure us of simultaneous emotional or mental maturity. On the other hand, a person's physical dependence does not mean that he or she is mentally or emotionally immature.
On the maturity continuum, dependence is the paradigm of you -- you take care of me; you come through for me; you didn't come through; I blame you for the results.
Independence is the paradigm of I -- I can do it; I am responsible; I am self-reliant; I can choose.
Interdependence is the paradigm of we -- we can do it; we can cooperate; we can combine our talents and abilities and create something greater together.
Dependent people need others to get what they want. Independent people can get what they want through their own effort. Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.
If I were physically dependent -- paralyzed or disabled or limited in some physical way -- I would need you to help me. If I were emotionally dependent, may sense of worth and security would come from your opinion of me. If you didn't like me, it could be devastating. If I were intellectually dependent, I would count on you to do my thinking for me, to think through the issues and problems of my life.
If I were independent, physically, I could pretty well make it on my own. Mentally, I could think my own thoughts, I could move from one level of abstraction to another. I could think creatively and analytically and organize and express my thoughts in understandable ways. Emotionally, I would be validated from within. I would be inner directed. My sense of worth would not be a function of being liked or treated well.
It's easy to see that independence is much more mature than dependence. Independence is a major achievement in and of itself. But independence is not supreme.
Nevertheless, the current social paradigm enthrones independence. It is the avowed goal of many individuals and social movements. Most of the self-improvement material puts independence on a pedestal, as though communication, teamwork, and cooperation were lesser values.
But much of our current emphasis on independence is a reaction to dependence -- to having others control us, define us, use us, and manipulate us.
The little understood concept of interdependence appears to many to smack of dependence, and therefore, we find people, often for selfish reasons, leaving their marriages, abandoning their children, and forsaking all kinds of social responsibility -- all in the name of independence.
The kind of reaction that results in people "throwing off their shackles," becoming "liberated," "asserting themselves," and "doing their own thing" often reveals more fundamental dependencies that cannot be run away from because they are internal rather than external -- dependencies such as letting the weaknesses of the other people ruin our emotional lives or feeling victimized by people and events out of our control.
Of course, we may need to change our circumstances. But the dependence problem is a personal maturity issue that has little to do with circumstances. Even with better circumstances, immaturity and dependence often persist.
True independence of character empowers us to act rather than be acted upon. It frees us from our dependence on circumstances and other people and is a worthy, liberating goal. But it is not the ultimate goal in effective living.
Independent thinking alone is not suited to interdependent reality. Independent people who do not have the maturity to think and act interdependently may be good individual producers, but they won't be good leaders or team players. They're not coming from the paradigm of interdependence necessary to succeed in marriage, family, or organizational reality.
Life is, by nature, highly interdependent. To try to achieve maximum effectiveness through independence is like trying to play tennis with a golf club -- the tool is not suited to the reality.
Interdependence is a far more mature, more advanced concept. If I am physically interdependent, I am self-reliant and capable, but I also realize that you and I working together can accomplish far more than, even at my best, I could accomplish alone. If I am emotionally interdependent, I derive a great sense of worth within myself, but I also recognize the need for love, for giving, and for receiving love from others. If I am intellectually interdependent, I realize that I need the best thinking of other people to join with my own.
As an interdependent person, I have the opportunity to share myself deeply, meaningfully, with others, and I have access to the vast resources and potential of other human beings.
Interdependence is a choice only independent people can make. Dependent people cannot choose to become interdependent. They don't have the character to do it; they don't own enough of themselves.
That's why Habits, 1, 2, and 3 in the following chapters deal with self-mastery. They move a person from dependence to independence. They are the "Private Victories," the essence of character growth. Private victories precede public victories. You can't invert that process anymore than you can harvest a crop before you plant it. It's inside-out.
As you become truly independent, you have the foundation for effective interdependence. You have the character base from which you can effectively work on the more personality-oriented "Public Victories" of teamwork, cooperation, and communication in Habits 4, 5, and 6.
That does not mean you have to be perfect in Habits, 1, 2, and 3 before working on Habits 4, 5, and 6. Understanding the sequence will help you manage your growth more effectively, but I'm not suggesting that you put yourself in isolation for several years until you fully develop Habits, 1, 2, and 3.
As part of an interdependent world, you have to relate to that world every day. But the acute problems of that world can easily obscure the chronic character causes. Understanding how what you are impacts every interdependent interaction will help you to focus your efforts sequentially, in harmony with the natural laws of growth.
Habit 7 is the habit of renewal -- a regular, balanced renewal of the four basic dimensions of life. It circles and embodies all the other habits. It is the habit of continuous improvement that creates the upward spiral of growth that lifts you to new levels of understanding and living each of the habits as you come around to them on a progressively higher plane.
The Seven Habits are habits of effectiveness. Because they are based on principles, they bring the maximum long-term beneficial results possible. They become the basis of a person's character, creating an empowering center of correct maps from which an individual can effectively solve problems, maximize opportunities, and continually learn and integrate other principles in an upward spiral of growth.
They are also habits of effectiveness because they are based on a paradigm of effectiveness that is in harmony with a natural law, a principle I call the "P/PC Balance," which many people break themselves against. This principle can be easily understood by remembering Aesop's fable of the goose and the golden egg.
This fable is the story of a poor farmer who one day discovers in the nest of his pet goose a glittering golden egg. At first, he thinks it must be some kind of trick. But as he starts to throw the egg aside, he has second thoughts and takes it in to be appraised instead.
The egg is pure gold! The farmer can't believe his good fortune. He becomes even more incredulous the following day when the experience is repeated. Day after day, he awakens to rush to the nest and find another golden egg. He becomes fabulously wealthy; it all seems too good to be true.
But with his increasing wealth comes greed and impatience. Unable to wait day after day for the golden eggs, the farmer decides he will kill the goose and get them all at once. But when he opens the goose, he finds it empty. There are no golden eggs -- and now there is no way to get any more. The farmer has destroyed the goose that produced them.
I suggest that within this fable is a natural law, a principle -- the basic definition of effectiveness. Most people see effectiveness from the golden egg paradigm: the more you produce, the more you do, the more effective you are.
But as the story shows, true effectiveness is a function of two things: what is produced (the golden eggs) and the producing asset or capacity to produce (the goose).
If you adopt a pattern of life that focuses on golden eggs and neglects the goose, you will soon be without the asset that produces golden eggs. On the other hand, if you only take care of the goose with no aim toward the golden eggs, you soon won't have the wherewithal to feed yourself or the goose.
Effectiveness lies in the balance -- what I call the P/PC Balance. P stands for production of desired results, the golden eggs. PC stands for production capability, the ability or asset that produces the golden eggs.
Three Kinds of Assets
Basically, there are three kinds of assets: physical, financial, and human. Let's look at each one in turn.
A few years ago, I purchased a physical asset -- a power lawn-mower. I used it over and over again without doing anything to maintain it. The mower worked well for two seasons, but then it began to break down. When I tried to revive it with service and sharpening, I discovered the engine had lost over half its original power capacity. It was essentially worthless.
Had I invested in PC -- in preserving and maintaining the asset -- I would still be enjoying its P -- the mowed lawn. As it was, I had to spend far more time and money replacing the mower than I ever would have spent, had I maintained it. It simply wasn't effective.
In our quest for short-term returns, or results, we often ruin a prized physical asset -- a car, a computer, a washer or dryer, even our body or our environment. Keeping P and PC in balance makes a tremendous difference in the effective use of physical assets.
It also powerfully impacts the effective use of financial assets. How often do people confuse principal with interest? Have you evere invaded principal to increase your standard of living, to get more golden eggs? The decreasing principal has decreasing power to produce interest or income. And the dwindling capital becomes smaller and smaller until it no longer supplies even basic needs.
Our most important financial asset is our own capacity to earn. If we don't continually invest in improving our own PC, we severely limit our options. We're locked into our present situation, running scared of our corporation or our boss's opinion of us, economically dependent and defensive. Again, it simply isn't effective.
In the human area, the P/PC Balance is equally fundamental, but even more important, because people control physical and financial assets.
When two people in a marriage are more concerned about getting the golden eggs, the benefits, than they are in preserving the relationship that makes them possible, they often become insensitive and inconsiderate, neglecting the little kindnesses and courtesies so important to a deep relationship. They begin to use control levers to manipulate each other, to focus on their own needs, to justify their own position and look for evidence to show the wrongness of the other person. The love, the richness, the softness and spontaneity begin to deteriorate. The goose gets sicker day by day.
And what about a parent's relationship with a child? When children are little, they are very dependent, very vulnerable. It becomes so easy to neglect the PC work -- the training, the communicating, the relating the listening. It's easy to take advantage, to manipulate, to get what you want the way you want it -- right now! You're bigger, you're smarter, and you're right! So why not just tell them what to do? If necessary, yell at them, intimidate them, insist on your way.
rdOr you can indulge them. You can go for the golden egg of popularity, of pleasing them giving them their way all the time. Then they grow up without any internal sense of standards or expectations, without a personal commitment to being disciplined or responsible.
Either way -- authoritarian or permissive -- you have the golden egg mentality. You want to have your way or you want to be liked. But what happens, meantime, to the goose? What sense of responsibility, self-discipline, of confidence in the ability to make good choices or achieve important goals is a child going to have a few years down the road? And what about your relationship? When he reaches those critical teenage years, the identity crises, will he know from his experience with you that you will listen without judging, that you really, deeply care about him as a person, that you can be trusted, no matter what? Will the relationship be strong enough for you to reach him, to communicate with him, to influence him?
Suppose you want your daughter to have a clean room -- that's P, production, the golden egg. And suppose you want her to clean it -- that's PC, production capability. Your daughter is the goose, the asset, that produces the golden egg.
If you have P and PC in balance, she cleans the room cheerfully, without being reminded, because she is committed and has the discipline to stay with the commitment. She is a valuable asset, a goose that can produce golden eggs.
But if your paradigm is focused on production, on getting the room clean, you might find yourself nagging her to do it. You might even escalate your efforts to threatening or yelling, and in your desire to get the golden egg, you undermine the health and welfare of the goose.
Let me share with you an interesting PC experience I had with one of my daughters. We were planning a private date, which is something I enjoy regularly with each of my children. We find that the anticipation of the date is as satisfying as the realization.
So I approached my daughter and said, "Honey, tonight's your night. What do you want to do?"
"Oh, Dad, that's okay," she replied.
"No, really," I said. "What would you like to do?"
"Well," she finally said, "what I want to do, you don't really want to do."
"Really, honey," I said earnestly, "I want to do it. No matter what, it's your choice."
"I want to go see Star Wars," she replied. "But I know you don't like Star Wars. You slept through it before. You don't like these fantasy movies. That's okay, Dad."
"No, honey, if that's what you'd like to do, I'd like to do it."
"Dad, don't worry about it. We don't always have to have this date." She paused and then added, "But you know why you don't like Star Wars? It's because you don't understand the philosophy and training of a Jedi Knight."
"You know the things you teach, Dad? Those are the same things that go into the training of a Jedi Knight."
"Really? Let's go Star Wars!"
And we did. She sat next to me and gave me the paradigm. I became her student, her learner. It was totally fascinating. I could begin to see out of a new paradigm the whole way a Jedi Knight's basic philosophy in training is manifested in different circumstances.
That experience was not a planned P experience; it was the serendipitous fruit of a PC investment. It was bonding and very satisfying. But we enjoyed golden eggs, too, as the goose -- the quality of the relationship -- was significantly fed.
One of the immensely valuable aspects of any correct principle is that it is valid and applicable in a wide variety of circumstances. Throughout this book, I would like to share with you some of the ways in which these principles apply to organizations, including families, as well as to individuals.
When people fail to respect the P/PC Balance in their use of physical assets in organizations, they decrease organizational effectiveness and often leave others with dying geese.
For example, a person in charge of a physical asset, such as a machine, may be eager to make a good impression on his superiors. Perhaps the company is in a rapid growth stage and promotions are coming fast. So he produces at optimum levels -- no downtime, no maintenance. He runs the machine day and night. The production is phenomenal, costs are down, and profits skyrocket. Within a short time, he's promoted. Golden eggs!
But suppose you are his successor on the job. You inherit a very sick goose, a machine that, by this time, is rusted and starts to break down. You have to invest heavily in downtime and maintenance. Costs skyrocket; profits nose-dive. And who gets blamed for the loss of golden eggs? You do. Your predecessor liquidated the asset, but the accounting system only reported unit production, costs, and profit.
The P/PC Balance is particularly important as it applies to the human assets of an organization -- the customers and the employees.
I know of a restaurant that served a fantastic clam chowder and was packed with customers every day at lunchtime. Then the business was sold, and the new owner focused on golden eggs -- he decided to water down the chowder. For about a month, with costs down and revenues constant, profits zoomed. But little by little, the customers began to disappear. Trust was gone, and business dwindled to almost nothing. The new owner tried desperately to reclaim it, but he had neglected the customers, violated their trust, and lost the asset of customer loyalty. There was no more goose to produce the golden egg.
There are organizations that talk a lot about the customer and then completely neglect the people that deal with the customer -- the employees. The PC principle is to always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.
You can buy a person's hand, but you can't buy his heart. His heart is where his enthusiasm, his loyalty is. You can buy his back, but you can't buy his brain. That's where his creativity is, his ingenuity, his resourcefulness.
PC work is treating employees as volunteers just as you treat customers as volunteers, because that's what they are. They volunteer the best part -- their hearts and minds.
I was in a group once where someone asked, "How do you shape up lazy and incompetent employees?" One man responded, "Drop hand grenades!" Several others cheered that kind of macho management talk, that "shape up or ship out" supervision approach.
But another person in the group asked, "Who picks up the pieces?"
"Well, why don't you do that to your customers?" the other man replied. "Just say, 'Listen, if you're not interested in buying, you can just ship out of this place.'"
He said, "You can't do that to customers."
"Well, how come you can do it to employees?"
"Because they're in your employ."
"I see. Are your employees devoted to you? Do they work hard? How's the turnover?"
"Are you kidding? You can't find good people these days. There's too much turnover, absenteeism, moonlighting. People just don't care anymore."
That focus on golden eggs -- that attitude, that paradigm -- is totally inadequate to tap into the powerful energies of the mind and heart of another person. A short-term bottom line is important, but it isn't all-important.
Effectiveness lies in the balance. Excessive focus on P results in ruined health, worn-out machines, depleted bank accounts, and broken relationships. Too much focus on PC is like a person who runs three or four hours a day, bragging about the extra ten years of life it creates, unaware he's spending them running. Or a person endlessly going to school, never producing, living on other people's golden eggs -- the eternal student syndrome.
To maintain the P/PC Balance, the balance between the golden egg (production) and the health and welfare of the goose (production capability) is often a difficult judgment call. But I suggest it is the very essence of effectiveness. It balances short term with long term. It balances going for the grade and paying the price to get an education. It balances the desire to have a room clean and the building of a relationship in which the child is internally committed to do it -- cheerfully, willingly, without external supervision.
It's a principle you can see validated in your own life when you burn the candle at both ends to get more golden eggs and wind up sick or exhausted, unable to produce any at all; or when you get a good night's sleep and wake up ready to produce throughout the day.
You can see it when you press to get your own way with someone and somehow feel an emptiness in the relationship; or when you really take time to invest in a relationship and you find the desire and ability to work together, to communicate, takes a quantum leap.
The P/PC Balance is the very essence of effectiveness. It's validated in every arena of life. We can work with it or against it, but it's there. It's a lighthouse. It's the definition and paradigm of effectiveness upon which the Seven Habits in this boom are based.
How to Use This Book
Before we begin work on the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I would like to suggest two paradigm shifts that will greatly increase the value you will receive from this material.
First, I would recommend that you not "see" this material as a book, in the sense that it is something to read once and put on a shelf.
You may choose to read it completely through once for a sense of the whole. But the material is designed to be a companion in the continual process of change and growth. It is organized incrementally and with suggestions for application at the end of each habit so that you can study and focus on any particular habit as you are ready.
As you progress to deeper levels of understanding and implementation, you can go back time and again to the principles contained in each habit and work to expand your knowledge, skill, and desire.
Second, I would suggest that you shift your paradigm of your own involvement in this material from the role of learner to that of teacher. Take an inside-out approach, and read with the purpose in mind of sharing or discussing what you learn with someone else within 48 hours after you learn it.
If you has known, for example, that you would be teaching the material on the P/PC Balance principle to someone else within 48 hours, would it have made a difference in your reading experience? Try it now as you read the final section in this chapter. Read as though you are going to teach it to your spouse, your child, a business associate, or a friend today or tomorrow, while it is still fresh, and notice the difference in your mental and emotional process.
I guarantee that if you approach the material in each of the following chapters in this way, you will not only better remember what you read, but your perspective will be expanded, your understanding deepened, and your motivation to apply the material increased.
In addition, as you openly, honestly share what you're learning with others, you may be surprised to find that negative labels or perceptions others may have of you tend to disappear. Those you teach will see you as a changing, growing person, and will be more inclined to be helpful and supportive as you work, perhaps together, to integrate the Seven Habits into your lives.
What You Can Expect
In the last analysis, as Marilyn Ferguson observed, "No one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or by emotional appeal."
If you decide to open your "gate of change" to really understand and live the principles embodied in the Seven Habits, I feel comfortable in assuring you several positive things will happen.
First, you growth will be evolutionary, but the net effect will be revolutionary. Would you not agree that the P/PC Balance principle alone, if fully lived, would transform most individuals and organizations?
The net effect of opening the "gate of change" to the first three habits -- the habits of Private Victory -- will be significantly increased self-confidence. You will come to know yourself in a deeper, more meaningful way -- your nature, your deepest values and your unique contribution capacity. As you live your values, your sense of identity, integrity, control, and inner-directedness will infuse you with both exhilaration and peace. You will define yourself from within, rather than by people's opinions or by comparisons to others. "Wrong" and "right" will have little to do with being found out.
Ironically, you'll find that as you care less about what others think of you, you will care more about what others think of themselves and their worlds, including their relationship with you. You'll no longer build your emotional life on other people's weaknesses. In addition, you'll find it easier and more desirable to change because there is something -- some core deep within -- that is essentially changeless.
As you open yourself to the next three habits -- the habits of Public Victory -- you will discover and unleash both the desire and the resources to heal and rebuild important relationships that have deteriorated, or even broken. Good relationships will improve -- become deeper, more solid, more creative, and more adventuresome.
The seventh habit, it deeply internalized, will renew the first six and will make you truly independent and capable of effective interdependence. Through it, you can charge your own batteries.
Whatever your present situation, I assure you that you are not your habits. You can replace old patterns of self-defeating behavior with new patterns, new habits of effectiveness, happiness, and trust-based relationships.
With genuine caring, I encourage you to open the gate of change and growth as you study these habits. Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it's holy ground. There's no greater investment.
It's obviously not a quick fix. But I assure you, you will feel benefits and see immediate payoffs that will be encouraging. In the words of Thomas Paine, "That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only which gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price on its goods."
Copyright © 1989 by Stephen R. Covey