Category Archives: Stephen Covey

…nature and nurture…

I’m going to stick my neck out here.

I’m going to tell you — without any empirical data — that people filter data according to what is useful and valuable to them AND they overcome those filters in ways that can only be described as learning.  But here’s the catch:  learning is not entirely voluntary.  Learning is simultaneously unreflective, unconscious, and involuntary AND reflective, conscious and voluntary.  Learning is both completely intentional AND completely instinctual.

So… what’s going on here? … Is this a nature – nurture discussion? … Well, yes … and no.  Let me explain.

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…”begin with the end in mind” by accepting the unknown…

“If we fear the unknown then surely we fear ourselves.” — Bryant H. McGill

One of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is to “Begin with the end in mind.”  Covey illustrates the importance of this habit by pointing out how “everything is created twice” — first as a mental conception and second as a completed implementation.  There are always two distinct moments of creation – otherwise what results is a default — not creation.

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…speculation, honoring life’s invitations…

“Until a person can say deeply and honestly, “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,” that person cannot say, “I choose otherwise.” — Stephen Covey

Yesterday, I looked at speculation and tension-resolution.  Today, I want to look at speculation and the choice we have to either honor or ignore life’s various invitations.

In earlier posts, I talked about personal and unique invitations come from “outside…other interests.”  That is, from people, places, activities, or interests that draw you out so you can be bigger than yourself.   “Outside…other interests” always present themselves as “subtle and playful invitations.”  Nothing is ever demanded.  It’s always your choice.  You decide what works for you.

This particular skill is #3 on the short list of four.  Do you remember what the four skills are?

  1. Let go of pre-conceptions.  
  2. Self-determine what you want. 
  3. Feel the personal and unique invitation to be bigger than yourself.
  4. Find the belief that “enough” is genuinely possible. 

For #3, I could have used the verb “speculate.”  And I understand that these two verbs — “feeling” and “speculating” — appear to be two entirely different faculties.   One is a “gut and heart” verb.  We feel things out the same way we grope in the dark, using hunches and suspicions, calling forth our intuitive capacity to second-guess what the situation requires.  The other is a “head” verb.  We speculate by asking questions, making assessments and judgements, calculating our way toward some larger resolution or answer.  Both verbs are important here, since these invitation can come at us from any where, any time and from any ONE of our “outside…other interests.”

Malcolm Galdwell wrote a wonderful book called Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.  In that book he talked about one form of rapid cognition called “thin-slicing.”  Thin-slicing refers to our unconscious ability to find patterns in situations and behavior based on a very narrow slices of experience.  Pattern recognition is a deeply engrained skill.  Our survival depends on the way we become attune to the world around us. It allows us to make snap judgement based on very small amounts of data. 

Gladwell uses the example of German Morse Code detectors.  These people listened to morse code transmission during WWII not to decipher it, but to identify who the sender might be.  Germans war plans could be inferred by knowing who the sender might be.  Morse code depends on an auditory pattern, which, like speech, is unique to the sender.   It is possible to ‘thin slice’ the identity based solely on the auditory pattern of the various dashes and dots.  The more attuned you were to each individual’s pattern, the more you could intuit who the sender might be. 

So what does “thin-slicing” and “attunement” have to do unique and personal invitations to be bigger than oneself?  Remember: I said that invitations are “subtle and playful.”  They are like the felt desires that help us put trust into focus (see …felt desire, putting trust into focus…).  Invitations whisper to us in voices that only we can hear.  At times, both soft and firm, these invitations are voices of desire that no one else canembody or express.  So it is important for us to learn how to listen. 

Freedom has a lot to do with reciprocity.  We become bigger than ourselves by adapting to the larger, outside world.  So most of our invitations have reciprocal learning edges.  And discovering a deeper sense of reciprocity is explicitly an invitation to play with our learning edges.  Both ‘thin-slicing’ and ‘attunement’ are skills that enable us to listen and decode these reciprocating invitations.  Are we ready to speculate about what we are being asked to do?

What we are invited to do — reciprocally– can move us into a state of openness and freedom or into a state of resistance and withdrawal.  And, like Stephen Covey says, “Until a person can say deeply and honestly, “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,” that person cannot say, “I choose otherwise.” Reciprocity has a sense of history.  To “choose otherwise” is our challenge – it is the challenge we give to ourselves.  To meet the world differently.  To be bigger and more adaptive. To be more connected and fulfilled.  To live with greater abundance — because we can “thin-slice” our “attunement” and listen for the invitations that let us be bigger than ourselves.

Thanks for listening!

…choose, respond, change…

“We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; let us now commit it to life.” – Edwin Markham

What is this chain of commands:  “choose, respond, change”?  Is it a natural sequence or is a sequence that comes only from self-awareness? 

Stephen Covey in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, examines the Principles of Interpersonal Leadership by focusing on Habit Number 4: “Think Win/Win.”  This, I believe, is where “choose, respond, change” gathers most of its energy and force.  As Covey makes clear “Win/Win” is one of six potential paradigms from which people operate.  These include: “Win/Win,” “Win/Lose,” “Lose/Win,” “Lose/Lose,” “Win,” or “Win/Win or No Deal.” Without elaborating on all six of these, what I want to focus on is “Win/Win”  and how it makes use of “choose, respond, change.”

The command, “choose”  for me, goes back to memory and imagination.  Memory engages us in “Call up and Select” while imagination engages us with “Hold and Contain.”  Of course, we do both simultaneously.  That’s how memory and imagination work (see …memory or imagination (part 2)…). 

The command, “respond,” calls up the human endowment of self-awareness (see … appreciating our human endowments …).  Self-awareness insures that our uniqueness is included in the world around us.  When we respond, we fit the awareness that we have brought up from “choosing”  into what we make of the world by identifying “what-game we are in.”  Making the self-awareness connection allows us to be more flexible with our response. It allows us to be more effective in tailoring our behavior to the situation; we do not operate by default. 

Lastly, the command, “change,” is a measure of how comfortably we can stand within the unknown.  When we are willing to change, we can stay curious and open, we engage ourselves in the situation before pigeonholing our trust.  If we are too narrow with our trust, we opt out of change; preferring instead to stay with our earlier awareness – the one that comes from what memory and imagination bring to us.

How does this fit in with Stephen Covey’s idea of Win/Win? 

In his explanation, Covey talks about Character (its one of the five dimensions of Win/Win).   The important point that he makes about Character is that it uses of all four human endowments (self-awareness, creative imagination, independent will, and conscience).  Character is composed of integrity, maturity, and an abundance mentality.  Integrity uses all four endowments to create a proactive stance, one that can honor commitment and obligation.  Maturity is the balance between courage and consideration.  It is the willingness to step into the unknown because something can be gained for both parties.   And the abundance mentality is the belief that there is plenty out there for everyone.  We do not need to paint ourselves into a corner because we only believe in scarcity. 

So “choose, respond, change” requires a demonstration of Character.  It requires integrity, maturity, and an abundance mentality. It puts us in touch with “Win/Win” because we are willing to commit to the Golden Rule: “Treat others as you would like to be treated” and we can only do that if we have complete access to all four of our human endowments.

Thanks for listening!

…appreciating our endowments…

“Every human has four endowments self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.” —  Stephen Covey

This quotation by Stephen Covey highlights the four endowments that constitute our “human” heritage.  Each root image is associated with one endowment.  As Covey makes clear, all four endowments are necessary to realize freedom and to enable us to “choose, respond, and change.” So how might the root images be useful in helping us appreciate the four endowments?

First, let me provide the necessary associations.

…urgent or important…

“Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.” Jim Rohn
In the realm of life lessons,  we’ve all had at least a few experiences of being over or under committed.  We’re all a bit like Goldilocks here – trying to get our work levels “just right” and the task doesn’t taste anything like porridge.

One common strategy to use is to get a “read” on an issue – just to “figure out” how to proceed.  Most people start with the obvious.  “Is this urgent?” and if not, then “How important?”