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Dr. Stephen Covey and the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People with Diabetes

Published: 10/31/07
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An international authority on leadership, family, and organizational values, Dr. Stephen R. Covey is perhaps best known for his self-help book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which has sold more than 20 million copies in 20 languages. In 1996 Time magazine named him one of the 25 most influential Americans, and his awards range from International Man of Peace to National Fatherhood Award.

Several years ago, Covey's wife, Sandra, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. "She's had some ups and downs," Covey told us, "but she keeps the scoreboard and she knows exactly where [her blood sugar] is. I'm very proud of her."

Although the 74-year-old Covey is not necessarily a health expert (he has an MBA from Harvard and a doctorate from Brigham Young), Bayer Diabetes Care approached him to collaborate with the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), and as a result, Covey has written a brochure called "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People with Diabetes."

The brochure also includes AADE's own seven self-care behaviors (AADE7), which it introduced several years ago. These goals are Healthy Eating, Being Active, Monitoring, Taking Medication, Problem Solving, Healthy Coping, and Reducing Risks. Additionally, there is an "Action Plan" that stresses easy-to-achieve self-care goals. "Remember to aim for progress, not perfection." Bayer distributed the pamphlet at its exhibit at the AADE meeting in St. Louis (see our highlights in Conference Pearls), where Covey also gave the closing talk. We think Bayer made a great call on this; the pamphlet was one of the best giveaways that we saw in the exhibit hall. You can get it free here.

In an interview with diaTribe, Covey said that his seven habits for highly effective diabetes patients were derived from the same habits that he identified for successful people in his first book. As he pointed out, these habits are universal, and indeed most of them will look familiar to anyone versed in the literature of diabetes education: being proactive, having a clear goal, achieving small goals first, etc. But Covey says this approach works because "it's a sequential framework; that's the key." You can track your progress, measure your successes, and stay motivated, he says. Also important is working with others who will hold you accountable and help you achieve your goals.

We know that such guidance has been offered, in rough terms, by others over the years, but Covey's track record suggests that he has a way of framing issues that gets results. Let us know if you think so too. We hope that this is just the beginning of his involvement in diabetes - whether he is motivated by his wife or humanitarianism, we hope he will stay involved, speak out often on the subject, and help find new and better ways to motivate and inspire patients.

"The key to life is to serve other people - that is the source of true happiness, not pleasure," Covey told diaTribe.

So for now, we'll believe that better things are around the corner - or, as Covey said to us in a wonderful turn of phrase: "Live life in crescendo."

7 Habits Of Highly Effective People With Diabetes

  1. Be Proactive. 
    Take charge of your diabetes management and choose to follow the AADE7: choose to eat healthily, choose to adopt an active lifestyle, choose to monitor blood glucose regularly, choose to take your medication, choose to reduce your risk of complications and choose to be a healthy person with diabetes.

  2. Begin with the End in Mind. 
    Create a vision for your life, based on what is more important to you. Adopt the AADE7 as a guide and set one manageable goal at a time. If we take the goal of Being Active, you could start by walking up the stairs instead of using the escalator. Monitoring could mean putting Post-its at strategic points in the kitchen to remind you to do pre and post-prandial blood glucose tests. The limits on the possibilities are set by the limits of your imagination, so get creative.

  3. Put First Things First. 
    Prioritize your tasks based on what is truly important. Choose the behavior among the AADE7 that you think would be the most challenging to execute and make that your top priority. Keep your vision in mind when tackling this challenge, and it will seem much easier to deal with.

  4. Think Win-Win. 
    Build strong relationships with others by helping them succeed as well. This is the first habit of interpersonal leadership - the first three habits are geared to help you master personal leadership. This is one of the less tangible habits since it is based more on a mindset than a set of actions.

  5. Think First to Understand, then to be Understood. 
    Listen with your mind and heart, then make yourself understand. It is important to truly listen to advice from your health care team and make a conscious effort to understand their messages.

  6. Synergize. 
    Build relationships with others to help you make progress in every area in life. This follows directly from Habit 5 and emphasizes the importance of working in concert with your health care team and other support groups in the quest for good diabetes management. Remember, "always synergize with the goal of progress, not perfection!"

  7. Sharpen the Saw. 
    Keep all parts of yourself sharp: physical, mental, social, and spiritual. The idea here is maintaining the balance between these different spheres of your being. The closer you are to attaining this equilibrium, the clearer you will see that diabetes has not changed your life... you have changed your life.


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