Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
“Quadrant II is the heart of effective personal management. It deals with things that are not urgent, but are important. It deals with things like building relationships, writing a personal mission statement, long-range planning, exercising, preventative maintenance, preparation – all those things we know we need to do, but somehow seldom get round to doing, because they aren’t urgent.”
There is not all that much to say about The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This world-renowned book is a fantastic self-help tool. Although peppered with useful principles (such as the wise “P/PC Principle”; investing in both the thing being produced and the thing doing the producing), the 7 habits themselves are the following:
Begin with the End in Mind.
Put First Things First.
Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.
Sharpen the Saw.
Each of the 7 habits are largely self-explanatory, and, because of this, the book could have been up to 10 times shorter without any loss. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is also bloated with anecdote and repetition; my suggestion is simply to read the sub-headings.
Covey claims that his unique selling point is an emphasis on character rather than technique, but there is little of substance to ground the work. He offers a number of agreeable platitudes to provide a foundation for why we should be effective people. Unsurprisingly, none of these satisfy. Some of my notes read: “he is supposed to be a Mormon! What is with all of this relativistic rhetoric?” All Covey extends in terms of a worldview on which to build is a legalistic spin-off of Christianity (and this only at the end of the book). If one is to adopt his genuinely helpful principles and work with them, one has to come to the table with an already-adopted worldview firmly in place.
A broader question thrown up by The 7 Habits is how far pagan wisdom is to be valued. I have really enjoyed the (limited) number of self-help books that I have read; I love improving in effectiveness and management. But the Christian must guard her heart. If my desire to be effective is not drawn from the deep wells of exalting Christ above all, then books like this stir an idolatrous desire to fulfil one’s potential, the very breath of our secular culture.
Is it worth reading? It is certainly worth skimming. There is genuinely lots to learn. As for reading it all the way through, I think that the reader can spare himself.