If not for his passing earlier this year, today would be the 80th birthday of renowned author Dr. Stephen Covey. Covey, the father of 9 and grandfather of 52, wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic. The title sold 25 million copies sold in 38 languages and was named one of Forbes top 10 business management books of all time.
Both President Bill Clinton and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich have officially endorsed Covey’s strategies for their potential to improve U.S. productivity. Considering his influence on corporations and individuals alike, Time magazine named Dr. Covey one of its 25 most influential Americans.
The notoriously low-key author said he was baffled by the enormous popularity of his 7 Habits. Covey saw them as “universal, timeless, self-evident principles” – an overview of the enduring traits and practices a successful, character-driven individual should esteem. His 7 Habits are:
- Be proactive
- Begin with the end in mind
- Put first things first
- Think “win-win.”
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood
- Sharpen the saw
Covey’s approach to effectiveness emphasizes character. It requires that we are intentional from the outset – planning each step with our goals in mind. When we work with others, we should approach collaboration with integrity, maturity and what Covey calls the “abundance mindset” – the belief that there is enough for everyone, and with enough mindfulness all goals can be satisfied. In seeking successful “synergy” with others, we must listen mindfully. Covey explains that most people listen to reply – we need to listen to understand. Each habit requires focus and effort, and Covey includes activities like meditation, rest and service that help us “sharpen the saw” and achieve energizing balance.
7 Habits was enormously popular when it was published in 1989, and 15 years later Covey added an eighth habit: from effectiveness to greatness. Fulfillment, he says, isn’t measured by our effectiveness, but our impact. The 8th Habit explores a lifestyle focused on inspiring others, discovering true motivation and developing authentic relationships. Covey says,
“In today’s challenging and complex world, being highly effective is the price of entry to the playing field. To thrive, innovate, excel, and lead in this new reality, we must reach beyond effectiveness toward fulfillment, contribution, and greatness.”
How has Dr. Covey’s work impacted your life?