Book Review :: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I can’t think of more appropriate book review to end 2009 on…. or maybe it is to start 2010.

Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has been on my TBR pile for years and years, and just now have I taken the time to read it. And, I’m really sorry for the lost time.

I’ve told a couple of people as I’ve been reading 7 Habits that this should be required reading for every high school senior, and then it should be re-read every ten years after. 7 Habits is as applicable to the stay-at-home mom as it is the CEO of a large company or someone whose salary depends on cold-call selling. It should also be required reading as part of any premarital counseling.

In very practical, logical, sequential but deeply meaningful ways, Stephen Covey describes how to achieve a meaningful life. While the title uses the word effective, I think that what 7 Habits teaches is much more than that. 7 Habits reaches into the core of our life – not just what it is made up of, but why it exists and how we can actively make it better. Think of every other self-help book that you’ve read. They are like the exercise program that is going to whip your body into shape. 7 Habits is the re-scripting chemical that actually changes the DNA.

I am a big proponent of goal setting. In fact, this Fall I’ve gotten quite adept at leading a goal setting workshop. One of the things I loved about this book is it has you step back from your goal setting and think about why you have the goals you do – it has you write a personal mission statement that constitutes your core values by which you not only set goals, but make decisions, solve problems, negotiate roadblocks, etc.

There are many “nuggets” within 7 Habits, and most of these are things we’ve heard before; but here they are given within a framework illustrating why they are so important and how they can fundamentally change our effectiveness as an individual. Some of them are:

  • The importance of being proactive rather than reactive.
  • Distinguishing between your Circle of Concern and your Circle of Influence and working to focus (and expand when you can) your Circle of Influence, leaving behind the frustration of spinning your wheels within your Circle of Concern.
  • Begin with the end in mind.
  • Organize and execute around priorities.
  • Invest in the Emotional Bank Account of those around you.
  • Look for opportunities of Win/Win. Seek the third alternative.
  • Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  • Synergy means the whole is greater than the sum of its parts: seek synergy with others and within yourself.
  • Sharpen the saw; take time for personal renewal physically, mentally, spiritually and socially/emotionally.

 Some great quotes…
It is so much easier to blame other people, conditioning, or conditions for our own stagnant situation. But we are responsible – ‘response-able’ – to control our lives and to powerfully influence our circumstances by working on be, on what we are.

If we do not develop our own self-awareness and become responsible for first creations, we empower other people and circumstances outside our Circle of Influence to shape much of our lives by default. We re-actively live the scripts handed to us by family, associates, other people’s agendas, the pressures of circumstance – scripts from our earlier years, from our training, our conditioning.”

Keep in mind you are always saying ‘no’ to something. If it isn’t to the apparent, urgent things in your life, it is probably to the more fundamental, highly important things. Even when the urgent is good, the good can keep you from your best.”

Change – real change – comes from the inside out. It doesn’t come from hacking at the leaves of attitude and behavior with quick fix personality ethic techniques. It comes from striking at the root – the fabric of our thought, the fundamental, essential paradigms, which give definition to our character and create the lens through which we see the world.”

My recommendation? If you haven’t read it, make this one a high priority – put it at the top of your TBR pile. If you have but it has been awhile, it may be worth dusting off.

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