Habit 1: Be Proactive – To be proactive is “to act based on principles and values rather than reacting based on emotion or circumstance.” This habit focuses on the fact that we can all become agents of change. It first requires taking stock of our unique human gifts, which allow us to exercise our innate freedom to choose, based on principles and values. Next, we determine and distinguish our circle of concern and our circle of influence. My favourite take-away from this chapter is about building an emotional bank account with your children and loved ones by apologising, being loyal, making and keeping promises, and practising acts of forgiveness.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind – Following from the cultivation of the first habit is the building of a family mission statement in which principles such as forgiveness, compassion, and charity take precedence, “ahead of each other, and ahead of our family.” Wow! This is a strong statement. Covey goes on to explain that this one principle has “given a sense of appropriate priority to everything else.” Of course, determining what these guiding family principles are doesn’t happen overnight. Covey explains how their family principles were drafted, re-worked, and re-written numerous times over the years with the input of all members of the family. The step by step guide to writing a family mission statement may be the most valuable part of this book.
Habit 3: Put First Things First – This may be one of the most difficult habits to wrestle with: putting family first in all things. Covey tackles the thorny questions of work-life balance, daycare, full-time working, etc. with tact and truth. He says, “the place to start is not that work is non-negotiable; it’s with the assumption that family is non-negotiable.” Hitting home the fact that no one else can raise your children as you can, the parent, Covey adds an effective tip: weekly family time (another ear-marked page in my book). It’s a time to plan, to teach, to solve problems, and to have fun. Covey also emphasises one-on-one time with each member of your family as part of the relationship-building that comes with putting first things first.
Habit 4: Think “Win-Win” – The next three habits are explained by Covey as the root, the route, and the fruit. By seeking ‘win-win’ arrangements, habit four emphasises the mutual benefit when both people are satisfied. This nurturing attitude, when cultivated consistently, is the root from which the next habits grow.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand…Then to Be Understood – Following from above, this habit is the way, the route, or method for deep interaction. This habit allows us to step out of our own paradigm and embrace – with understanding and empathy – the heart and head of the other person.
Habit 6: Synergise – Finally, synergising is the fruit of the efforts made above. The third-way alternatives to my way or your way make for the best way forward. Through practising this habit, compromise becomes a way of daily living and loving.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw – In the last chapter, Covey emphasises the need for every family to renew itself in the four key areas of life: physical, social, mental, and spiritual. The importance of traditions is emphasised here as the secret to maintaining the healthy embodiment of these key areas of life.
Every chapter contains numerous real-life examples of how these habits work and the results produced. What makes this book particularly effective is the helpful list of ideas at the end of each chapter/habit that makes sharing the ideas and concepts with teens and children easy and enjoyable. Covey obviously has practised what he preaches and knows what that entails.