There are two ways you can approach these seven “optimizers” we’ve just described. You can simply do them . . . and you will get results.
Or you can do them with awareness. You can do them in a way that will produce results and build your navigational intelligence in the process.
Remember from Chapter 2, you build your navigational capacity by:
As you do these optimizers, you can discover and extract the principles involved. You can find at their root timeless principles such as responsibility, focus, alignment, dependability, and contribution. And as you learn to consciously recognize and value such principles, you build and strengthen your own framework for principle-based navigation.
As you evaluate your own experience in implementing these optimizers, you can improve your ability to discern when you’re out of harmony with timeless principles. If you begin to feel victimized at work, for example, you can recognize that you’re out of harmony with the principle of responsibility. If you find yourself being distracted from Job One, you can recognize that you’re not in harmony with the principles of focus and alignment. You can learn to more quickly feel the deviation and immediately course-correct.
As you consider these optimizers, you can also invite inspiration to come up with effective ways to apply them and the principles involved in your unique situation. You can find personalized ways to become more proactive, for example, or to contribute in more meaningful ways.
Improving your navigational intelligence will help you make better decisions concerning your work—from major decisions concerning what you do and when you do it, to the seemingly small but vitally important decisions you make every day.
Several years ago I was invited to work on a project with Stephen Covey. He wanted to translate the life-changing material he had worked on and taught for 25 years into a book so it could reach many more people than those who had attended his seminars and speeches.
I was thrilled. I loved Stephen’s powerful ideas and his unique way of capturing and expressing them. I had a strong feeling that The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People would be a pivotal work that would impact many lives for good.
But I also had reservations. For more than 20 years my chosen and primary focus had been on our own home and family. Though I’d taken some classes, participated in community affairs, and collaborated with Roger on a few articles and a short book on time management, we had managed our lives so that most of the time I could be where I felt strongly I wanted to be—at home, with mind and heart focused on raising our children.
We still had children at home, and I sensed that Stephen’s project would require a great deal of time and effort and that this was something I wouldn’t be able to “fit in” between all the things I was trying to do for our family. But after careful consideration, I also felt in my heart that it was something I really should do. So we hired someone to help out at home, and inspired by the material and by Stephen, I retreated to the basement and began the project with enthusiasm.
As the days went by, the struggle I had only anticipated became very real. More and more, I became aware of things I had always done for my family that I couldn’t do now. I discovered that in addition to the big decision to work on the book, there were little decisions every day—the number of hours I worked, the way I interacted with family members during family time, how I handled interruptions, the priority I placed on various family activities—that flowed together to create the direction my life and our family life was taking. It was really difficult at first. But over time I discovered that the more I worked to develop and pay attention to my navigational intelligence, the better I became at responding to the highest priority need at the time.
When the final product was at last turned in, I snapped back like a rubber band, throwing myself into homemaking and mothering with a gusto that astonished even me. I was very happy to be back in my chosen career. But I was also tremendously grateful for the opportunity I’d had to contribute. I found that my months of working with the 7 Habits material had made me a better person. The content had worked its way more deeply into my personal life, into my family life. Despite the temporary season of imbalance it created in our lives, it seemed we were all better off because of the effort.
On one occasion, the company I was working for was going through intense growth. Rebecca and I made the decision to go into a period of conscious imbalance for a while. Though it meant I would be away from the family an inordinate amount of time according to our standards, we agreed that I’d spend more time on the road. We felt it would make an important contribution to the business and would help us accomplish our shared long-term goals.
Things went well. We accomplished the company goals, and Rebecca and I teamed well to take up the slack at home. But when the agreed period of time was over, I found it was difficult to back off. There were many pressures to continue. The imbalanced lifestyle had become a way of life.
More and more, I found I was asking myself, “Am I allowing good things to take the place of best things?” As I thought through the situation and listened to my heart, I began to feel that I needed to take a stand and set some limits on the number of nights I would be gone each month.
Setting that limit wasn’t easy. There were certainly pressures to do otherwise. But I’m convinced that, for me, that decision was right. It increased quality time with the family, gave me more freedom to contribute to church and community efforts, and allowed me to work on books we otherwise could never have written.
From the big work decisions to small ones, the quality of our decisions is directly related to the degree of navigational intelligence we have developed.
The two of us have tremendous respect for the power of navigational intelligence. The best decisions in our lives have come as we’ve developed and paid attention to it. Our worst mistakes have come when we’ve ignored it. We are convinced that the combination of timeless principles, examined experience, and inspiration simply can’t be beat as a powerful tool for living in harmony with what matters most.