Two years ago I picked up this book, by Stephen Covey—The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. During that time I was going through rough life obstacles, I had just paid off $25,000 in debt using all the green in my bank account and I definitely needed inspiration. Music wasn’t doing it for me this time around, usually I would try the same thing over and over again, thinking it would work somehow, even though it had failed me miserably before. Instead I did some research and stumbled upon this book–first opening the book I realized the inspiration in the book was going to take a lot of willpower to make it effective. Looking more into the history of the book, I found out that this book was published the same year I was born, in 1989 and sold over 25 million copies–and counting!
I fell in love and I was only 50 pages in, this is the kind of book that isn’t meant to be read at a fast pace to get through the pages. This is the kind of book that you read each page 2-3 times over because there is an enormous amount of information, not to mention the awesome quotes and the history of historical figures like Benjamin Franklin, Pascal, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Socrates–just to mention a few. There are quotes that are worth indulging your time in and seek the different meanings that could amount from them. I was reading about the author and many articles stated one common comment about his writing for this particular book, “Stephen Covey chose his words carefully, as if plucking wisdom from the universe and carefully placing it in our minds in a profound and provocative way”. While going through each page carefully, with highlighter in hand to map out what is important to me; I found that his words were truly at a high level of communication, as if Stephen Covey was talking to you in person.
Covey introduces two different ways to classify people, one being The Character Ethic and The Personality Ethic. The difference? Personality Ethic is to live life using shortcuts and manipulations that have fast acting results, this might sound like a good way of being until you seek what it entails–this is a “quick-fix influence techniques, power strategies, communication skill training–secondary traits as Covey describes them. The Character Ethic was the foundation of success before World War I, this involved traits things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden Rule which comes from Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography.
The best way to describe the difference is by quoting Covey himself, “If I try to use human influence strategies and tactics to get other people to do what I want, to work better, to be more motivated, to like me and each other–while my character is fundamentally flawed, marked by duplicity and insincerity–then, in the long run, I cannot be successful”. He explains that duplicity will breed distrust and using, “So-called good human relations techniques–will be perceived as manipulative”. There is a quote in the reading from the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say”– explaining that secondary greatness (social recognition) v.s. primary greatness (goodness in one’s’ character).
The 7 habits are then introduced:
Habit 1: Be Proactive, “Taking responsibility for your life. You can’t keep blaming everything on others. Proactive people recognize that they are “response-able.” They don’t blame genetics, circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior.”
Habit 2: Begin With The End of Mind, “Based on imagination–the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes. It is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There is a mental (first) creation, and a physical (second) creation.”
Habit 3: Put First Things First, “Beginning with the End in Mind is about vision. Habit 3 is the second creation, the physical creation. This habit is where Habits 1 and 2 come together. It happens day in and day out, moment-by-moment.” Habit 3 is about life management, your purpose, values, roles, and priorities.
Habit 4: Think Win-Win, “Win-win sees life as a cooperative arena, not a competitive one. Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-win means agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying. We both get to eat the pie, and it tastes pretty darn good!”
Habit 5: Seek First To Understand, Than To Be Understood, “You filter everything you hear through your life experiences, your frame of reference. You check what you hear against your autobiography and see how it measures up. And consequently, you decide prematurely what the other person means before he/she finishes communicating.”
Habit 6: Synergize, “When people begin to interact together genuinely, and they’re open to each other’s influence, they begin to gain new insight. The capability of inventing new approaches is increased exponentially because of differences.”
Habit 7: Sharpen The Saw, “As you renew yourself in each of the four areas, you create growth and change in your life. Sharpen the Saw keeps you fresh so you can continue to practice the other six habits. You increase your capacity to produce and handle the challenges around you.”
Stephen Covey tells his readers and followers not to read his book and put it aside, the human brain is complex and needs to stay updated while enduring life’s unexpectancies; read the book and read it again and again, as if it was the book of life. I personally always resort to Covey’s teaching during my day-to-day tasks and interactions with people, whether that be business or pleasure. If one gets to accomplish habits 1 & 2 as the spark of their personal renewal, the results are out of this world! One thing I have noticed during my renewal; if you change, things will change and adapt to your new way of being–naturally.
I would like to end with one of my favourite quotes from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Into the hands of every individual is given a marvelous power for good ro evil–the silent, unconscious, unseen influence of his life. This is simply the constant radiation of what man really is, not what he pretends to be” – William George Jordan.