The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Stephen R. Covey

Book cover

I agree with most of the substance of this book. Also, any writer who frequently cites Viktor Frankl, as Covey does, is alright with me. However, I can’t say that it really gripped me or made me want to adopt significant changes to my way of life. To me, it reads too much like something that you would find on the “business best-sellers” shelf (as of course it is). I feel like I have gotten a lot more out of reading related books, such as “Man’s Search for Meaning” or “To Have or To Be,” that are more philosophical and less how-to.

One specific thing that Covey does particularly irked me. The book is interspersed with illustrative anecdotes, either from Covey’s own life or from others’. Much of the time, the principles that Covey is trying to illustrate have to do with the importance of letting go of something–your anger at someone, your need to control someone else, etc. But as near as I could tell, every one of these anecdotes ended up as a “have your cake and eat it too” scenario. The most memorable one was about a parent who was the dean of a college, who was hurting his relationship with his son by pressuring him to go there. Once the dad decided to let up and allow the son to make his own choice, lo and behold, the son realized that he really did want to go to that college. While I think this is a very plausible outcome, I also felt that Covey needed to include some examples where the thing being given up was in fact lost. Covey specifically says something along the lines of, don’t attempt this if you’re just treating it as a jiu-jitsu trick to get the outcome you wanted in the first place; it doesn’t work like that. But I think that his examples tend to reinforce that perspective.

My Goodreads rating: 3 stars