A Sequel: Habit 3 – Put First Things First


This habit is the personal fruit. It is the practical fulfilment of habit 1 and 2. By habit 1, you are the creator. You are in charge. This is based on the four-unique human endowment of imaginationconscienceindependent will and self-awareness. It empowers you to make the change that is necessary in your life.  Stephen describes habit 2 as the “first or mental creation.” It is based on imagination, the ability to envision, to see potential, to create with our minds what we cannot see with our eyes in the present. Conscience, the ability to detect our own uniqueness and the personal, moral, and ethical guidelines within which we can most happily fulfil it.

Habit 3, is the ‘second or physical creation.’ It is the fulfilment, the actualization, the natural emergence of habit 1 and 2. It is the exercising of our independent will, toward becoming principle-centered. You can’t become principle-centered without a vision of and a focus on the unique contribution that is yours to make. But by practicing effective self-management through living habit 3, you can become principle-centered, day-in and day-out. 

However, of the four unique human endowments, it is independent will that make effective self-management possible. It is the ability to make decisions and choices and to act in accordance with them. It is the ability to act rather than be acted upon, to proactively carry out the program we have developed through the other three endowments. Empowerment comes from learning how to use this great endowment in the decisions we make every day. The degree to which we have developed our independent will in our everyday lives, is measured by our personal integrityIntegrity, is fundamentally, the value that we place on ourselves. It’s our ability to make and keep commitments to ourselves, to “walk our talk.” It is honor with self, a fundamental part of the Character Ethic, the essence of proactive growth.

On the other hand, effective managementis ‘putting first things first.’ Whereas leadership decides what “first things” are, it is the management that puts them first, day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Management is discipline, it is carrying it out. Discipline, entails being a disciple, a disciple to a set of principles, a disciple to a set of values. If you are an effective manager of yourself, your discipline comes from within, it is a function of your independent will. As seen in the book, Stephen gave a practical way to self-management, through “the time management matrix” which explains the four quadrants and which one we should fall in to be highly effective. Check it out and try to incorporate it into your life as the manager of your own life.

Furthermore, Stephen also explains the significance of “delegation” and how it increases our ability to produce or be effective and our production capability as well. If we delegate to time, we think efficiency. If we delegate to people, we think effectiveness. Many people refuse to delegate to other people because they feel it takes too much time and effort and they could do the job better themselves. But effectively delegating to others is perhaps the single most powerful high-leverage activity there is. Transferring some responsibilities to other skilled and trained people enables you to give your energies to other high-leverage activities. Delegation, means growth both for individuals and for organizations. 

In conclusion, using the computer metaphor once more, if habit 1 says “You are the programmer” and habit 2 says “Write the program,” then habit 3 says “Run the program,” “Live the program.” Living it is primarily a function of your independent will, your self-discipline, your integrity, and commitment, not to short-term goals and schedules or to the impulse of the moment, but to the correct principles and your own deepest values, which give meaning and context to your goal, your schedules, and your life.

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