This one has sat firmly at the top of the self help/psychology category of books for years. It’s been on my “to read” list for ages for this very reason. Finally, I bought a used copy from Amazon and, after letting it sit on my shelf for some weeks, picked it up, not necessarily expecting to be wowed. Instead, more assuming a semi dry read with a few important insights sprinkled within.
Wow, was I wrong.
While about halfway through at the moment, already, several of the principles within have prompted major self reflection for me.
The first of which: The Social Mirror.
Meaning, if the only vision we have of ourselves comes from the social mirror (aka, the opinions, perceptions, and paradigms of the people around us- the ones who do not know us especially well or in real depth), then our view of ourselves becomes like the reflection in the crazy mirror room at a carnival.
“You’re never on time.”
“Why can’t you keep things in order?”
“You must be an artist!”
“You eat like a horse!”
“This is so simple, why cant you understand?”
These visions are disjointed and out of proportion. They are, more often, projections than reflections, projecting the concerns and character weaknesses of the people giving the input rather than accurately reflecting what we are.
Of course, it is different when receiving feedback from people whom we love, with opinions and perspectives which we trust (and find to be healthy and sound). In that case, if one of these people offers a potential thought or insight with regards to certain behavior of ours, possibly a way in which we might be harming or limiting ourselves, or a positive and wonderful insight, either way, these are likely worth offering some consideration.
Instead, the social mirror refers to the opinions of everyone else. Colleagues, neighbors, strangers, possibly friends of friends, in-laws, you name. People who may “know us” a bit, but who do not know us very well or in much depth at all.
And even then, those who know us well will still be wrong sometimes in their perceptions of us. This is normal and a human thing.
The second poignant insight I gleaned from “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”: Its incredibly east to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover it’s leaning against the wrong wall. It is possible to be busy, very busy, without being very effective.
People often find themselves achieving victories in their life which are empty, successes that come at the expense of the very things they suddenly realize are far more important to them. People from every walk of life- doctors, CEOs, engineers, actors, politicians, plumbers, artists- often struggle to achieve a higher income, more recognition, or a certain degree of professional competence, only to find that their drive to achieve their goal actually blurred them to the things that mattered most, and that those very things are now gone.
How different our lives would be, and are, when we really know what is deeply important to us. And by keeping that image prominent and at the very forefront of our minds, this can help to clarify that very knowledge.
A third crucial insight discovered in this book: every single day, operate with The End in mind. This can help cut through, quickly, a lot of the busy-ness and distractions, to what is truly important and crucial with regards to your deepest values and personal mission in your life.
In keeping a clear picture of “the end” ever at the forefront of our concious (aka, imagining and taking the time to really picture and consider the ending of your life, and how you most want to be remembered), this will help provide a narrowing of focus and a realigning of priorities, as well as can helping to guide and tweak your behavior and daily choices that you might have made differently otherwise.
In my continued reading of this book, I have no doubt there will be a plethora more of worthwhile gems within. I highly recommend it, even on only having read about 1/3 thus far.