How to Create Good Habits

In his now-classic book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” author Steven Covey takes the reader along through seven habits that he identifies as vital to personal and professional success. Much of the year 2020 still lies ahead, and it may be a good time to take personal inventory for the new year and start building good, personal habits.

According to the author, habits that are worth developing include:
• Be proactive
• Begin with the end in mind
• Put first things first
• Think win-win
• Seek first to understand, then to be understood
• Synergize

Although it remains outside of the scope of this article to explore these habits in depth, providing a simple list can give the reader a sense of what Covey is getting at. The author groups these habits into a larger mental construct that he calls “principles.”

“Principles are not practices,” Covey writes. “A practice is a specific activity or action. A practice that works in one circumstance will not necessary work in another, as parents who have tried to raise a second child exactly like they did the first can attest.”
The bottom line: Make good habits principles. But one question worth exploring is: What makes something a habit?

Later in the book, Covey answers this question. According to the author skills, desires, and knowledge are the three foundations that create good habits. He calls them “internalized principles and patterns of behavior.”

One way to embrace and internalize is to do some internal practicing or rehearsing. Self-talk, or, the thoughts and dialogue we have with ourselves, plays an important role.

“One of the main things . . . research show[s] [is] that almost all of the world-class athletes and other peak performers are visualizers,” Covey writes. “They see it; they feel it; they experience it before they actually do it.” He concludes: “They begin with the end in mind.”
Effective time management also plays a role in personal and profession success.

The author explores how to organize time into long-, intermediate-, and short-term goals. Effective individuals know this well, and time management is all about sorting out one’s “roles and goals,” as Covey explains. It is worth noting, however, that some people resist scheduling, which is a useful tool, because they may feel that schedules create rigidity and are inflexible. This may in fact be true with some types of scheduling, but Covey’s approach is to take people into consider, so that time is managed but relationships still matter.

Finally, although Covey’s work was first published in the 1980s, it still remains relevant today. With even more distractions that have emerged since that time, developing good personal habits can hep encourage personal and professional success.

Covey, S. R. (2004). The seven habits of highly effective people. Simon & Schuster, New York, NY.