We are able to perform better at work when our family life is happy and contented, says Stephen R Covey
Regardless of whether we live in the US, India or anywhere else, family is the building block of any society, and our greatest fulfillment lies there. Of course, one needs to give due importance to work. But if any society works diligently in every other area but neglects the family, it would be the same as straightening deck chairs on the Titanic.
We all seek happiness but what most of us discover is that happiness is a home-made product. If you have strong and effective relationship with family members — whether living together or apart — the resultant good vibes and mental solace tend to overflow into all other aspects of life. When your family is heading in the right direction, you are better able to perform and focus at work. On the other hand, if things aren’t going well at home, it is difficult to be deeply happy anywhere else. Thus, it is supremely important that at home, with your family, you concentrate on creating a beautiful family culture.
Marriage is more than a contractual relationship — it is a promise from each individual to stay true to their love and commitment. While I can’t tell you how to choose the right mate, I can advise you to determine what your values and principles are — and who might be a complimentary companion. Write a personal mission statement, outlining what is important to you, how you envision marriage and what family means to you. When the time is right, share this with your companion and encourage him/her to do the same.
Happy marriages don’t just happen — they are created with body, mind, heart and spirit. No one can afford to get lazy in their relationship with their spouse. It must be nurtured and tended to. And when it gets off the track, as all relationships tend to, from time-to-time, we must correct our course and come back on track.
You will find that going back to your own mission statement can act as the guiding force that brings you back — because you will live according to what matters most to you.
One of the best ways of keeping a marriage and family effective and healthy is by living the “Seven Habits”. These embody universal, timeless principles — they belong to you, to me and all the people in the world. They are not my creation. You already know these principles because you know them to be true and already exercise them to varying degrees. I have simply put a framework around principles and organized a systematic way of living them. Committing to these principles may help you strengthen your marriage and family ties. Here is a quick overview:
Be proactive The power to make a difference in your family lies within you. The place to begin is not with other family members, but with yourself. You have the freedom to choose your actions and you have four unique endowments to guide your responses to people, situations and your environment:
Self-awareness: Step outside of yourself and be aware of your motives, thoughts, feelings and you can decide what you need to change.
Imagination: You can envision what you can be and do. Conscience: Listen to the inward voice that prompts you to do certain things. Develop it. Independent will: You can choose what you desire to do, and you have the freedom and the power to do it. Begin with the end in mind
Decide what you desire for yourself and the culture you would like to develop with your family. This vision is more powerful than any problems you may have in the past or present. Write down your vision in a mission statement and clarify your values, and principles.
Put first things first
Organize your priorities according to what matters most to you — in alignment with what you envisioned in Habit 2. Make certain your family has four basic systems in place:
• Selecting goals and making family plans;
• Teaching and training at home;
• Communicating and solving problems together;
• Completing tasks and disciplining within the family
Win-win is mutual benefit. Win-lose is authoritarian – “I’m right and you’re wrong; I make the decisions and you lose.” In a win-win family culture, difficult decisions can be made but they are not implemented in a way that violates the larger context of thinking win-win. Thinking win-win is at the heart of an effective family culture.
Understand, then be understood
Seek to understand what other family members feel or think – from their frame of reference – by listening with your ears, heart and mind. When you truly understand, then you can better explain your position or ideas. Listening and understanding is the catalyst that makes effectiveness possible.
Cooperate and seek third alternatives that neither single family member could come up with on their own. Through a willingness to communicate, to understand and think winwin, family members can solve most difficult problems or create opportunities that could not have been achieved individually.
Sharpen the saw
Renew yourself and your family by taking care of your physical, mental, social and spiritual needs. Do not neglect these important human needs, or you will eventually pay the price. A beautiful family culture can deteriorate unless the batteries that give it its power are continually re-charged.
India is a beautiful nation with a rich history, traditions and legacy. Your families are at the heart of your nation – do not neglect your most precious resource.
I know with great surety that living principle-centered lives promises to strengthen us individually, in our marriage, in our families, in our communities and places of work. Stay true to your path and remember what matters most to you.
(Stephen R Covey, vice-chairman of Franklin Covey Co, is the author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’)
This article is taken from Sunday Times of India Hyderabad Edition 04.01.2009.