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On July 16th, 2012 the world lost a great thinker. One of the world’s best-selling authors, his The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is widely regarded as one of the most influential books ever written. It established him (at the age of 56) as one of the leading thinkers of our time. In the book he challenges us to go beyond what he called ‘personality ethics’ and live our lives according to ‘character ethics’. His 7 Habits presented the core principles behind his thinking.

Taking responsibility

At the heart of what he proposes is a system to enable us to better adapt to change and take advantage of the opportunities that changes in our lives often bring. A central theme is that we are largely responsible for what we create in our lives and by taking responsibility for who we are and how we relate to others we can profoundly influence the direction our lives take.

A deep well

I’ve always been impressed with Covey’s ability to synthesize and present these core principles because they are so closely aligned with the core principles of something else we’re passionate about: NLP. For his Doctoral thesis Covey apparently studied over 150 years of the American self-help movement. The 7 Habits would appear to represent his core learnings from that Doctoral thesis. NLP draws on this same deep well of knowledge and wisdom and through its emphasis on modeling excellence translates many of these principles into tools and skills so we can actually experience the “difference that makes the difference” in our daily lives. Therefore, NLP and The 7 Habits complement each other.

Being the change…

What I personally admired about Covey was his modesty about what he had set out in his challenge. Unlike other authors who often claim to be greater than thou and in private rarely live up to what they postulate, Covey himself strove to live these 7 Habits. He also advocated that true learning is achieved through doing. I have met many leaders who claim to have read the 7 Habits and it’s clear that it was wasted on them as their actions rarely demonstrate that they’ve truly tested them out and embodied them in their own lives.

I’ve met others who dismiss Covey’s work because they’re so caught up in their heads that they lack the Emotional Intelligence to appreciate and genuinely try on his principles and notice the improved results they can attain. This is because cognitive awareness is rarely enough to learn something. It’s only by practicing a skill that you can get it into the muscle so it becomes a habit.

Words of wisdom

I’ll leave you to ponder these words of Wisdom taken from the Foreword of the 15th Anniversary edition of the book:

“As you now commence reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I also promise you an exciting learning adventure. Share with your loved ones what you are learning. And most important, start applying what you are learning. Remember, to learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know.

I have personally found living the 7 Habits a constant struggle – primarily because the better you get, the very nature of the challenge changes, just like skiing, playing golf, tennis, or any sport does. Because I sincerely work and struggle every day at living these principle-embodied habits, I warmly join you in this adventure.” ~ Stephen R Covey

May he Rest in Peace…

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