How to Apply Stephen Covey's Seven Habits: Get Control of Your Mind
Stephen Covey's most fundamental habits, to my mind, are as follows:
- TAKE A LONG, HARD LOOK AT WHAT YOU CONSIDER TO BE THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS IN LIFE
- PUT THESE IN A HIERARCHY, MAKE THEM PRIORITIES IN ORDER OF THIS HIERARCHY, AND MAKE SURE ALL OTHER CONCERNS ARE SUBORDINATE TO THESE PRIORITIES
- ACT UPON THE FRAMEWORK SET OUT HERE ABOVE, IE., DO THINGS, EVERY DAY, TO WORK TOWARDS YOUR GOALS, IN ORDER OF THE PRIORITIES YOU HAVE DEEMED TO BE MOST IMPORTANT.
This procedure, however, is based on having sound psychology. In other words, you need to have control of your psychological and emotional levers in order to accomplish these three steps.
Therefore, for me, the first area in which you need to Be Proactive (Covey's first habit), is that of your mind, your emotions, your brain, and your nervous system.
We are all bumbling along inside a vehicle called the brain-and-nervous-system. Fortunately, this is a machine that can produce results for us. HOWEVER, we need to LEARN how to operate this great and complex machine.
In terms of American psychological tradition, the first wave of thought in regard to how the mind works was that promoted by B. F. Skinner and behaviourism. That is, Skinner and many others emphasized that we associate to things other things that occur repeatedly in proximity to that first thing, and also that our basic drives are towards pleasure and away from pain.
Needless to say, while this model worked well for the study of pigeons (a favourite subject in behavioural experiments), as soon as you get into more complex animals, things are not so simple. Indeed, anyone who has lived with a cat, for example, knows that complex animals are not simply motivated by pain and pleasure, but have all sorts of more complex "thoughts."
Enter the so-called "cognitive revolution." This new wave of theory emphasized that there are sentences, bits of sentences, ideas, beliefs, values and all sorts of other "meaningful symbol systems" going on in the brain of any animal with a complex forebrain. That is, yes, obviously, we all know that pain and pleasure motivate us, but this is not the whole story. For example, while young children may in general get some kind of basic pleasure from learning their mother tongue (or, at least, presumably feel no pain associated with doing this), there is a whole lot more to explain when answering the question as to how they actually accomplish this.
Now, then, and particularly perhaps in therapeutic circles, the dominant model of the mind is that of cognitive-behaviourism. This is a marriage of the observation that we associate things, that pleasure and pain motivate us, on the one hand, and that our experience becomes encoded in symbol systems as we go through life.
For example, a child who is scalded by a hot kettle will learn to avoid this experience in the future, but if someone conveys, using language, that the kettle is safe if you approach it in a specific manner, the child can learn this, via the symbol-system of language, which becomes encoded as a belief, and thus neutralizes his avoidance-behaviour of kettles.
In any case, cognitive-behavioural theory is a bedrock of modern psychology. There are, in addition to this, many more approaches to the mind, some of them more helpful than others (see, for example, http://stopbadtherapy.com ). Nevertheless, the point is, to begin a search for how the mind works (see also Stephen Pinker's book How the Mind Works), is to Begin with the End in Mind).