As I write this blog, I am on the verge of losing my mind (not literally) because I just WROTE this blog and thought it posted. So, I am desperately trying to use my own blog's advice and believe that the blog I had originally written was not meant for you to read as it was written. Instead, I was meant to start all over again.....oh forget it, I just messed up and didn't save it correctly, I am certain.
To say I am a huge fan of Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" (Covey, 2004) would be a massive understatement. The school at which I was blessed to be a principal for seven years used the seven habits to guide the actions and character of our students, staff, teachers, and even parents. We chose a theme related to leadership each year ("Growing Leaders, One a Time"; "Edge Leaders Rock", etc.) and we made sure to say we weren't just talking about the students. Every news show was peppered with ways to incorporate the seven habits:
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)
Yes, even the puppets I used on the news show each Friday had things to say about the seven habits. One of my favorite activities had to do with families, though. For two years, I led an evening book study on Covey's book about seven habits of highly effective families for parents. The conversations were often controversial (as, shockingly, not every parent believes in raising their children the same way as their neighbors do) but ALWAYS engaging. I still have parents who say they remember those book study nights with great fondness. I do, too.
The habit Dave and I likely talk about the most, though, is "Seek first to understand, then to be understood". This is a sticky-wicket, as a dear teacher of mine used to say. It is easy to say, but oh-so-hard to put into action on a daily basis. Why is that maniac driving 50 miles and hour in a 30 mph zone? Maybe they have an emergency I don't know about. Why is the lady at the check-out line looking like she just lost her best friend? Ummm.....maybe she did. Why is my plane delayed? Maybe because the maintenance crew needs to examine an issue that could have become a catastrophic event had we taken off without them checking? What I have learned over the years is that it is not my business to know every piece of business.
All of the principles Covey impacted me so much, I even wrote my dissertation on Covey's son's work on the characteristics of trust. But if you think for an instant that you can listen to a little Kindergarten girl call out to you, "Come look, Dr. Arnethon! We are thynergithing!" and not crack a smile a mile wide, you might need a blog on humor. Those Kindergarten students at the school in Florida where I was principal knew those seven habits by the 2nd week of school and had their parents learning them too.
Everything I teach is based on "Begin with the end in mind", as I talk to my participants about setting attainable outcomes within a set amount of time (lesson planning). I have to set the outcome, decide how I will know my participants know what I want them to know by the end of the day, then go back and design instruction that will align with those outcomes.
It seems as though the seven habits are a part of every piece of our lives, if we just open our eyes to them. I pray that each of you has a spiritual advisor of some sort who can remind you of when you might not be achieving that goal of applying those habits to your life. I am blessed with one who does just that, and she says that by helping me, it helps her, too. That is what we would call a "win-win"!!