Reviewed by Shujaud-Din Begal
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a wonderful book by Steven Richards Covey.
The book was published in 1989 by the Free Press, USA. Steven R Covey was an American author, businessman and a public speaker who died in 2012.
In the book, Covey presents an entertaining account of the most effective and efficient ways of attaining desirable goals and to maintain healthy relations in life.
Steven Covey enumerates the most profound and timeless principles governing human life. The book is an excellent guide for people of all kinds and ages who strive for self improvement and perfection. Students, leaders, politicians, scientists, business persons and other reading enthusiasts can benefit from it equally.
Covey starts with the most fundamental principle that our understanding of the world is based on our perception. Change is an essential aspect of human life and in order to adapt to changes, we must change our self and that involves a change in perception. In order to make changes in our lives, we must work on some of the basic paradigms that govern our behavior and character. Covey calls this change in behavior as the paradigm shift. In the words of the author: “Paradigms are powerful because they create the lens through which we see the world…If you want small changes in your life, work on your attitude. But if you want big and primary changes, work on your paradigm.”
The change he talks about is essentially inside out, means that the change begins within one self. Our character is a composition of habits and principles that we have learned during life time. Habits good or bad according to Covey affect our lives for the better or worse and the paradigm shift that covey is talking about, is nothing other than adopting the right set of habits. Covey shows how to achieve greatness and success by leading a life based on clearly defined principles and goals. The development of habits has essentially three stages that are dependence, independence and finally interdependence. In the dependent stage we are dependent on others to look after us and to do things for us. In the independent stage we are capable of shouldering our own responsibilities and finally we have the interdependence stage, where things are done in a joint effort with others. Covey’s division of habit development is interesting but self contradicting at the same time. No doubt the three stages are there, but to say that they follow one another is not clear because we can be interdependent and independent at the same time. Also the fact that when we are dependent or independent is matter of time and there is no natural sequence. Some people remain independent yet there are those who are dependent upon others throughout their lives.
Covey points out very fundamental shift in people’s attitude toward success. In the past the fundamentals of success rested on what he calls character ethics that included integrity, courage, justice and others but now Covey maintains that success is viewed upon as personality ethics that include behavior, attitudes and habits. This argument by Covey needs to be thought about, maybe there is the fundamental shift in people’s perception about success but to talk about an entire shift is beyond understanding because still there are people who value courage and justice and things like that. Steven Covey now brings in the seven habits which he thinks are the most fundamental to success. The first three habits are related to independent stage and are to be proactive, begin with the aim in mind and to put right things in the right order. By proactive Covey means that act in advance and don’t led circumstances lead you, prepare yourself for what is awaiting you. The second habit says that work to achieve certain pre-determined goals, means there should be a definite goal behind your every action. These two habits essentially reflect the same thing, pro active people are those who have set certain aims in life and they strive continuously to realize those goals. Pro activity and working with the aim in mind is essentially one and the same thing and to set them as two separate habits is beyond logic and reason.
The next three habits are associated with the interdependent stage and are think win-win or work for mutually beneficial endeavors, seek first to understand and then to be understood and finally synergize or coordinate people’s effort to accomplish a common goal. The seventh habit is a continuous struggle for self improvement and this goes on even after short term success and is for life time. Covey’s idea of joint effort for collective good is no doubt attractive but offers no solution in case of conflict of interest. What if there is no convergence of interest and my set goals are in sharp contrast with those of others and there is nothing good for me in the collective good. Should I turn my back on the common good and walk away or should I abandon my own goals and work for the common good?
There is no denying of the fact that every work of art has its limitations and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey is not an exceptional case. The book with all its pros and cons is a rare collection of artistic qualities and has continued to capture the imagination of millions of readers across the globe. The book is a wonderful guide for all those who want to improve themselves and who strive to achieve the best in life. Of all the good things about the book, most important is the language and presentation of ideas and Covey excels every other writer with his simple yet a more powerful language. Covey has presented his ideas and principles in an easy-to-read and easy-to-use manner. The book contains some of the most fundamental and penetrating truths about human life which are beyond the reason and understanding of ordinary readers, but it is the language alone which makes it possible for the rank and foil to understand the alpha and omega of the book. The book has every good reason to attract the attention of the reading enthusiasts. I highly recommend it.