Do you wish you were more effective in life? Maybe you’d like to achieve more at work? Or perhaps you’d like to be a more loving and devoted partner?

The surest way to achieve lasting personal change is to develop better habits. It’s true we’re creatures of habit. Not only how we act, but who we are, is, to a large extent, defined by our habits. Routines define our characters and, like gravity, pull our behaviour in a certain direction. But what are the habits that can help you become more effective? This post focuses on the following habits:

Being proactive. Being proactive is all about focusing on what you can control. It’s about forward-thinking behaviour; anticipating the consequences of a situation before they happen. In being proactive, we can pre-empt potential complications with the aim of reducing impact on ourselves, others, our progress.

Begin with the end in mind. As the name suggests, to begin with the end in mind means to have a vision of what you want to achieve in your life before you physically start it. However, this habit is a lot more powerful than just creating a vision for something you want to create. It includes understanding our values and how we are influenced by external factors or “social mirrors” such as our parents, teachers and greater society.

Putting first things first. Putting first things first means organising and executing around your most important priorities. It is living and being driven by the principles you value most, not by the agendas and forces surrounding you.

Thinking win-win. Think win-win isn’t about being nice, nor is it a quick-fix technique. It is a character-based code for human interaction and collaboration. Most of us learn to base our self-worth on comparisons and competition. We think about succeeding in terms of someone else failing-that is, if I win, you lose; or if you win, I lose. Life becomes a zero-sum game.

Seeking first to understand, then be understood. Seeking real understanding affirms the other person and what they have to say. That’s what they want. That’s what we all want — to be understood, valued and affirmed. It’s likely that, naturally, you seek first to be understood. We are often so intent on getting our point across in a conversation that we only partially listen to what the other participants are saying. In doing this we are not truly communicating, which leads to confusion, mixed messages and a lack of clarity (not good communication!).

Synergizing. A synergy is where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, when two or more people or organisations combine their efforts, they can accomplish more together than they can separately. They can get more done working together than they can working apart. In mathematical terms, a synergy is when 2 + 2 = 5.
Negative synergies also exist. If there is a negative synergy, the whole is less than the sum of its parts. In other words, people can actually accomplish more by working alone rather than working together. In mathematical terms, a negative synergy is when 2 + 2 = 3. An easy example is an overly social work team that spends too much time ‘team building’ and not enough time working.

Sharpening the saw. Sharpen the saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. As you renew yourself in each of the four areas, you create growth and change in your life. Sharpen the saw keeps you fresh so you can continue to practice the other six habits. You increase your capacity to produce and handle the challenges around you.