Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families: A Book Club Meeting With Biak Sung
What Separates Good Families From Great Families?
Practicing good habits as a family can improve the strength of our families. As mentioned in recent posts, Windrose’s Biak Sung has a special interest in cultivating strong, supportive families. One of her favorite books is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Steven Covey, which she recommends as a resource.
1. Be Proactive® – learn to take charge of the direction of your family
To be proactive is “to act based on principles and values rather than reacting based on emotion or circumstance.” This first habit centers around the fact that we can all become agents of change. It first requires taking stock of our unique human gifts and our principles and values. Behavior patterns tend to flow from parent to child unless we are able to intervene between stimulus and response. This is what Carl Jung calls ‘Generativity’, as Biak Sung explains:
“When you’re reactive there is no space between you and how you respond. When we’re proactive, we can come together to find a better solution.
I learned the value of proactivity in college. Like many in the Indiana Chin ethnic group, I faced difficulties getting ahead in English-speaking classrooms. While we understand everything we hear, it becomes very difficult when we try to put it in the language that is not ours originally. There were times I had negative thoughts like, ‘this isn’t fair; I wasn’t born here’. I came to realize that this attitude didn’t help at all and it certainly didn’t help me finish my task or my assignment.
I remember one finals season in college I was up late studying. It was close to midnight and I felt overwhelmed by a class. I had to take a moment to summon up my strength to be proactive. I told myself, ‘I just need to try three, maybe five times harder than the hardest-working native English-speaking student’. That moment of active self-reflection changed my whole college career.”
2. Begin with the End in Mind® – Decide what your family stands for
Once we’ve gotten the hang of the first habit, the next logical step is to craft a ‘family mission statement’ in which principles such as forgiveness, compassion, and charity take precedence “ahead of each other, and ahead of our family.” Steven Covey explains that this principle tends to “give a sense of appropriate priority to everything else.” Of course, determining what these guiding family principles are doesn’t happen overnight, but rather requires continued self-reflection.
“I wrote down all my my strengths and my weaknesses…even the things that my friends or family may have said about me in an angry, heat-of-the-moment situation–because there was likely at least SOME truth to it. This made me think about what my passion is. I remember when I was ten years old my mother told me about Mother Theresa. As a teenager growing up here, I had a lot of insecurities. But when I accepted them, I found that no one could use them against me. Suddenly the little things that may happen in life are just noise in the background. Careful consideration of this habit really lead to my own increased self-awareness. I have focus and goals now: I have a vision in my mind of where I’d like to be in five years, ten years from now.”
3. Put First Things First® – Never let your family and relationships fall to the wayside
Perhaps the most difficult habit: We must put family and friend relationships ahead of anything else in life–including our work life. Covey tackles the tricky questions of work-life balance and related issues such as day care, full-time working mothers, etc. in a blunt, straightforward manner. He says, “the place to start is not that work is non-negotiable; it’s with the assumption that family is non-negotiable.” Covey adds this tip: scheduled weekly family time. This is a time to plan, to have fun, to solve problems, and to teach.
Traditional Asian parenting is very conservative and authoritarian according to Biak, who works with Chin parents to encourage a bit more flexibility. “I try to remind parents the importance of their continued positive relationship with their children, and I encourage parents to try actively to relate to their kids. I believe this is true in all modern families, but especially relevant for our quickly-changing Chin community.” Biak is working to repair the integrity of the Chin family unit for one major reason: “When families drift or fall apart they lose that safety net, and substance abuse becomes a very big problem.”