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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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on 18 November 2006
I was coerced into reading this as part of a corporate training scheme: it was presented to me as "the management self-help book it's OK to like". Well I have read it, and, largely, I do like it. Yes, the author is reminiscent of a 19th-century itinerant evangelical who wants to save your soul and yes, his slightly pompous tone does more than once teeter over the edge into apparent self-parody ("I became her student, her learner... I could begin to see out of a new paradigm the whole way a Jedi Knight's basic philosophy in training is manifested in different circumstances") - but the fact is, he wants you to take control of your life, honour your commitments to others and try and do your particular thing better than you do it now. And, at the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man, if everyone took this message seriously, the world would indeed be a better place.

So two and a half cheers for Prof. Covey. But I don't recommend you tell your spouse that you regard your most intimate moments with him or her as "key Quadrant II activities".
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on 13 December 2002
Stephen R. Covey holds and MBA from Harvard Business School and a doctorate from Brigham Young University. He is the author of several bestsellers build on this particular book. So what do you write about a book with 253 reviews? Never mind, I'll do my best. (I must apologize that this book review is longer than my usual ones.)
"The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People embody many of the fundamental principles of human effectiveness. These habits are basic; they are primary. They represent the internalization of correct principles upon which enduring happiness and success are based." Covey has split the book up in four parts: (1) Paradigms and Principles; (2) Private Victory; (3) Public Victory; and (4) Renewal.
In Part I - Paradigms and Principles, Covey challenges our thinking and provides an overview of the seven habits. He wants us to shape out thinking so we can see issues from different viewpoints other than our own. This way of thinking he refers to as "a principle-centered, character-based, "inside-out" approach to personal and interpersonal effectiveness." And the 7 habits are the tools to make this level of thinking possible.
In Part Two - Private Victory, Covey starts to discuss the first three habits. Habit 1 is the habit of 'proactivity', which means more than taking initiative. "It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives." In short, we should not be reactive or responsive, we need to act and create. Habit 2, Begin with the End in Mind, is based on principles of personal leaders. It means that should first set out our own values, or our personal mission statement, before we start managing/doing things. He provides several questions and an appendix so that you can create your own personal mission statement. Covey also provides tools to write a family statement and an organizational statement. Habit 3, Put First Things First, is the practical fulfiment of habits 1 and 2: "Habit 3, then, is the second creation, the physical creation." Covey splits activities into a two-by-two matrix based on urgency and importancy. Surprisingly enough, most important is Quadrant II which stands for not urgent and important. According to Covey activities in Quandrant II would make a tremendous positive difference in people's life. These three habits are the parts of Private Victory.
In Part Three, Covey discusses Public Victory. This part focuses on interaction between ourselves and outsiders and this interdependence can only be build on a foundation of true independence (Part Two - Private Victory) Habit 4 is called Think Win/Win, whereby "Win/Win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. ... It's not your way or my way; it's a better way, a higher way." Covey argues that we should either choose between Win/Win or No Deal. Habit 5 consists of two parts - (i) Seek First to Understand, (ii) Then to Be Understood - and is probably one of the most difficult ones around since it requires empathic communication, which includes listening! "Although it's risky and hard, seek first to understand, or diagnose before you prescribe, is a correct principle manifest in many areas of life." The other half, Then to Be Understood, requires consideration and takes courage. "When you can present your own ideas clearly, specifically, visually, and most important, contextually you significantly increase the credibility of your ideas." If you can succeed, Habit 6 - Synergize is the highest activity in all life: "the true test and manifestation of all of the other habits put together. ... It catalyzes, unifies, and unleashes the greatest powers within people."
Part Four - Renewal is considerably different that the first three parts of the book. It is the circle surrounding the first six habits. Covey calls habit 7 Sharpen the Saw, which is the renewal of the four dimensions of your nature: Physical; spiritual; mental; and social/emotional. Renewal makes it possible for us to move up the upward spiral of growth and change, which ultimately leads to continuous improvement. In the final chapter Covey tells the story of how he and his wife went through the inside-out process while he was on sabbatical leave.
Yes, I do like this book. It contains an enormous amount of information, but it is not a struggle due to the simple writing style of the author. Some people will not like this book since it will mean delving deep into their innerselves. But this book provides tools in the form of habits to make it possible for people to become more effective and, most importantly, bring more happiness. Yes, the seven habits are very simple and, perhaps, predictable. And I do not think that they should be taken by Covey's every word, but the the overall picture - "effective, useful, and peaceful lives ... for ourselves, and for our prosperity" - should be the goal! Highly recommended - and not just to business people.
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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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