The 7 habits of highly effective teens part 2

I’m continuing the great suggestions from Sean Covey’s excellent “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” (Touchstone Books, NY, NY, 2014) with a quick review of the first three:

1. Be proactive: Be pleasingly persistent in taking responsibility for your life.

2. Begin with the end in mind: Know your life’s mission and some of its goals.

3. Put first things first: Do the most important things first.

These three especially relate to yourself. The next three pertain to relationships, and when you think about it, nearly everything in one way or another is affected by relationships. Covey states that “… relationships are the stuff that life is made of.”

Once we start a relationship with a person, we have it forever, one way or another. Like a bank, Covey suggests that we think of relationships as making deposits and withdrawals. When we are kind, helpful, compliment someone, show that we really know and appreciate them, remember a special day, and are loyal, we are making deposits. Talking behind their backs, ignoring them, making decisions for them without their feedback, or even thoughtless teasing are withdrawals. But it takes a lot more deposits to make up for one withdrawal.

So, moving on:

4. Think win-win: Reach for solutions that make everyone feel good. The opposite of that is win-lose. Does a friend or co-worker really win if the other loses? Winning is often associated with “being better than,” and losing with “being less than.” Neither are true. One person may have a better idea, but no one is better than another at the soul level. Competition can be healthy, but only if a person competes for his personal best not to create someone who feels worse.

Sadly, there are times when neither person can live with the others suggestion. Covey suggests that you call it a “no deal” rather than go for a win-lose. Agree to disagree. Don’t lose your nobility by belittling, criticizing, or other immature activity. Go to a mediator or another neutral person perhaps. And remember, when you think “win-win” for everyone, people notice. It’s like a magnet. Who wouldn’t want to work for or be with the person who actually does live the golden rule?

The defective habit is to “think win-lose,” and see life as a vicious competition in which you have to win at all costs.

5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Covey calls this habit the key to communication, and the deepest need of the human heart. To understand someone you have to first really listen to them. Don’t tune them out. Don’t offer advice unless you are asked to give it. Pay attention to the words, but also the feeling behind the words. Only 7 percent of communication is in words. 40 percent is in tone, and 53 percent body language and most importantly, don’t judge them. You can’t anyway. You’ll never have enough info to be able to do that. A person has to feel that you understand them before they will listen to any advice you offer them. Once you’ve really listened, try to imagine how they feel. That’s called having empathy. You might not know exactly how they feel, but if they are complaining because someone talked about them behind their back, you’d have the general sense of it.

Then be brave and speak up for yourself as clearly and respectfully as possible. Know what you want to say, and the points you want to make. You might ask people if they have any questions. It helps to smile, unless the subject is sad.

The defective habit is to “seek first to talk, then pretend to listen.” Some people think that conversations need to be competitive with a winner and a loser

6. Synergize: Work together to achieve more. Think of an orchestra. It is capable of so much more power and possibilities than any one musician could play. We sometimes feel threatened when put together with others on a project, but each person has a strength or a perspective that gives greater abilities to the whole group. The team needs to assess the strengths and talents of the group and assign tasks best suited for each person and work together for the good of the whole. Celebrate diversity.

The defective habit is “don’t cooperate.” Since I always have the best ideas, I’m better of doing everything by myself.

7. Sharpen the saw: The final habit is about taking care of yourself. Keep your personal self sharp so that you can better deal with life. Care for your body by eating healthy food, sleeping well and taking time to relax. Feed and exercise your mind by reading, learning new things, and creating. Never stop educating yourself. Care for your emotional self by laughing, building good relationships, doing kind things or volunteering for others, and loving yourself. Feed and exercise your soul by meditating, keeping a journal, drawing, praying and taking in quality media. Keep all your bodies in balance. Don’t just train your body and forget to feed your mind, or soul. Or don’t just study and neglect your body and friends. Think of synergy with your own body, mind, soul and heart.

Learn to say “no” to cigarettes, even e-cigarettes, drugs and liquor, at least until you are 21. “Alcohol makes me sleepy and then I throw up,” always worked for me. Suggest something else to do instead, like a movie in a public place. By 21 you may not even feel a need to use them, because your 7 habits will have you feeling so successful that you won’t need them.

The defective habit is “wear yourself out.” Just keep on going so you don’t have to really think about what you really want to do with your life, and make a sensible plan or two. Did you know that when you get exhausted you lower your resistance, and when your resistance is lowered, you’re more likely to get sick? Keep things in balance.

One story in the book was of a group of about 10 students who created a kind of healthy living club. They’d go out to eat pasta dinners together, and when one was tempted the others would help him remember that he really wanted to be healthy and effective. You could do that. There are many things you can do to help yourself and others become more effective. Why don’t you synergize your own plan, and may you live the life you love.


Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at For more information about Hale Opio Kauai, please go to


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