7 Habits of Hightly Effective People (Covey)

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People 
Stephen R. Covey, 1989
Simon & Schuster
384 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780743269513

Using a balance of theory and practical examples, Stephen R. Covey's incredibly successful book offers a pathway to wisdom and power.

Covey's guide (for both personal and professional life) describes seven principles of life management. It offers a revolutionary program for breaking the patterns of self-defeating behavior that keep us from achieving our goals and reaching our fullest potential. It describes how to replace the old patterns with a principle-focused approach to problem-solving.

The book presents a holistic, integrated, principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems. With penetrating insights and pointed anecdotes, Covey reveals a step-by-step pathway for living with fairness, integrity, honesty, and human dignity—principles that give us the security to adapt to change and the wisdom and power to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates. (Adapted from the publisher.)

Author Bio 
Birth—October 24, 1932
Where—Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
Education—B.S., University of Utah; M.B.A., Harvard; Ph.D.,   
   Brigham Young University
Awards—International Entrepreneur of the Year Award,
   Sikh's International Man of Peace Award,
Currently—lives in Provo, Utah

Stephen R. Covey writes in his blockbuster self-improvement tome, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, about the "social band-aid" effect of much recent success literature, the tendency to create personality-based solutions to problems that go deeper. "Success became more a function of personality, of public image, of attitudes and behaviors, skills and techniques, that lubricate the processes of human interaction," he wrote. Covey acknowledges the importance of the "personality ethic," but he sought to go deeper and emphasize the "character ethic," something Covey saw as a fading concept. He went back further and found inspiration in figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Thoreau, and Emerson.

Indeed, everything old is new again in Covey's works. The author himself would admit that nothing he is saying is terribly new; but Covey's synthesis of years and years of thinking about effectiveness resulted in a smash personal growth title —one that continues to be a top seller nearly 15 years after its first publication. The title, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, makes it sounds like a quick-fix path to power, but Covey's philosophy is rooted in exactly the opposite notion: There are no quick fixes, no shortcuts. He is writing about habits, after all, which can be as tough to institute as they can be to break. His list: Be proactive; begin with the end in mind; put first things first; think win-win; seek first to understand, then to be understood; synergize; sharpen the saw.

Covey's subsequent titles are based in some way or another on this seminal book. First Things First offers a time-management strategy and a new way of looking at priorities. Principle-Centered Leadership is an examination of character traits and an "inside-out" way of improving organizational leadership. Covey, a Mormon, also wrote two religious contemplations of human effectiveness and interaction, The Spiritual Roots of Human Relations and The Divine Center. These were Covey's first two titles; his esteem for spirituality is not absent from subsequent work but appears as just one more tool that can be applied in self-improvement.

Like Spencer Johnson's Who Moved My Cheese?, 7 Habits has been able to achieve astonishing sales success by espousing ideas applicable beyond an office setting. Covey's books are about self-improvement more than they are about corporate management, which has enabled him to create a successful version of the philosophy for families (entitled, of course, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families) in addition to attracting people who just want to be more efficient in their lives, or bolster that diet.

Most attractive about Covey is his versatility in conveying his ideas. His books are structured in appealing, number-oriented groupings ("Three Resolutions," "Thirty Methods of Influence," four quadrants of importance in time management) and big umbrellas of ideas, but within these pockets Covey draws from a wide range of resources: anecdotes, business school exercises, historical wisdom, and diverse metaphors. Sometimes, Covey uses himself as an example. He knows as well as anyone that practicing what he preaches is tough; but he keeps trying, which makes him an inspiring testimonial for his own books

• Covey is married to Sandra Merrill Covey. They have nine children.

• Covey is co-chair of FranklinCovey, a management resources firm based in Provo, Utah. He has also been a business professor at Brigham Young University, where he earned his doctorate.

• The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has sold more than 12 million copies in 33 languages and 75 countries throughout the world. (From Barnes & Noble.)

Book Reviews 
Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People played a major role in the development of Saturn's operating systems and philosophy. Our commitment to quality and to our customers has its roots in The 7 Habits.
Skip LeFauve

Stephen Covey has written a remarkable book about the human condition, so elegantly written, so understanding of our embedded concerns, so useful for our organizational and personal lives, that it's going to be my gift to everyone I know.
Warren Bennis

I've never known any teacher or mentor on improving personal effectiveness to generate such an overwhelmingly positive reaction....This book captures beautifully Stephen's philosophy of principles. I think anyone reading it will quickly understand the enormous reaction I and others have had to Dr. Covey's teachings.
John Pepper

Picture someone going through the best experience they've ever had in terms of training—that's what they say. People credit The 7 Habits with changing their lives, with getting back on track personally and professionally.
Ken M. Radziwanowski

Discussion Questions 
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

1. Talk about the difference, as Stephen Covey describes it, between Personality and Character ethics. Does that distinction have relevance to your life? According to Covey, what is the disadvantage of relying solely on the Personality ethic?

2. Discuss the "absolute" principles that Covey believes exist in all human beings, those basic assumptions underlying the Character Ethic.

3. What does the experiment using drawings of a younger and older woman tell us about individual perception? Talk about how personal conditioning colors perspective in your own experiences. How difficult is it to achieve objectivity—in life generally...and in your own life?

4. What is Covey's "inside-out" approach to effectiveness?

5. Discuss Covey's definition of "habits" and the role they play in our lives. What are habits, as Covey defines them?

6. Talk about the stages that habits help us move through—Dependence...Independence...Interdependence. Why is Independence not the optimal model to follow in personal or professional environments?

Now move on to the 7 specific habits:

7. Be Proactive: What does it mean to be proactive? What qualities are needed to be proactive? Can you discern in your own life the difference between what you can influence and what you cannot? How proactive are you in your job...in your daily life?

8. Begin With the End In Mind: How do you define your own personal principles? Have you established a mission statement? What would (or does) it consist of? If you haven't already, develop your personal mission statement.

9. Put Things First: What are the key roles you take on in life? How can you integrate those into your mission statement?

10. Think Win/Win: What is win/win, and why does Covey believe it is important? Give an example from your own experience where you achieved (or not) a win/win situation?

11. Understand/Understood: why does Covey consider this principle so important? What does he mean by it...and how is it relevant to your life?

12. Synergize: What does synergy mean and how does it apply to personal effectiveness? How does it differ from the Win/Win principle? Can you think of how synergy might work in your own life—personal or professional?

13. Sharpen the Saw: How does this habit relate to personal renewal? What does Covey mean by achieving "balance"? How does one maximize producing vs. the capacity to produce? Can you apply this principle to your own situation?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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