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
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 7 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
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
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 it either."
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 natural
principles, 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
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, which 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
being 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
individual 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 class ended.
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
recognize the importance of taking time regularly
to sharpen the saw in all four ways."