The 7 Habits

I apologize for being philosophical these days, I’m reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s a good book but boy did it get taken out of context! It was published in 1989 and uses all the buzz words of the time. It advocates principled living. Character based changes where you must first change your perspective and assumptions before you can hope to influence change anywhere else. If everyone who bought the book (my copy says there are 15 million copies out there) actually practiced the changes Mr. Covey advocates, the world would be a very different place.

The first habit and it is to live proactively (what did I say about the buzz words?). Basically, the only thing you can change is your reaction to your circumstances. Sometimes you can change your circumstances, but sometimes you just can’t. In that case, you have to change your own perspective to make the best of the situation. Only in this way can you hope to have a chance of improving it. This is good, basic advice. If you can’t change it, change how you look at it. This got so very bastardized though. This became the way bosses told their workers to act. This became the excuse for poorer working environments and longer hours. Since the employee can’t change the circumstances – short of quitting – they just have to accept it and do everything they can to make the boss happy. Uh… completely missed the point.

The second habit is to begin with the end in mind. Again, great advice. Whether it’s directing your life, or creating that spreadsheet or recipe, begin knowing where you want to end up. Your path there almost doesn’t matter, so long as you know where you’re going in the end and keep going in that direction. He starts off by asking the reader to picture their own funeral. What would you want the mourners to remember and celebrate about you? What would you wish you had done, and what impacts would you like to have? What do you want your family, your friends, your co-workers, and your peers to say about you? That’s pretty sweeping. It’s not the, “I want to double profits this year,” kind of thinking that it became an excuse for. It’s exploring what your true values are and figuring out a way to stay true to them.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten so far, but this is so much more than a guide to succeeding at work. This is a way of living that is consistent with your own deepest values and those that are universal. It’s pretty cool stuff. I always thought it was a work thing – how to succeed at work – because that’s how it’s been used. But it’s like saying Machiavelli’s The Prince is a guide to how to behave in the business world. It misses so much of the wider significance of the work. I’m a fan of self-help books. A bit of a connoisseur. I’ve read tons because I feel like, even if there’s nothing much to them, there’s usually one small piece of truth I can take away from them. In one book, it was the introduction that I liked best and that held the most truth for me. It’s like that with books though, you never know what’s going to speak to you so it’s worth trying many things.

As far as the 7 Habits goes, I am impressed so far. These truly are universal principles and lots of common sense advice that we tend to forget as we go along living our lives. I’ll let you know how I liked it when I’m done.

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