In my opinion, these four endowments from Steven Covey form the cornerstone of our progression to independence and autonomy as human beings. Each component interacts with the others to support and strengthen our individuality.
No one is perfect, and at any given time, one component will be more defined or developed than the others. However, through regular and periodic review and assessment, we can take responsibility for each attribute as it relates to our independence.
“Every human has four endowments- self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.” ~ Stephen Covey
1. Self awareness: From the very beginnings of our development as children, around 18 months old, we realize that we are separate from our parents. This realization is first manifested as a physical understanding. Then as we progress through childhood, we begin to distinguish ourselves psychologically, mentally and spiritually as distinct from not only our parents but our peers, teachers and bosses. This component is largely outward-inwardly focused. We are able to distill and define outside influences on our behavior and change accordingly and appropriately.
Part of this stage means that we recognize and take responsibility for our reactions to others. Blame is jettisoned. We realize our choices and our part in any given situation. Our perception shifts from “You make me feel….” to “When you ___________ I feel __________.”
2. Conscience: This can be construed as an awareness of others’ feelings and how OUR behavior effects them. Guilt, “right and wrong,”Â and a reconciling of morality falls within this component. Granted, as is stated above, each component interacts and is influenced by the others. Therefore, an ability to decide healthy boundaries for our actions is essential. Compassion and concern for the feelings of others is necessary for the health of a civilization. Learning how to accept responsibility for one’s own actions, without absorbing the perceptions of wrongdoing held by others enables us to operate independently of others. Some reference the quote, “What you think of me is none of my business” when making this distinction.
Of the components, this is the most kinetic. Will implies ACTION. Once discernment and identification of a certain course of action has been determined, will is the implementation of any such decision. The fact that “independent” is used within the definition of this component only serves to underscore the fact that you may be alone in your decision to act a certain way. You may hear a different drummer, know how to build a better mousetrap or choose not to follow the herd. You must rely on the strength of the other components when choosing to exercise your will, for most people will probably challenge you.
4. Creative imagination: This is literally the ability to see what others cannot. As the Henry Ford quote says, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” The person who fosters his or her capacity for independence sees beyond the current paradigm and offers something new. Although mechanized transport may not have been new, per se, creating the assembly line was. Seeing the automotive equivalent of the Gutenberg Press required creative imagination.
Learning how to recognize each endowment and where you are along your developmental scale takes time, silence and discipline. You may find that a hobby or a pattern helps you to hone this skill. Maybe you think best when you exercise, whether while riding a bike or jogging. Yoga or meditation are also ways to center the self and increase an awareness of our body/mind/spirit connection. Journaling is also a means through which some are able to learn more about themselves.
Whatever the method, faithful adherence will yield powerful results. By investing in yourself daily, you can take steps to achieving “the ultimate human freedom.”
Molly Cantrell-Kraig is a woman with drive. Possessing an innate sense of purpose and a pragmatic, solution-based approach to empowering people, she fused these two traits in order to establish the Women With Drive Foundation. Based upon its founder’s personal history,the Women With Drive Foundation is a means through which Cantrell-Kraig may effect change on both a micro and macro level. By providing women with something as essential as personal transportation in order to transition them from poverty to prosperity, she, through the Women With Drive Foundation, seeks to empower women to help them help themselves. Through this action, the individual applicant benefits, as does society as a whole. Follow Molly on twitter as @mckra1g or @WWDr1ve (Women With Drive)