Thirty Years Later, My Dad’s Book Is Still Relevant

Here's a list of "The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People"—and why there is still so much room for improvement.

When my dad, Dr. Stephen Covey, first wrote the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he spent a year working almost exclusively on it, distilling his thoughts, crafting the narrative and developing his recommendations.

Soon after he was done, he sat down with his staff and announced that he immediately needed to rewrite the whole thing.

The problem wasn’t with the writing or the insights, but he decided he had underestimated the importance of the sequence of his 7 habits. They weren’t just seven random ideas; they all worked together in order, and he knew that he had to redo the whole book with that frame of reference in mind.

Think about it. Maybe you’re having a relationship problem with your spouse or with a colleague. The answer isn’t to work on that relationship directly; you have to go fix yourself first. You’ve got to go back and, with your own self-awareness, reinvent your thinking and your approach to the relationship. Maybe check your motives and your end goals. You have to win your private victory before you can effectively work with other people.

That’s the sequence problem my dad addressed when he reworked his book. The first three habits work well together, and so do the second three, but then the seventh sharpens them all. Can you work on any one of the habits individually? Yes, of course, and that will likely help you tremendously. But they do all work together, with each habit strengthening the previous one.

I’ve taken time to reflect on why we still need dad’s book 30 years later. Quite frankly, it’s because many of us still have room for improvement. So in the interest of helping you embrace the right habits, here’s my take on “The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People”:

Habit 1: React.

Blame all your problems on your lousy boss, your parents, your genes, your spouse, your partner, your ex, the economy, the government or something else. Be a victim. Take no responsibility for your life. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re angry, yell. If someone says something rude to you, be rude back.

Habit 2: Begin with Squat in Mind.

Don’t plan ahead. Don’t set goals. And don’t worry about the consequences of your actions. Go with the flow. Live for the moment and party on, for tomorrow you may die.

Habit 3: Put First Things Last.

Procrastinate. Do the urgent things first, like answering every ring, bling, and beep that comes your way. You’ll get to the important stuff later. Don’t worry about strengthening your relationships; they’ll always be there. And why exercise? You still have your health. Just make sure you spend sufficient time each day watching YouTube.

Habit 4: Think Win-Lose.

See life as a vicious competition. Everyone’s out to get you, so you’d better get them first. Don’t let others succeed because, remember, if they win, you lose. If it looks like you’re going to lose, however, make sure you drag the winner down with you.

Habit 5: Seek First to Talk, Then Pretend to Listen.

You were born with a mouth, so use it. Talk a lot. Make sure everyone understands your views first. Then, if you must, pretend to listen by saying “uh-huh” while daydreaming about what you want for lunch. Or, if you really want their opinion, give it to them.

Habit 6: Be an Island.

Let’s face it, other people are weird because they’re different than you. So why try to get along with people? Teamwork is overrated. Cooperation slows everything down. So, bag it. Since you always have the best ideas, you’re better off just doing things by yourself. Be your own special island.

Habit 7: Burn Yourself Out.

Be too busy driving to take time to get gas. Be too busy living to take time to recharge and renew. Don’t learn new things. Avoid exercise like the plague. And for heaven’s sake, stay away from good books, nature, art, music, or anything else that may inspire you. And don’t even think about serving your friends, family or community. You’ve got too much on your plate to give back. Burn, baby, burn.

Clearly, these are not the habits we are after. But too often we practice them because they represent the course of least resistance (myself included).

You may think you can’t change your approach to life or problems, that you don’t have time to exercise, go to lunch with a friend, read a book, write in your journal, take a break or go on a family vacation.

In reality, we have the power to do all of these things. And in the process become our most highly effective selves.


MORE LIKE THIS

  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events

    Roundtable

    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)

     

    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.