Saturday, January 2, 2016

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Title:  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Author:  Stephen R. Covey
Publication Information:  Simon & Schuster. 1989 (original publication). 432 pages.
ISBN:  1476740054 / 978-1476740058

Book Source:  I was introduced to this book by a manager years ago and recently re-read it.

Opening Sentence:  "In more than 25 years of working with people in business, university, and marriage and family settings, I have come in contact with many individuals who have achieved an incredible degree of outward success, but have found themselves struggling with an inner hunger, a deep need for personal congruency and effectiveness and for healthy, growing relationships with other people."

Favorite Quote:  "Love is a verb. Love – the feeling – is the fruit of love the verb or our loving actions."

A manager introduced me to this book years ago. I was young and newly out of school, looking to steer my career. The manager was a big believer in Stephen Covey's work and in the philosophy of this book. At the time, I read it. I nodded in agreement with most of the ideas. The ideas are not new and were not even then. Once I read them, they were even intuitive, eliciting the reaction, "Well, of course." I read it in deference to my boss and then put it aside.

The manager moved on. I moved on. School changes. Job changes. Family changes. Changes in life direction. Over the years, I found myself (and still find myself) drawn back to the paradigm presented in the book. It is an ideal, but it is an ideal that makes sense. Do I find myself able to implement each habit to its fullest? No, and maybe I never will. However, the principles provide a way to center my thoughts and ground myself. I find this to be true in my personal and professional life. That is why this book finds a permanent home on my bookshelf and why I still find myself recommending this book to others.

So what are the 7 habits?

The first three habits are internal, focusing on you as an individual or what the book terms "private victories:"
  • Be proactive - Take responsibility for your choices.
  • Begin with the end in mind - Determine the unalterable guiding principles that govern your life and set your goals to align with those principles.
  • Put first things first - Ensure that your time and efforts are invested into endeavors that are important to your goals.
The next three are more external, focusing on your interactions with others, whether personal or professional. The book terms these "public victories:"
  • Think win-win - When engaging with people, think of a third alternative that allows both individuals success in the interaction.
  • Seek first to understand, then to be understood - Seek truly to understand the speaker without imposing your own judgement or interpretation.
  • Synergize - The whole is often greater than the sum of the parts.
The final habit - Sharpen the saw - recognizes that we can only attain private and public victories if we first take care of ourselves. That care exists on multiple levels, addressing our physical, mental, social, and spiritual needs.

What I love about this paradigm is that it is so simply explained. The book reinforces the ideas with numerous professional and personal examples. Note that most of the personal examples are based on a parent-child relationship and may not be as relatable to a different audience. Nevertheless, the philosophy still applies.

The book also talks about the tools you can employ to live the seven habits. Stephen Covey built an entire business around tools such as planners and workshop to teach people how to implement these ideas. The book, however, focuses on the qualities such as portability and flexibility a tool should have. As such, the information in the book has not become dated. Our tools have become more and more powerful with the incorporation of technology. We have more at our fingertips, but each one of us still has to determine their best use for our goals.

Stephen Covey passed away in 2012, but he left us the legacy of his work, and I, for one, am thankful.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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