Authored by Tina Kapp
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, Sean Covey breaks down some patterns that are used by effective people.
We all want to be effective, because that essentially means we accomplish what we set out to do. An effective tool is successful in the work it is intended for. An effective marketing campaign means that the target audience is made aware of the benefits of a product and chooses to use it. An effective teacher is someone who not only teaches well, but has well-trained students to show for it.
The Oxford Dictionary describes the word effective as “successful in producing a desired or intended result.”
I don’t think that all people who are considered “effective” at what they do started out with a brilliant plan and did everything perfect from the get-go. I think a lot of them struggled with trying to find better or faster ways to get the job done until they got it right. Maybe there was even quite a bit of trial and error. So what is it that made them effective?
Effective people share similar traits or “habits,” which Sean discusses in his book.
1. They are proactive.
I think the best description the author gives of a proactive person is that they “understand that they are responsible for their own happiness or unhappiness. They don’t blame others for their own actions or feelings.”1
The author also says that the opposite of “proactive” people are “reactive” people. A biblical example of a reactive person would be Jonah. First, he literally ran away when God called him to go preach to Nineveh. He ended up spending three days of “quality” time in a whale’s belly until he repented and admitted that salvation was of the Lord. So then, he went off to preach to Nineveh, warning them that they would be destroyed in 40 days because of their wickedness. As soon as the king heard this, he believed God, put on sackcloth, sat in ashes, and declared a fast—telling everyone that they should pray for forgiveness and turn away from their violence and evil ways.
When God saw how sorry they were, He forgave them, which made Jonah so excited he did a happy dance. Okay, I made that up, because the real story is even crazier. When Jonah heard that God forgave them, he became exceedingly angry. He even told God that that’s why he had run away—because he knew how merciful and gracious and slow to anger God was. He ended that rather silly remark by saying that he wanted to die and telling God to kill him right then.2
That’s a pretty miserable reaction to have after having a part in saving 120,000 people from destruction and seeing them turn away from their evil ways. To me, it shows someone who chronically blames God and others for everything that happens to him. The “chronic blame” was so bad in Jonah’s case, he even found a way to blame God when something good happened!
Rather than finding the good, looking for ways to make things work, and expecting things to come together, reactive people will tend to see the bad side of things and expect things to fail.
The reason it’s important to be proactive is that you’re taking control of the situation. You’re not letting circumstances or others’ behavior ruin your happiness or your outlook.
Other great benefits are that you won’t be easily offended and you’ll take responsibility for your choices, which in turn makes you think before you act. You’ll bounce back when something bad does happen, and you’ll find a way to make things work. You’ll focus on things you can change and commit to God the things you can’t.
That’s a great mindset to have!
2. They begin with the end in mind.
Another important habit to build in order to be effective is to have a destination in mind. Ask yourself why you need to study hard in school. Is it because you want to get good grades on your test so that you can have an impressive report card? If so, is that because good grades could make it easier for you to get into a good college or to get the job you want after you graduate? And why is that job the one you’d want? It’s hard to foresee exactly how life will turn out, but as the saying goes: If you aim for nothing, you’re sure to hit it.
Everything in life becomes more challenging when you’re not clear about what you want in life. If you’re not sure of your values, goals, and what you are working toward, life can seem a bit aimless. Not knowing what you want makes it easier for you to lose focus, waste time, lack motivation, and get confused by others’ opinions.
In his book, Sean Covey suggests creating a personal mission statement which can act as a road map and direct and guide your decision-making process. A mission statement is a motto that states what your life is about. It’s your life’s blueprint.
This was one of my favorites of all the habits, as I often have a hard time focusing or putting my heart into anything unless I have a goal to work toward. I’m a very competitive person, so having a specific goal helps to motivate me. In my dancing, for example, I like to enter competitions, as that makes me challenge myself and gives me a specific goal to aim for. I have to give myself deadlines and schedules and make to-do lists, or I start to feel very lost and my brain turns to mush and my willpower goes out the window. Knowing what you’re working toward helps you stay on track and appreciate why you make all the effort you do.
As Brian Tracy3 said, “If you don’t set goals for yourself, you are doomed to work to achieve the goals of someone else.”4
As Christians, we also need to keep in mind the reason for living a godly life. While planning ahead for our life on earth is important, we can’t forget that this life is temporary, but our spirit is eternal. We’d be wise not to neglect that important aspect of our existence.
Paul told Timothy, “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”5
He refers to “storing up for the time to come” to describe making a spiritual investment, which is what you’re doing every time you do something that benefits you spiritually.
A challenge for investors is that there are always so many great temporary things to spend money on. A new car, a bigger house, travel, or vacations—which would all be fun right now, but if you’d use all your savings on them, you’d regret it later when the time arrived to retire and you needed to rely on those funds. Although right now you wouldn’t need to worry about spending your money on a new car, you could apply this to when you consider buying the newest gadget or the latest fashion accessory or trendy item.
It’s the same when we don’t invest spiritually, and we allow distractions and temporary fun to minimize the importance of doing so. Remembering that this world is not our final destination and that we’re working toward a heavenly reward can help keep us from getting too caught up in an endless rat race. It’s human nature to be tempted to compare with those who have more (although funnily enough, we often forget to remind ourselves of those who have less), and we end up like the proverbial horse with a rider who dangles a carrot on a stick in front of its face. The faster the horse runs, the faster the carrot goes, never getting any closer.
The more you have, the more you will want … unless you get your priorities sorted out and put things into perspective—focusing on the things that matter in life and what’s really important for you in the long run.
Beginning with the end in mind means thinking beyond the now and thinking about your future. Not only will it help you turn your dreams into realities and help you take charge of your life, but it can also be quite exciting to envision what you’ll become in the future.
Don’t worry if at the moment your priorities seem a bit general. Growing up means changing and adjusting your life plan—as you learn more about life, your strengths and weaknesses, and what you’re passionate about. As your plans and opportunities develop, you can adjust your goals as needed. However, what you don’t want to do is waste your time now while you’re figuring things out. Knowing that you’re working toward something greater—even if you’re not entirely sure what that is yet—helps to give your life experiences and gives you something to focus on in the meantime.
So those are the first two of the habits of effective teens. We’ll cover the other five habits in the next two podcasts in this series. Stay tuned!
2 Read the full story in the Bible’s book of Jonah.
3 Brian Tracy is a Canadian entrepreneur, public speaker, author and personal and professional development trainer.
4 Eat That Frog, ebook by Brian Tracy
5 1 Timothy 6:17–19 NKJV
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2015 by The Family International