Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Stephen Covey: Running on Empty

Mobile Parable
Heading for the Melbourne airport to pick up my homecoming daughter and friends one evening, I listened to a superb address (via CD) by Stephen Covey entitled, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People."

Each habit was like a marker on the road that got me nearer to my destination:

Habit 1: Be Proactive
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Habit 4: Think Win/Win
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
Habit 6: Synergize

Half way along the final Freeway (the Tullamarine), Covey was extolling the virtues of the seventh and final habit—'Sharpen the Saw'.

No sooner had he illustrated the importance of self-renewal by speaking of the stupidity of those who drive with the petrol gauge on empty, when my car began to splutter. I switched my empty tank from gas over to petrol only to discover that the car continued to behave like a kangaroo having a fit! My gas tank I knew was empty but my petrol tank, I was discovering, was also empty!

I managed to exit the freeway but it was a late, red-faced, highly ineffective father, wreaking of petrol that had to give a pathetic explanation to four young women waiting at the airport.

Checking the Fuel Gauge
Since taking part in this parable, I've been more aware of people and myself when running on depleted reserves. Winter ailments, bleak days, meaningless arguments, screaming deadlines, a long Do List, heavy conversations and lack of clarity about the future are some of the things that chew up our energy fast.

Meandering meetings, conflicts over trivialities, loss of perspective, ‘spitting the dummy’ and blowing an emotional fuse can be the telltale signs that our tank is almost empty.

Fill 'Er Up!
Life and giving out to others is extremely demanding. I like the concept of doing things to fill up the emotional tanks of our children and other people. However, as we give out we are called to be attentive to our own energy levels. Taking time to fill up will mean different things for different people—leaving the desk or the bench and sinking into an armchair with a cuppa, making some sacred space in the midst of our work, turning off the talk back radio and listening to a symphony, curling up in bed with a novel, taking in a movie, playing a game of golf(?), walking along the river in the Springtime sun, booking a holiday....

How is your tank best filled?

What are some ways that you and your family might be replenished?

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Take a good look at this car. Someone was in so much of a hurry that they took off before the petrol hose had been properly removed.

Stephen Covey: How I Found my Calling, Discernment Resources
Stephen Covey: Coming Near with Understanding, Stories for Speakers and Writers