7 Habits

February 27, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 11:16 pm   Category: 7 Habits,Mormon Culture/Practices

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!

54 Comments »

  1. Wow Geoff. I wouldn’t have made you for a 7 Habits guy.

    Comment by Dave — February 28, 2006 @ 12:38 am

  2. What do you think of the accusation that Covey somehow heisted Mormon doctrine and secularized and packaged it for the masses?

    Well, that’s what he hoped to do. My only experience with Brother Covey was in 1984 or 1985, five years before his Seven Habits book came out. I was in a BYU student ward of which he had been bishop a couple of years earlier, and he was the speaker for a ward fireside one evening. He brought up some gospel principle for one part of the talk. There was a digression that when he is consulting businesses he can’t identify the source of such a concept and start reading scriptures, so he uses some business-speak to put it in terms they’ll listen to.

    Comment by John Mansfield — February 28, 2006 @ 5:45 am

  3. I’m bothered by super-people telling me how to organize my time. Although his book Spiritual Roots of Human Relations has proven itself over time.

    I attended a single adult conference in Las Vegas years ago and Truman Madsen spoke about his book The Highest in Us and he really made my spirit soar. He gave me hope.

    Comment by annegb — February 28, 2006 @ 7:43 am

  4. What do you think of the accusation that Covey somehow heisted Mormon doctrine and secularized and packaged it for the masses?

    I can tell you that here, in the land of the So. Baptists, they advise their members to avoid this veiled Mormonism. They honestly think that it is an attempt to proselytize, so they suggest that their members read other success literature instead – Ziz Ziglar, of course!

    I agree that the book and Bro. Covey’s success certainly provide opportunities to share our religious beliefs. (In fact, I missed an opportunity to share the gospel with a friend/coworker who asked to read Covey’s Spiritual Roots of Human Relations because he enjoyed 7 Habits so much. I “forgot” to loan it to him, and he eventually lost interest. Actually, I was in my spiritual infancy, and I was afraid of appearing “too Mormon.”) I believe that Bro. Covey was inspired in writing his book, and it certainly incorporates principles we are familiar with in the Church (Truth is eternal, afterall). But I am certain he didn’t write it to be a proselytizing tract.

    BTW, are we going to discuss the Stephen Covey(Covey Leadership)/Hyrum Smith (Franklin Institute) dispute?

    Comment by Polly — February 28, 2006 @ 7:54 am

  5. Geoff, which mission were you in in Tennessee? We now call east Tennessee home.

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — February 28, 2006 @ 8:25 am

  6. My father gave me the book when I was in college, but I haven’t read it. Obviously, time management and goal setting are integral to success, and I’ve tried to organize my life around these general principles on occasion, but, practically speaking, I’m too lazy to keep track of what I’m supposed to keep track of to make any kind of system like this work for me. I’ve never had any trouble remembering meetings, getting my work done on time, or juggling appointments, and it just seemed a waste of time (and incredibly stressful) to write everything down and be hyperconscious of how my every move was or was not in furtherance of some particular goal. Live free or die, man.

    Comment by Elisabeth — February 28, 2006 @ 8:54 am

  7. (#4) Polly, they’re in a fight? How come? Dish, please. I think Hyrum Smith is a little crazy, but very interesting speaker.

    Crazy because he gets up at 4 am or something like that. He tries to use the less sleep principle to accomplish stuff. All I’m saying.

    Comment by annegb — February 28, 2006 @ 9:14 am

  8. Dave – I’m not sure what a 7 Habits guy is actually… Does that just mean that I appreciate the model? I get the feeling that 7 Habits is considered passé around these parts, but it is not clear because I haven’t seen posts specifically on the model .

    John M. and Polly – Interesting points about the motivation for the book. The thing is that there is nothing uniquely Mormon in any of the habits.

    Anne and Elisabeth – Lots of people think 7 Habits is about time management but this is a misconception I think. Covey in fact spends a lot of effort in the book ripping on the time management fads that were popular in the 70s and 80s. He emphasizes “effectiveness” rather than efficiency, and the vast majority of time management is exclusively about efficiency. The classic analogies he uses have to do with “climbing the ladder of success only to find it is leaning against the wrong wall” or managing a team of machete wielders through a dense jungle only to discover you are in the “wrong jungle”. Of the 7 habits, only habit #3 deals specifically with time management and you are only supposed to get there after you have soul searched and are certain you know where you want to end up. So in essence, properly implementing the principles is supposed to be the live free thing Elizabeth mentioned as opposed to the restrictive, stressful, and oppressive regiments many time-management schemes seem to engender. (Of course theory doesn’t always easily translate to reality.)

    Christian – What town are you living in? I don’t spend time on the east side of the mission much. I was in the Chattanooga stake for nearly a year between a couple of areas. Spent time in Nashville and in West Tennessee (plus Kentucky for a few months)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 28, 2006 @ 9:22 am

  9. annegb: “Polly, they’re in a fight? How come? Dish, please. I think Hyrum Smith is a little crazy, but very interesting speaker.”

    The dispute has been amicably resolved, culminating in the merger which formed FranklinCovey.

    My limited understanding is that before Covey published the 7 Habits, Hyrum Smith “borrowed” from his academic and other published work and created his Franklin Institute, and perfected the day planner we all know and love/hate. Meanwhile, Covey’s consulting business was being driven by his 7 Habits book and seminars, and their (inferior, IMO) planner. However, asFranklin had already established it’s market, Covey had difficulty gaining against the planner.

    From my recollection, there were threats of lawsuits for infringement of intellectual property rights, and Franklin’s (or Smith’s personal) financial situation was getting dark. So, Covey Leadership became the white knight in the merger, and the result was a “win-win.” ;-)

    Comment by Polly — February 28, 2006 @ 9:40 am

  10. For me these priciples are obvious enough that I wonder what makes his listing of them all that novel. I’m not saying I apply them well, but are they as profound as some may think?

    I mean you take responsibility for yourself, set goals, work toward them logically, get along, etc. What’s the big deal?

    Comment by Eric — February 28, 2006 @ 10:05 am

  11. Maybe it didn’t exist then, but there’s a Knoxville mission now. We live near Knoxville and Oak Ridge.

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — February 28, 2006 @ 10:25 am

  12. Eric,

    Hehe… I occasionally hear people say that these ideas are so obvious that teaching them is pointless. I guess that explains why nearly everyone in the world (and the church) is well-adjusted, prosperous, and generally effective, right? Why none of us use nature or nurture as excuses for our choices? Is that why we all carefully meditate on and consider our short-term, mid-range, and long term goals in our time here on earth and then avoid squandering away our time or procrastinating? Why all of our personal relationships are so healthy and rewarding? I could go on but I think you get the point. It seems clear to me that these principles are anything but obvious or utilized by 99%+ of the world (including Mormons). Most commonly I see people dismiss the ideas with a handwave.

    I don’t mean this comment as an attack on you, BTW. Rather, I am responding to the general attitude that I have heard that these principles Covey codified in his book are easy and obvious. The evidence (people’s lives) says otherwise.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 28, 2006 @ 10:43 am

  13. Christian,

    Yeah, that was in my mission — I just never made it out there past Knoxville.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 28, 2006 @ 10:44 am

  14. I agree with you in priciple Geoff. To me the real value of the habits is not the profound nature of the habits themselves, but the discipline of applying them. As with most things. Good health is in general easy – proper diet and exercise. Knowing this is not all that profound, doing it and sticking to it are. Same with budgeting money, it is simple accounting, not rocket science. Easy and obvious in principle, takes disciplline to apply.

    You are welcome for the bait. You were probably waiting for someone to give the obvious thing and I fell for it. I put a weak fast ball down the middle, and you hit it out of the park.

    Comment by Eric — February 28, 2006 @ 12:35 pm

  15. In my mission, self-improvement literature was acceptable reading under the rules, so I read several dozen self-improvement books in an effort to keep my sanity. Covey’s was one of them. I didn’t find anything in it that wasn’t in the others. If Covey stole Mormonism, so did Horatio Alger…

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — February 28, 2006 @ 12:38 pm

  16. Eric: I put a weak fast ball down the middle, and you hit it out of the park.

    Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.

    My comment was a bit rough sounding, wasn’t it? I would like to get a lively debate going on the subject but no one seems interested in taking up the anti-Covey position. Lots of people (not you) seem to like to smugly snark the concept but few seems willing to openly argue against it. I suppose I was half reacting to some comments over at Snarky’s thread too.

    Anyway, I like your weight loss analogy. Knowing what to do is very different than doing it. Having said that, I think Covey’s model makes room for gaining motivation too. But that is in habit 2. As I mentioned, habit 2 is the hardest and most crucial of the habits to get right and my primary complaint with the model is that habit 2 doesn’t get nearly enough attention in Covey’s explanations and expositions.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 28, 2006 @ 12:44 pm

  17. I agree RT.

    Maybe Mormons thiink he stole has ideas from Mormonism because they had only heard such things in church previously. But as you said, this types of life-advice has roots in wisdom literaure of all ages. It sounds as much like good advice from Ben Franklin as from Brigham Young to me. And I think you are right that the value Covey brought to the subject was not in brand new ideas, but rather in the synthesis of old trusted ideas into a compact and orderly model. I think I like it so much because my mind works in models too.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 28, 2006 @ 12:49 pm

  18. I’ve never read Covey. Since I’ve talked with too many people who read every book he puts out and practically worship his every word, I’ve made the prediction that I’d probably hate his books. So I’m a potential Covey hater, but I’m not an actual one. I don’t plan on taking the necessary steps of becoming an actual one anytime soon. I don’t have enough time. :)

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — February 28, 2006 @ 12:50 pm

  19. Yeah Craig, I think that a lot of Covey snarking is a natural backlash to over saturation of his ideas in Utah and among Mormons (I’ve seen no Covey backlash outside of those circles). I recommend plodding through 7 Habits at some point. I actually liked the follow up First Things First book as much as the original. I received a copy of the 8th Habit book last year but gave up some time ago when I realized it was borrowing heavily from the First Things First book.

    I’ll probably make a series of posts out of this and look at the various habits.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 28, 2006 @ 2:26 pm

  20. I most enjoyed Covey’s concepts of the mission statement and his quote, “Private victories precede public victories.” I also enjoyed his discussion of an incredible classroom dynamic on pages 265-267.

    But for self-help (secular speaking), I’ve never read a better book than Maxwell Maltz’s Psycho Cybernetics. Don’t ask me what cybernetics means – but his advice is sound and very inspirational. It’s sold something like 33 million copies.

    Comment by cadams — February 28, 2006 @ 3:08 pm

  21. Did anyone else ever think first of Little Green Men whenever someone would refer to LGMs in the MTC? Or is that just me? I know my district thought I was nuts when I would dissolve into giggles anytime anyone mention LGMs.

    Anyway… I read 7 Habits long ago – I think my grandparents gave it to my parents, so it was kicking around my house when I still lived with my parents. The ideas are good, but not unique. They dissolve into the swarm of other managerial/self-improvement books that I’ve read for some unfathomable reason (I mostly end up rolling my eyes while reading all of them). I just don’t think I have the right personality to really be the target audience for such books. I’m with Elizabeth: Live free or die.

    Comment by Tanya Spackman — February 28, 2006 @ 3:55 pm

  22. I’m with Elizabeth: Live free or die.

    For what it’s worth I am also with Elisabeth on this. I found nothing in the 7 habits model that interferred with “living free”. In fact, it seems to me that the 7 habits Covey preaches have helped me in the process of living free… (Again, the 7 habits model is not a time-managment system or some Franklin Planner — that seems to be a common misconception that was made worse when the two companies merged).

    Comment by Geoff J — February 28, 2006 @ 4:06 pm

  23. Geoff J, I would agree that the raw 7 habits model as described in the book is not time-managment or day planner system .

    However, from the early 90′s until the merger, Covey Leadership conducted seminars on time-management and sold planners based entirely on the 7 habits model. I know because I attended one in 1993 and brought home a set of tapes and a Covey day planner. (I still have the tapes (I think) if anyone is interested in purchasing them. :-D )

    The seminar was great (Stephen Covey on video talking to a studio audience of 9 people – snxxxxxxx), and the planner was crap compared to the Franklin. But the bottom line was that there was competition between Covey Leadership and Franklin Institute for the day planner/time management market from the early 1990′s until the merger.

    Comment by Polly — February 28, 2006 @ 4:29 pm

  24. Geoff, you are, of course, correct that it isn’t a time management book/system. However, it does seem to be a micromanaging of life system with peppy slogans. And that apparently works for some people, but it just makes me miserable when I try to apply such tactics to my life.

    Comment by Tanya Spackman — February 28, 2006 @ 4:48 pm

  25. I’m gonna live free or die, too. :)

    Comment by annegb — February 28, 2006 @ 7:53 pm

  26. Tanya: However, it does seem to be a micromanaging of life system with peppy slogans.

    Well I can’t disagree that it seems that way to many people, but I don’t think the model actually is that way. In fact I think it is quite the opposite. The seven habits I mentioned in the post really are basically principles — perhaps offshoots of universals — by which lives can be managed. And if we absorb correct principles then we can govern ourselves (again, the opposite of being micromanaged by slogans).

    Now I can see why it seems that the book and model is about peppy slogans because the peppy slogans and pithy one-liners are the sound bites that seep into popular culture and church talks and whatnot. But beneath that veneer there is some real meat of correct principles. Not only are the principles correct but the actual model is well crafted, compact, and anything but shallow in my opinion.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 28, 2006 @ 8:19 pm

  27. My sister got me the latest book, I can’t remember the name. I haven’t read it, I couldn’t get into it. Well in the first part he tells us to take a long time deciding whose child we are, so I’ve been pondering it.

    You wouldn’t think so, but I follow orders.

    Comment by annegb — February 28, 2006 @ 9:56 pm

  28. Geoff has tried to get me to read it on a few occasions but every time I tried I ended up in a very deep coma. It just wasn’t worth all of the trouble. I just have Geoff sum it up for me.

    Comment by Kristen J — February 28, 2006 @ 11:00 pm

  29. I’m gonna live free or die, too.

    I will go out on a limb and say that everyone is going to live free or die. Whether they want to or not.

    Comment by a random John — February 28, 2006 @ 11:30 pm

  30. Hmmm, snarky’s got a point–principles can be implemented in all sorts of ways.

    I have the 7 Habits book on my shelf–I also have Pain is Inevitable ? Misery is Optional by Hyrum W. Smith.
    Coincidence? You be the judge…

    Comment by Téa — March 1, 2006 @ 12:34 am

  31. Is Covey the one responsible for every organization in the 90s writing up a mission statement?

    Comment by John Mansfield — March 1, 2006 @ 6:11 am

  32. I’m curious what the ratios are of women who found that book (and others like it) valuble versus men found it valuable. I’m wondering if it is a difference in the view of life that could be attributed to gender that contributes to how one sees that (those) book(s).

    John Mansfield, if he is responsible, then he is evil. I HATE those stupid mission statements (and it’s not just the 90s – mission statements are alive and thriving). I tend to react to mission statements (and especially meetings where we must discuss those statements) with snarkage and sarcasm. Luckily, I’m an excellent employee, so I can get away with such things :-D

    Comment by Tanya Spackman — March 1, 2006 @ 7:33 am

  33. Good point, Tayna. I read that book by Hyrum Smith and found it impossible to learn from, I couldn’t get a clear message from it. It hinted too much, I can’t explain it. I think I know what he was trying to do, perhaps he’s too task oriented to explain well.

    I also read the book by his wife, Something Shadow or something like that. It was quite interesting how they fell in love and got married, I could feel the romance.

    Then she got into how she figured out if she got 30 minutes earlier, she could accomplish more and by the time they were done, they and their kids were getting up at 4:30 and had the house cleaned and everything done by 8:30. It sounded just awful to me, I felt sorry for those kids.

    They did a fireside in our region, just before Sharwan was killed, I think. They sing beautifully and speak well, but I sensed an undercurrent. They seemed a little disdainful of the kids, and irritated by the high spirits in the crowd. Well, it was New Year’s Eve and they spoke from 11 to midnight. They pretty much lost their audience in the countdown.

    I think Stephen Covey’s first book is the one I liked the most. Well, I know I liked it the most, I just think it was the first, that Spiritual Roots of Human Relations. Somehow the spiritual and human part got lost.

    Comment by annegb — March 1, 2006 @ 7:44 am

  34. John: Is Covey the one responsible for every organization in the 90s writing up a mission statement?

    Yes, I’d say so. But you’ll notice that “write a mission statement” is not one of the 7 Habits. I think it is simply one of the techniques that fall under Habit 2 (Begin With the End in Mind). Along with Tanya, I also hate most mission statements and the futile way most organizations go about writing them up.

    Tanya: I’m curious what the ratios are of women who found that book (and others like it) valuble versus men found it valuable.

    I suspect that the principles apply equally to men and women but that the model and Covey’s writing style are generally more accessible to men. The entire model and approach seems more left-brainish than than right-brainish to me (although the stories and anecdotes appeal to right-brain folks).

    Comment by Geoff J — March 1, 2006 @ 9:02 am

  35. Annegb: Then she got into how she figured out if she got up 30 minutes earlier, she could accomplish more and by the time they were done, they and their kids were getting up at 4:30 and had the house cleaned and everything done by 8:30.

    YIKES! Well I’ve found that if I stay up a half an hour later I feel more sleepy the next morning… (but it doesn make sleeping in easier)

    Comment by Geoff J — March 1, 2006 @ 9:06 am

  36. The Covey vs. Franklin battle only got worse after the merger. The corporate cultures of the two companies clashed in every way and the Covey people couldn’t stand Hyrum Smith. He’s a control freak (what a surprise!) and had other problems that led everyone there to lose a lot of respect for him. Also the stock tanked and has never really recovered. I’m not sure what the company is like now, but the stock is still well below it’s historical high.

    http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?s=FC&t=my&l=on&z=m&q=l&c=

    As for the 7 Habits, it is a bit laborious to read in some parts but I do enjoy the self-analysis that comes from reading it. I like that the 7 habits focuses on becoming something but I don’t like planning and I’m not naturally proactive so the exercises in the first three habits of the book sometimes frustrate me. My wife on the other hand, has never read the book and would find it boring but is a naturally proactive planner. Due to this completely anecdotal evidence, I think gender is an issue! ;-)

    Comment by WaterCat — March 1, 2006 @ 10:02 am

  37. annegb–Is that 8:30 am or pm?

    (Some days the latter is daunting enough)

    Comment by Téa — March 1, 2006 @ 3:18 pm

  38. Well, I guess better a Covey groupie than a Nibley one. Poor Covey is totally clueless that his habit 1 is why he remains a GA wannabe. And George Will nailed it with his comment years ago about Covey having a knack for obscuring the obvious.

    That said, his principles will help most people but, be warned, the biggest financial rewards in corporate life go to the crisis managers, not the proactive ones who avoided the storms. The later folks can often literally work themselves out of a job and into unemployment, seen it plenty of times.

    Comment by Steve EM — March 2, 2006 @ 10:24 am

  39. I agree with your second paragraph, Steve. I went entrepreneurial largely for that reason.

    his habit 1 is why he remains a GA wannabe.

    What do you mean?

    George Will nailed it with his comment years ago about Covey having a knack for obscuring the obvious

    Any examples? I see Covey being a bit stiff and sometimes boring, but obscuring the obvious is not something I would ever attribute to him. Rather, I think he is good at illuminating truths that are hazy to most people.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 2, 2006 @ 10:30 am

  40. Geoff,

    Let’s just say our church is an orthodoxy entrenched, reactive crisis management organization (polygamy, priesthood ban, we still haven’t effectively dealt with the disable church pres issue, period clothing, etc). Proactive Covey is probably viewed as a potential rabble rousing reformer and too risky for the current GA establishment. Why take a chance on Covey when there’s a plethora of dull, non-threatening candidates that the BKP’s can easily keep a pulse on?

    On obscuring the obvious, I can’t speak for Will. But I concur with Will because, Covey’s principles, like most gems of value are indeed obvious and that’s why they click with people. Covey’s draw out examples and tangents typical obscures the take-home points . His editor should have slimmed the book down considerably for a much punchier and memorable delivery.

    Comment by Steve EM — March 2, 2006 @ 12:28 pm

  41. His editor should have slimmed the book down considerably for a much punchier and memorable delivery.

    I think you are much closer to the mark with this sentence than the George Will quote was. The writing style of 7 Habits is anything but aesthetically pleasing. I am just suspicious of pithy hand-waving snarky comments that are dismissive of Covey and his entire model.

    Let’s just say our church is an orthodoxy entrenched, reactive crisis management organization

    Well that is one man’s opinion. I disagree with such a broad characterization though. “Coveyism” is deeply entrenched in the leadership of the church too so I find it extremely unlikely that his not being a general authority has anything to do with fear of change. My guess is that there are lots of other good reasons which could include: a) God has other plans for Covey b) Covey could do more good in the world in his current role than he would as a GA. Besides, what makes you think Covey actually wants to be a GA? Not everyone in the church guns for callings you know.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 2, 2006 @ 1:09 pm

  42. Oh, he’s definitely a GA wannabe, a pathetic panting one at that, IMO. Now, anybody gunning for Bishop, is just a masochistic, control freak, total nut job.

    Comment by Steve EM — March 2, 2006 @ 1:38 pm

  43. Hehe. Ok, I’ll bite. What evidence leads you to believe that Covey is a GA wannabe?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 2, 2006 @ 2:02 pm

  44. He just comes off that way, and I’m not the first to make that observation. Like my first MP was absolutely a GA wannabe (didn’t make it, PTL); while my second MP (G-d’s gift to missionary) was a relaxed retired guy who had nothing to prove to anyone. It’s just the way some people carry themselves.

    Comment by Steve EM — March 2, 2006 @ 3:24 pm

  45. Riiiight. Well I guess mind-reading can be compelling evidence to some folks… Doesn’t do it for me though. I suspect Covey is just “anxiously engaged in a good cause”. I don’t imagine it is motivated by aspirations for callings in the church — I think that “a love of God and of all men” seems at least as likely of a motivation… (But I am just guessing too.)

    Comment by Geoff J — March 2, 2006 @ 4:09 pm

  46. I’m a bit of a fan of Covey’s stuff.
    I really enjoyed “Spiritual Roots” and actually re-read it partially or in its entirety every couple of years. I recently picked up “How to Succeed With People” but am yet to read it. I have also read and enjoyed “The Divine Centre” – his later book for an LDS audience – on a number of occasions. It’s a bit like a “7 Habits of Highly Effective Latter-day Saints”. By that I mean that he drops out the ‘principle – centred’ talk and actually comes right out and discusses the need for God/Christ centredness. I also picked up “6 Events: A restoration model”, his recently released ‘For – LDS’ title but haven’t gotten to it yet.

    I enjoyed 7 Habits a lot, and read it a few times. I admit to finding it a bit long-winded now – perhaps because I’ve internalized it so much that it now seems like his lengthy explanations are simply telling me things that I already ‘know’. I actually bought his son’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” which is written for a younger audience, but is a great deal easier to read. I’ve read it a few times when I wanted to brush up on the 7 Habits. I wouldn’t really call either of them time management books – that’s what “First Things First” was for.

    It’s a little sad to see Covey’s planning framework out of the limelight now with many people having moved camps over to David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (GTD). GTD is really more of a ‘how to manage projects’ system, ignoring Covey’s whole ‘identify important roles/mission’ proactive mindset which aims to avoid the all too common ‘ladder against the wrong wall’ issue.

    I can’t speak for the man himself, although I served with a missionary from his home ward. Covey was his home teacher and he said that he was pretty down to earth and a nice guy. I can certainly see that Hyrum Smith would be a control freak. We can bash Covey for being a GA wannabe – but it’s gotta beat Smith’s recent adultery.

    Comment by dp — July 26, 2006 @ 2:48 am

  47. I’m reading the 7 habits right now and am amazed at the several references there are to principles that are centered in the gospel:

    happiness is the object and design of our existence (p. 48)
    our basic nature is to act, and not be acted upon (p. 75)
    first creation and second creation of all things (p. 99)

    This is especially interesting in light of Covey’s disclaimer on page 34:

    “The principles I am referring to are not esoteric, mysterious, or “religious” ideas. There is not one principle taught in this book that is unique to any specific faith or religion, including my own. These principles are a part of most every major enduring religion, as well as enduring social philosophies and ethical systems.”

    I think when the gospel becomes part of who you are, it’s pretty hard to not have it permeate everything you do and influence everything you observe.

    Comment by Connor Boyack — July 26, 2006 @ 7:00 am

  48. ok, after an year here’s a new post for it..
    I’m a new reader of this book.. and i agree with lot’s of comments earlier ideas are niether unique nor put forward ina unique way.. (so therefore it’s not “Mormon doctrine and secularized and packaged it for the masses” rather a repetation in diffrent/own words)

    The next thing i read in commments was, not all of the people agree with principles notably put frst by Elizabeth: “Live free or die”

    I think this is the book only for those who are already “proactive” somehow willing to take initaitive and responsibility.. If a peron things that there is something lagging in him to achieve his goals.. he can go through this or similar books possibly one can find it out, what it is and almost immediately he can think of solutions (“paradign shift in covey’s word :)”) or may be he can find it out in some of those ethical lessons..

    good part the book somehow tries to realte with practical problems so you may be lucy enough to find exactly what you needed..:) and the reality even if you master 7/8 habits …. do you think your success is guranteed?.. think with end in mind putting first thing first…. you possibly know the answer.. yes the book is not about being succesfull.. it’s about being effective..
    your opinion is highly appreciated :)

    Comment by Ananta — June 2, 2007 @ 2:30 am

  49. “Synergize?”

    What a horrible word.

    Thank goodness the 1990s are over. Using buzzwords is a sign that you don’t really have anything interesting to say, but you want to make it seem like you do.

    I guess you can sell anything if you just put a little lipstick on it.

    And thank goodness we don’t have to put up with Franklin Planners anymore. What an annoying fad.

    One last relic of the 1990s that hopefully will die: those spirit-crushing “Success” posters with a picture of a marathoner running or an eagle soaring and then some motivational word and then beneath that a description of the motivational word.

    How about just doing something good instead of reading, writing, and talking about it?

    Do you think Steve Jobs of Apple, Inc. subsribes to any of this sort of “motivational” garbage? But largely thanks to him we have the Macintosh, the iPod, and now the iPhone. What has Steve Covey done for the world?

    Comment by John Williams — June 9, 2007 @ 8:49 am

  50. John Williams,

    I agree that synergize is a cheesy word (as mentioned in the post). I also object to the “motivational garbage” that gets shoved on people all the time. But I don’t think Covey’s 7 Habits fit into the “motivational garbage” category at all. And because Covey is preaching accurate principles he is doing a lot of good for the world in my opinion. And yes, I do think Steve Jobs applied the principles Covey talks about as part of his success in business — that’s because they are general principles that pretty much every successful person uses either intuitively or intentionally.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2007 @ 9:01 am

  51. I’m a latecomer to the discussion, having just discovered this page. I’m a bit ambivalent to Covey–I think he has some very good ideas (His habit on communicating has done much to increase peace in our home and quell the shouting) but I have trouble with his pithy platitudes–they cheapen his ideas.

    Part of my problem with Covey is the way he is more or less worshipped in the Church, and no more than in the mission field. After two years of having his words rammed down my throat by the MTC president and by various management-oriented missionaries, I was in no mood to read his 7 Habits book. I first bought it about 10 years ago and couldn’t get past habit 1. Being in a depression at the time, I wasn’t ready to hear that I was responsible and that I should just decide to pull myself out of it. It languished on my shelf for a few years before I took it to Goodwill.

    Then, a few months ago, I had confronted a lot of abuse-related issues and picked up a copy from the library to read. I saw habit 1 in a whole new light and felt that I had the power to at least do what I could where I was at. While I still roll my eyes at some of his expressions, I believe that his ideas are sound. I still don’t like the way church members parrot his teachings. (Would they do the same if he were Catholic? I think not.)

    I understand some of the criticisms that he has received due to Habit 1′s emphasis on total and absolute responsibility regardless of circumstances–that’s a bitter pill to swallow, especially for somebody recovering from trauma. I think the point he is making that no matter where we are, we need to do what we can in the context of our circumstances, no matter how little it may be. I personally prefer his 6 Events book–I downloaded it a while back, and it is a much more personal approach, far less management-oriented and, I believe, more relevant to the difficult individual circumstances that people find themselves in. It is a bit of a reversal from the 7 Habits “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” philosophy and much more based on relying on the Atonement, the love of God, and a knowledge of our own worth to help us through. I’d personally like to see him do more books of this sort.

    Comment by Terry — December 15, 2007 @ 1:38 pm

  52. Thanks for the comments Terry.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 15, 2007 @ 5:52 pm

  53. Covey’s contrubution to the cannon of LDS culture is his treatment of the gospel in a behavioral light. He is a product of Skinner’s very strong behavior movement in the 1960′s. For the LDS his book “Spiritual Roots of Human Behavior” is his classic. It made a profound impact on the young 19 year olds of the 1970′s. He made gospel living go beyond rules to a pattern of successful and joyful living. To understand the secular message of Covey you must go to his “spiritual roots”. He put it all on the line, his house and BYU job, to spread his ideas further than BYU/Utah Valley. Hats off that he practiced what he preached, he did it and did it successfully (with out the use of muti-level marketing, amazing!”)

    Comment by Doug Major — September 5, 2008 @ 10:44 pm

  54. I have read a few of Covey’s books and they are OK, however his delivery should be more proactive.. The overall model is good but lacks a few principles around becoming a person of Value both in business and life and a need to give back once all the reading and advice has paid off. I much prefer Ben Benson’s 7Laws of Wealth. Not sure if he is a Mormon but some of the material ‘feels’ like it could be. He presents a fresher and slightly more commercial model. My father in law lent me his book after seeing him speak in NYC. He preferred him to covey.

    Comment by Jim Garrison — March 23, 2012 @ 6:51 pm

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