Massively popular self help book by Stephen R. Covey. Concentrates on the Character Ethic rather than the Personality Ethic. This book takes you through three stages of personal growth:

  1. Dependence - To a greater or lesser degree, everyone is dependent on others. Most often thought of as an immature state, characterised by an infant completely reliant on other people. People who always say "it's not my fault, it's your fault" or "You're to blame for this" are dependent. Covey calls this the paradigm of you
  2. Independence - Once you have to fend for yourself, you become independent in many ways. You begin to say "I can do this" or "I am responsible". It can take many years to get to this stage in your life, a stage Covey calls the paradigm of I
  3. Interdependence - While many people think that self-reliance is the peak, most will acknowledge that the world is interconnected. The We paradigm describes the ability to work with others to acheive great things, not relying on others or working alone.

In this book, Covey describes Seven habits that take you through these three stages:

  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

Steps 1, 2 and 3 take you from dependence to independence. 4, 5 and 6 take you to interdependence. 7 keeps the habits alive.

This book is popular for a reason, it can work.

In Stephen R. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, strategies are laid in place to provide for the betterment of oneself through the adoption of new and prosperous habits as well as the shattering of old and complacent ones. The author stresses the value of change as a means of self-improvement, focusing on the kind of change that would bring rise to the cultivation of an effective leader and/or valuable team player in the reader.

He describes habits as the intersection of knowledge, skills, and desire. Knowledge here encompasses the mental/intellectual capacity a person has for a task - the "what" or sometimes even the "why". Skills envelop a person's physical abilities that can be used to accomplish that task - the "how". Desire represents his or her inward compulsion or need to execute such a task - the "want". When these three different disciplines come together, they form habit, "unconscious patterns... that ...constantly express our character and produce our effectiveness." Certain habits are great and beneficial to the individuals that possess them. Others, however, do not provide nearly as much benefit.

In order to start down the road for self-growth, Covey suggests that one must discover what their bad habits are and break them. This is no easy task. The first step is to identify what the problem is. Often at times, one may be completely unaware of there being a problem in the first place but only with this knowledge can change take place. Secondly, one must determine what actions are necessary to counteract said problem. If the individual does not have the skill to negate this vice, then a need to develop one is now presented. The third and most difficult step involves the agent actually wanting to affect this change. Armed with both the knowledge and the skill to defeat it, he must also demonstrate the desire to take the actions necessary to combat his inner demon of a habit.

As such, it is difficult to allow for change to enter our lives, let alone welcome it.

The nature of change Stephen R. Covey details in his book is illustrated as a progression through what he refers to as the Maturity Continuum. He describes it as moving forward through (or growing from) dependency to independency to interdependency. It is best articulated as the you, I, and we paradigm.

He describes human nature as it develops in the process of aging both mentally and physically. At first, as a child, there is reliance on a second party to do things for the individual - a need for you to get things done. Accomplishing tasks without the assistance or the execution of it by someone else is more or less out of the question. Then, with adolescence, comes along the ideal of accomplishing things by oneself - a need for me to get things done. No longer relying on others to do things for him or her, the departure from complete dependence on someone else is a marked progression and separation from the previous childish state. It is a move to adulthood. Though it seems logical for the advancement scheme to end just there it continues to the stage where the realization is made that greater things can be accomplished through a cooperative effort - a need for us to get things done. As we advance in age, it becomes apparent that, alone, one can only achieve so much; but together, so much more can be produced.

The author of the book presents the seven habits paradigm as a means to continue along the Maturity Continuum. The first three habits make up what he refers to as the Private Victory, the logical progression one must undergo in order to attain some semblance of independence. Covey writes the three habits as "Be Proactive", "Begin with the End in Mind", and "Put First Things First." Essentially, he describes independence as the adoption of the habit of living one's life actively and taking responsibility for it. Shifting blame and waiting for someone else to do something about one's own life is demonstrative of the kind of dependence from which one needs to free him or herself. Be goal oriented, he says. Embracing a purpose and gearing one's activities towards that objective provides meaning and direction in one's life. In addition, Cover instructs the reader to go out and do what was set out to do. Prioritize. Manage time, resources, whatever. Just do it.

The second trio of habits comprises what he calls the Public Victory, moving forward into the realm of interdependence and working with others. He identifies these habits as "Think Win/Win", "Speak First to Understand... Then to be Understood", and "Synergize". The first habit indicates the importance of thinking of things in terms of mutual benefice. Good things happen when everyone wins. This is key to an interdependent relationship. However, what is more important than this is the ability to listen to other people. Covey goes beyond merely suggesting to the reader the significance of listening to the other party but also instructs the reader to value what he or she has to say. Respecting the other's input and comprehending the breadth of what he or she has to say imparts equal importance on them, which, in turn, imparts that same importance upon the first individual. Lastly, in attaining the public victory, the author makes mention of synergy, the rise of a whole much greater than its component parts. It is of great worth to the individual (not to mention team) to not only recognize this phenomenon when it occurs but to allow for it. Creating an environment that can foster synergy is something that can greatly assist in the developing of healthy and prosperous interdependence… even if it means simply opening the channels of communication.

The last habit that contributes to the seven so celebrated in Covey's work is what he calls "sharpening the saw". Making sure to take care of all of the things that go into attaining that interdependence is the final habit that the author prescribes. It is what he refers to as "personal PC", alluding to the "P/PC Balance" model of maintaining the means that provides the ends (presented in the earlier part of the book). This is demonstrative of his belief that one should not place significance on the production alone but instead pay equal attention to the production capability as well.

It is not just the bottom line that matters, he says in a manner of speaking. It is the getting there as well.

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