Habit 4: Think Win-Win
The Win-Win Habit is about seeing life as a cooperative arena, not a competitive one. At its core, this is about an abundance mentality (knowing that there is enough to go around) instead of a scarcity mentality (the fear of not having enough). Covey goes on to say that characteristics of a win-win individual or corporation include integrity and maturity.
Interestingly enough, Covey points out something that Jim Collins would later expound upon in his book Built to Last. This is the genius of the And. That great individuals and corporations alike embrace the And of empathy and confidence, courage and consideration, continuity and change, and so on.
Quite honestly, this is the principle that western culture and corporate America seem to have overlooked because, quite frankly, it feels like a dog-eat-dog world. When fictitious characters like Gordon Gekko began flooding the abundance of the ‘80s with slogans like “Greed is good,” we followed suit and flipped our mindset to that of scarcity. After that happened, life became more about win-lose.
But where does faith chime in on this?
If anything, the message of the gospel is more of a lose-win scenario. “So the last will be first and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16). “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:13). Those passages seem counter-intuitive to popular culture, which tells us to lose ourselves in pursuit of our dreams, but in essence, Jesus taught and modeled that life is about the building up of others instead of building a kingdom for yourself. Which is why the early church held to the philosophy “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Romans 14:19).
After more than fifteen years in competitive sales, I believe that it ruins our genius and robs us of excellence. Instead of thriving in our gifts, competition keeps us shackled to a mindset of winning rather than a mindset of thriving. That’s not to say that we can’t engage in sales or that we can’t win, but it does mean that we have to get really honest about our motives.
Whose kingdom are you really building?
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that you can do the wrong things and win, but you cannot do the wrong things and thrive—good fruit never grows in bad soil. Until we understand this truth and work diligently to shift our perspective to a Kingdom mindset, scarcity and fear and striving will be close at hand.
As for the And, I think Jesus’s life modeled grace and truth, confidence and humility, strength and weakness, death and life better than any example in the history of our world. Those are the true markers of maturity and the true markers of integrity. Somewhere along the way, we’ve been conditioned to refuse grace, overcome weakness, ignore humility, and avoid pain. But it is only through those where we find community with God. As those who live by faith, we must embrace the And.
In the end, I think this principle and its faith-based application has to do with the removal of competition as our chief aim. If there is such a thing as winning, it begins with losing ourselves for the sake of trusting God and investing in the lives of others.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood
Habit 5 points out that listening is a lost art form for most of our culture. And although Covey’s 7 Habits was written in 1989, I’d argue this has only become a bigger challenge. With the unending noise of social media, it feels like we’re screaming in a crowded room and no one hears us.
Covey draws on the effectiveness of listening purely for the purpose of understanding. Not to form an opinion. Not to judge. Not to offer advice. Simply to understand. He continues to say that most people listen with the intent of replying which hinders their willingness to understand. As we saw in Habit 4, this is more about others than it is about self.
An echoing cry of Jesus to the crowds that followed Him through first century Palestine was, “He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15). His request seems odd on the surface, but He’s calling them to truly hear what He is saying—to listen and understand. He wants them to allow it to process through their hearts, not just pass through their minds.
Too often we bring our own woundedness, our own prejudices, and our own judgment to the conversation about faith—we keep thinking of it in terms of religion. In turn, we guard our hearts and we’re unable to understand beyond the surface level clichés that we’ve become so acquainted with. Because of that, faith becomes a mundane recitation of a few verses and a tireless duty of our hands rather than an active adventure in our hearts. As a result, we remain unchanged and miss the adventure.
Just as Covey calls us to listen for the purpose of understanding, King Solomon writes, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). That type of trust and listening requires humility. It’s us saying, “I’m willing,” instead of “I’m right.” A desire to be right will always keep us from seeing that which is true. It’s only when we set aside our agenda that we’re able to, as Jesus said, “Seek and find. Knock and the door will be opened” (Luke 11:9).
It’s our willingness to understand that will always grant us the relationship to be understood. And as it relates to faith, that is where God himself will meet us. But unless we’re willing to slow down, we’ll miss Him altogether.
Habit 6: Synergize
Stephen Covey wrote, “Two heads are better than one.” This is confirmation of the words of King Solomon who wrote, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
The idea of synergy is that our best results are forged in community with others. That when our gifts, talents, and purposes collide, magic happens. However, in order to make that work well, we have to value the differences in others. I suppose this is where most people feel a rub with the religiosity of faith, because if religion has been anything, it has been exclusive. But by now, I hope you’re beginning to see that religion and true faith are very different.
To that point, the concept of synergy is prevalent throughout the entire Bible. In fact, the gospel was intended for the Jewish people only, but after Jesus’s death and resurrection, it was offered to the Gentiles—an inclusive act for all of God’s people.
God desires synergy for us. The writer of Proverbs says, “Just as iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another” (Proverbs 27:17) and Jesus said, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them” (Matthew 18:20). Additionally, Jesus sent His disciples out “two by two” into the countryside to share the message of faith. Even Jesus, who was the Son of God, surrounded Himself with disciples and a trusted inner circle of three: Peter, James, and John.
The problem with synergy is our own little selfish egos. They’re like tiny little dictators in our heads that feed on our pride. In fact, pride is the only reason we refuse the concept of synergy. That’s why the great Christian writer C. S. Lewis said, “The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”
Synergy allows our collective genius to be brought together—God’s handiwork in each of us on display for the benefit of the whole. It’s like an orchestra. Alone, the instruments can produce their own distinct sound, but when combined, it adds a layer of emotion and depth that simply can’t be achieved individually.
True synergy is a picture of the church—the body of believers—the way it should be. It is the collective expression of individuals that magnifies His divine purpose.
So where do you weigh in on Habits 4-6? Do you find that winning causes you to compromise your values? Whose understanding do you trust more, yours or God’s? Does your pride ever cause you to envy others success or try to squash their ideas?
YouPrint is a faith development organization co-founded by Christian author, Matt Ham, and Zondervan author, Kevin Adams. For more information, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and connect with us on social media.