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Victor E. Dike
Apr 30, 2005, 06:00 AM
<p><i>Stephen R Covey [New York: Free Press (paperback edition) 2003]</i><br /><br /><br /><b><i>By Victor E. Dike</i></b><br /><br />The <i>7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change</i>, has been around for sometime now but this writer had not the opportunity to read it until recently. This book contains common sense ideas, but Dr. Stephen R. Covey utilized his enviable organizational skill to package and market old information as if they were new. The ?7 habits?- Be Proactive, Begin with the end in mind, Put first things first, Think win/win, Seek first to understand?then to be understood, Synergies, and Sharpen the Saw - are principles that could inspire positive changes in any person who would put them into practice. However, for anyone to adopt and effectively use &quot;the seven habits&quot; one would undergo a &quot;paradigm shift&quot; - a term coined by Thomas Kuhn in<em> The Structure of Scientific Revolutions</em>. However, Dr. Covey believes that ?true success? in any human endeavor encompasses a balance of personal and professional effectiveness and this book is an excellent manual in those areas.<br /><br />Nevertheless, the ?7 Habits? presents a holistic, integrated and principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems. Dr. Covey meticulously and systematically explains the change process, which affects how one perceives and acts regarding productivity, and time management, and positive thinking process. Thus there are ?no quick fixes? to human problems; in some cases one has to develop ?a new level of thinking? to solve pressing problems. Towards this <em>Albert Einstein</em> noted that &quot;the significant problems we face [today] cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.&quot; But many people do not seem to realize this in their daily struggle for survival.<br /><br />This book adopts a step-by-step approach to teaching fairness, integrity and honesty, human dignity and taking responsibility for our behavior. These principles would enable one to adapt to personal change and to develop the wisdom and power to take advantage of the opportunities positive changes create. Human growth and development is a continuum, interrelated and progressive as the &quot;Maturity Continuum&quot; illustrates ? the process goes from ?dependence to independence [and] to interdependence.&quot; Everyone needs one another to succeed in life. However, the ?7 Habits? notes that a person?s ?social maps?-the genetic make up, psychic and environment- is his or her ?social mirror.? This means that the &quot;scripts&quot; a person acquired in life direct ones behavior (reaction and respond to stimuli). However, through proper socialization one could modify the acquired negative ?scripts? and generate positive energy.<br /><br />Dr. Stephen R. Covey applied some real life experiences in this book to illustrate the principles. The principles could guide one to communicate better and change from being ?reactive? to being &quot;proactive&quot; or to change from listening with &quot;intent to reply&quot; to what he calls &quot;empathic listening.&quot; Nevertheless, ?as individuals, groups and business? and people do not succeed in their ventures because they operate in ?the wrong jungle.? Thus people should realize that their &quot;effectiveness -often even survival -does not depend solely on how much effort they expend, but on whether or not the effort expended was ?in the right jungle.&quot;<br /><br />Nevertheless, in some cases individuals perceive happiness in life from a distorted perspective point of view of material possession (big house, fat bank account, flashy cars, etc) - and hinge their emotional well being on those things. But such individuals tend to forget that material wealth is not permanent and that the real worth of any person depends on his or her wisdom. It is the values people hold close to their heart that should drive them. As Schopenhauer had noted ?Not wealth but wisdom is the way? to make life worthwhile. People should, therefore, not waste their energy on the areas of life they have no control over -their ?Circle of Concern;? rather they should direct their energy to the areas they have control over-their ?Circle of Influence.&quot;<br /><br />Certainly, nobody has any control over another person?s behavior but his or her own. For that, any person who wants to develop a good relationship with others should invest in them to build enough trust and ?the feeling of safeness? in that particular relationship. In other words, one must make enough ?deposit? on the person?s &quot;emotional bank accounts&quot; before making ?withdrawals.? Similarly, one must save some money in ones Bank Account before making some withdrawal. One could do this through courtesy, kindness and honesty and by keeping ones commitment with people they have regard for. As Harvey Fireston was credited to have said, ?you get the best out of others when you give the best of yourself.? But quite often a bad system negatively affects some good individuals.<br /><br />The ?7 Habits? also explains the interrelationship between Independence and Interdependence and notes that in real life Independence is an illusion because life is full of Co-dependence for existence and survival. It notes that interdependence is the ?highest level of true human maturity-the heart of socialism and the soul of strong families,? marriages and businesses. As it were, nobody can survive as an ?Island.? Here, again, Dr. Covey notes that the practical results of being &quot;principle-centered is that it makes us whole ? truly integrated.&quot; This takes ?the 7 Habits? to the ?Principles of Interpersonal Leadership&quot; where it illustrates the basic task of a leader. Accordingly, &quot;the basic task of leadership is to increase the standard of living and the quality of life for all stakeholders.&quot; And as this book notes, life is a &quot;process of continuous improvement,&quot; which is the hallmark of the ?Total Quality Movement?-a key to Japan?s economic success.<br /><br />This writer admires Dr. Covey?s skills in writing and marketing his work and regrets that he did not read this great book before writing his books. He subscribes to the views of many renowned authors that the most difficult part of writing a book is marketing or selling ones ideas to the public. The ?7 Habits? discusses the &quot;win/win&quot; philosophy as an ideal concept in human relation, but failed to realize that it is very difficult to practice this ideal in a modern materialistic and competitive society where everyone strives to outdo his or her competitors. But this mentality and practice of &quot;win/lose&quot; makes one to disregard the philosophy of &quot;abundance mentality,&quot; which seem to say that there are abundant resources out there for everyone.<br /><br />However, whether one agrees with all the principles of the ?7 Habits? or not, one should strive to work towards achieving unity of purpose-oneness-with loved ones, friends and working associates. The concepts are not easy to grasp (one has to really study this book to appreciate them), but they are good guides to good human relationship everyone should emulate. This writer strongly believes that a person?s happiness comes from within (and not from outside) when ones life is in harmony with his/her true principles and values. Therefore, Dr. Covey urged everyone to &quot;Sharpen? his or her ?Saw,? which ?means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset one has with a balanced, systematic program for the four areas of our lives - physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual.? Finally, everyone should always try to avoid passing on to the ?next generation&quot; any of his or her acquired &quot;negative scripts.? This would make the world a better place for everyone. This book, which is an excellent manual for self-improvement, is a must read for those in the business of education (parents, teachers, students), general readers and policymakers. This writer has adopted it as a supplemental reading for his classes. Please read it and pass it on to others!<br /><br /><br /><i><b>Victor E. Dike</b>, CEO, Center for Social Justice and Human Development (CSJHD), in Sacramento, California, is the author of <b>Fraud or Democracy? The Presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, 2003-2007</b> [forthcoming 2007]</i><br /><br /><br /><br /></p><br><br><a target="_blank" href=http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1330><b>..Read the full article</b></a><br>