Breaking Down A Few Habits – Tips to Dream Big, Plan Strategically, and Work Hard

But by all means do it...Last week, I had the fortune of a FaceTime mentoring session with a retired Emerson Executive who is quite the guru on leading change and discerning wisdom.  We talked about the state of the world, driving radical change and candor, and how to unapologetically set and go after big goals. 

We left our conversation with reflections on Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Truth is, I was three years old when this book was published.  After a quick download, I read the entire thing cover to cover.  30 years later, the principles of the habits still ring true. One benefit of sheltering in place is time to read, reflect, set big goals, and figure out a way to achieve them.   

After deeper reflection on Covey’s Habits and going after big goals, I offer the following thoughts with others who are also looking to shake the world:

  1. Dreaming Big – Dreaming big means having the mental freedom to think about what you really want out of life and forget about all the reasons why you can’t make it a reality. It means having high standards for your life and setting the bar high for yourself. It is a powerful brainstorming activity that can have the potential for great reward.

Pro Tip: Find and follow social media groups or influencers that elevate your thinking. Surround yourself with positive vibes and ideas.  Let your mind wonder and then let it wander.   If you're looking for a way to visualize your next career move try a Career Mind Map. You might be on the right path and just aren't realizing it.                                                                                                                        

  1. Plan Strategically – Dreaming big is a great start; but it’s not simply just about motivating to dream big – everyone does that. To be successful, you need a roadmap to help guide your actions and decisions to achieving your goals – that is where the plan comes in place.  There will be long-term and short-term actions that work in harmony together. Recognize there are sometimes you need to be strategically tactical to create small victories as you get started.

Support is a key factor in putting together a good plan. When driving to a goal, you should ensure you garner the support of key influencers who can help you achieve your dreams.  While it is important to build the support around you, do not fail to remember you are the tip of the spear. 

Pro Tip: A word I recommend burning into your mind: persistence.  No matter how good your plan is, you will encounter failures and setbacks.  But, if you really believe in your cause, and you have the right support structure in place, be persistent.  Perhaps take a step back to analyze your approach, and ensure it is thoughtful.  As Churchill says: "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."

  1. Work Hard, Every Single Day – Now that you’ve planned the work, it’s time to work the plan. It takes disciple, dedication, and determination all mixed together to push oneself to higher levels of performance. Also, an acute sense of self-awareness and drive for continuous improvement.  

 In his book, Covey talks about the upward spiral model that is the result of growth, change, and continuous improvement.  The model’s foundation is based upon three parts: Learn, Commit, Do.  The upward spiral continues as a function of time.  The concept is not that you learn once, commit once, and do once; rather you must be continuously educating and developing yourself to continue the upward spiral.

If you’ve completed Step 1 & Step 2 my advice to you on Step 3 is develop a competency that does not come naturally to you.  Look at the foundational building blocks you need to achieve your goals, identify what’s missing, and invest in your personal growth there.

Pro Tip: Learn about finance – it will pay dividends. Take the time to understand how a P&L operates, how to read, and talk about a balance sheet, indicators that have major impact (Inventory, DSO, ROTC).  Learn how to talk like a finance executive. Understanding finance can only accelerate your plan to achieving your dreams, whatever they are. Not sure where to begin? Start online. Goldman Sach's 10,000 Women Entreprenuerialship Program hosts a Business Fundamentals course through Coursera; the Sloan School of Management at MIT offers many courses about finance and economics using it's Online OpenCourseWare. It's completely free!

Sharpening your saw is about putting yourself in the best position to reach your goal.  As Covey writes, “We are the instruments of our own performance, and to be effective, we need to recognize the importance of taking time regularly to sharpen the saw...” 

“We are the instruments of our own performance, and to be effective, we need to recognize the importance of taking time regularly to sharpen the saw...”

- Stephen Covey 

As we shelter in place a few more weeks, I encourage you to find ways to sharpen your saw and emerge on the other side of this a better version of yourself.

Be persistent, be thoughtful, and keep shining. – JJ

Contributing Editor Credits: Chelsea McGovern

  • One of my favorite training sessions was the Covey training I received way back when.... It is true that these are time tested principles. Two of these principles fit well with your post here - "Begin with the End in Mind" and "Sharpen the Saw". Thanks for sharing!
  • I love this book too. My kids even use the kids version at school. It seems like it really helps elementary school students, I would definitely recommend it. (And it's much shorter than the adult version.)