A personal constitution

I’ve been reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey over the past few days and have loved it.

I’m probably a little over-enthusiastic about these types of self-help books. I read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and talked about it obnoxiously to my friends, but found as I tried to apply its lessons that I need to basically reread the book continuously to remember all of its many lessons. That’s the biggest reason I like 7 Habits: my memory’s terrible, and this way I don’t have to remember as much.

The second habit in the book is “Begin with the end in mind”. Essentially, Covey suggests that you begin all important projects by clearly defining in writing what success looks like. Then, as you work on the project, you should frequently review the success criteria and make sure that you’re on track.

Given that life is essentially one big project, he suggests having such criteria for your life. When you die, how do you want your life to have been lived? What are some principles you should live by in order to live such a life?

He encourages readers to actually write these things down as a sort of personal constitution, review that consitution regularly, and curate it over time.

Here’s what my first attempt looks like (with some points unabashedly borrowed from Rolfe Kerr’s personal creed in the book):

  • Succeed at home first.
  • Seek and merit divine help.
  • Never compromise with honesty.
  • Seek to earn the trust of yourself and others.
  • Know and meet your obligations.
  • Listen twice as much as you speak.
  • Defend those who are absent.
  • Care for what belongs to you. Care for what belongs to others as if it were your own.
  • Be stubbornly positive.
  • Develop one new proficiency each year.
  • Focus on one task at a time.
  • Start with small wins to build momentum.
  • Hustle while you wait.
  • Ask for help when necessary. Don’t shy away when it’s offered.
  • Be generous with your time and money. Don’t squander either.
  • Keep self-praise to yourself.
  • Be the first to criticize yourself and the last to criticize others.

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