Steven Covey’s immensely successful bestseller, the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, has sold well over fifteen million copies worldwide and has guided many to live fuller and more productive lives. The book lists seven principles that, if established as habits, are supposed to help a person achieve true interdependent effectiveness.
I wish to focus specifically on the third habit listed in the book: Put First Things First. Covey describes a framework for prioritizing work that is aimed at long-term goals, at the expense of tasks that appear to be urgent, but are in fact less important.
Now although the book was written for individuals to implement personally into their lives, some of its guidelines can and should be applied to our collective practices in order to improve and impact our effectiveness as human beings striving for the betterment of this world in which we live.
More specifically, this third habit and principle of focused prioritizing could definitely be applied to the way that we consume news headlines, and how we choose where to turn our attention in regard to the happenings of the world around us.
If we are to take responsibility for our world and for our children’s future, our interest and attention should be prioritized to addressing the issues of pressing importance first. Our energy should be directed towards issues that affect the direction in which the world is headed, global threats and concerns, the plight of the oppressed and the suffering.
To a large degree, even respectable media platforms are flush with gossip news items that have very little impact or relevance to us as individuals, and distract readers from exposure to important and urgent matters that should be demanding applied attention.
The immense popularity of celebrity stalking websites and television stations that delve into the personal lives of pop stars bears further testimony to a culture of misdirected interest, and a lack of concern and focus on the important and urgent. Recent figures also show that TIME magazine has a lower weekly circulation than People celebrity gossip magazine.
The possible danger of this malady was highlighted in a stark fashion last week with the death of Michael Jackson. When the sudden news of Jackson’s death broke it replaced the ongoing important headlines tracking the plight of oppressed dissenters to Iran’s phony elections. As activity in Iran was all but obscured, this no doubt granted a period of grace for the barbaric Ayatollah’s of Iran, allowing them to quell the protests while the eyes of the world where intensely focused on news of the mega entertainers death.
Of course Michael Jackson’s death is a big deal, and obviously it has its place in the headlines, but it should not completely obscure our interest and concern with happenings in Iran. After all there are no long term connotations in Michael Jackson’s death, no nuclear concerns that could throw the world order off balance and threaten the lives of millions.
While it is easy to blame the various media barons and their outlets for feeding us the information we process, ultimately, those in charge will always respond to the demands of the market, and in this case we are the market and we should strive to make the right demands.
If we wish to be “highly effective” as human beings working together for the benefit of mankind, it would no doubt be a great start to work at incorporating this habit of strict prioritizing into the way we consume information, setting aside news that appears urgent but is in fact not important and keeping our eyes on the real issues, those that will affect our collective future.