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seven habits of Highly Effective Peopleby Annalise Jarman

I recently finished listening to The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey on audiobook. It is a well-known self-help book on how to have healthy interpersonal relationships. The basic concept is that in order to have healthy relationships with others, one must first have a healthy foundation of character within oneself. As the author states, it is an inside-out approach to relationships and leadership success. It requires you to start “with the man in the mirror”. It reflects the idea that “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. Then it describes how you can use your character foundation to build trust and synergize with others in cooperative tasks. As my husband put it, it’s all pretty intuitive. So why the popularity? Why have over 25 million copies of the book been sold worldwide, in over 40 languages?

  1. I think the main reason for the success of this book is that, in a way, it actually gives its readers psychological air. In The Seven Habits, Dr. Covey describes psychological air as the emotional boost we give to others when we listen empathically. When someone listens empathically to me, I feel like the air they are giving me is really permission to be who I am and to develop my character based on what I value. To me, that’s what psychological air is more specifically. While the Seven Habits obviously can’t listen to its readers, it does seem to have this same effect as empathic listening; it gives it’s readers permission to be who they are and to develop their character based on their values.

It is my belief that none of us start out being exactly the kind of person we want to be. We do not live exactly according to our values because we are imperfect and underdeveloped. We make mistakes. We act in ways we do not want to act. Even though this book is largely about self-control, Dr. Covey explains that learning self-control is a growing process. He emphasizes that it’s not a quick fix. As we work on the seven habits, though, he promises that we will gain a greater and greater ability to choose our actions. Dr. Covey describes the seven habits as a lifelong upward spiral of personal progress. By explaining it this way, he gives us enough psychological air to know that we can start where we are.

Having said that, the main purpose of the book is to show us a process by which we can develop our character. Dr. Covey gives us this quote from the psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl several times throughout the book: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” This premise gives us psychological air in that it recognizes  that we do have the power to change – to become the type of person we want to be.

In this way the ideas in this book are both accepting and empowering. The paradigm it expresses is powerful and full of hope. No one is perfect, but no one has to be a victim either. That is why, I believe, this book is so popular. I enjoyed the read, and if you haven’t read the book, I certainly recommend it.


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