Saturday, July 19, 2014

Reflections: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Personal growth and development books always strive to be their own type of scripture.  Normally there is some kind of comment from the author at the beginning of their book which advises the readers they need to make a consistent study of the book and return to it again and again.  I've never done this.  I'm not sure how many people do.  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is superior to other personal growth books, but it still falls into the same traps and tropes, and I won't be returning to it again and again as Mr. Covey would have liked.

The most unique aspect of 7 Habits is that it pulls so heavily from the religious faith of its author.  As a Latter-day Saint, it wasn't difficult to identify the doctrinal influences which were informing Stephen R. Covey's conclusions.  In fact, sometimes the book acts as a barely veiled reiteration of Latter-day Saint doctrine.  I was impressed by this because I know how much Latter-day Saint doctrine has to offer and how valuable it can be in guiding a life.  Mr. Covey is certainly not coy about his beliefs, and I respect him for that.

What this focus on belief leads to is a book that is centered mostly on principle and values rather than techniques and tricks.  I enjoyed this aspect of the book the most.  I believe in a certain moral ecology and Mr. Covey posits his theories of human behavior and relationships within that kind of a framework.  I found his advice, therefore, much more salient and meaningful than I would have otherwise.  It's a viewpoint not widely shared today, but I nonetheless believe it's true.

The problem with 7 Habits is the same as most other personal growth books.  It's bloated and too long.  If the book had been 200 pages I think it could have been as close to perfect as a personal development book can get; however, weighing in at 319 pages, the book becomes bogged down in its own love for lists, paradigms, and diagrams.  A reader simply won't remember much of it.  This is why authors of these types of books encourage their readers to return to a study of their words again and again, but I'm just not going to do that.  In consequence, the book loses some of its value as it attempts to provide more and more of it by filling its pages with insights, theories, and methods.

I enjoyed 7 Habits for what it is.  It's one of the better personal development books, and a staple of the genre.  It has been read by millions of people, and it does deserve a wide audience.  Yet, in the end, it feels a lot like a lot of the other personal development books, and I've never been much of a fan of those kinds of books.

Other Topics of Interest:
Reflections: The Wisdom of Teams
Reflections: How to Win Friends and Influence People

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