Health Care Dialogue
Kim S. Hwang, PsyD
July 21, 2012
Dear Dr. Hwang: I was heartbroken to learn that Steven Covey passed away. He authored, “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.” What do you think are habits of highly successful Asian people?
Dear Mr. or Ms. Asian Person: I too was sad to hear that the famous author Steven Covey had passed away at the age of seventy-nine years young. Covey’s work reminded us to operate out of a sense of abundance versus overwhelming feelings of disparity. In many ways, his philosophical beliefs are similar to some Eastern philosophers such as, the Dali Lama, Thich Nhat Hahn and Pema Chodron. Many Asian traditional beliefs promote harmony over independence, collectivism over individualism and gratitude over materialism.
My perspective is that Steven Covey worked to underscore traits and processes of people who are able to transcend beyond challenges towards insight, fortitude and reconciliation by drawing on positive habits of behavior. I was especially fond of his quote, “Keep the main thing, the main thing.” Covey’s, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People included: Be proactive, Begin with the end in mind, Put first things first, Think win-win, Seek first to understand, then to be understood, synergize, Sharpen the saw.
However, identifying habits of highly effective people into seven habits may also seem simplistic to some. Yet, it created a framework of valuable ideas to draw from, a starting point if you will. It created a place to begin, for those of us who needed something more than nothing. Positive habits are difficult to develop and there is definitely no magic number of habits that creates a life that feels highly effective. He proposed that the seven effective habits would lead to increased freedom and wisdom, which would elevate one’s sense of personal power.
Effectiveness is complicated and relative to each person, culture, ethnic group, religious group, family unit and individual. The definition of effectiveness and success itself is highly controversial across the globe. High effectiveness is likely full of intricate twists and thorny turns. While we often hear about the accolades of famous people on the news, along with all of the glory that follows, we rarely gain access to behind the scenes footage of what it takes to obtain levels of high notoriety.
Recently, I asked a young Asian American businesswoman if I could interview her for a feature story. She is an amazing entrepreneur and provides high quality services to all of her customers. Her unique style of craftsmanship and artistic abilities helps the business thrive. In addition, she consistently fixates on following through with high levels of customer service care. She declined the interview. When I asked her why she was disinterested, she stated, “If my work doesn’t speak for itself, then I am not successful. If my work is good, then people will hear about me word of mouth.”
When I started writing this response about what makes Asian in particular effective, I immediately thought of an Asian journalist who inspires me, whose name is Lisa Ling. I typed into Google, “Famous quotes by Lisa Ling,” assuming there would be pages of quotes that capturing ideas about what makes some Asians highly effective.
This is what came up, “One quote by Lisa Ling.” I loved that there was only one quote published because it reminded me of Steve Covey’s quote, “Keep the main thing the main thing.” Some Asians may not always have a lot to say, because we’re busy about being who we want to be about?” This is what Ms. Lisa Ling had to say in her ONE Internet quote,
“As a journalist, I have seen things that have scarred me. I have interacted with people who have haunted me. I have heard things that have pained me. As a result, I have long struggled with the notion of faith. I have said more times than I can count, “If there is a God, how can he allow this to happen? How can he let so many people suffer? Several years ago, I married a man of strong faith. One day he sent an email to me that said this: “On a street corner I saw a cold, shivering girl in a thin dress, with no hope of a decent meal. I got angry and said to God, ‘Why did you permit this? Why don’t you do something about it?’ God replied, ‘I certainly did something about it. I made you.
Whenever I start to blame God for what I encounter in the world, I stop and remind myself that maybe it is I who should be doing more. We get so hung up on the notion of success that we can easily forget about being of service to others. I have actually found that giving of oneself is far more fulfilling than gifting oneself.”
To answer your question, “What do you think are habits of highly effective Asians?” My opinion today is, “Maybe, we have one highly effective habit which is, simply being.”