The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (1989)
Stephen R. Covey
London: Simon & Schuster (2004)
Stephen Covey’s book, published as the ‘loadsamoney’ 80s were coming to a sobering close brought a seriousness back to the self-development genre that had been missing for some time.
Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least (Goethe)
Drawing heavily on Covey’s doctoral research of the self-development genre, it combined the rigorousness of an engineering manual with the seriousness of Man’s Search for Meaning to create a work which, rather like Steven Hawkins A Brief History of Time, everyone seemed to have a copy of, but I’m not sure how many people actually managed to read it all the way through.
Sombre, preachy, ethical, moral and serious, yet with a genuine core of kindness and a gently glowing warmth, it spoke to people who sorely felt the need to put their house in order from the inside out.
Covey himself, as seen in the You-Tube clip below, has a Lutheran pastor quality about him. To a party-pooped 80′s generation it must have felt like they’d been busted by God himself.
Full of management speak, engineering diagrams, 2×2′s, matrices and principles, the book is, at its core, an impassioned plea for a return to ethics and character, and a turning away from the self-seeking ‘cult of personality’. Hugely influenced by Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, but sadly lacking its brevity, it sold over 15 million copies.
An overview of the 7 Habits:
1) Be proactive – your life is a product of your values, not your feelings. Take responsibility for your life and choose your responses to stimuli (here we can see the strong influence of Frankl). Live your life, rather than ‘be lived’.
2) Begin with the end in mind – get a mental image of where you want to end up in all areas of your life. Imagine your funeral eulogy. Craft your own mission statement. Start there, and work backwards to today and and thus shape your life in accordance with your values.
3) Put first things first – Use discipline and commitment to focus on those things that effectively move you towards the ‘end goals’ you have in mind.
4) Think Win/Win - Cultivate an ‘abundance’ mentality. Help others to succeed, there’s plenty to go round.
5) Seek to understand, then to be understood -Empathy and understanding is the ‘diagnosis’ that should always take place before action.
6) Synergize – the sum of the total is greater than the sum of the parts. Work together & celebrate difference. Strongly influenced by Benjamin Franklin, who Covey saw as an ethical role model
7) Sharpen the saw – Self-care and balance in all areas of our lives: physical, spiritual, mental and social in order to maintain effectiveness.