The Neuroscience of Personal Change with Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”
Today’s episode #68 started out with me wanting to take a look the most important concepts from Dr. Amen’s “Thrive by 25”[i] online course that dives deep into understanding brain basics that we should all understand for ourselves as well as to better understand others, since brain health strategies will lead to a better brain and life. But—while writing this episode, I was sitting in an empty lobby of what used to be a busy local resort, looking around at what was once the hustle and bustle of business people, hurrying off to their events, or families rushing off to the pool to spend time together and the fact that the world has literally STOPPED STILL really made me think.
This place looked like a Ghost Town, almost like in a movie where the scene freezes. It made me freeze and think. Things around the world have changed like night and day over the past few months starting with the COVID-19 Pandemic, with the danger of infection and death, and the change continues as the world now faces racism, riots, and global economic upheaval. I thought that this episode needs to go a bit deeper than I was planning at first, and really needs to address the Neuroscience of Change. Since we usually reject anything that we aren’t familiar with, I thought this episode could look at how to consider a change with our thinking or perspective, resulting in a change in behavior around some of the critical issues our world is facing, to see where we can take individual responsibility. If we can add the understanding of how our brain works optimally and how we can improve ourselves by really thinking about some of these issues our world is facing, we can become more empathetic towards others, and set the stage for the much needed change our world needs. If nothing is done at this time, we will look back and there will be no change, but if we can all do some self-reflection, and make our own personal and individual change, 20 years from now, we will know if our actions made a difference.
While still thinking about the new direction of this episode, I read a social media post from my mentor, Greg Link[ii], who I’ve mentioned in past episodes. As co-founder of the Covey Leadership Center, Greg was the one who orchestrated the strategy that led Dr. Stephen R. Covey's book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, (1989) to become one of the two best-selling business books of the 20th century according to CEO Magazine, selling over 20 million copies in 38 languages. He created the marketing momentum that helped propel Covey Leadership Center from a start-up company to a $110-plus million-dollar enterprise with offices in 40 countries. When he writes something, I always pay attention and what he has to say is always insightful and profound. This time, what he wrote was full of his own personal insight on what was happening in the world today, tied to the 7 Habits book, and he was talking about Habit #5. For such a popular business book, that sold so many copies, you would think I would know the habits off by heart. If you were to ask a room of 100 people “who knows about the 7 Habits Book?” most people should raise their hand, but few people (including myself) can actually name the habits.
Did you know the habits were divided up into 3 segments? Habits 1-3 are focused on how we manage ourselves, habits 4-6, how we lead others, and habit 7 how we unleash our potential. The 8th Habit[iii] is a whole new book, published years later in 2004 and it focuses on “Finding your voice and inspiring others to find theirs.” There’s never been a time like this in our world, and more than ever right now, we need to think about how we are managing ourselves, how we lead others, and how we can unleash our potential, and find our voice, in a way that inspires others to do the same. If we can do these 4 things, I am sure that when we look back to this time period, 20 years later, there’ll be some change.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve read this book, go back to the habits (I’m doing this as well) and I’ve included them in the show notes so we can all begin to implement some of the most powerful principles of the 20th Century into action, in our life.
I challenge you, just like I’m challenging myself, to learn more about yourself here. Sit down somewhere quiet and think about some of the issues our world is facing. None of us can escape them, so we might as well begin here. Do you know what implicit biases are?[iv] Do you know the biases you hold? We all have them. Greg Link’s post reminded me that “We don’t see the world as it is, but as we are”[v] and that “if we want small incremental changes, work on your behavior. If you want quantum-leap change, (like we all do) work on your paradigms.”
Here’s that word paradigm again. We talked about it in EPSIODE 67 with “A Deep Dive into the Most Important Concepts I learned from working directly with Bob Proctor and his Seminars”[vi] where we cover paradigms so you can go back and take a closer look at what might be holding you back. We all want quantum leap change, and Greg Link went on to explain that the secret to this change lies in changing our paradigms. I also suggest reading Price Pritchett’s You Squared[vii] book for the best description of how to experience quantum leap results in your own life, especially if you are ready for significant change to occur. I’ve had a copy of this book since the late 1990s and it’s always on my desk. It’s only 38 pages, but the concepts are ground-breaking as they teach you HOW TO change your personal effectiveness. Price Pritchett[viii], a business advisor, speaker and author who specializes in mergers, culture and organizational change, states in this book, that “if you want to accelerate your rate of achievement rapidly, you must search out and vigorously employ new behaviors.” Quantum Leaps will knock you out of your comfort zone, but where do they begin? They begin with shifting your Paradigms—that could be controlling virtually every move that you make.
Remember: “To ignore the power of paradigms to influence your judgment is to put yourself at significant risk when exploring the future. To be able to shape your future, you have to be ready and able to change your paradigm.” –Joel Barker, a technology and business futurist who published the book Paradigms in 1993.
The more understanding we have of ourselves and others, the better we can communicate, work with and thrive, not just survive with our current and future results. If we want significant change to occur in the world, we must begin with some self-reflection. We did cover some of these concepts in episode 29 “How to Rewire Your Brain for Happiness and Well-Being”[ix] but this episode will focus as a review of the most important brain basics that we should all understand and apply to our life, so we can stay strong and focused and challenge ourselves to think in ways that we have never thought before, tied to Stephen Covey’s powerful habits. If the brain is involved in everything that we do and everything that we are, then we must tie in brain health to optimize our future behavior, actions and the state of the world.
Let’s take a look at Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (and the 8th Habit) as they relate to the 8 Most Important Concepts I learned from studying from Dr. Daniel Amen’s Thrive by 25 Course, with an action plan in place to implement these habits, and brain tips, into our daily life.
STEPHEN COVEY’s 8 HABITS TIED TO A BRAIN TIP TO ENCOURAGE CHANGE
HABITS 1-3: How We Manage Ourselves
HABIT #1 Be Proactive, The Habit of Choice. We want to look for alternatives, not roadblocks to help us to see that there are choices. What areas of your life right now, can you be proactive with? During this COVID 19 Pandemic time, think about reframing “I am stuck inside” to “Now I can Finally Work on Myself[x]” or my home and complete some of those projects you’ve always wanted to complete. Write out a list and see how good it feels with each item that you complete. Focus on the things that you can influence, and let the others go. I know this can be difficult because people do not resist change, when it’s their choice, but many of us are now dealing with change that is NOT our choice, and it’s frustrating, annoying and just darned difficult. Just keep the momentum moving.
BRAIN TIP #1: BE PROACTIVE: WITH YOUR BRAIN HEALTH: Normal is a myth. 51% of us will have a mental health issue (post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, or addiction) and cases have increased since the COVID-19 Pandemic. It’s more normal to have a problem than not have a problem, so being prepared and aware of how to help yourself and others is more important than ever these days. “If you struggle with attention, focus, sadness, anxiety, worry, flexibility, stubbornness, or impulsivity—welcome to the club, this is normal.” (Dr. Daniel Amen). Then add to it the fact that many of us, globally, are still quarantined, and in lockdown, and it’s understandable why there has been a rise in mental health issues. Whatever you might be dealing with, take action towards finding a solution.
PUT HABIT AND BRAIN TIP #1 INTO ACTION:
Be proactive and ask for help if you just don’t feel right. Do you know where you would begin to learn more about your brain health? Dr. Amen has a whole website dedicated to this at https://mybrainfitlife.com/. Visit his site, and also access his FREE 6-week challenge called The End of Mental Illness: Brain Health Revolution[xi] that he launched January 2020. This free YouTube course goes back to the basics and has tons of worksheets, tools, strategies and ideas that we all should be implementing to put our brain health at the forefront of our minds. This course will keep you busy and give you the most current information you will need to know about being PROACTIVE with your brain health.
HABIT #2 Begin with the End in Mind: The Habit of Vision. Isn’t it true that we can see things clearly in hindsight? “Where there is no vision, the people will perish.”[xii] Looking back at my life and choices as a young teenager (I’m sure we could all could do the same) the things we know today with all of the advancements in neuroscience, would have changed some of the actions I took back then but we don’t know what we don’t know and no one was preaching about brain health back then, so we can only focus on the change we want to see for ourselves moving forward, (yes, we can change our brain health if we change our habits) for our next generations with the new knowledge we are uncovering every day. If we truly want ourselves, and our next generation to reach the highest level of potential, then this habit, tied to brain health is the key. We just need to have a clear vision of what we want, and then infuse this vision into our homes, schools and workplaces.
BRAIN TIP #2: BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND: CREATE A VISION FOR YOUR BRAIN HEALTH: Your brain is involved in everything that you do, and everything that you are. It’s involved with how you think, feel, act and interact with other people. It’s the origin of your intelligence, character, decisions, dreams, thoughts, creativity and actions. If you think about it, your brain is the organ that’s behind how well you will do in school, in your career and your relationships. I’m sure if we were taught about brain health in high school, we would be mindful about doing anything to not harm this powerful organ that has complete control of our future success. Everything a young person does either HELPS or HURTS their brain development and when your brain is working right, you will work right. Everything in our life stems from the functioning of our brain.
PUT HABIT AND BRAIN TIP #2 INTO ACTION
What change do we want to see in the world? What vision do you have for the world in the next 20 years? As parents, teachers, coaches, managers and leaders, “teaching civil responsibility, respect and character” should be at the forefront of our minds if we expect change in the next 20 years. These themes should be reinforced in our homes, schools and workplaces, and infused into our day to day lives. If our brain health determines the actions that we will all take towards these themes, then brain health should also be emphasized in order to carry out this vision, starting at an early age, to protect our brain, and future, but we must begin with the End in Mind, with a Clear Vision.
HABIT #3 Put First Things First: Plan Weekly and Act Daily.
Stephen Covey built his whole career around the 4-quadrant chart called the Urgent and Important Matrix[xiii] where our attention goes to Quadrant 1 with Urgent and Important Tasks completed first and Quadrant 4, Distractions last. I’ve put the chart in the show notes for anyone who wants to see all of the quadrants.
Quadrant 1 - Crises - URGENT and IMPORTANT
Quadrant 2 - Goals and Planning - NON-URGENT and IMPORTANT
Quadrant 3 - Interruptions - URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT
Quadrant 4 - Distractions - NOT URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT
BRAIN TIP #3: PUT YOUR BRAIN HEALTH FIRST: What You Do Today, Impacts Tomorrow
Just as our daily habits impact our future results in our professional world, the same goes for our brain health. Make brain health a priority; put it first, as urgent and important. We must know what things are bad for our brain (I’ve included the link to Dr. Amen’s 6 week course in the show notes resource section—this course has a resource of 100 foods that are bad for us in week 3 of this 6 Week course).[xiv]It’s helpful to know the food we should learn to avoid—the things that are bad for us and our brains so we can begin to eliminate them.
PUT HABIT AND BRAIN TIP #3 INTO ACTION
If you can plan ahead, the night before, write out the top 3 urgent and important things you need to do for your work, this will eliminate time wasting. If you can follow the same idea with healthy eating, and plan ahead, making sure that your fridge is full of healthy food vs the items we know are bad for us we will be miles ahead with our health.
HABITS 4-6: How We Lead Others
HABIT #4 Think Win/Win: The Habit of Mutual Benefit.
Win/Win “is based on the paradigm that there is plenty for everybody, that one person’s success is not achieved at the expense of or exclusion of the success of others.”[xv] When a situation is Win/Win, both parties feel good about the decision, and this builds trusts.
BRAIN TIP #4 WIN/WIN: Strengthen Your Body and You Strengthen Your Brain. This is a Win/Win situation as everyone wins when they are building a stronger brain, and body. The benefits do spill into other areas of your life when you put a focus on brain/body health as your relationships and career will also improve. You will also role model the way for others to follow your example.
PUT HABIT AND BRAIN TIP #4 INTO ACTION
Put this habit to test and see what happens if you take 90 days to focus on your health. Have you ever done this? When you make your health priority, you will watch all other areas of your life improve. This is truly a WIN/WIN situation. You will feel sharper, have more energy, and something happens to someone who is on track. People are drawn to them, creating more opportunity. Try it—I would love to hear what happens when you take control of your health.
HABIT #5 Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood
This was the habit that Greg Link mentioned he was working on, and is centered around practicing empathetic listening, and effective communication. We listen first to understand, to really understand the situation, without putting our own beliefs, thoughts, feelings, or motives inside someone else’s head. Only then can we seek to be understood, which takes courage.
BRAIN TIP #5 Understand Your Brain First: Discover Your Brain Type
If we want to deepen our understanding of ourselves, get to know more about your brain, since it controls everything that you do. Look up and take Dr. Amen’s Brain Type Assessment[xvi] to get an idea of what type of brain you have. You will receive an email with a video explaining your brain type, characteristics of this type of brain, dietary suggestions for your specific brain type and a full report with your brain fit score.
PUT HABIT AND BRAIN TIP #5 INTO ACTION
Take the time to understand where you are right now with your brain health. Once you have this baseline, you can take the 6 week course, and begin to make changes, one step at a time. Be kind to yourself, and know that you can make significant change to your brain and health, by learning and implementing some new ideas.
HABIT #6 Synergize: The Habit of Creative Cooperation
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and when we can learn to work in synergy with others, we create something powerful. One plus one equals three or more. My mentor, New York Times Best Selling author and Presidential Historian, Doug Wead[xvii] used to call this concept “the triple braided cord” where we accelerate our results with the synergy that comes from the creative cooperation when two or more minds come together. Call it a brain trust or mastermind, but be prepared for the great power that comes from this union.
TIPS #6 Create Synergy by Understanding Other People’s Brain Types
If you want to reach the highest level of potential and experience the magic of synergy whether it’s in the workplace, or in your personal life, it’s important to keep in mind that not all brains are the same. This was John Medina’s Brain Rule #3 that “Every Brain is Wired Differently.”[xviii] Since we have all had different experiences in life, our brains are all different. What we do and experience in our life, literally re-wire what our brains look like.
PUT HABIT AND BRAIN TIP #6 INTO ACTION
If you really want to understand another person, Dr. Amen’s Thrive by 25 Online Course covers the main parts of the brain, with characteristics that we can all use to recognize our own brain vulnerabilities, along with ways we can improve and strengthen different parts of the brain. Also, week 2 of his Brain Health Challenge has a PDF document for strengthening each part of the brain.[xix] When we can use habit #5 (using empathy with others) with habit #6, we really can create a new level of communication with others.
Habit 7 and 8: Unleashing Our Potential
HABIT #7 Sharpen the Saw: The Habit of Renewal
How do you sharpen your saw to increase your personal and professional effectiveness? Is it through continual learning, or renewal from exercise, meditation or prayer? Whatever method you choose, know that we must renew ourselves in body, heart, mind and soul to unleash our full potential.
BRAIN TIP #7 Keep Learning About Brain Health, Nutrition and Exercise
The older we get, the more serious we need to get about our brain health. When we stop learning, our brain starts dying. We must keep learning to stay sharp and focused and to prevent our brain from aging. We can even measure our genetic age by measuring the telomeres which hold our genetic material together like the end caps of shoe laces. We know there are specific strategies that prevent our brain from aging, and the more we take this seriously, the stronger and healthier we will be.
PUT HABIT AND BRAIN TIP #7 INTO ACTION
Pick one new strategy to implement and write it down. If you want to begin a daily meditation program, begin here. Or perhaps you are looking to improve your eating, then pick one area, and focus on this area for 30 days. What we measure improves, so if you can log how many days you were successful with your new strategy, you will have a gauge at the end of the 30 days how well you have implemented this new habit.
HABIT #8 “Finding your voice and inspiring others to find theirs”
This habit is so important that Stephen Covey wrote a whole book about it. In this book, he talks about 5 behaviors that inhibit our greatness: criticism, complaining, comparing, competing and contending. Then he goes on to say that we all have the ability to impact the world by taking our mental energy and creating a vision, channeling our physical energy with discipline, unleashing our emotional energy towards what we are passionate about and tapping into our spiritual energy to share your truth, or what life has to offer others for a better life. When we do this, we are role modelling the way for others to do the same.
BRAIN TIP #8 Role Model the Way
Since we can only change ourselves, it’s important to think about role modelling the way, whether it’s with our health, or ways that we can inspire change in others. When I worked with Bob Proctor in the seminars, I remember he was always asked the question “how do I change my (spouse, parents, sister, etc) so they can stop xyz (being negative, complaining, criticizing). The answer was always “You can’t. Just focus on yourself, and role model the way.”
PUT HABIT AND BRAIN TIP #8 INTO ACTION
You will NEVER change another person, as people resist change, unless it’s their choice, so the best way to inspire others to take action, is to focus on developing your voice, and encourage others to do the same.
I remember the first time I put my voice and ideas out into the world, with my first book in 2008, just 12 years ago, and it wasn’t an easy step. Finding your voice takes courage and initiative, and with that comes the chance that you will face criticism, but when you can move forward, regardless of what comes along with putting your voice out into the world, there is a chance for great opportunity. It will start off small, but with time, momentum will take your ideas from one person, to the next, to the next, and with each person you are helping, you create a ripple effect of goodness in the world. Not everyone will resonate with your message, but the ones who do, will propel you forward. Before you know it, others will begin telling you the actions that they have taken and you realize that finding your voice has made a bigger difference than you could have ever imagined.
To Review the 8 HABITS:
BE PROACTIVE: WITH YOUR BRAIN HEALTH and ASK FOR HELP IF YOU NEED IT.
BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND: CREATE A VISION FOR YOUR BRAIN HEALTH: Your brain is involved in everything that you do, and everything that you are, so create plan and vision to improve it.
PUT YOUR BRAIN HEALTH FIRST: What You Do Today, Impacts Tomorrow so make your Brain Health Urgent and Important.
WIN/WIN: Strengthen Your Body and You Strengthen Your Brain.
Seek to Understand Your Brain First: Discover Your Brain Type
Create Synergy by Understanding Other People’s Brain Types
Sharpen Your Saw: Keep Learning About Brain Health, Nutrition and Exercise
Find Your Voice and Role Model the Way
I’m grateful that I saw my good friend Greg Link’s post on social media, reminding me of the importance of Stephen Covey’s powerful 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, tied to our brain health makes us all think of ways that we can improve our own personal effectiveness in the world. If each of us can, like Greg did in his post, take personal responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and actions, we can begin the ripple effect of change we all want to see in the world. If we want quantum leap results, we must focus on changing our paradigms. I hope you have gained some insight from these ideas.
Episode #69 (being recorded next week) will feature speaker Ben Ampil, a US Certified Neuroscience Coach from the Philippines, to cover the neuroscience behind the fear that the world is facing, with some ideas for us to further implement the change in our behavior that could impact the world if we can all expand our own awareness, think, and accept the challenge to take new actions. My hope is that our next episode will allow us build of this one and discover that there is great possibility in front of us, and that with this great challenge (of self-reflection and change) there is also great opportunity as we begin to put each brain tip into action in our daily life, reflect on the 8 Habits and make the necessary changes so that we can look back on our world in 20 years’ time and see the impact of this change.
See you next week.
Dr. Daniel Amen’s Thrive by 25 Online Course.
If you have a teenager, or a young adult, or just want to optimize your own brain, this course is important because it will open your eyes to the vital importance of taking care of your brain at an early age. “Thrive by 25” was designed to educate students in high school to prepare them for success in life so they thrive by the time they are 25, (there is a section where high school students debrief each lesson) but this information can help us at any age. If you purchase this course, you can gain access to 3 undergraduate units, transferrable to ANY college or university. Access Dr. Amen’s online courses by clicking on the link in the show notes, or just listen to this podcast where I break down the most important concepts from this 12-module course.
What I liked the most about this 6-week course were the resources. In week 1 for example, there was a worksheet all about knowing our important numbers. Just as our numbers are important with our business, we should all know our health numbers as well. You can print off these resources and take notes week, highlighting the most important ideas learned. You will never be the same. Your brain will love you. Week 2 was powerful as they outlined their BRIGHT MINDS Brain Risk Factors and Interventions. This is the backbone of the course, with tips for staying on track with your brain health, with each risk factor, like for example, what to do if you have someone in your family who has dementia, or other mental health issues. Week 3 the resources included 100 foods that love you (or are good for you) and 100 foods that are bad for you. If you follow Dr. Amen’s work, and his Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast[xx], you will get to see that he is on a mission to change the Standard American Diet, (that he calls SAD) and I’m his #1 fan! Be sure to check out his podcast and this 6-week course and you will learn the most up to date information on building a better brain.
[iii] The 8th Habit by Stephen R Covey https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0006J23YQ/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
[iv] Understanding Implicit Bias http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/research/understanding-implicit-bias/
[v] Greg Link on Stephen R Covey
[vi] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast EPSIODE #67 on “ Expanding Your Awareness with a Deep Dive into the Most Important Concepts from Bob Proctor’s Seminars” https://www.achieveit360.com/expanding-your-awareness-with-a-deep-dive-into-bob-proctors-most-powerful-seminars/
[vii] Price Pritchard You Squared: A High Velocity Formula for Multiplying Your Personal Effectiveness in Quantum Leaps (Feb 2012) https://www.amazon.com/You-Velocity-Multiplying-Personal-Effectiveness/dp/0944002048
[viii] Price Pritchett Bio https://www.pritchettnet.com/biography/price-pritchett
[ix] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast Episode #29 “How to Re-Wire Your Brain for Happiness and Well-Being to Optimize Learning” https://www.achieveit360.com/how-to-re-wire-your-brain-for-happiness-and-well-being-to-optimize-learning/
[x] Covid-19 Lockdown Guide: How to Manage Anxiety and Isolation During Quarantine by Aarti Gupta https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/covid-19-lockdown-guide-how-manage-anxiety-and
[xi] Dr. Amen’s 6 Week Brain Health Revolution Challenge https://endofmentalillness.com/brainhealthchallenge/resources/
[xii] Proverbs 29:18 King James Version of The Bible.
[xiii] The Urgent and Important Matrix https://www.thecoachingtoolscompany.com/coaching-tools-101-what-is-the-urgent-important-matrix/
[xv] 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey https://www.amazon.com/Habits-Highly-Effective-People-Powerful/dp/1451639619/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=7+habits+of+highly+effective+people&qid=1592600926&s=books&sr=1-3
[xix] Dr. Amen’s PDF for Strengthening Different Regions of the Brain https://eomi-endpoint.azureedge.net/wk2/6-Wk-Challenge-wk2-New-Learning-by-Brain-Region-List.pdf