This book is packed with so many deep concepts and principles that I’m afraid my weekly review is going to be a superficial overview at best. However my intention for the 52 book series wasn’t to be entirely comprehensive, but instead to give you a solid look into the key concepts that you can instantly take away with you. And then, if you desire a deeper look, to buy the book yourself. So with that disclaimer, here goes.
Character vs. Personality Ethic
To provide a framework whereupon to build the 7 Habits, Covey begins his work introducing the dichotomy between what he calls the character ethic and the personality ethic.
For years, the cultural theme that ran throughout the US was built upon the character ethic. This is the idea that a person advances throughout life on the basis of their character. It was the foundation of Benjamin Franklin’s Twelve Virtues and could be found in most of the self-help literature of the time.
However, since WWI, a shift started to happen. Developing one’s character began to be overshadowed by the “quick-fix” solution of the personality ethic. All you had to do was learn specific skills and techniques, work on your public image, personality and attitudes, and you’d be guaranteed success. However, the problem came when you were eventually discovered as insincere and shallow. A perfect example is many of our modern politicians — all fluff and no substance.
Covey doesn’t knock the personality ethic. In fact, he says it is sometimes absolutely necessary. But these ideas are only effective when they flow naturally from a good character and the right motives. And this is where the 7 Habits come into play.
The 7 Habits bring us back into the realm of the character ethic, where we live based upon time-tested principles that have worked throughout the ages, regardless of social context. Values such as the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you), going the extra mile, charity and so on, are what truly effective people have lived by throughout history.
According to Covey, having a principle-centered life is the only way to be truly effective.
From Dependence to Interdependence: a Continuum
The 7 Habits are not mutually exclusive. In fact, from the first to the last habit, they are intended to work with and build upon each other in a specific order and structure. When they are sequentially applied in your life, they will take you from a state of dependence on others and society to independence and ultimately interdependence — an attribute reserved for the most effective people.
Habits 1 through 3 comprise the “private victory” or independence (I’ll be covering this tomorrow). They take us from that feeling of helplessness and powerlessness to one of empowerment and pro-activity.
Habits 4 through six make up the “public victory” or interdependence, where we learn to effectively work with others in a mutually beneficial way. If we can achieve this, we have achieved true effectiveness.
The 7th and last habit, “Sharpen the Saw”, is what keeps us running at peak levels. Just as any machine requires regular maintenance to function properly, we require our own “down-time” to rejuvenate our bodies, our minds and our spirits.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is the fifth of fifty-two books in Life Training – Online’s series 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks.