The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has been a bestseller in the field of personal development since its publication in 1989. A new fifteenth anniversary edition was recently published. I bought my copy in 1994 and it’s been one of my most referenced books ever since, second only to my dictionary, I think.
Unlike other self-help books, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has a timeless quality to it, as if it is addressing the core of what makes us human beings. It is not a quick-pick-me-up kind of book, and because of that, some may find it dryer and more difficult than the latest pop psychology best-seller. Covey does not speak down to the reader; he expects the reader to pay a reasonable price in time and energy for the knowledge he imparts. But his personality comes through in the sincerity and earnestness of his message, not to mention the numerous examples he uses from his own life (he and his wife have nine children, a sufficiently large enough data sample from which to draw plenty of examples that are both on-point and quite funny).
The individual habits are invaluable. They are explained clearly and compellingly, and by the end of each chapter, the value of each habit seems as fundamental as the value of oxygen. Exercises accompany each chapter so the reader can begin applying the lessons and building the habits.
But my favorite lesson comes from the overall structure of the seven habits. The first three habits are the habits of Private Victory, the habits of independence: Be Proactive; Begin with the End in Mind; Put First Things First. The second three habits are the habits of Public Victory, the habits of interdependence: Think Win/Win; Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood; Synergize. Covey shows us that there is a natural evolution from dependence to independence to interdependence. Independence will serve you up to a point. Then it is necessary to collaborate if you want to continue to grow. An interdependent relationship creates a synergy that is greater than the sum of its parts.
And the final habit is the habit of renewal, which Covey calls Sharpening the Saw, a metaphor so vivid it needs no further explanation.