The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers – Part 6

Jan 11 - 7 habits teenagers

Principle-Centred – The Real Thing

In the past issues, we have discussed numerous centres that have time and again failed. One wonders whether there is a centre that actually works. Yes there is! It is being principle-centered. I know it sounds boring, but here is another way of looking at it.

We are all aware of the effects of gravity. Throw a ball up and it comes down. It’s a natural law or principle. This is one of the many principles that rule the physical world. Also, there are other principles that govern the human world.

What are principles?

  • Principles aren’t religious.
  • They aren’t Pakistani or Somali.
  • They aren’t mine or yours.
  • They aren’t up for discussion.
  • They apply equally to everyone – rich or poor, king or peasant, male or female.
  • They can’t be bought or sold.
  • If you live by them, you will excel.
  • If you break them, you will fail.

A few examples of principles are: love, honesty, service, respect, gratitude, hard work, loyalty, responsibility, integrity, justice and moderation. If anyone knows our Prophet (sa) well, he would think that Sean Covey was actually describing the Prophet’s (sa) way of life.

Consider just one of the examples of the aforementioned principles, like hard work. The principle of hard work never fails. As long as you have paid the price by investing time and effort into something, you will eventually succeed. Someone might whiz past you without putting any or much effort but, in the long run, as they say: “you can fool someone all the time but you can’t fool everyone all the time”. At some stage in life, incompetent people, who might have acquired status or recognition wrongfully, are exposed. This is mainly because they are neither trained nor experienced to deal with the challenges required for a particular job.

A very apt example could be of politicians. Someone, who has studied commerce, is handed over a ministry of science and technology. How will he fare? It could be anyone’s guess. However, if someone has studied and excelled in his/her field of education by hard work, he/she is likely to meet the challenges posed by his/her career, because he/she has paid the price to excel in that particular field.

Principles Never Fail

It takes faith to live by principles. In today’s age of rampant evil and quick fix solutions, one might feel like a sucker watching others get ahead in life by manipulation and corruption. What we don’t see is the doomed end of such people who break away from principles.

Cecil B. DeMille, the director of movie “The Ten Commandments”, stated: “It is impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the law.”

You will see that it eventually catches up to every wrong-doer, and the faker ultimately pays a penalty for breaking principles. How many liars and frauds do you know, who have earned anyone’s love, respect and friendship? And what kind of a life are they leading, in spite of having wealth and success? A guilty conscience seldom lets anyone live in peace.

What can principles do for you? According to Sean Covey, the benefits of principles are:

  • They will never talk behind your back.
  • They will never desert you.
  • They don’t suffer career-ending injuries.
  • They don’t have favourites based on gender, wealth or looks.

“A principle-centered life is simply the most stable, immovable, unshakable foundation you can build upon, and we all need one of those.”

Decide today to make principles your life-centre or paradigm. Whenever you land in a fix, ask yourself which principle will fit the key-hole? If you are feeling worn out and beaten up, maybe you need to apply the principle of balance. If you find people suspecting you, maybe it is the principle of honesty that will resolve the issue. In the following story by Walter MacPeek, we find the principle of loyalty being the driving force:

‘Two brothers, who were French soldiers in the same company, fought against the Germans. One of them was shot, while the other escaped. The one who was sound requested his commanding officer to go back and get his wounded brother. The officer politely explained that his brother was probably dead and that there was no point risking his own life.

After much pleading, the soldier was granted permission to bring back his wounded brother. When he did bring him back safely, he died just then. The commander said: ‘I told you that you were going to get nothing out of this. Your brother just died anyway.’ The soldier replied: ‘No sir, you are wrong. I got what I wanted. When I went back for him and picked him up in my arms, he said: ‘I knew you would come back for me.’ I did what was expected of me.’

Insha’Allah, in the upcoming issues, we will find out what each of the seven habits are connected and what powers these habits have. Be on the look-out.

What are habits?

Take them, train them, and be firm with them;

Your habits will place the world at your feet.

Be easy with them and they will destroy you.

So form them wisely!

7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers – Part 3

Jan 11 - 7 habits teenagers

Paradigms of others

Sean Covey shared a classical example of a paradigm shift in the following anecdote taken from the Reader’s Digest and contributed by Dan P. Greyling:

A lady, who was returning to South Africa from a long stay in Europe, had some time to spend at the Heathrow airport. She bought herself a cup of coffee and a small packet of biscuits. Laden with the luggage, she headed for an unoccupied table. While she was reading the morning newspaper, she sensed someone else helping himself to her packet of biscuits.

Fuming she ignored it and took a biscuit herself. The neatly dressed young man, who had joined her at the table, also took the next biscuit and quietly sat munching it. She still didn’t bother scolding him.

When they were down to the very last biscuit in the packet, he broke the biscuit in two, pushed a half across to her, ate the other half and left. Just then the lady’s flight was announced and she got up to catch it. Still bewildered at the audacity of the young man, she opened her purse to retrieve her ticket. Inside her purse, she saw a packet of biscuits. She had actually been eating his biscuits, having forgotten to take out hers from the purse.

Imagine her embarrassment which was just a few seconds earlier, a feeling of anger towards the stranger. What does this tell us? The way we perceive others can actually be inaccurate, incomplete or totally wrong. Don’t we judge others with our limited point of views and even fewer facts? We are simply not interested in looking at the other side of the picture. We can hardly wait before we have formed rigid opinions, labelled others or passed judgements against them.

In contrast, we should be open-minded and have the courage to change our paradigms, once we have discovered the truth. We should always consider new information, ideas and changes. It is just as if we are throwing away an old pair of glasses and replacing them with new spectacles with more accurate lenses.

We consider ourselves to be an expert on what others feel and think. If someone is rude to us, we automatically assume he/she hates us. If someone is trying to avoid us, we feel there is something fishy going on. We are always ready to jump to conclusions.

This is the way we handle all our relationships. We never bother to see the other person’s point of view. We never take our time to understand why a person behaves in a certain manner. Our messed up paradigms never let us give others the benefit of the doubt or an allowance that maybe the other person might just be having a rough day.

Don’t most teenagers think of adults as old-fashioned and out-dated losers? On the contrary, don’t most adults consider teenagers to be pompous, spoilt brats? They both never try to understand each other. They are only looking at things from their perspective. How can we ever be successful and happy with such narrow outlooks towards others?

Paradigms of life

Sean Covey explains that just as we have paradigms about ourselves and others, we also have paradigms about the world in general. We can find out what our life revolves around, by asking ourselves the following questions:

  1. What do I think the most about?
  2. What do I spend my time doing the most?
  3. Who or what is the driving force of my life?

Some of the more popular life-centres for teenagers include: friends, materialistic stuff, school, parents, sports/hobbies, and heroes, enemies, self and work.

They all have certain good points, but they are also incomplete in one way or the other. We will prove this one by one:

1) Friend-centred

Belonging to a great group of friends is simply the best thing that can ever happen to you. Similarly, being an outcast or feeling misfit is the worse imaginable plight one can go through, especially in his/her teenage years.

Friends are important, but do not build your life on them. It is an unstable foundation. Why? Occasionally, they prove to be fickle. They have their own mood swings. They can be fake or sometimes backbite. Old pals can also develop new friendships and forget yours.

Most importantly, at times, one compromises his/her identity just to be accepted as part of a popular or particular gang. It undermines your self-respect and breaks the standards that you have set for yourself. It also means to keep on changing your values to accommodate your friends.

It might seem impossible now, but a day will come when your friends won’t mean the world to you. After school, when you start your practical life with numerous challenges, the same friends will be the last thing on your mind. You will still meet them and associate with them but it will be seldom.

So make as many friends as you would like to but do not make them the centre of your life.

2) Material-centred

Think about this saying: “If who I am is what I have and what I have is lost, then who am I?” (Anonymous)

Sometimes, we see the world through the lens of possessions or material stuff. The materialistic world around us feeds us the message that you are worth anything only if you own the fastest car, the latest stereo system, the coolest mobile phone, the best hairstyle, the trendiest outfits, etc. Sometimes, possessions also come in the form of titles and accomplishments, such as head boy or girl, team captain, class monitor, prefect, lead in the play, etc.

Although it is fine to be ambitious and seek pleasure in enjoying one’s achievements, one should not centre one’s life on things. Why? Mainly because they have no lasting value in this changing world. Our confidence needs to come from within and not from outside.

You might have noticed that some people get confidence from their possessions. If they do not have the latest model of gizmo to flash or had to go in public with unwashed hair, they would lament for weeks upon such failure. They also judge others the same way. Their friends are only those who either believe in materialism as well or keep flattering them for their uncompromising attitude towards things.

Being material-centred can make you unhappy easily. It should never be the focal point of your life if you wish to be a confident and satisfied young adult!

In the upcoming issue we will discuss the remaining paradigms of life in detail and the ways in which they impact us.

What are habits?

They can easily be managed – only, you must be firm with them.

Show them exactly how you want something done, and after a few lessons, they will do it automatically.

So form them wisely.