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329 of 345 people found the following review helpful
on 31 December 2004
This became a major best-seller, highly influential in both management and personal development circles. Covey's seven habits are fairly obvious, fairly simple, yet are lost in the morass of hype and counter-hype his book provoked.
Covey looked at the characteristics of the successful, reducing these to seven principles, seven good habits that successful people generally demonstrate. Developing good habits is an advantage: by definition, if they are 'good' habits, they do you good. Brian Clough, the football manager, used to insist that his players learned good habits, that they learned to do the basics, the simple things well; once they could trust themselves to do the basics, then they could progress to try the novel, the special, to inject that little spark of genius which would win the game.
But Clough was talking about football, and doing what was necessary to win the game. Covey talks about successful people. You have to keep asking, what constitutes 'successful'? Becoming rich? Or being happy, contented, in harmony with the world and the people around you?
Covey suggests you choose your own definition of success. You set your own goals. And, the first thing you have to do is believe that you can change your life. Covey's principles, then, become the yardsticks by which you both measure change and motivate yourself to change - you decide on the good habits Brian Clough demanded, and get into the habit of doing things which will aid your change.
Covey, however, relates change and success to quality of life - although his book has often been seized upon as a manual for business success and profit. He says there is no easy way to achieve change. It requires work - and requires that you develop new, good habits while eradicating old, bad ones. It's a simple, logical piece of self-motivation, but it does require you to sit back, analyse your life, and work at change. Covey does not provide a quick fix.
He argues that we need to work with others, respect others, show tolerance, and value the rights of others. This is not a recipe for get-to-the-top regardless. Covey identifies the need for values and a moral commitment, for a spiritual aspect to your life. He spends the first 50-60 pages emphasising this.
He then identifies the seven habits - be proactive, he says. Believe, go, do. Don't put off or make excuses. Get in the game and try. You can change your world. Set yourself goals, achievable goals, taking a step at a time towards them. Don't rush ahead, 'put first things first'. And so on.
Covey provides a recipe for self-motivation and goal setting, and he argues for a holistic approach, for mind, body, the spiritual side being in balance, for working with your partner, family, friends, colleagues, community. It's the harmony and the spiritual which often get cast aside as go-getters try to rush ahead.
What Covey presents is simple enough. He writes with purpose and with passion, and it's a very easy book to pick up and begin to absorb, with lots of practical messages as well as theoretical ones. Essentially, however, you have to believe that your life needs to change and that change is possible. Thereafter, Covey will provide inspirational messages and encouragement to develop new, better habits.
It's a book which is worth reading, but disregard the hype and use it as a basic means to analyse your own life, lifestyle, hopes, aspirations and potential, and appreciate that Covey is at his best when he asks questions - you are the one, ultimately, who has to come up with the answers.
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101 of 110 people found the following review helpful
on 23 January 2006
This is a powerful guide to self-improvement. The "habits" are common-sense: be proactive, or "seek first to understand, then to be understood". The writing is clear, presenting each habit in a way which is easy to apply to oneself. If you're looking for a self-help guide to living a more focused, targeted life, you can hardly do better than this.
The downside is that this is a massive, densely-written book. Just reading it, let alone internalising and acting on it, is a major project. Many readers will dip into it; lose interest; and let it gather dust on the shelf.
Summary: excellent self-improvement guide, won't work for everyone.
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122 of 136 people found the following review helpful
on 22 December 2004
First off im the kind of person who looks at reviews like this (normally) and thinks, yeah right! What a load of rubbish probably just the same old stuff.
I have purchased many books/CDS etc off Amazon but I have never written a review. In fact I dont think I have ever written a review on anything!
However this book deserves my comments. Are you happy in life? Most people will say yes but I believe that most of us are not, at least not a happy as we could be.
This books helps you find your own motivations and principles, it questions them and it helps you fix them, it helps you to live.
This is the most useful information I have ever digested, the content is more useful than any qualification or training course I have ever attended.
I would put this book on the national curriculum if I could.
Read it and see you cant go wrong for the price!
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82 of 92 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 30 December 2000
I first picked up this book on a news-stand on flying back from the U.S. I found its contents so engaging and enlightening that I had read it cover to cover by the time I got back to the UK. Covey is direct and honest in identifying why we fail to make the most of our lives. He is also honest in telling us that there is no such thing as a "quick fix"; that we have to work on founding our habitual behaviours on a sound set of fundamental principles if we are to get the best out of ourselves and our fellow men/women.
I ended up buying a copy of the book for each of my fellow directors and my first line managers. Most read it and found it very useful. Some read and found it revolutionary. Some didn't bother to read it at all. In casting seed, some will always fall on stony ground.
My only criticism of the book is its title: "highly effective people". Covey doesn't really take time out to define exactly what he means by an "effective person". And without this definition it does indeed sound like he is out to create an exploitative army of principle-based, robots. However, I consider the title very misleading. It doesn't do the book justice and is rather too delimiting when applied to a profound, yet simple, philosophical work capable of changing one's outlook on life, in or out of the work-place.
I would recommend this book to anyone with a genuine hunger to improve their lives and a willingness to engage on this on-going mission in a thoughtful and consistent manner.
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51 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on 13 March 2006
I've had the book for a while, but am not a big reader, so progress was slow. This CD is 74 minutes long, which must mean that whole swathes have been cut from the book, but it does provide a good brief overview. If you're likely to struggle to complete the book, this might be a good way to get the general gist. I hope to finish the book later, but am glad I got this. The one down-side to this CD is that whoever compiled it, saw fit to put all 74 minutes onto the first track, which is fine for a single, solid listen, but useless if you need to spread it over a few days (who'd have thought I could be left longing for the days of audio cassettes again!).
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 9 January 2014
I stopped reading this book after a couple of chapters. The best I can say about it is that it is well-meaning and mistitled.

I would have been very interested in a book which surveyed successful people (CEOs? Millionaires? People who rate themselves has the most happy?) and drawn out their common habits. In book entitled "The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People" I would have expected the approach to be (i) identify the successful people, then (ii) identify their habits.

That is not what this book does.

What this book does is this opposite: (i) identifies some habits that the author likes, then (ii) finds some successful people who exhibited those habits. It is post-justification of the author's prejudices. It's not as if the same successful people are used consistently throughout the book. He cherry picks anyone who exhibits his ideas, then doesn't bother with them again if they don't demonstrate any of his other ideas.

So it's not at all enlightening. Anyone can think up some laudable ideas and find some successful people who exhibit them. And you don't need to limit it to seven habits. You can pick any arbitrary number.

For example, I think some really important habits are (a) own an army, (b) wear a loincloth, and (c) don't worry about your hair. I think every head of state has an army, so that's my point (a) proved. The great leaders Gandhi and Jesus wore loincloths, so that's point (b) proved. And both Albert Einstein and Russell Brand clearly don't give a damn about their hair, so that's my point (c) dealt with.

Actually, I might turn that into a book...
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357 of 403 people found the following review helpful
on 29 June 2000
When I first got this book, I worked for a large company and I thought this books principles principles greatly improved my productivity.
Now I work for myself and have time to consider things more thoroughly, I realised that this book was partly responsible for me making myself thoroughly miserable.
It's fine to be an "effective" person - but what about your happiness? And the people around you? Is that not far more important than simply being "effective"? This book is grey and uninspiring because - although substantially better than most similar books - you still risk being turned into an automaton with regard to how you organise your life.
The first step in the book revolves around planning what people will say about you at your funeral. Well, interesting idea, but as you get older your values change. I've been "road testing" this book for three years now. I've now given up. I realise now that life is far more enjoyable when you are riding the crests of its waves, than if you spend your time locked up in a stuffy room pouring over your weekly diary, philosophising about what is the most "effective" way of slicing your life into neat half-hour chunks.
Too much emphasis on speculating on the future in todays society means few people are living life for the moment, and even fewer are fully tuned into the thoughts and feelings of those around them at any particular time.
I no longer recommend this book. As the old cliche goes: "Life is what happens whilst you are planning something else".
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70 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2005
I am busy and therefore did not find the time to read the book. As a Consultant Psychiatrist I was readily able to follow the concepts alluded to and found them refreshingly simple. The folksy Americanism of the presentation can be grating but again that becomes less of an issue with time. I have recommended this to many patients who uniformly have found it of benefit to some degree. Having listened to the CD on several occasions I find my understanding has deepened to the extent that I regularly use the concepts in treatment (always giving Covey credit for his easy conceptualisations). Most people who need to read this book do so at a time when they are less receptive to reading and have less time on their hands therefore sticking it into the CD or tape player in their car to and from work allows the passive absorption of seriously good stuff.
If you are not prepared to honestly go about the changes suggested in this CD maybe this is not for you. If you want to hide from the realities of your choices and mistakes then avoid this. If you are prepared to embrace a set of sensible principles then this presentation is for you. The best money you will ever spend!
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 10 December 2000
I first read about Dr Covey's habits when I was a young teenager, although at the time I only briefly skimmed through the pages and neglected to absorb, or completely understand, the principles he is sharing in his book. Having recently purchased the book and tried putting the habits into practice, I must say that personally I have found it rather difficult if not frustrating to plan my week to such a strict agenda as he suggests. Dr Covey claims that his scheduling technique is flexible, but is it? Perhaps over the long-term with regular consistant practice his technique works, something which I have not yet accomplished, but the immediate effect it has had upon me is one of irritability and rigidity rather than a sense of purpose.
On the subject of 'happiness' as described by another reviewer, I firmly believe that your happiness is ultimately your responsibility, and in achieving more fulfilling relationships with others, and planning your goals more effectively, both of which the 7 habits claim to generate in your life, I think your happiness will increase naturally as you grow in purpose and personal stature, provided you are committed to putting in the effort.
Overall, I would agree that the book can be rather ambiguous at times, and some of the habits are difficult to produce consistantly in practice. Perhaps other readers will have more success in their attempts.
Otherwise, the book is definitely worth a read, as I think some of the principles the book describes could be a valuable lesson to us all.
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89 of 101 people found the following review helpful
With all of the self-help books out there, why is this one business schools, seminaries and high school students read? Why "Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People"? What does Stephen Covey have to say that differs from Spencer Johnson, Phil McGraw and John Gray?
In some cases, what Covey says they all say. The biggest difference is the process, not the method. Covey's "Seven Habits" are like eating right during the gestation of your baby. The short-term results are hard to realize, but the foundation for good health are laid. Follow what Covey says, and in the long-term, you will be highly effective.
Covey starts with explaining that the first step isn't external, but internal. It isn't just that Covey is trying to get you to feel good about your abilities. Instead, he wants you prepared for the hard work the seven habits will require. In fact, Covey deplores the cheap 'character ethic' method, noting it evolved away from character, and more into quick-fix influence techniques.
He separates influence and character, and wants the reader to know influence without character is not good. "Only basic goodness gives life to technique." The book is not a lesson in technique.
The Seven Habits are divided into chapters:
1- Be Proactive
2- Begin with the End in Mind
3- Put First Things First
4- Think Win/Win
5- Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
6- Synergize
7- Sharpen the Saw
Covey, despite how it is a management and professional growth book, has also written a personal growth book. It is not a relationship book, as in the sense John Gray writes, or a weight loss book, like Dr. Phil writes. Fans of "Who Moved My Cheese" by Johnson will connect. Though Covey won't charge at the reader by asking him to repeat a mantra of "I think I can. I think I can," he does show the reader the ways of realigning their perspective, their goals and their strengths for the greater good of both the reader, and those he interacts with.
I fully recommend "Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey.
Anthony Trendl
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