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Inside Out Again


December 19, 1997

There is a gap between stimulus and response, and the key to both our growth and happiness is how we use that space. Do we respond to situations positively, proactively? Are we taking control of our own lives?

Meditating on this idea led Covey to start deep communication with his wife, including more and more discussion of their inner worlds. It was a time of inner discovery.

They developed two ground rules. First, "no probing," just empathize. Probing was too invasive. The second was when it hurt too much, quit for the day.

The most difficult and most fruitful part of this communication came when the vulnerability of each person was touched. They discovered a new sense of reverence for each other. They discovered that even seemingly truthful things often have roots in deep emotional experiences. To deal with the superficial trivia without seeing the deeper, more tender issues is to trample on the sacred ground of another's heart.

The ability to use wisely the gap between stimulus and response, to exercise the four unique endowments of our human nature, empowers us from the inside out. (The four endowments are self-awareness, imagination, conscience, and independent will. See the summary of Habit 1 - Be Proactive.)

By understanding the role of scripting, we understand the transcendent power in a strong intergenerational family. An effectively interdependent family of children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins can be a powerful force in helping people have a sense of who they are, where they came from and what they stand for.

"There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots, the other wings."
- Anonymous.

We should make a personal goal of becoming a "transition person," a person who changes the scripts transferred to the next generation from negative to positive by being proactive. This should be part of our personal mission statement. A tendency that has run through a family for generations can stop with one person.

Anwar Sadat, the former President of Egypt, was a powerful transition person for peace in the Middle East. Sadat said, "He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality, and will never, therefore, make any progress."

Real change comes from the inside out. Amiel said, "Only these truths... which have become ourselves... are really our life... So long as we are able to distinguish any space whatever between truth and us we remain outside it. To become divine is then the aim of life.... It is no longer outside us, now in a sense even in us, but we are it, and it is we."

To achieve unity with ourselves, our loved ones, our friends, and our working associates, is the highest, best, and most delicious fruit of the Seven Habits.

Building a character of total integrity and living the life of love and service that creates such unity isn't easy, but it's plausible. If we start with the daily private victory and work from the inside out, results will surely come.

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