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In a New Season? Review the Seven Habits

We live our lives in seasons. If you’re like me, you live in a cycle of seasons defined by school. Start a new year in the fall; graduate in the spring. It seems somebody in the family is always in school. How do you navigate a new season? When I start new seasons, I’ve learned to set myself up …
By Seth Barnes

We live our lives in seasons. If you’re like me, you live in a cycle of seasons defined by school. Start a new year in the fall; graduate in the spring. It seems somebody in the family is always in school.

How do you navigate a new season? When I start new seasons, I’ve learned to set myself up for success by recalling the things that have worked before. For example, I like to review the habits that help me to live well – to design a life and spend my days living intentionally.

Of all the tools that have helped me to live well, I especially like Covey’s Seven Habits. They are seven simple biblical principles (as Bill Blankschaen shows here). I’ve found that reviewing these habits and assessing how well I’m applying them to my life is a great exercise to undertake in the fall at the start of a new season.

A list of seven phrases can be hard to remember, so I reduce them down to seven words – all verbs:

Initiate, Envision, Prioritize, Partner, Empathize, Synergize, Grow

Here’s how I apply them:

1. Initiate: I take the time to sit down and think about a “preferred future.” I write it out and summon the will to make it happen. If you don’t create the space to reflect, you will probably find yourself ricocheting from crisis to crisis.

2. Envision: I pray about and visualize what that preferred future looks like. The more clearly I see it, the more faith I can summon to see it accomplished. And then I can begin setting goals toward that end. I lead well in this area in part because of the time I devote to thinking and praying.

3. Prioritize: I think about what needs to happen to see the vision accomplished. And once I’ve got a plan, I think through “what should we begin working on first, and then, what comes after that?” It helps me allocate limited resources.

4. Partner: Having “led myself” with the first three habits, next it’s time to involve others, to help them to embrace the vision. But I don’t start there. Instead, I think about who needs to be on my team and what they should do. To ensure fit with the role, I look at their work history to see if they have the skills the job requires.

5. Empathize: I listen to them to see if they are moved by the same issues that prompted my vision. I listen to hear their heart and to understand how God may be moving in it. If I’m listening well, I’ll sometimes hear them talk about the obstacles they face.

6. Synergize: For me, this is the hardest habit to master. If you can define those things that you are truly gifted at and called to do and if you can find and work with those who are similarly gifted in their areas, then synergy may be possible. But you have to trust them deeply. What you do together can be far more than you would do separately.

7. Grow: This is actually the fourth habit where you are leading yourself rather than others. There is something in me that constantly wants to improve. I’m forever reading and researching and practicing. I solicit feedback from people because I want to grow. It’s stewardship of my gifts and calling.

Most of the people I coach are pretty good at leading themselves by implementing the first three habits. They get out of bed in the morning and live according to a design. But a far smaller group excels at the second three habits. Those are the habits that help them lead others.

I’ve had leaders who were amazingly disciplined, but who couldn’t make room in their lives for the gifts that others brought to the table. And that became the lid on their leadership. Those leaders who focus on making room for others end up going furthest toward achieving their goals.

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