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Author Hyrum Smith Shares a New Way to Look at and Shape Reality

Hyrum Smith

Hyrum Smith talks with conference attendees after his presentation.

Photo by Steve Eaton.

Hyrum Smith, cofounder of Franklin-Covey, and the author of several time management books, spoke to students and business leaders at USU earlier this month and told them he didn’t have a single new idea he could share with them.

“The basic principles that help a human being become more productive and effective have not changed for 6,000 years,” he said.

Mr. Smith, who is now the chairman and CEO of Legacy Quet, Inc., then introduced a concept that was probably new to most attendees. He called it the "Reality Model" and said it was a way of looking at beliefs, behavior, and results.

Mr. Smith, the author of several books, including “What Matters Most” and “The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management,” spoke at the 38th Annual Partners In Business Operational Excellence Conference. He said sometimes people and companies don’t progress as they could because they fail to examine the underlying assumptions they have, and realize that those beliefs may be generating unwanted results for them. (See diagram.)

He said people instinctively try to meet four needs:

  • To live
  • To love and be loved
  • To experience variety
  • To feel important

Everyone develops a set of beliefs that he said are on their “belief window,” or in other words, the way they look at and interpret life. Those beliefs help us create rules that we live by that, in turn, motivate us to take action. He maintained that by objectively looking at the results of that action, we can examine whether our assumptions on our belief window are correct.

Mr. Smith used the example of someone who had a belief that their self-worth was dependent on never losing an argument. He said if a man who had that belief got in an argument with his 10-year-old son, he would insist upon winning the debate no matter what. He suggested that someone with such a belief might want to look at the results it creates in their lives and ask themselves if, in the long term, it is meeting their needs.

“If you want peace in your lives, you had better invest in a vat of industrial-strength Windex and clean up your belief window,” he said.

In an interview after his presentation he talked of the pace of life and the increasing focus on the short-term, especially when a company goes public and begins defining its progress in 90-day increments.

“Companies that endure are companies that are able to look past this year, in my opinion,” he said.

Some people instinctively are drawn to urgent things and take pride in their ability to put out fires, he said. Anyone can get into a reactive mode and then things like e-mail can begin driving their day, he said.

“Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to close the door of your office, put your feet on your desk, close your eyes and think,” he said. “Just think for 10 or 15 minutes. Why don’t we do that?”

He said people are concerned that if someone caught them in such a mode they would be thought unproductive.

“So we equate activity with productivity,” he said.

While Mr. Smith teaches the importance of prioritizing and planning each day, he said people should be careful not to become too rigid in the execution of their plan when the unexpected comes up.

“There may be things that arrive that take me away from my plan but get me closer to my overall objective,” he said. “So being on plan isn’t necessarily the most important thing. What’s important is that I’m moving the project in the right direction.”

The Reality Model