You can create a life of win/win

When a book stays on the best-seller list for half a decade, it’s time to sit up and take note. What could it be that still attracts scores of readers to Stephen R. Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly-Effective People” after all this time?
Maybe it’s just that everyone wants to be effective. After all, no one really wants to be a failure in life. And if there are in fact seven magic habits, why not learn them?
Or maybe it’s Stephen Covey’s reputation. He has a high profile in the corporate world, and counts among his clients more than one-fifth of the Fortune 500 companies. “When Stephen R. Covey talks,” says Dun’s Business Month, “executives listen.”
I first read “7 Habits” back in 1989 when it was new, long before it had sold five million copies. And my copy still has dog-eared yellow stickies marking the highlights.
Now, I’m not an executive of a corporation but I have a life to run and the same principles apply. That’s why last week I decided to review Stephen Covey’s seven habits with the help of a one-hour cassette tape checked out from the library.
(1) Be proactive (2) Begin with the end in mind (3) Put first things first (4) Think Win/Win (5) Seek first to understand then to be understood (6) Practice creative co-operation (7) Find personal renewal.
Those are Covey’s seven habits, and every time I read them they make sense. But this time it was Habit 4 that really grabbed me. “Think Win/Win.”
According to Covey, “Win/Win is not a technique; it’s a total philosophy of human interaction.”
We’ve been trained from childhood to win. Get the highest mark on the exam. Win the competition. Win the ball game. Be more successful than our siblings. Drive bigger cars than our neighbours.
Nobody likes a loser. Nobody wants to be a loser. So you’d better win. And most of the time, we assume that our winning must necessarily cause someone else to lose. Win/Lose becomes a way of life.
But sometimes we practice Lose/Win. With a child, for example. We do less than our best in a game so a child can win. Or we think so poorly of ourselves that we let other people walk over us and take away our rights.
Even worse, we sometimes give in to Lose/Lose–destroying what we want in the hope that we can bring someone else down with us.
It’s no wonder Win/Win looks so good. The basic idea underlying Win/Win is one of abundance. There’s enough for everybody. And if we work together, we can all win.
It’s not your way or my way. It’s a negotiated way. And together we can come up with better solutions than either of us could find separately.
Win/Win is a wonderful way to put joy and meaning into your day-to-day life. Until you encounter someone who doesn’t want to co-operate, that is.
In a perfect world, everyone would choose Win/Win. In your world, some people will be difficult and competitive, and that’s the reason you need more than Win/Win. You need Win/Win or No Deal.
No Deal is liberating, says Covey. You don’t have to manipulate people. If they really don’t want to work out a Win/Win solution with you, you can release them. You can say No Deal. Just make sure you’ve done everything you can.
Life is too short to spend it in competition. You can create a life of Win/Win if you choose to. So why not start today?

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