I have met many educators around the country who use Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" (Covey, 2004) in their daily life and work. In fact, some even go so far as to call their schools leadership schools. When I was blessed to be a principal in Florida, our school used Covey's principles without paying to become a "Leader in Me" school. We had leadership themes every year (i.e. Growing Leaders, One at a Time; Edge Leaders Rock!; etc.), and we focused not just on the students but the leadership skills of the faculty, staff, and parents as well. In fact, I conducted a book study for two years in a row on Covey's work around the seven habits of effective families. I even used Covey's son's work on trust as the conceptual framework for my own dissertation. To say I am a Covey fan would be a massive understatement. Why? I believe these seven habits Covey touted as important to becoming a leader (within yourself and with others, as well) are timeless:
1. Be proactive
2. Begin with the end in mind
3. Put first things first
4. Think win-win
5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
7. Sharpen the Saw (Covey, 2004)
We talked about these habits on the news show (typically with a puppet in my hand, to be perfectly honest); we made up songs about them; we memorized them; we put them to sign language; and we read about them over and over and over again. I still have parents who say they wish they could re-do those book studies we did, in which we would read a chapter and then discuss how the concepts applied to our lives and our families.
The one that Dave and I find ourselves talking about the most is "Seek first to understand", because the fact of the matter is: we don't know what is going on with that person who just sped by us in their car, going 50 miles an hour in a 30 mph zone. We also don't know what is going on with the lady at the grocery store check-out line who looks like she just lost her best friend. Maybe she did!! The funny thing is that when Dave gets upset about something, I can always remember to say "Seek first to understand" but I can't always remember to say it to myself when I am the offended one. I mentioned last week that I declined an opportunity of a lifetime because all the pieces and parts were simply not aligning. My spiritual advisor and Dave both told me (without talking to each other), "God has a plan for you, and you just have to feel honored that you were 'wanted' and that a similar opportunity may present itself in the future when the pieces and parts do all align." Okay, it wasn't that freaky. I shouldn't have put quotation marks around that, because they didn't say exactly those words, but the point is all of Covey's principles likely have a place in the decision making process we had to do in order for me to "stay put" for now.
Maybe someone else needed that opportunity more than I did. Maybe by saying "yes" to that would have kept me from saying "yes" to another really cool opportunity later on. Maybe the people with whom I am currently working need me more than I know. All I know is this: I can grieve the loss of what I had dreamed about for many, many, many years (does that sound like I am old? I think it does), but I also then need to not regret the past by wallowing in "What ifs".
I am so happy that God has placed so many great people in my life with whom I can synergize. And, by the way, if you think for an instant that you can listen to a little Kindergarten girl say, "Gueth what, Dr. Arnethon, we were thynergithing!" and not crack a smile, you have some serious humor therapy you need to do. Those Kinders knew from two weeks into the school year that synergizing (even if they couldn't say it correctly) would produce better results than if they tried to do something on their own. I pray I always get to work with people who want to become better people, in life, in work, and in love.