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Musings – ‘Finding Your Voice’

written by Sulynn 29 October 2007

Sulynn, MAPP '06, lives with her daughter in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She provides consulting and coaching services, leading her own company, Human Capital Perspectives. Sulynn is also the founder of the Asian Center for Applied Positive Psychology (ACAPP). Full bio.

Sulynn's articles are here.

The 8th Habit

Today, I picked up Stephen R Covey’s book, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness to read and my attention was immediately riveted. Covey said that the 8th habit was not a forgotten additional habit to The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People which he published in 1989. Rather the 8th habit added a third dimension, moving from effectiveness to greatness. He says that all of us harbor a deep yearning to find our Voice – the meeting of our Talents (natural gifts and strengths), Passion (things which naturally energise, excite, motivate and inspire us), Need (what the world needs and is willing to pay us for), and Conscience (that still small voice within that assures us of what is right and prompts us into action).

Muhammad Yunus is cited as an example of one who had channelled the use of his talents and passion to meet a sensed human need (poverty) in response to his own conscience when he first stood guarantor for micro-loans to the poor and later set up the Grameen Bank.  (More about Muhammad Yunus in this article by Giselle Nicholson).

Voice is our “human spirit – full of hope and intelligence, resilient by nature, and boundless in its potential to serve the common good.” It represents our unique personal significance which is “revealed as we face our greatest challenges and makes us equal to them” (p. 5). We have four basic human needs, according to Covey, to live (survival – body), to love (relationships – social), to learn (growth and development – mind), and to leave a legacy (meaning and contribution – spirit). How much we give of ourselves to any cause or organization is a matter of choices that we make in response to the way we are treated and opportunities to use all four parts of  our nature (body, mind, social, and spirit) (p.22). 

And are these concepts very different from those studied in Positive Psychology?  Are Covey’s talents, passion, need, and conscience different from the following: strengths (as studied by researchers including Peterson, Park, Seligman, and Steen), drive (as studied by researchers including Ryan and Deci), meaning (as studied by researchers including Seligman and King), and morality (as studied by researchers including Haidt)?

I watched “Walkout” on cable TV yesterday. The movie told of how students of various ethnic minority groups in the state of California decided to do something to change the unfair treatment accorded to them during the early 1960s.  They staged a walkout in five schools seeking equal education for all and an end to discriminatory atrocities in school administration. I was inspired by the determination of these young ‘chicanos’ and ‘chicanas’ and wondered if I would ever do the same in a similar setting. My mum reminded me of the Tiannenmen incident and I thought of the fall of the Berlin Wall which had separated a people for decades. Happily, all these events led to positive changes.

I am grateful that I never had to fight for my freedom from tyranny, inequality, poverty, or other human restrictions. In the absence of extreme challenges to my human spirit, am I making my life ‘worthy’ of living? Covey’s book tells people to find their Voice and inspire others to find theirs. I know I have found my Voice – that which prompted me to join MAPP’06 and structure my life’s work resolutedly. Now I want to inspire others. What about you?


Covey, S. R. (2005). The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness. Free Press.

Covey, S. R. (2006). The 8th Habit Personal Workbook: Strategies to Take You from Effectiveness to Greatness. Free Press.

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Senia 29 October 2007 - 4:58 pm


Remember that interesting thing that Peterson and Seligman have told us at various times – that a person’s strength sometimes most comes out in a period of intensity? Your article reminded me of that. That there are some strengths that are consistent, day-to-day, and some that are called on in intense times.

I really like the four components of a voice. I have looked through the book, but not yet read it, and what you wrote makes the book sound interesting. Because of the emphasis on spiritual (i.e. conscience, morality), this four-part characterization also reminded me of the book about energy (this was a recent HBS article) The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. In that book, Loehr and Schwartz talk about managing four types of energies: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual (i.e. self-discipline and focus).


Margaret 30 October 2007 - 10:16 am

Sulynn – you are a role model for finding “voice”! As “ambassadors” of Positive Psychology and in our coaching role I believe we help others discover their voice, too. Miss you! Margaret


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