Navigating today's complex world can be challenging, and acting in an effective manner can help you to thrive in our current reality. However, research has shown that many people are not thriving in modern times or feeling fulfilled. Every individual has the potential for greatness but, in order to excel in our environment, we may need to change our mindsets, and develop new skills and habits.
Stephen Convey’s best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is based on principles of fairness, integrity, honesty, and human dignity; and it has been inspiring people to solve an array of problems for 15 years.
This thought leader’s message is simple — to find success and meaning, we must maintain solid principles. He teaches that "there are three constants in life: change, choice and principles."
Let’s take a brief look at the habits summarised in his international bestseller to see what behavioural techniques can be developed and applied in a financial context. You may find it useful to practice some of these habits to improve your behavioural patterns, so that you can successfully reach your financial goals. Don’t hesitate to arrange a meeting if you’d like a bit of help along the way.
1. Be proactive
You may not always have control over what happens to you, but you do have control over how you choose to react to your circumstances, and that is often most the battle. You make your own choices, and every situation provides a new choice — so be proactive about taking responsibility for your life.
The book teaches that “proactive people recognise that they are response-able” and know they can choose how to behave. Whereas, reactive people are often easily affected by environmental conditions and find external sources to blame.
Problems, challenges and opportunities tend to fall into two areas — a Circle of Concern and a Circle of Influence. Proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control, such as their physical and mental well-being, their family or their work. This is referred to as a Circle of Influence. On the other hand, reactive people tend to focus their efforts on a Circle of Concern, which is to say the things over which they have little or no control, such as politics or the weather.
Your greatest power lies between the stimulus and your response. Remember you are free to choose how you respond, so evaluate what issues you can control, then work out how to be proactive in doing so. For example, you know you can look after your family by taking simple steps, such as making sure you have adequate life insurance and income protection; and you can prioritise your health by making sure you have sufficient medical aid coverage.
2. Begin with the end in mind
The book offers the belief that all things are created twice — firstly as a mental creation, and secondly as a physical creation.
Are you who you want to be? If not, make a conscious effort to visualise what you want yourself and your life to look like. Take some time to reflect on what you believe to be your personal set of morals. Begin each day or task with a clear vision of where you want to be, then be proactive in taking the steps to get there.
You may find that writing a personal mission statement helps you to put your goals in focus and reaffirms who you are. Once this is all clear in your mind, you can set about securing the future you envision by taking appropriate measures, such as saving sufficiently for retirement.
3. Put first things first
Strive to live a balanced existence by recognising that you don’t have to do everything that is put in front of you. Be careful not to overextend yourself, but rather focus on your priorities.
It’s a question of managing your life in a way that will make you happiest. Decide what you value the most, then manage your time and choices to be in line with these personal priorities.
4. Think win-win
For many of us, our self-worth is based on comparisons. It’s easy to think about success in terms of someone else failing — if they lose, you win (or the other way around).
It would arguably be much healthier to view life as a cooperative arena, rather than a competitive one. Train your mind to always look for mutual benefits in all human interactions, so that everyone can win and feel satisfied.
This approach exercises integrity and maturity, as well as a mentality of abundance. It is a question of moving away from thinking in terms of “either/or”. You can be both nice and strong. Practice this balancing act between courage and consideration, and develop your sense of empathy as well as confidence.
5. Think first to understand, then to be understood
Good communication is one of the most important skills we can learn in life. However, there is often a tendency to focus on speaking, rather than listening.
One of the biggest communication problems is listening to be able to reply, rather than to understand. Sometimes we do this because we filter everything we hear through our own life experiences, so we think that we already know the answer. Many of us are also guilty of seeking primarily to be understood ourselves.
However, as a result, we often end up ignoring what someone is actually saying and missing their point entirely. When we listen ‘autobiographically’, we tend to respond in one of four ways — (1) We make a judgement that leads us to either agree or disagree; (2) We ask questions solely from our own frames of reference; (3) We rush to give unsolicited advice or incorrect solutions; (4) We analyse motives and behaviours based on our own experiences.
To understand things as they actually are, and to properly connect with another human being, we need to start listening properly — without judgement or bias, but with an open mind.
To follow on from the last point is the habit of creative cooperation. This is understanding the importance of teamwork and finding new solutions to old problems. If you view your life and financial situation as a process, you can appreciate that external experience and expertise can help you to produce far better results than you could on your own.
No man is an island, and sometimes we need a little help from outside sources to achieve the optimum solutions. By committing to genuine interactions and remaining open to other people’s influence, you can gain valuable insights.
It’s important to be aware that you may not always know best, and you can exponentially improve your situation by valuing other people’s differences and what they have to offer.
7. Sharpen the saw
Protect and continuously develop your well-being by having a balanced approach in four main areas — physical (eat well, exercise and rest more) social/emotional (make meaningful connections with other people), mental (keep on learning — teach yourself and others), and spiritual (spend time in nature, expand your being with practices such as meditation or service to others).
By consistently trying to improve yourself in these areas, you may find yourself growing as an individual and naturally making changes in your life. You may also find it easier to handle any challenges that come your way. Take the time to work on yourself on a daily basis, as every day provides a new opportunity to recharge your batteries and avoid hitting a wall.
The empowering seven approaches of this highly-acclaimed book transcend socio-economic, religious, political, generational and gender differences. The principles can be recognised in every society and can be notably applied in a context of wealth creation.