In the summer of 1989 I was in the Missionary Training Center preparing to ship off to Tennessee for my mission. Before entering the MTC I had heard tales of MTC-wide meetings where members of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve would address the missionaries. Imagine my surprise and dismay when the speaker for our large group meeting was some Mormon guy hawking his newly published book…
That author was Stephen Covey and his new book was called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
I was mesmerized by the things Covey said that afternoon. I furiously scribbled pages of notes on this model he had for being effective in life and specifically as a missionary. I don’t remember if there were other LGMs in my time at the MTC with Apostles speaking or not… but I do remember that Covey talk. I also remember referring to my notes on these habits over and over as a missionary. I found them extremely useful then and I find them valuable still.
As you might know, 7 Habits became a perennial best seller and remains a top selling business book even today — and with good reason in my opinion. While Covey’s writing style can be somewhat stilted, the content in this book is world-class. For those of you unfamiliar with these seven habits I’ll recap them briefly for you here:
Habit 1: Be Proactive
This is the libertarian free will habit. Clearly Covey is a strong believer in LFW and this habit encourages people “act rather than always react”.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
This is the planning habit. I actually find this one the hardest to pull off correctly…
Habit 3: Put First Things First
This is the efficiency habit. After you know where you are going, how do you get there most efficiently?
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
This is the deal making and negotiating habit. Life is all about negotiating after all and I have found the “win-win or no deal” slogan to be extremely valuable in my life.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand and Then to be Understood
This is the communication habit – with an emphasis on listening and empathizing and understanding. Again, this is very useful life skill.
Habit 6: Synergize
A cheesy word for a sublime concept… Usually cooperation does create a whole that is greater than the sum of parts.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
The “me-time” and self rejuvenation habit
So there they are – the famous seven habits. I may make a series out of this and post on each of them. I personally am sold on the basic model. As I said, I do think that the planning habit (#2) is a bit problematic for most of us because it is basically impossible to plan everything in advance so sometimes it is hard to know if short-term goals really are moving us toward long-term goals or not. But perhaps I’ll flesh that out more in future posts.
My questions to you are: Have you read the book? Did it have a positive impact on you too? If not, what did you think? Is this mostly considered a business book or do most non-businessperson Mormons read it at some point too? Have you noticed how often Covey-isms sneak their way into General Conference talks now? What do you think of the accusation that Covey somehow heisted Mormon doctrine and secularized and packaged it for the masses? Is that true? If so, is that a bad thing? Let’s talk 7 Habits!