Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saina Nehwal and the 7 Habits

Saina Nehwal and the 7 Habits of highly effective people

Saina Nehwal
  • one of the Top 5 badminton players of the world today.
  • one of the most admired non-cricketing sportsperson in a cricket-crazy country.
  • winner of the Khel-Ratna award, the country's highest sporting honour.
So what is it that makes Saina Nehwal tick?
What are Saina Nehwal's secrets of success?
What makes people call her 'Super Saina'?

While I pondered on these questions, I decided to tally & compare the life of Saina Nehwal against Dr. Stephen R. Covey's 7 habits of highly effective people, to check where she stands against each of these points.

Stephen Covey's book presents an Inside-out approach to effectiveness, that is centered on principles and on character. Inside-out means the change starts within oneself.

And here are my views & observations on Saina Nehwal Vs. 7 habits of highly effective people
Habit 1: Be Proactive

Synopsis: Proactive people are driven by values that are independent of the surrounding environment or on how people treat them. Proactive people use their resourcefulness and initiative to find solutions within their area of influence and control, rather than just reporting problems and waiting for other people to solve them.

So talking about Saina Nehwal - is she proactive?
For Saina Nehwal & her family, this point has to be a definite YES.

Saina came from a middle-class family in Haryana. Her father Harvir Singh, who was a scientist with the Directorate Oil Seeds research at Hyderabad and her mother were both badminton players and former state champions in Haryana. So it was but natural that Saina took to badminton at a very early age in life. When she was only 8 her potential at badminton became obvious.

But potential is one thing and realizing it by going the full distance is another. The tough journey had begun. Half of the monthly salary started getting spent on Saina's badminton requirements. Shuttles, Rackets, and Shoes did not come cheap.

Moreover, Saina had to travel more than 20 km everyday and reach the stadium at 6 am to attend a 2 hour training, and then again was the long journey back home, and then travelling again to attend school. Life must have been tough! It reached such levels, that her father had to withdraw money again & again from Provident Fund savings to fund her training. Added to this was the risk of lagging behind at school & education.

Considering all these factors, the easy way out for Saina & her parents, would have been to accept all this as beyond their means, and to try and be satisfied with whatever National level success Saina had achieved thus far. But the Nehwal family was different. They were not ready to let go of the dream.

Saina Nehwal & her family's case purely demonstrates the power of being Proactive instead of reactive. A case that demonstrates how proactive people work on their area of influence rather than reporting problems and backing out.
(such as on the one hand her father withdrawing money from PF, and on the other hand Saina showing continuous improvement on the badminton courts)

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind.
An emphatic YES again for Saina Nehwal for this habit also.
The Nehwal family had a dream. To see Saina climb the pinnacle of success in the badminton world. She & her family never seems to have let go of the dream. Her interviews reflect on how she holds on to the dream of an Olympics medal. I also recently saw one of her interviews where she seemed to say that winning tournaments are what she wants, and that the world rankings would take care of themselves.

If this approach is not the 'Begin with the end in mind' approach then what is?
Habit 3: Put first things first
Practice. Practice. Practice. Focus. Focus. Focus.
This is apparently what Saina Nehwal does, and that's undoubtedly the single-most important reason for her success. I have heard that apart from the training that she does at the P Gopichand academy, she also further spends additional time on work-outs and fitness at home, as also on meditation.

If this is not Putting first things first, then what is? I mean, Saina Nehwal would also like to hang out with friends, spend time on movies, have fun & parties. But does she? In an interview her father said, she did not do any of this for 7 straight years, those early initial years.
Of course Saina Nehwal now has recently gone ahead and had a trendy makeover recently and has started appearing in a few ads also, but as long as she still sticks to the 'Put first things first' policy, she should keep achieving fairly well.
Here are some nice quotes related to this habit.
"Motivation is what gets you started, Habit is what keeps you going" - Jim Ryun, an American Athlete
"Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it." - Henry David Thoreau
Habit 4: Think Win-win

Synopsis: Seek agreements & relationships that are mutually beneficial.

Recently Saina Nehwal could not attend a super series tournament, due to nursing an injury, and the organizers still wanted her to come and talk to the media, to which, finally a win-win situation such as video conferencing with the media was proposed. Can we call this thinking win-win seeking mutually beneficial agreements. Maybe we should.

As regards win-win relationships, Saina Nehwal has worked with several coaches, prior to Gopichand also, and it must have surely been a mutually beneficial relationships for them. Saina developing her game, and the coaches getting their best student ever.

Habit 5: Seek first to understand & then be understood.
I think with Saina Nehwal this point has to be a YES again.
Over the years, Saina's various interviews have reflected her concern for the second-rung badminton players who still have to struggle hard to keep going towards success. Be it Sania Mirza or Cricket or badminton in India, her views are clear enough, and can such clear views come without a clear understanding?

Habit 6: Synergize

Saina Nehwal super badminton star.
P Gopichand super badminton coach.
The synergy between the two of them, has led to success for both. The year that Saina won the prestigious Arjuna award for best sportsperson, also saw P Gopichand winning the equally prestigious Dronacharya award for best coach.

This is how synergy works. The sum is always greater than the parts.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw.
Synopsis: Taking time out to sharpen the skills, through renewal of the physical, mental, social/emotional and spiritual dimensions, and maintaining a balance between these dimensions.

When Saina Nehwal has opted out of tournaments due to nursing any injury (this is the time when she cannot practice badminton also), she has tried out different things, be it photo shoots, advertisements, and public appearances. I think this is a case of sharpening social skills, meet necessary requirements and try and achieve a fuller work-life balance.

And as far as badminton practice comes, can anyone doubt that Saina Nehwal does not sharpen the saw? Her results on the badminton court are ample proof.


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