Stephen Covey & The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People


Like a lot of people, I first came across Stephen Covey from his best-seller – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. As Covey himself admits, these habits are sort of self-evident. But sometimes it’s a very good thing to state the obvious in a way that gives us a fresh perspective. The 7 Habits made me think. Some critics contend that Stephen Covey offers “quick fixes ” that are impractical or idealistic. All I can say is that The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People helped me.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably read many self-help books. I used to imagine that “other people” must be out there studiously applying all the principles and processes. What I’ve come to realize is that the vast majority of us read the books, perhaps with great intentions, but over time we’re lucky if we remember anything at all. So now I’ve come to rate books from the perspective of:
– Do I remember things? and
– Did I change some habits as a result?

The things from this book that stuck with me were:
* Begin with the End in Mind:
* Seek First to Understand., and the
* Four Quadrants from First Things First

Stephen Covey – Begin with the End in Mind – Steven Covey stops short of ever stating something like the Law Of Attraction, but with this Habit 2, he’s hit upon a very fundamental principle for creating what we want in our lives. This habit is just plain good advice – advice that I found useful even before I came to understand the Law. Once understood, the power of this approach becomes even more obvious. What’s important, before we begin anything, is to get wrapped up in the vision of where we want to be. Then the forces of the Universe get lined up to create “accidents” and “concidences” that can effortlessly deliver to us what we’ve been seeking.

Stephen Covey – Seek First to Understand – a piece of advice I’ve treasured – not that I always remember it in the heat of trying to get my point of view across to somebody whose visions or beliefs contrast with mine. But sometimes I do, and what a difference it makes when you consciously try to understand the other’s point of view before you present your own. From the native american song to the Great Spirit – “May I not judge my brother, until I have walked a mile in his moccasins ”

Quadrants_CoveyStephen Covey’s Four Quadrants – once again this is just common sense – but it sure helps to have it laid out logically. If we classify what we have to do in terms of both Urgency (X-axis) and Importance (Y-axis), then we can place our To-Do items in one quadrant or another. I got two important things from this:
1. If I allow myself to be driven unconsciously by the “tyranny” of the urgent but (mostly) unimportant (Quad 3), then once again I’m condemning myself to more of Quad 1.

2. The more time I spend in Quad 2, the less I will spend later in Quad 1.

Ken Blanchard of “The One Minute Manager” fame has a different take on these quadrants, and I have my own also – see Time Management for more on this.

Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey was born on October 24, 1932 in Salt Lake City. Born and raised a Mormon, he served for a time as a missionary in England and he remains strongly committed to the Mormon church. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Utah, his MBA from Harvard and completed his doctorate at Brigham Young University. While at Brigham Young University, he was assistant to the president and was also a professor of business management and organizational behavior.

Stephen Covey left Brigham Young in 1983 to form the Covey Leadership Center. It was good timing – corporate America was eager for ideas about improving the morale and effectiveness of manager and workers alike. The 7 Habits, published in 1989, became a huge success – appearing on the New York Times bestseller list for well over five years. The book’s success helped the Leadrerhip Center. Throughout the ’90s, “hundreds of corporations, government agencies, and universities invited Covey to conduct seminars with, or present talks to, their employees.”

In 1997 the Covey Leadership Centre merged with the Franklin Quest Company (of day-planner fame). In announcing the deal, management were optimistic – “We intend to apply our own expertise to our own merger, thereby creating a model merger for corporate industry.” Sadly, like the vast majority of mergers, the difference in cultures was hard to reconcile, and good habits or no good habits, the stock remains in the tank. What can I say – even gurus don’t always get it right!

Stephen Covey has published a number of books including:
The Divine Center (1982)
(The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989)
Principle Centered Leadership (1992)
Spiritual Roots of Human Relations (1993)
First Things First: To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy (1996)
The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness (intended to release in 1999, the 10th anniversay of 7 Habits, eventually saw light of day in 2004)
… plus a number of children’s books.

There’s a lot of good stuff in these books. In The 7 Habits (15+ million copies), Stephen Covey argues pursuasively for action based upon principles:
* Habit 1: Be Proactive: Principles of Personal Vision
* Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind: Principles of Personal Leadership
* Habit 3: Put First Things First: Principles of Personal Management
* Habit 4: Think Win/Win: Principles of Interpersonal Leadership
* Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
* Habit 6: Synergize Principles of Creative Communication
* Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw: Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal

I’ve noticed on the web there’s a few Stephen Covey critics from the fundamentalist ranks warning of the dangers of getting infected with Mormon heresy. Having read their criticisms, I confess I’ve become more kindly disposed towards Mormonism than my former prejudices would allow. There’s a lot in it I still can’t warm to, but the Mormon concept that we are all part of (rather than separate from) God seems to line up pretty well with everything else I’m discovering – that there’s a spiritual (vibrational) side to us that exists outside of our space-time limitations. And the more in touch with that side of us we can get, the more joy we experience.

footer for Stephen Covey page