First Things First

First Things First

3.8 8
by Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill

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Stephen R. Covey is an internationally respected leadership authority and founder of Covey Leadership Center. He received his M.B.A. from Harvard and a doctorate from Brigham Young University, where he was a professor of business management and organizational behavior for 20 years. His book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, has sold more than 10 millionSee more details below


Stephen R. Covey is an internationally respected leadership authority and founder of Covey Leadership Center. He received his M.B.A. from Harvard and a doctorate from Brigham Young University, where he was a professor of business management and organizational behavior for 20 years. His book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, has sold more than 10 million copies and has been translated into 30 languages.

A. Roger Merril, a well-known leader in time management and leadership development, is a vice president and founding meember of Covey Leadership Center. He holds a degree in business management and has done extensive graduate work in organizational behavior and adult learning.

Rebecca R. Merril, a mother, grandmother, homemaker, and accomplished author, has also served in numerous leadership positions in a variety of community, eduational, and women's organizations.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
USA Today Covey is the hottest self-improvement consultant to hit U.S. Business since Dale Carnegie.

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication date:
Edition description:
Abridged, 1 CD, 1 hr. 12 min.
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 5.38(h) x 0.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

January 1

Basing our happiness on our ability to control everything is futile. While we do control our choice of action, we cannot control the consequences of our choices. Universal laws or principles do. Thus, we are not in control of our lives; principles are.

p. 12*

All page references are to First Things First.

January 2

We live in a modern society that loves shortcut techniques. Yet quality of life cannot be achieved by taking the right shortcut. There is no shortcut. But there is a path. The path is based on principles revered throughout history. If there is one message to glean from this wisdom, it is that a meaningful life is not a matter of speed or efficiency. It's much more a matter of what you do and why you do it than how fast you get it done.

p. 12

January 3

The power is in the principles.

p. 14

January 4

Be governed by your internal compass, not by some clock on the wall.

p. 16

January 5

If the thing you've committed to do is principle-centered, you gradually become a little more principle-centered. You keep the promise to yourself and your own integrity account goes up. One of the best ways to strengthen our independent will is to make and keep promises. Each time we do, we make deposits in our Personal Integrity Account. This is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust we have in ourselves, in our ability to walk our talk. It's important to start small.

p. 68

January 6

For most of us, the issue is not between the "good" and the "bad," but between the "good" and the "best." So often, the enemy of the best is the good.

p. 18

January 7

In the absence of "wake-up calls," many of us never really confront the critical issues of life. Instead of looking for deep chronic causes, we look for quick-fix Band-Aids and aspirin to treat the acute pain. Fortified by temporary relief, we get busier and busier doing "good" things and never even stop to ask ourselves if what we' re doing really matters most.

p. 21

January 8

Paradigms are like maps. They' re not the territory; they describe the territory. And if the map is wrong — if we're trying to get to someplace in Detroit and all we have is a map of Chicago — it's going to be very difficult for us to get where we want to go. We can work on our behavior — we can travel more efficiently, get a different car with better gas mileage, increase our speed — but we're only going to wind up in the wrong place fast. We can work on our attitude — we can get so "psyched up" about trying to get there that we don't even care that we're in the wrong place. But the problem really has nothing to do with attitude or behavior. The problem is that we have the wrong map.

p. 25

January 9

Our problem, as one put it, "is to get at the wisdom we already have."

p. 73

January 10

We're not in control; principles are. We can control our choices, but we can't control the consequences of those choices. When we pick up one end of the stick, we pick up the other.

p. 25

January 11

While you can be efficient with things, you can't be efficient — effectively — with people.


January 12

The way we see (our paradigm) leads to what we do (our attitudes and behaviors), and what we do leads to the results we get in our lives. So if we want to create significant change in the results, we can't just change attitudes and behaviors, methods or techniques; we have to change the basic paradigms out of which they grow.

p. 28

January 13

One thing's for sure: If we keep doing what we're doing, we' re going to keep getting what we' re getting.


January 14

We need to move beyond time management to life leadership.


January 15

It's important to realize that urgency itself is not the problem. The problem is that when urgency is the dominant factor in our lives, importance isn't. What we regard as "first things" are urgent things. We're so caught up in doing, we don't even stop to ask if what we're doing really needs to be done.


January 16

While management is problem-oriented, leadership is opportunity-oriented.

p. 48

January 17

Values will not bring quality-of-life results..,unless we value principles.


January 18

All the wishing and even all the work in the world, if it's not based on valid principles, will not produce quality-of-life results. It's not enough to dream. It's not enough to try. It's not enough to set goals or climb ladders. It's not enough to value. The effort has to be based on practical realities that produce the result.


January 19

The power of principles is that they' re universal, timeless truths. If we understand and live our lives based on principles, we can quickly adapt; we can apply them anywhere.


January 20

To understand the application may be to meet the challenge of the moment, but to understand the principle is to meet the challenge of the moment more effectively and to be empowered to meet a thousand challenges of the future as well.


January 21

The problems in life come when we're sowing one thing and expecting to reap something entirely different.


January 22

Trust grows out of trustworthiness, out of the character to make and keep commitments, to share resources, to be caring and responsible, to belong, to love unconditionally.


January 23

Quality of life is inside-out. Meaning is in contribution, in living for something higher than self.


January 24

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.


January 25

Stand apart from your dreams. Look at them. Write about them. Wrestle with them until you're convinced they're based on principles that will bring results. Then use your creative imagination to explore new applications, new ways of doing things that have the principle-based power to translate dreaming to doing.

p. 64

January 26

To hear conscience clearly often requires us to be "still" or "reflective" or "meditative" — a condition we rarely choose or find.

p. 65

January 27

Make and keep a promise — even if it means you' re going to get up in the morning a little earlier and exercise. Be sure you don't violate that commitment and be sure you don't overpromise and underdeliver. Build slowly until your sense of honor becomes greater than your moods. Little by little, your faith in yourself will increase.

p. 68

January 28

Our lives are the results of our choices. To blame and accuse other people, the environment, or other extrinsic factors is to choose to empower those things to control us.

p. 70

January 29

We choose — either to live our lives or to let others live them for us.


January 30

The best way to predict your future is to create it.


January 31

If a goal isn't connected to a deep "why," it may be good, but it usually isn't best.


Copyright © 1997 by Covey Leadership Center, Inc.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
USA Today Covey is the hottest self-improvement consultant to hit U.S. business since Dale Carnegie.

Charles A. Garfield, Ph.D. author of Peak Performers — The New Heroes of American Business Roger Merrill's work is an excellent contribution for all individuals who want to connect their real attitudes, beliefs, and actions in the world.

Larry King CNN Covey has reached the apex with First Things First. This is an important work. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't be helped by reading it.

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