Slightly Off Center

Slightly Off Center: Seven habits of highly reflective people.

By Dennis Hinkamp

by Dennis Hinkamp I think Steven R. Covey has milked the magical "seven habits" about as far as it can go. How can you tell? He added an 8th habit book. It's as if Moses delivered a last tablet containing Commandments 11 through 15.

I don't have any objections to making huge amounts of money on self-help books. What bothers me is that a lot of highly effective people are self-absorbed jerks. It's time for seven habits that aren't so centered on self. For the new year, I give you Seven Habits of Highly Reflective People.

1) Empathize.

It is really the fancy word for the Golden Rule and the aphorism to "walk a mile in my shoes," but sometimes you have to repackage wisdom to get people to listen. Or, think of it as regifting unto others as you would have them gift to you.

2) Fix something.

Even if it is not the most economical way to solve the problem, fixing something helps you recycle, reduces the load on the landfills and gives you an incredible feeling of accomplishment in a complex world where changing a light bulb labels you "handy." For the mechanically challenged, duct tape is the answer.

3) Actually cook something.

Opening cans and boxes and stirring them together is not cooking. Defrosting is not baking. A microwave oven is just a Department of Defense project gone bad. Even if it is only once a week, actually peel a carrot, an onion and a potato and take it from there. There is no fast food, just impatient people.

4) Walk somewhere.

Whatever the question, walking is the answer…exercise, reduced pollution, calmed nerves, parking  problems. If you don't walk, at least support those who do. Observe crosswalks and shovel your sidewalks in the winter. Remember that sidewalks are not extra parking spaces; and when it comes to crosswalks-you may have five airbags, but pedestrians have zero.

5) Get some religion.

Pray, meditate, chant, howl at the moon-whatever it takes. Yeah sure, it is contentious and illegal in schools but it is still a great personal time out amidst the howling rhetoric and personal affronts we face each day. Whatever your personal beliefs (or those of those lying presidential candidates), it will at least make you slow down.

6) Do something for

someone older than you.

This is one donation of your time and money that can be completely self-serving. Whatever you do to support the elderly now will also help you in the future. I know that I am one of those burdensome baby boomers, but you have to realize that although we will be a drag on social security for awhile, we will leave a lot of money and cool stuff in our inheritances.

7) Do something for someone younger than you.

The world will never be in sync until the best teachers are paid and respected more than the worst major league relief pitcher. Fund education even if you have no children. Fund education even if it means the roads will have more potholes. Fund education even if your paper boy decapitated one of your garden gnomes with an errant throw. u

Dennis Hinkamp would like to forgive the young man who decapitated his garden gnome because up until then that paperboy had a 99% completion rate. Who knows, the gnomes may have provoked him. They're weird that way.

This article was originally published on February 1, 2008.