On to the book. Can I say that I can understand why Stephen Covey is one of the most influential men and why Ben loves the 7 Habits? Well, I do understand. It's because his writing is easy to follow. He takes the theoretical and makes it into meat & potatoes. Plus, I feel like it's not overwhelming to become a person who is more thoughtful and less over reactive.
Habit 1: Be Proactive
This is the basis for everything else in our lives. It draws upon the ability to know self, have the will power to change, a moral compass/conscience to drive, and imagination or hope for a better future. Being proactive is knowing that I am the only individual who can change my response to various stimulus. I have previously mentioned this in the about the introduction.
However, we see it being further expanded here in Chapter 1.
It goes like this:
Stimulus ----------------------> Freedom to Choose ------------------------> Response
Examples of Stimulus:
- Child having a temper tantrum
- Spouse being inconsiderate
- Driver cutting me off
- Friend forgetting to call on my birthday
- I could yell at my child, spank my child, remove my child from my presence, remove myself
- I could withhold affection, be inconsiderate back, be nasty with my words, love anyway
- I could cuss at them, wish ill will upon them, flip them off, breathe deeply and move on
- I could play passive aggressive next time we spoke, not call them on their birthday, or give them the benefit of the doubt.
This is what response I have chosen from my 'Freedom to Choose.' Here Covey writes about what he read in a book prior to writing the original 7 Habits book.
Between stimulus and response, there is a space.However, we have to rely on our Four Unique Human Gifts in order to become aware of that space and the "pause button" to stop ourselves in that space. Currently, I am thinking of a physical reminder to serve as a pause button. Some have suggested saying a prayer, meditating, raising your arms, clasping your hands, counting to 10.
In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our happiness.
The pause button is teaching oneself how to "cultivate a spirit of acting based on principle-centered values instead of reacting based on feelings or circumstances." After reading this over and over, it made me realize how deficit I have been due to reacting to events or situations solely on my feelings or emotions. And it's not undermining emotions or feelings, which I appreciate as a more emotional person. Rather, it's saying that when I react to circumstances, situations, or events in my life based on how I feel or what my emotions say, than I find myself in a downward spiral of chaos. So I need to act upon my feelings and emotions, but not react because of them. I need to let principles drive me in life, not my emotional state, because if it was the latter--my kids & husband would be in a world of hurt.
Each of us has Four Unique Human Gifts, but we don't always use them or exercise them. It is during the "Freedom to Choose," where we begin to utilize these four gifts.
1. Self-Awareness: being able to stand apart from the situation and evaluate
2. Conscience: the moral & ethical questions being asked and followed through
3. Imagination: The ability to see the possibility for change or hope for a brighter future
4. Independent Will: the drive, self-control or motivation to make it all happen
All four of these are pivotal in making Habit 1 actually happen. If we are missing one of these gifts, then we cannot fully utilize our potential. For instance, Adolf Hitler had three of these gifts, but lacked a conscience. I might have self-awareness, a conscience & imagination, but lack independent will, which would inhibit me from actually doing anything. When we're faced with any obstacle or stimulus, we have a choice on how we're going to respond and as we strengthen our "four unique gift" muscles, we will be able to "act" upon our response; rather, than react with a response.
----------------------------------A Fifth Gift------------------------------------------------------------------
Covey speaks of having a sense of humor as being integral, which I wholeheartedly agree with. If we cannot laugh at ourselves or circumstances in life (ones that are really worth laughing about), then we lose sight at what's truly important. I can recall in my dating years with Ben how I would become overly sensitive about certain remarks, or things he said. Looking back, it wasn't Ben--it was me. I had become so uptight that I couldn't laugh at myself and take a joke. Humor is different from being crass or vulgar. It is being lighthearted, not lightminded. I appreciate the fun, the laughter and the humor we have in our home. In fact, just yesterday I busted up laughing in the kitchen recalling Ben making fun of me and my "compost" pile at our old home. I would defend it then, but now I know I was silly for thinking throwing some veggie scraps into a bush of thorns was composting.
---------------------------------------Love is a Verb---------------------------------------------------
I really enjoyed this section, which was woven throughout the chapter. He spoke of a guy coming up to him at a seminar saying how he just didn't "feel" anything for his wife anymore and that he guessed he didn't love her. Covey replied, "Sounds like you don't have feelings for her anymore."
The man answered back, "Yeah, so what do I do."
Covey told the man, "love her."
But the man responded to Covey that he wasn't listening and didn't understand, because the feeling wasn't there. However, Covey continued with, "love her."
Then the man said, "But how do you love when you don't love?"
And Covey answered, "My friend, love is a verb. Love--the feeling--is a fruit of love the verb. So love her. Sacrifice. Listen to her. Empathize. Appreciate. Affirm her."
If we haven't come from families where love is a verb, but a feeling, than we have more than likely bought into what Hollywood would have us believe it to be...nothing more than feeling. The reason why understanding love is a verb is so profoundly important is because Habit 1: Being Proactive starts with self. If I know that all of this starts with me and how I choose to respond, then it is essential to know that how I choose to love Ben, my girls, my extended family, my friends, and strangers is not based on how I feel, but based on actions. It's not about how Ben treats me, how my girls respond (because we know they're pretty temperamental) or someone else. It's my choice in how I respond. This is especially true within my marriage. Granted we have never been through "major" life-altering problems in our marriage. However, we did date for quite some time and I didn't always love as a verb, but we made a choice to continue to weather the storms (more of my emotional distress) and fought for what we wanted.
Circle of Influence & Circle of Concern:
This hit me really hard. When we live in the Circle of Concern, rather than the Circle of Influence, we find ourselves more critical, judgmental and fearful. The Circle of Influence is the circle in your life you can actually control or influence. While the Circle of Concern is the circle you cannot control or influence. When life goes upside down with my extended family, I allow the Circle of Concern to influence my life. And through understanding these circles, I can see how as I let the wrong circle influence my behavior...I react to the problem or person, instead of act. By living in the Circle of Concern, it caused me to treat the person (or persons) I was concerned about more like a punching bag. However, when I focus my energies on my own Circle of Influence, then it creates a rippling effect and my Circle of Concern gets touched by the ripple. Does this make sense? Basically, it's knowing what is my business and what is not my business, what I am responsible for and what I am not.
I am not responsible for anyone's marriage aside from my own. Can I love and support a failing marriage? Yes, but it's not my responsibility to get them to love one another. I can love Ben and be an example. I am not responsible for the way Ben treats me. Can I love him and serve him to make it easier for him? Can I choose to keep my covenant even when I don't feel like it? Yes. Likewise for him to me. I am not responsible for how Veronica responds in the grocery store if she falls on the floor having a tantrum. Can I provide consequences due to her behavior not aligning with our family principles? Yes.
You know if you're in the Circle of Influence or Circle of Concern based on your language. If you're defensive, reactive, accusing, or blaming, then you're in the Circle of Concern (typically because it's when we are trying to control a situation that is so far out of our grips). However, your language in the Circle of Concern is proactive and reflective on what you can do about it.
Emotional Bank Account: I think I mentioned in the previous post on the 7 Habits about this. In case I didn't...this is key to growing your family and being proactive. Basically, write down your family members names on a piece of paper. Then, by each one, write down the ways in which you show love & care towards them. It's kind of like the Five Love Languages.
For instance, Veronica needs constant verbal affirmation. So as I fill her emotional piggy bank with words of praises, she in return trusts mama & respects who I am as her mama. I am letting her know that I am her for her and think she's worth it. However, if I were to use critical words or lacked any affirming words, she disregard me and grow to distrust who I am in her life. You'll find that each family member has more than one, but ask yourself how you daily fill these emotional piggy banks. And maybe you can write down what your emotional piggy bank needs are as well. This is how the 'love is a verb' applies. It is through doing that our loved ones feel love.
- Being Kind: I can show kindness to Ben by clearing off the vertical surfaces to have clutter free zones. I can show kindness to Veronica by rubbing her back at naptime. I can show kindness to Cadence picking her up when I'm busy making dinner. What are ways you can show kindness to the people in your life?
- Apologizing: I can think of how amazing it is to see humility through saying sorry or having someone say it to me. It's taking ownership and breaks down walls. It also adds deposits to the emotional piggy bank.
- Being Loyal to those not Present: This is especially true within family circles. It's being a person who speaks well of everyone. Not being a gossip. Using your words to speak praises, rather than tearing down. Regardless, if the family member or person is lazy, a loser, or whatever fill in the bank...it's being loyal to them by speaking of only their good traits or better yet (how God sees them as his child).
- Making and Keeping Promises: Being a person who keeps their covenant or commitment. Don't be fleeting with your "I do's." I know I have to be careful when I tell Veronica that I will tell her a story later or do something else later...I have to be willing to actually do it, so she knows my word is my bond.
- Forgiving: Not only do we need to ask for forgiveness, but we need to extend forgiveness. I know of people who go through a huge chunk of their life clinging to forgiveness lost. And they are the worst for it. You grow bitter, disgruntled and lonely. But the worst is thinking about myself standing before God on judgment day and him saying, "I forgave you the hugest debt and you weren't willing to forgive this person of their small debt?"
The Primary Laws of Love, which "reflect the reality that love in its purest form is unconditional." It is, "acceptance rather than rejection," "understanding rather than judgment," and "participation rather than manipulation." Living out these laws is based upon my choice, not on someone's behavior or choice.
Covey says it best,
Sometimes when people are struggling with a loved one and doing everything they can to lead that person toward what they feel is a responsible course, it's very easy to fall into the trap of living the "secondary" or counterfeit laws of love--judgment, rejection, and manipulation. They love the end in mind more than the person. They love conditionally....they use love to manipulate and control...and others feel rejected and fight to stay the same.
However, when you deeply accept and love people as they are, you actually encourage them to become better. By accepting people you're not condoning their weakness or agreeing with their opinion; you're simply affirming their intrinsic worth. You're freeing them of the need to defend, protect, and preserve themselves.
I like that line about not condoning a person's weakness or agreeing with their opinion, but affirming their intrinsic worth. Because isn't that what we all want as human beings. We want to be treated with dignity & respect, because I think it's how we were created.