KEYSTONES AND STUMBLING BLOCKS

When you have aligned your time management system with the correct principles, the quality-of-life you can enjoy while working towards your ultimate destination is very high. In fact, the journey and the destination become one and the same. Stephen Covey identifies two keystones that enhance movement towards this ultimate destination and two stumbling blocks that hinder progress.

THE TWO KEYSTONES: CONTRIBUTION AND CONSCIENCE.

Of all the principles discussed so far, the two most essential keystones, identified by Covey are contribution (to leave a legacy) and conscience. While each of the four needs is vitally important, contribution gives meaning to and energizes the rest. While each of the four endowments is vitally important, conscience gives meaning to and energizes the rest. Together, contribution and conscience help us know where we want to go and how to get there.

Most of the ends of the independent achievement paradigm, in and of themselves, are empty. Without a content of meaningful purpose, they are illusory. Only as we focus more on contributing than consuming can we create the context that makes peace in all aspects of life possible. It is in leaving a legacy that we find meaning in living, loving, and learning.

Much of the third generation includes some combination of self-awareness, independent-will, and creative imagination. But without conscience, there is no peace. In positive psychology there is emerging what is called “integrity therapy,” a method of psychological treatment based on the idea that peace of mind, true happiness, and balance are a function of living a life of integrity to conscience. James Hillman believes that conscience taps into the universal sense of right and wrong common to all enduring cultures, regions, and societies through time.

Covey observes that the results of decades of experience in psychotherapy, positive mental attitude, and creative development validate the futility of trying to achieve peace and long-term quality of life without the crucial element of conscience. “Conscience is our connection to true north, the principles that make peace and quality of life possible.”

THE TWO STUMBLING BLOCKS: DISCOURAGEMENT AND PRIDE

Covey identifies discouragement and pride as the two most deadly roadblocks to peace.

Discouragement is literally dis-courage-ment – a lack of courage. Discouragement comes as a result of building our lives on illusion instead of principle, of facing the consequences of climbing ladders against wrong walls. It comes when we are tired, out of shape, or in debt, when we have broken relationships, when we are not growing, when we have no sense of meaning or purpose in life. It comes when we have no vision, when we live with imbalance, when we fail to achieve our goals. It comes when we get lost in urgent, limited perspective of the day, when we fail to act with integrity in the moment of choice. It comes when our thinking is competitive and scarce, when win-lose interactions fill our lives and our environment with backbiting, politicking, and comparative thinking.

Discouragement is being lost in the woods without a compass or an accurate map. It is discovering that many of the maps people hand us lead us farther away from where we really want to go.

Courage, on the other hand, comes as a result of knowing there are principles, of fulfilling our needs and capacities in a balanced way, or having a clear vision, balance between roles, the ability to set and achieve meaningful goals, the perspective to transcend the urgency of the moment of choice, the character and competence to act with integrity in the moment of choice, the abundance mentality to function effectively and synergistically in the interdependent reality. Courage comes from the heart, and being in touch with the heart creates hope.

Wherever we are, the best way to develop courage is to set a goal and achieve it, make a promise and keep it. No matter how small the goal or promise, this one act will begin to build our confidence that we can act with integrity in the moment of choice. As we begin to make and keep promises to ourselves and others, we take the first steps on a path that leads to confidence, growth, and peace.

An even greater stumbling block and the biggest danger to our effort to become principle-centered is pride. Although we often use the word to describe deep pleasure or high satisfaction toward something or someone – we may take pride in excellent work or be proud of a daughter who does something well- pride also describes one of the most destructive paradigms in life.

We can more easily understand this negative dimension when we think of the word “prideful.” A prideful person is essentially competitive in nature, constantly seeking to elevate himself or herself above others. In the words of C.S. Lewis: “Pride gets pleasure out having something, only out of having more than the next man … It is the comparison that makes you proud; the pleasure of being above the rest.”

Consider the impact of pride in fulfilling our fundamental needs and capacities.

  • Pride in living means people are not so much concerned with whether their income meets their needs, as they are that their income is more than someone else’s. They are always comparing their appearance – their hair, their clothing, their physique – to that of others.
  • Pride in loving comes when people measure their worth by the number and prestige of the friends they think they have, or the amount of praise they receive from others.
  • Pride in learning is not so much in what people know, but in whether they have the best degrees, the highest status.
  • Pride in leaving a legacy is not finding meaning in giving, but in giving more than others, in receiving recognition for giving.

Pride, Covey observes, is the ultimate parasite. There is no deep joy, no satisfaction, and no peace in it because there is always the possibility that someone else is better-looking or has more money, more friends, a bigger house, or a newer car.

Pride is insidious because it pollutes meaning and purpose. It dulls, ignores, and even dethrones conscience. As C.S. observed: “Pride is a spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.” It eventually leads to hate, envy, and war.

Prideful people get their security from how far up the ladder they are compared to others, rather than whether or not their ladder is leaning against the right wall. They feel worthwhile when they see people beneath them. The reward, the focus, is being ahead, even if it means being ahead in the wrong things.

And as well as from the top looking down, there is pride that comes from the bottom looking up. Covey cites copiously the words of a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and religious leader Ezra Taft Benson: “Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down on the rest of us. There is, however, a far more common ailment among us – and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many ways, such as fault-finding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous.”

Pride is the essence of scarcity mentality. It is devastating to peace. It creates a false integrity of alignment with extrinsic things. And consider the cost! How much time and energy is spent worrying over who has the most, does the most, looks the best, lives in the best part of town, has the largest office, makes more money, does more work, is of the most value?  “When the cry of competition is louder than the whisper of conscience, what is the impact in terms of really putting things first in our lives?”

The antidote for the poison of pride, Covey believes, is humility – the humility to realize that we are not an island, that the quality of our lives is inseparably connected to the quality of the lives of others, that meaning is not in consuming and competing, but in contributing. “We are not laws unto ourselves, and the more we begin to value principles and people, the greater will be our peace.”

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