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I came to the Seven Habits later than I’d have liked, but since they weren’t published until 1989 and I was already 37 years old that’s not really surprising. I discovered the book in 1995 after I’d read Stephen Covey’s time management epic First Things First and realised that I enjoyed his writing style and presentation as much as I did the content.

In retrospect the book changed me in many positive ways, ways I wish to put on record and ways that I would encourage others to explore, if not adopt. I won’t look at the Habits themselves, as that would lengthen this article too much. I’ll just focus on their effect.

In reading The Seven Habits (and Covey’s other works):

  • I discovered that people allow themselves to be influenced, even created by their surroundings, and that I could decide that my surroundings would not affect me. We are all Pavlov’s Dogs, if we allow that to happen.
  • I discovered that the best way to achieve anything is to put myself forward rather than rely on things to happen in a way that suits me.
  • I realised that now and then it is better to just say nothing rather than express an opinion that will upset someone else, especially when there was no perceivable positive outcome to such expression.
  • I discovered that what was being presented to me by others is frequently coloured, flowered with opinion rather than objectivity, and designed to tell me what they want me to think, rather than what is actually unbiased and true. It made me question everything rather than just accept. Professionally, it made me a better investigator.
  • I noticed just how much time and effort is wasted on ‘things done the way they’ve always been done’ and without proper, considered thought. It made me challenge demands on my time – some I won, some I lost, but all taught me new ways to approach people whose demands challenged me.
  • I stopped challenging processes until I truly understood their objective, thus recognising what worked and what didn’t, so that I could influence effective change.
  • I started to think about my future and started developing and executing a plan that made my desired outcomes come into being.
  • I found that reading the book, with its considered prose, well-argued observations and incredible wisdom, made me more intelligent. It made me want to seek more knowledge, higher-level qualifications and challenging opportunities.
  • I decided that I wanted to teach this to others, and so I sought out the experiences, training and opportunities to do so. I even funded its availability in my local comprehensive.
  • I recognised that I have made many, many mistakes, but that they do not define me.
  • And many mooooorrrreeeee.

In conclusion, reading that book arguably made me a more productive employee, parent, husband and trainer. Yes, I still make mistakes but it is usually despite my knowledge rather than because of it. The principles apply – it’s my failure to apply the principles (on occasion) that influenced my personal errors. And given Covey’s confession that even he had trouble with them, I can live with it.

The book has sold 40 million copies, has just been re-issued as a 30th anniversary edition, and still surprises me with my recognition of bits of information that tweak my knowledge of the material and how it applies to my life.

I really, emphatically and enthusiastically recommend it. If nothing else, reading it led to some truly impactive self-discovery and personal growth. The hardback costs less than 10 pints and has a longer-term effect.

Or you can choose beer. Make the better choice.