You know about the legendary and wildly popular book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. This is one of my favorite self-help books. Not only is it straightforward (no bull) and truly empowering but, it is easy to read and understand (I read it when I was 12 years old). I highly recommend it.
Now, since we are diabetics here is how to apply each of Covey’s 7 habits to diabetes management:
1st Habit- “Be proactive”
Covey says this is about “taking responsibility for your life”. This means if you have type 1 diabetes you are better off owning up to the fact that you control your actions and these will either negatively or positively affect your health. This means you do not blame diabetes for your life being miserable or not what you want it to be. This means you feel good because you choose to feel good and you feel bad-not because of the diabetes, but because again, you are choosing it. And you choose to continuously work to improve glucose control.
If you have type 2 diabetes there is a good chance your lifestyle can be tweaked a bit and taking responsibility for that is the first step to making the necessary lifestyle changes to get your health back. The good news about not blaming anyone or anything is you get to hold the power for change within yourself.
2nd Habit- “Begin with the end in mind”
Imagine what kind of diabetic you want to be. Sickly or healthy? Are you a victim of a disease or in charge of it? Do you want to live to see your grandchildren? Do you want to stay healthy and live a full, happy, and active life?
Every time you check your blood sugar think about how you are taking a step towards ensuring the positive future you have envisioned for yourself. You may just want to envision having a feel good day and begin each day working towards that. You may want to become a (fill in the blank) and adhering to your diet and exercise plan is your vehicle to get there. Or maybe your dream is to become a pilot and you’ll be damned if any laws preventing diabetics from becoming pilots will prevent you from becoming one.
The point is, if you have no goal in mind taking care of yourself becomes almost impossible. You may feel you don’t have anything to work for and therefore let the diabetes control slip. After all, why are you trying so hard to maintain good control of the diabetes? Because if not your doctor will lecture you about complications? That isn’t enough motivation. So as you make any decision big or small, think-“Am I beginning with the end in mind?” And just a tip: instead of imagining what you don’t want, such as blindness, think about what you DO want, to maintain great healthy vision! Positive motivation always wins against negative motivation.
3rd Habit- “Put first things first”
This one is pretty self-explanatory. When it comes to taking care of yourself we often consider all sorts of things. For example, we all want certain material things, we want friends, loved ones, we want to do something we are passionate about, and we want to be healthy. As a diabetic, your health is sometimes teetering on the brink. Diabetes management is so crucial because if you fail at it, your health will fail. The problem with health failing is everything else in your life will undoubtedly be affected.
So when we think as diabetics, about which things to “put first” we need to have our diabetes management at the top of our priority list. If you don’t, you won’t be healthy, your loved ones will suffer, you won’t be able to do that thing you are passionate about, and all the material possessions in the world won’t be any consolation.
4th Habit- “Think win-win”
Covey says that meeting conflict with a “win-win” attitude means you have to be fearless and yet considerate.
Thinking “win-win” can inspire you to take care of your diabetes not only for yourself but, out of love for those you are close to. And not only for yourself and loved ones but, for everyone. The national cost of diabetes in healthcare is unbelievably high and since our costs are tied up together, we also need to do our part. If I don’t take care of myself I indirectly impact everyone in my society. That is how I think of it. So I try to take best care possible since it benefits me, family, friends, and everybody else.
Also, did you know your genes can be manipulated by your lifestyle habits as well? The better you take care of your health, the better genes you will be passing onto your children, whether you are a man or a woman. What better gift to give your children and their children’s children than good health genes?
5th Habit- “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”
As a diabetic, we often seek to be understood. We wish for others to really know what its like to be in our shoes and we hope people give money to fund research for the cure and we pray we won’t be judged for not always taking care of ourselves.
But, what about the flip side? Do we help causes other than our own? Are we the kind of individual who first tries to understand the single mother living in poverty who is always tired and lets her child eat whatever he wants? Or the black sheep in the family who we swear up and down is just “weird”? What about the obese person who honestly puts in a lot of effort to lose weight but, isn’t met with results? If we knew their story would we understand their actions?
As a diabetic, I know we diabetics deserve compassion, understanding, empathy, patience-all those nice things. Yet, we can’t expect any of that without first giving the same. Once we do so a magical thing happens: we get it back. We can begin doing this by just listening to others. Just listening.
6th Habit- “Synergize”
Covey defines this as “the habit of creative cooperation”. He defines it simply to mean “that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Great diabetes management means you are able to somehow adapt to endless varying circumstances. Here is how you might use synergy in your life as it pertains to your diabetes:
You want to improve your diabetes management and all of your loved ones want you to as well. You are honest with yourself about what you are doing right and what your weaknesses are. You are open to your loved one’s honest opinions and suggestions. You read about diabetes so you can fully understand the ins and outs of the disease. You join a diabetes support group. You follow a few diabetes blogs. You read some inspirational and self-help books to help you on your way. You find yourself feeling interested in improving your diabetes management and feel a sense of empowerment come over you. From different books, groups, and people you find yourself taking in all kinds of helpful and/or inspiring information. You are learning so much and your mind is open to new ideas. You find the strength to make hard decisions and you do right by your goals and values. Your diabetes management improves greatly and you have newfound energy and focus in life. You are happy, excited to be alive, and ready to take on the world.
Basically, you take in all the good from your surroundings and be open to all the opportunities it has to offer. Give and take and see what wonderful things arise in your life.
(this is a tough chapter in the book so I really recommend reading Covey’s words directly to fully understand and appreciate this concept)
7th Habit- “Sharpen the saw”
In the phrase “sharpen the saw” the “saw” is you. This means you need to take care of yourself. If you are falling apart in some area, you are unlikely to keep to the previous 6 habits.
Covey suggests taking care of your physical self, spiritual self, intellectual self, and social or emotional self.
It is about “living a life in balance”. This is simple yet complex. A great way to strive for balance is to regularly assess these different areas in your life and give attention to whatever seems to be lacking.
You can be a highly effective person, but not only that- you can be a highly effective person with diabetes.
Good luck to you. (And me)
Quotes taken from the book and from Stephen Covey’s website