7 Tips to Live Life to the Fullest

Dr. Stephen Covey, author of the highly acclaimed The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People died earlier this summer. My wife and I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Covey in action at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan when we were in graduate school. We were there to study business (MBA and Ph.D.), but had no idea that a chance encounter with Dr. Covey would also be so instructive and would influence not just us, but so many future students as well. We have learned so much from his book that we often give it as a graduation present to our students. If you have received this gift yourself and it is still sitting on your shelf, take it out and read it, as tribute to Dr. Covey. Here are the seven biggest life skills that you will find:

Habit 1: Be proactive

This is a hard habit to learn, whether you are looking for a job or learning how to lead a team. It is not always easy to think ahead and plan what you need to do tomorrow or next week. We are all used to being reactive and responding to what others throw at us, but Dr. Covey encourages us to lead by taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions by not letting others define us.

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind

Who does this?! We are just trying to make it through life, step by step. How can we possibly think about the end, when we are trying to get started? We can use this habit by visualizing what kind of new job we want, by how we want to spend our day, or by visualizing success as we think about the outcome we want for a team project. Visualization that will help us figure out where to start today.

Habit 3: Put first things first

Karen, my wife, learned this from one of her favorite bosses. Karen would be working late, knowing that I was home working on a paper (no kids yet), but her boss would always encourage her to go home and have dinner with me. Karen would remind him that she didn’t have kids yet so she didn’t mind staying late and he said, “You need to go home and have dinner with your family-that is the most important thing.” He left then, too. It was an important example that made a huge impression on Karen.

Habit 4: Think win-win

We are so programmed to win all the time that we don’t stop to think that there might be a way for everyone to win. Dr. Covey changed the way people negotiate with this philosophy. Whether you are negotiating for a new salary or an office space, everyone will enjoy working together in the future if they feel good about the outcome today.

Habit 5: See first to understand, then to be understood

This is the hardest: we all want everyone to understand our point of view and see things our way.  It is hardest to listen first and then talk. But, it is very powerful to listen first and then find places where you actually agree with your boss or your co-worker (or your spouse!). This is hard, but worthwhile.

Habit 6: Synergize

This is all about collaboration. Not everyone is able to work with others in an open and collaborative fashion. Some folks just want things done their way. If you can build trust with others and truly partner with them to accomplish great things, then you will know the power of this habit.

Habit 7: Sharpen the saw

A new survey found that people do not come back from vacations less stressed. This is because people are checking in at work while on vacation, instead of truly detaching themselves from work.  If we want to find balance in our lives, we have to find a way to not only work hard, but play hard, too.

Aneil Mishra and Karen Mishra are business school professors and authors of Trust is Everything (2008) and Becoming a Trustworthy Leader (2012).