The publication mentioned below
is the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective
People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change,
by Stephen R. Covey, published by Simon and
Schuster, in 1989.
Paradigms and Paradigm Shifts
Paradigm is a word which means "a pattern or
model; the generally accepted perspective."
For this class, our paradigms will represent our
views of the world, our explanations for what we
observe in the world around us. As a
metaphor, I like to compare our paradigms to the
lenses in our glasses. What we see isn't a
completely accurate reflection of reality, it
is shaped by our attitudes and
perceptions. Paradigms are natural and
inevitable, and they are useful to us in many
ways. However, sometimes our paradigms
become so far removed from reality that they
become dysfunctional. A "paradigm shift"
occurs when our paradigms change, allowing us to
see the world in a new light. Sometimes this
happens suddenly, and
sometimes very gradually. Paradigms
are part of what Stephen Covey describes, in The
Habits of Highly Effective People.
In that book, Covey presents his ideas about
increasing personal and professional
success. Covey was working as a corporate
consultant, giving seminars about leadership
development, when one of his sons began to
experience social and academic problems. At
adolescence, his son was a late bloomer, still
immature and uncoordinated at a time when most
other boys were growing up into young men.
Covey and his wife spent years trying to "help"
their son, trying to change him, trying to coach
him into being more competent, trying to defend
him to others. One day, after a long period
of frustration, Covey experienced a breakthrough
in his thinking (a shift in his paradigm).
He realized that all the help and support his wife
and he were providing to his son wasn't useful; in
fact, it was sending his son the message
that he wasn't capable of taking care of himself,
and that who he really was, wasn't good
enough. In other words, the problem wasn't
his son's lack of development; the problem was the
parents' attitudes. It was their paradigm
which needed changing.
Here is an example from Covey's book (pp. 30-31)
in which describes a time he experienced a shift
in his paradigm:
I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one
morning on a subway in New York. People were
sitting quietly - some reading newspapers, some
lost in thought, some resting with their eyes
closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene.
Then suddenly, a man and his
children entered the subway. The children
were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the
whole climate changed.
The man sat down next to me and
closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the
situation. The children were yelling back and
forth, throwing things, even grabbing people's
papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man
sitting next to me did nothing.
It was difficult not to feel
irritated. I could not believe that he could
be so insensitive as to let his children run wild
like that and do nothing about
it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy
to see that everyone else on the
subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what
I felt was unusual patience and
restraint, I turned to him and said, "Sir, your
children are really disturbing a
lot of people. I wonder if you couldn't control
them a little more?"
The man lifted his gaze as if
to come to a consciousness of the situation
for the first time and said softly, "Oh, you're
right. I guess I should do something about it. We
just came from the hospital where their mother
died about an hour ago. I don't know what to
think, and I guess they don't know how to handle
Can you imagine what I felt at
that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly
I saw things differently, and because I
saw differently, I thought
differently, I felt differently, I
behaved differently. My irritation vanished.
I didn't have to worry about controlling my
attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with
the man's pain. Feelings of sympathy and
compassion flowed freely. "Your wife just died?
Oh, I'm so sorry! Can you tell me about it? What
can I do to help?" Everything changed in an
The basis of Covey's work is the idea that
natural laws exist that govern human
effectiveness. According to Covey, these
laws exist whether we believe in them, value them,
or not. Examples of Covey's principles
include human dignity, fairness, honesty, growth,
and service. Covey asserts that emotional
pain, stunted relationships, fear of failure,
etc. derive from our lack of adherence to natural
principles, which he calls "character."
Any true happiness or fulfillment or success will
have to come from the inside-out,
and be based upon a sound character.
Therefore, in order to become more effective, we
don't need to look to self-help gurus or pass the
blame on to others. We need to look within
ourselves, align ourselves more closely with
and effectiveness will follow.
He describes this process as "Private victories
precede public victories."
For an overview of the 7 Habits, click here.
Now that you have read Covey's introduction to
the 7 habits, here is
a brief description of each of the habits:
Habit 1 - Be proactive. About
proactivity, Covey says, "It means more than
merely taking initiative. It means that as
human beings, we are responsible for our own
lives. Our behavior is a function of our
decisions, not our conditions. We can
subordinate feelings to values. We have the
initiative and responsibility to make things
happen. Look at the word 'responsibility' -
'response-ability' - the ability to choose your
response. Highly proactive people recognize
their responsibility. They do not blame
circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for
their behavior. Their behavior is a product
of their own conscious choice, based on values,
rather than a product of their conditions, based
Habit 2 - Begin with the end in mind.
For Covey, beginning with the end in mind means
that we should take the time
to develop a mental image of what we want to
accomplish and be. At various times
in the book, he describes that image as a
paradigm, a visualization, a picture, a goal, a
plan, a blueprint, a destination, or a definition
of success. He says, "It's incredibly easy
to get caught up in an activity trap, in the
busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at
climbing the ladder of success only to discover
it's leaning against the wrong wall. ... How
different our lives
are when we really know what is deeply important
to us, and, keeping that picture
in mind, we manage ourselves every day to be and
do what really matters most."
Habit 3 - Put First Things First.
Covey sees habit 3, putting first things first, as
the integration and completion of habits 1 and
2. Habit 1 teaches us that we are in charge
of our behavior, attitudes, and thus, our
outcomes. Habit 2 teaches us how to use our
mental power to visualize our desired
outcomes. Bringing these two ideas together,
habit 3 adds our ability to discipline ourselves,
and therefore, we are able to make our ideas a
reality. Discipline, for Covey, is not
about "forcing" yourself to do unpleasant things,
rather, it is about being willing to act upon your
own deepest values.
Covey's practical suggestions
in this area mostly deal with time management,
we will cover in greater detail
in the next class period.
Habit 4 - Think Win/Win. "Win/Win is
a frame of mind and heart
that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human
interactions. Win/Win means that agreements
or solutions are mutually beneficial, mutually
satisfying. With a Win/Win solution, all
parties feel good about the decision and feel
committed to the action plan. Win/Win sees
life as a cooperative, not a competitive
arena. ... Win/Win is based on the paradigm
that there is plenty for everybody, that one
person's success is not achieved at the expense or
exclusion of the success of others. " Covey
finds the opportunity for Win/Win is highest in
relationships with mutual trust. These
relationships often lead to explicit or implicit
statements of expectations and performance
(promises). When the promises are fulfilled
repeatedly, both parties win, and further trust is
built, in a self-reinforcing cycle.
Habit 5 - Seek First to Understand, then to be
Understood. Covey offer us this
example to illustrate the power of listening to
others with empathy. "If all the air were
sucked out of the room you're in right now, what
would happen to your interest in this book?
You wouldn't care about the book; you wouldn't
care about anything except getting air.
Survival would be your only motivation.
But now that you have air, it doesn't motivate
you. This is one of the greatest insights in
the field of human motivation: Satisfied
needs do not motivate. It's only the
unsatisfied need that motivates. Next to
physical survival, the greatest need of a human
is psychological survival - to be understand, to
be affirmed, to be validated, to be
appreciated. When you listen with empathy to
another person, you give that person
psychological air. And after that vital need
is met, you can then focus on influencing or
Habit 6 - Synergize. Synergy occurs
the sum is greater than the separate parts.
Covey tells us that synergy has the best chances
to occur when we have habits 1 to 5 at work in our
lives, because then we are ready to experience the
near-chaos situation that is necessary to develop
true synergy and creativity. One story in
Covey's book describes a synergistic experience
within one college class in Leadership. One
in the class opened up one day in a presentation,
telling a story that was deeply personal and
courageous. This one story caused others to
open also, and soon the whole class was sharing
their innermost thoughts and listening
respectfully to each other. The experience
was so powerful that the class decided to scrap
the original syllabus, and instead, took it upon
themselves to work much harder than planned,
writing an entire book about Leadership in just
six weeks. The book was subsequently
published, and the students continue to keep in
touch with each other, twenty years after the
Habit 7 - Sharpen the Saw. By
"sharpen the saw," Covey means that we all need to
practice self-renewal. This is the personal
application of Covey's "production capability"
(the PC part of the P/PC principle). It
involves a commitment to exercise all parts of our
mind, body, heart, and soul to increase our
mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual
health. Covey declares, "This is the single
most powerful investment we can ever make in life
- investment in ourselves, in the only instrument
we have with which to deal with life and to
contribute. We are the instruments of our
own performance, and to be effective, we need to
the importance of taking time
regularly to sharpen the saw in all four ways."