7 Habits – Paradigms and Principles

I have tried to read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People before. Once, I think I skimmed through the first and last paragraph of each section. Another time, I read it more slowly and was really enjoying it but got distracted and moved on to something more exciting (Game of Thrones!!!). This is my third attempt to read this book (at least) at last I seem to be in the right place where I can spend time reading it, absorbing the concepts, and looking for practical applications. To assist in my growth and development, I am taking some notes and will be posting them here so I can refer back to them later.

The book begins by discussing paradigms and principles. He talks about how our perceptions are greatly influenced by our own experiences and beliefs, and that it’s important to be aware of your own perceptions so that you can understand how another person (with different experiences and beliefs) can look at the exact same situation and see it completely differently.

… 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.

Covey talks about the Character Ethic vs. the Personality Ethic. The Character Ethic is based upon principles “like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden Rule.”

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.

 In other words, success and happiness come not only from how you do things but from who you are.

The Personality Ethic, on the other hand, is focused solely on how you do things — “a function of personality, of public image, of attitudes and behaviors, skills and techniques, that lubricate the process of human interaction.”

These things are important, of course, but without a solid understanding of your own character, of what you believe in, who you are, and the principles you live by, it’s not enough. They are techniques, and Covey says “only basic goodness gives life to technique.” Get the principles defined, understand your character, then work on your techniques.

After talking about principles and the Character Ethic, Covey talks about paradigms and how when we think we see things objectively, we are actually conditioned by our experiences to see things a certain way. We all have paradigms – they come from who we are – but it’s important to try to recognize what our paradigms are and how they influence our thinking.

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. 

The paradigm that Covey suggests is a principle-centered paradigm. In other words, try to see things around you and act according to principles. “The way we see the problem is the problem.”

He refers to this as an inside-out approach saying we need to start first with ourselves before we work on our relationships with others.

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.

I’m buying into this so far. I really like the idea of being able to focus on myself and who I really am and that building that foundation will enable me to be a more effective person. Next up — Habit 1, Be Proactive.

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One Response to 7 Habits – Paradigms and Principles

  1. I've always wanted to read that book!! Thanks for the review!

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