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Questioning the 7 Habits April 20, 2011

Posted by wooddickinson in 7 Habits, Change, consulting, executive coaching, Hope, Life Coach, Neurobiology, Systems Thinking.
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4 comments

I wrote a small comment on a LinkIn group for 7 Habits that challenged two of the core ideas Dr. Covey teaches. First the theory of Determinism and second that Habit 1 “Be Proactive” isn’t real. This started with a question posed by Phyllis, the leader of the group.

It took me a whole year to read and digest the book–7 Habits of Highly Effective People. How long did it take you and what did you learn from it?”

What I wrote was this: I read the book in 1993 and started teaching it in 1994. I’ve come to the realization through a continued study in human behavior, psychology and neuroscience that much of what the 7 Habits proposes is false. Indeed there are some great common sense ideas in the book but there is no such thing as “Be Proactive” and deterministic psychology was thrown out 10 years ago. Sad that success forces one to forsake continued research and hold to poor behavioral models just because you can’t say, “I was wrong, here’s how it works. I think. We know so little about the true functioning of the brain that saying you understand how the mind works is just a joke. Let’s be serious. Just the minds consistent use of metaphor through language cuts us off from The Real. We can never see anything as it really is. If we could we couldn’t withstand it and surely we’d die. Read the book “Into the Wild,” for an example.”

Then I received a message from a member named Ravi: On 04/18/11 10:05 PM, RAVI GOROWALA wrote:

Wood Hi,

Would you like to elaborate on  “but there is no such thing as “Be Proactive” and deterministic psychology was thrown out 10 years ago.” For me this is important as I have never come across this kind of criticism and being open minded I would like to explore this further.”

I started to answer his question and I found it was going to take a bit more space than what I usually use on LinkIn. I decided to answer with a blog post so everyone can ponder it. I might mention that I am working on a book that will update the 7 Habits type framework into modern day theories and practices. The ideas here are part of that work.

Dear Ravi,

I’d be glad to explain my views. I was very deep into using 7 Habits personally and in my company. I started my own journey in 1993 and have read and listened to the 7 Habits probably 50 times then in 1994 I started teaching  it. I taught 100s of people.  I helped in designing and implementing what is now called “7 Habits for Associates.” I was profiled in Dr. Covey’s book “Living the 7 Habits.” Now to your question, I have kept up on changing psychological models over the years. I do this to advance my own development.

The theories of determinism are really poorly represented in the 7 Habits. Dr. Covey talks about 3 of them, Environmental, Genetic, and Psychic. In the study of human behavior there are at least 9 major deterministic theories. The basic set is:

Causal Determinism: This psychology is based on the assumption that there is an antecedent for every event to happen.

Logical Determinism: This is the outcome of the notion that whatever is proposed about the past, present or future fall in either of the categories: True or False.

Metaphysical Determinism: As per this determinism, every event is caused by necessity and for a reason.

Biological Determinism: This thesis is based on the belief that all behavioral patterns and desires are controlled by nature through factors such as genes.

Nomological Determinism: As per this psychology, the future events are to some extent propelled by the combination of nature’s laws and events factoring the past and present.

Psychological Determinism: This is a view that is purely based on rational thinking and human instincts that control our desires.

Behavioral Determinism: This ideology is purely based on the reflex actions that have been governed by the environment and surroundings.

Environmental Determinism: This psychology is based on the theory that physical conditions of an environment determine the culture of a region. To be precise, every human instinct is controlled by the stimulus response theory.

Fatalism: This is a significant determinism psychology that says everything in the universe is governed by fate and there is no control over it.”   quoted from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/determinism-psychology.html

Beyond these theories you also need to factor in Reciprocal Determinism Psychology and Free Will Determinism Psychology. I’ll let you dig those up on your own.

Now to tell you why these models fail I’ll quote a blog entry I came across that I thought was particularly insightful. You have to remember that determinism on the surface is a philosophical question. The scientists can try to quantify it and catalog it but at the end of the day it’s still philosophy. I can just as easily build a case for Jacques Lacan’s philosophy of psychoanalysis and philosophy as explained by Slavoj Žižek, who translated Lacan’s work and added to it by using popular culture.  Language itself serves a need for building metaphors of real objects so when we look at the world we see it through a screen of language.  Artists many times attempt to pierce this screen and peek into “The Real” and bring a bit back in their work for the rest of us to learn from. To live in “the real” would kill us. Again, I reference “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer.

Arguments Against Determinism

Determinism for me is irrational. Here’s why.

Published on February 9, 2004 By EFalgui In Philosophy

I have been thinking about the reasons why I am so against determinism. For me determinism is just plain wrong in the sense that we have no choice in anything that we do. Another thing is that if everything is already plotted out then doesn’t that destroy the point of taking responsibility for our actions.

People argue that if God is all knowing then how would it be possible for people to have free will. My response to this is that God knows all the paths that are possible. Because there is more than one possible path to life, we have the power to choose our own way without taking Gods omniscience into question. Anyway I have been thinking of some more arguments and these are a few I found against determinism.

Determinism is self-defeating. A determinist insists that both determinists and non-determinists are determined to believe what they believe. However, determinists believe self-determinists are wrong and ought to change their view. But “ought to change” implies they are free to change, which is contrary to determinism, since how can one change what is already determined. =P

Determinism is irrational. C.S. Lewis argued that naturalistic, complete determinism is irrational. For determinism to be true, there would have to be a rational basis for their thought. But if determinism is true, then there is no rational basis for thought, since non-rational forces determine all. So, if determinism claims to be true, then it must be false. Do you get it?

Determinism destroys human responsibility. If God is the cause of all human actions, then human beings are not morally responsible. One is only responsible for a choice if there was free will to avoid making it. All responsibility implies the ability to respond, either on one’s own or by God’s grace. Ought implies can. But if God caused the action, then we could not have avoided it. Hence, we are not responsible.

Determinism renders praise and blame meaningless. Similarly, if God causes all human actions, then it makes no sense to praise human beings for doing good, nor to blame them for doing evil. For if the courageous really had no choice other than to show courage, why reward it? If the evil had no choice but to commit their crime, why punish them? Rewards and punishment for moral behavior makes sense only if another did not cause the actions.

Determinism leads to fatalism. If everything is determined beyond our control, then why do good and avoid evil? Indeed, if determinism is right, evil is unavoidable. Determinism destroys the very motive to do good and shun evil.

Determinism is unbiblical. Theistic opponents to determinism offer several objections from Scripture. Defining free choice as “doing what one desires” is contrary to experience. For people do not always do what they desire, nor do they always desire to do what they do (Romans 7:15-16)”  Source Located at – http://boogerschnot.joeuser.com/article/7155

This is all philosophical of course but it does show the common sense reasons why determinism is a failed concept. It’s easy to google the decline of determinism and read about the current state of affaires. I’d recommend google scholar so you can find credible sources of information based on research.

Now, Habit 1 Be Proactive. Before there was 7 Habits this word was rarely used.  The first time it appeared was 1933. Now it’s a cliché.  Proactive as it’s really defined refers to some form of anticipation of actions before they happen and this anticipation can guide choices that improve the chances of more effective outcomes. A proactive choice is installing a sump pump before the rain floods your basement or planning what you’re going to do when on your next vacation now, not when you get there.

To act with proactivity as Dr. Covey explains it is tied together with the idea of stimulus and response. If a certain event happens you don’t react instead you create a space between the stimulus and your response where you make a choice as to what your response will be. I’m not saying that certain people have the capacity to think before they act but I don’t think it is a learnable skill.

According to psychologistWorld.com:   Stimulus Response Theory

“Stimulus Response Theory is a concept in psychology that refers to the belief that behavior manifests as a result of the interplay between stimulus and response. In particular, the belief is that a subject is presented with a stimulus, and then responds to that stimulus, producing “behavior” (the object of psychology’s study, as a field). In other words, behavior cannot exist without a stimulus of some sort, at least from this perspective.”

Now please note that in this citation the comment “at least from this perspective” is used. That’s because there isn’t any hard evidence that a specific stimulus will produce a specific response. I’m not talking about things like, you smell good food and you suddenly want to eat or you are drowning so you fight and flail around even hitting rescuers. Certain actions or say reactions are part of the brains Default Network. This network kicks in to help moderate certain actions. You see two 5 year olds playing tug of war with a bottle of ketchup and don’t think twice about it but if it was two 25 year old males you would become alarmed. The Default Network doesn’t start functioning until about age 13.

Reactions that happen outside of this Default Network happen because of special circumstances in a persons life. Look up B. F. Skinner and the Skinner Box. Back in the 60s this was the truth. Like Pavlov, you ring the bell and the dog drools and comes to eat. The problem with this is, sometimes they don’t. Why? Well Skinner et. al. really didn’t want to deal with that issue so they relegated these events to error. But there was a reason that it happened. It’s cognition.  The rat thinks, “I don’t want to run this maze right now.” The rat has no self-awareness so it can’t tell you why but we do.

Back in the 70s and 80s maybe later the feeling was the rat was making a choice. This proves a connection between stimulus and response. But that’s not true. Everything is a choice, after a fashion, but the reason for the choice may have nothing to do with the stimulus itself. It just appears that way. I hear a tornado siren and run to the basement. Another person hears the same siren and ignores it while a third person runs outside to see if there really is a storm. None of these actions are a direct response to the siren. They’re a response to an emotional state that is hard-wired into the brain due to past experiences.  I may not be able to do anything but run to the basement. Events in my life started the wiring in my brain that built a pattern of behavior and all the proactivity in the world won’t change it. If this is predicated on an unnatural fear of storms then I have to make a decision that this reaction bothers me and I want to change it. Then I probably go through exposure therapy to ease the emotions, allowing me to clip the wires and put in new ones. Once that’s done I don’t run to the basement unless I want to.

Neurobiology is showing us that the brain has a lot of plasticity and this process of rewiring is possible.  Dr. Covey tells us to use our imagination to grow proactivity then use that proactive muscle to change how we respond to events around us. Ask yourself this question, if I smoke can I make the choice, at the moment when I want a smoke, to not have the cigaret? Ask any smoker. I used to smoke and I’m here to tell you I decided to cut all the wires connected in my brain that brought on the urge to have a cigarette. This had to happen well before I was in the heat of the moment and it hurt. It took two years to get over the habit. I didn’t smoke during that two years The nicotine addiction was nothing compared the the brain rewiring I had to do so I’d never smoke again.

Enough examples, I hope you get the point. There is no being proactive. What there is initiative. Through the use of my initiative I was able to stop smoking. What I do is look at the current theories of human development, interaction and actions that are supported by science not opinion. For instance one of the mainstays of 7 Habits is the “Maturity Continuum.” The idea that we mature along a continuum which begs the notion of growth is a major part of the material. But I challenge that because we are born into the most important interdependent relationship of our lives. Babies are dependent and independent and interdependent and it happens all at once. No continuum.

There are a lot of good ideas in the 7 Habits but it is rusty and today you need to separate the wheat from the chaff. For a lot of people that isn’t easy. I commend you in seeking beyond and growing as an independent thinker.

Hope January 14, 2011

Posted by wooddickinson in 7 Habits, Change, executive coaching, Hope, Life Coach, Neurobiology.
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I’m writing a new workshop that’s primary task will be teaching Hope. I know that it seems natural for people to be just hopeful or not but that isn’t really the case. As it turns out science has been able to displace malformed ideas and misunderstood concepts about why we do what we do. Hope falls into that category.

If the idea that genetic determinism has much impact on our daily actions and decides major overall traits such as intelligence, then eugenics would have proved to have been a successful experiment. As we know all eugenics did for us was pave the way for the Holocaust of WW II.  I say that but must also mention eugenic experiments were also tried here in the USA before WW II through the sterilization of certain groups of individuals mostly those perceived as under privileged and unintelligent. To learn more about this blot on US history read the book War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race by Edwin Black.

Genes determine the shape of a jaw or the color of the eyes and may indicate some possibility for future illness but it does not make us who we are. Environmental determinism plays a much larger role in two ways. First the physical location where people live brings with it environmental factors people have to adapt to. Climate, geography and even political realities set up a situation that will bring on certain actions by the people impacted. Eskimos have distinct differences from Arabs and a large part of that difference is caused by environmental conditions.

The second type of environmental determinism includes the smaller family unit. As a child grows patterns are set in a neurobiological way that may cause the child to live out certain choices when she grows to adulthood that may be positive or negative. This is especially true for what happens to a child during its first 18 months of life.

So if environmental determinism creates a negative impact we are told building a proactive nature will eventually cause change in our way of life that creates a positive impact. I don’t think so. Like a smoker, the quitting of smoking is a very difficult things. Seemingly impossible for some. Why? The nicotine addiction is over in two weeks but the wires in the brain are still there telling the smoker to have a cigarette now. What has to happen is the cutting of the wires in the brain that drive smoking and putting in new wires for non-smoking. This is a very painful and difficult task.

We call it a smoking habit and like any other habit we have wiring in our brain that reinforces our actions. Wearing a nicotine patch doesn’t solve the problem. I think you’ll find that in smoking there isn’t enough proactivity in the world to help a person stop. I know. I’ve been there.

Dr. Norman Dodge suggest in The Brain That Changes Itself that that the process of rewiring our brain is not only possible but can be controlled. Only through this effort can a habit be changed. How this relates to hope is coming…

Are you in control of you life? October 22, 2010

Posted by wooddickinson in Change, consulting, shared vision.
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Every day I hear on the radio, TV in advertisements and in news reporting that no one really knows what the future holds.  This leaves a person wondering if they have any control over their lives at all.  Now that new massive government programs are in place, companies have no idea how to handle things like health care.

The unknown is, can I afford to keep my company healthcare or do I just drop it forcing every one on the public program?  How many jobs will this cost me?

It is more like how many jobs will it cost all of us.  Being a consultant I meet with many organization from small mom and pop’s to Universities.  I hear the very same story.  I don’t know if I will have enough money?  The individual, which is where business starts, feels scared so he doesn’t buy anything.  I’ll pass on the lawn over-seeding this year or cut back in how many times I go out to eat and then watch the cost of those places.  Little things a million times become big things.  Small companies fail, cut backs happen, unemployment remains unchanged.

There are many things we can do to control our lives.  Eat out less.  Go to the movies less.  Skip shopping trips.  Skip vacations.  On and on but at some point when we’ve done all we can do then you ask yourself, “Am I in control of my life?”

The stress level around me is way up.  Miss a payment by a day and people call millions of times harassing you for the check that is in the mail.  Patients has gone out the door and so has wisdom.

I feel that I can be in control of my life.  I have to decide where I stand.  Today American’s need to decide what the vision of the future is going to be.  Big government control and a socialistic economy or a free economy with smaller government and less tax burden and over regulation.

The town I work in is Mission Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City.  They just don’t have enough money to do everything they want to so the government has instituted a driveway tax!  You will be taxed by the linear feet of concrete or asphalt you have in your driveway.  Maybe a $70 tax increase on every home but the kicker is when you get to the Target store they will have to pay about $65,000 in tax.  Now I ask you where will Target get that money from?  They project earnings and staff and order goods based on that projected revenue.  Out of that revenue there needs to be a profit or Target as a company can’t grow and create more jobs.

The way I see it this tax will cost Mission at least 3 to 4 jobs just at Target.  It will put a strain on the store which will cause the corporate office to decide if it is or isn’t worth having a store in Mission and BANG.

Go to my website and vote by clicking HERE.  Somehow we DO need to be in control of our own lives.

 

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