In 1989 Steven Covey published The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Having sold more than 25 million copies, it remains one of the most popular self-help books of all time. And Time Magazine listed it as one of "The 25 Most Influential Business Management Books."1
Much attention has been paid to the seven habits themselves, which are excellent guidelines for developing into a more mature and ultimately successful person. But Covey covers a much weightier principle, one that must be embraced before the good habits can take hold. And that's the concept of a personal paradigm change.
A paradigm (pronounced PARA-dime) is the model or framework we use to make sense of a situation.2 For example, if your phone rings at 2 AM, you automatically assume it's going to be bad news.
Personal paradigms are so all-encompassing, they can be difficult to change. It can be like trying to pick up your shoes while still wearing them.
Instead, Covey suggests simply examining the assumptions your paradigm takes for granted by examining them from the outside. If you can find evidence that what you initially took for granted might not be true, then your paradigm will begin to change.
Covey explains that paradigms are deeper than attitudes or behaviors.
He says, "If you want to make minor changes in your life, work on your behavior. But if you want to make significant, quantum breakthroughs, work on your paradigm."3
Many people have copied the "habits" part of Covey's formula. Googling "7 habits of highly effective" gets you 158,000,000 results. One of those is an article from Bloomberg titled "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Investors." It covers a list of excellent money tips, including things like "Plan for financial emergencies," "Spend less than you earn," and "Save early and automatically."4
It's all good advice. But if your finances were out of control, and a well-meaning friend printed out the article so you could stick it up on your fridge, would that be all you needed to change?
Successfully saving for retirement does require you to incorporate certain behaviors into your life and then repeat them so diligently that they become habits. But going from knowledge to habit can be extremely difficult if your paradigm does not see the value or make room for those habits.
One of the most valuable things your trusted advisor can help you with is adjusting your big picture. It's important not just to see what's possible, but to come up with a personalized, long-term plan. As you begin to succeed and build your nest egg, sticking to those good habits simply becomes a part of life.
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