Many of you will have read Stephen Covey’s iconic book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It started a trend and defined a new direction for businesses and self-help platforms, it was simple and easy to understand, and it resonated with the needs of the modern workplace.
What was so important about this book? Covey presented an approach to become effective and successful that involved attaining goals by aligning with character ethics – assuming that change starts from within. He defined character as the collection of our habits, and he focused on the motivation or the ‘why’, the skills or the ‘how’, and the knowledge or the ‘what’ of any habit. His approach was not about competing with others to achieve success, but about everyone growing and succeeding together.
The first 3 habits are all about self-mastery; moving from dependence to independence:
- Be pro-active
- Begin with the end in mind
- Put first things first
The next 3 habits are all about interdependence, that is, working together or in other words healthy relationships:
- Think win-win
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood
And the final habit is about continuous improvement:
- Sharpen the saw
The question remains: how to imbibe these habits in day-to-day life? Do they simply come about on their own, because we want to include them? If only it were that simple! Covey has given us the framework, but what about the tools to change and align with these new habits?
Let’s look at the first 3 habits, which are all about self-mastery. For these 3 to manifest, the mind has to be in good shape. Like any instrument, it needs fine-tuning, it needs to be kept clean and in superb working order. Look at this series of questions by Daaji, the author of The Heartfulness Way and Designing Destiny:
“Can there be joy without peace?
Can there be peace without harmony?
Can there be harmony without contemplation?
Can there be contemplation without thinking?
Can there be focused thinking without meditation?”
What Daaji is pointing out is that daily meditation is necessary to fine-tune the mind and have it working well. You can also call it a mental gym if you like. To be able to set goals, be proactive and prioritize, a fine-tuned mind is a real asset. This means that the field of consciousness has to be cleaned of all its impurities, anything clouding decision-making has to be removed, and the ability to hold a vision and a goal cannot be hindered by pulls and pushes from distracting thoughts and emotions. Your mind needs to become like the best-serviced Formula 1 racing car on the track.
The next 3 habits are about mutually beneficial relationships, leading to healthy interdependence. These 3 habits require emotional and social intelligence. How do we develop that generosity of heart to listen, to synergize and to want others to succeed? Again through meditation, but not just any meditation. We need to master our emotions, so we need a heart-based meditation practice.
The final habit is probably the most critical of all – an attitude of continuous improvement, which requires the openness and humility to recognize that life is constant evolution and self-evaluation. Without this, we solidify and fossilize. With it, we can grow along with others and continue to be inspired for the rest of our lives. After all, who wants to be left behind? What better tool for this than meditation, leading to inner reflection, self-study, and self-awareness!
So if you want these 7 habits to become a natural part of day-to-day life, the simplest and most effective approach is to start with the master habit – meditation. Is meditation as natural for you as brushing your teeth, taking a shower or eating a meal? If you can make the time for those things in your daily routine, then create the time for meditation and see where it takes you.
Creating a habit takes regularity and discipline, and 90 days of daily meditation is a good start. Is it worth it? Try it and see for yourself. You have nothing to lose. My own experience with this experiment of Heartfulness Meditation is that life continues to get better and better, and I can honestly say that it is all down to a simple set of heart-based meditation practices, which have brought peace and joy into everyday life.
Please join me, and thousands of others, for 90 Days of Heartfulness.