The seven habits of highly effective people


Because I’ve been driving back and forth from Corvallis to Portland so much lately to attend to my mother and cousin, I’ve had ample to time to listen to audiobooks. I find that I’m actually grateful for the opportunity to “read” in this fashion. (Like many folks, the past decade has destroyed my attention span and ability to read for long periods.)

[The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People book cover]

I’m currently reading Stephen R. Covey’s classic The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. (Five stars on Amazon in 5672 reviews!) I read the book once long, long ago — sometime during the mid-1990s. I’ve referred to it now and then as the years have gone by, but mostly I’ve forgotten its lessons.

Or so I thought.

In reality, it turns out that much of my personal philosophy is similar to the precepts Covey covers. It’s shocking, in fact, just how much of my personal and financial philosophies align with those presented in Seven Habits. I haven’t consciously or deliberately emulated his teachings, but I’ve wound up in the same place nonetheless.

For those unfamiliar, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People are as follows:

  1. Be proactive. Take responsibility for your own life. Take the initiative and don’t simply accept what you’re given. (Here are my thoughts on becoming proactive.)
  2. Begin with the end in mind. Have a plan for your life. Know where you want to go — and why. Like me, Covey is a proponent of writing a personal mission statement.
  3. Put first things first. Sort out your priorities (which is much easier to do when you have an end in mind). Focus your attention on the things that are urgent and important. Covey’s “big rocks” metaphor comes from this section.
  4. Think win-win. When possible, seek mutually beneficial solutions to problems. Don’t be adversarial. Help others achieve their aims as you achieve yours.
  5. Seek first to undertand, then to be understood. Don’t be in a rush to be right. Listen to what others are saying. (Truly listen.) Practice empathy. I feel like this is a seldom-practiced skill in modern society, which is why I urge people to practice financial empathy.
  6. Synergize. Find ways to work with others in order to achieve mutual aims and accomplish things that you couldn’t do alone.
  7. Sharpen the saw. Make time for personal renewal. Keep your lifestyle balanced. Pursue self-improvement.

It’s also worth noting that apparently Covey is responsible for coining the terms “abundance mindset” and “scarcity mindset”. (That’s what Wikipedia says, anyhow. I’d need to do further research before I actually accepted this as a fact.) I too believe strongly that each of us should foster an abundance mindset, when possible.

While there’s much that’s the same between my philosophy and Covey’s, things aren’t completely identical.

Covey talks about dependence and independence, as I do, but he takes things to another level by discussing interdependence. I like this. Independence, Covey says, is superior to dependence. It’s better to be self-reliant than to depend on others to fulfill your needs. But, he says, it’s even better to work together to achieve common aims. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I agree with him, but I haven’t (yet) incorporated this belief as part of my life philosophy. Perhaps I will in the near future.

Covey goes down some rabbit holes that I don’t find particularly important. (I just listened to a half-hour segment on the values that make up our personal “centers”. Meh.) Plus, he continually praises human beings as different in “kind” from other animals as opposed to different “in degree”. I disagree with him 100%. (I believe that humans are just another animal, and there’s nothing particularly remarkable about us other than we’re currently the dominant species on the planet.)

Small quibbles aside, I’m finding The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to be a remarkable book precisely because its philosophy is so aligned with my own. When I read it at age 25, I dismissed it as self-help pap. I was wrong. Or, more precisely, I wasn’t ready to perceive its wisdom.

I’m not sure how my philosophy ended up so closely aligned with Covey’s. It’s very possible that reading this book 25+ years ago planted seeds in my subconscious that have grown over the years and now have produced fruit that resemble his. But it’s also possible that my beliefs are simply a by-produce of age and experience, that many people reach these same conclusions in time.

Anyhow, I’m eager to finish my work today at the family box factory. Once I run payroll and meet with our accountant, I’ll drive back to Corvallis. And when I do, I’ll listen to another 90 minutes of Seven Habits. I can’t wait!



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