Read an Excerpt
Getting the Most Out of This Book
Living the 7 Habits is a book of stories stories about people from all walks of life dealing with profound challenges in their businesses, communities, schools, and families, as well as within themselves showing how they applied the principles of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to these challenges, and the remarkable things that resulted.
What will these stories do for you? If you're already familiar with The 7 Habits, they will likely renew your understanding and commitment to the Habits and, perhaps more important, stir up new insights into other creative ways to apply them to meet your challenges successfully.
If you're not a 7 Habits reader, these stories will likely renew your faith in your own native abilities and wisdom. I believe these stories will enthrall and inspire you, as they have me, with a sense of excitement and with recognition of your own freedom, potential, and power.
But before I go any further, I should probably make a confession. I've not always been big on the value of stories. My main concern has been that the reader or listener might think I was prescribing the practice in the story rather than seeing the practice as an illustration of a principle. For more than forty years my wife, Sandra, has heard hundreds of my presentations, and almost inevitably, in giving me feedback, she counsels me to use more stories, to give more examples that illustrate the principles and theories I am teaching. She simply says to me, "Don't be so heavy. Use stories people can relate to." She has always had an intuitive sense for these things and, fortunately, has had absolutely no hesitation to express it!
Experience has taught me that Sandra was right and I was wrong. I've come to realize not only that a picture is worth a thousand words, as the Far Eastern expression goes, but that the picture created in the heart and mind of a person by a story is worth ten thousand.
I cannot fully describe the respect and reverence I have for every person who has contributed a story, for their willingness to share their inward struggles to live by universal and self-evident principles. You can tell that all of them are rich human beings who should be respected for what they represent, for what they are trying to accomplish, and for what they have accomplished. Their stories are splendid illustrations of profound change. I feel humbled by their humanity and profoundly grateful for their sharing.
But this is more than a storybook because there is a framework of thinking that permeates all of these stories. That framework is based upon the 7 Habits, which are in turn based upon universal, timeless, and self-evident principles. By universal I mean that the principles apply in any situation, in any culture, that they belong to all six major world religions, that they are found in all societies and institutions that have had truly enduring success. By timeless I mean that they never change. They are permanent, natural laws, like gravity. By self-evident I mean you can't really argue against them any more than a person can argue that you can build trust without trustworthiness. (A diagram of the 7 Habits and a brief definition of each Habit can be found on the inside of the front cover of this book for quick reference.)
It may sound presumptuous, but I believe that all highly effective people live the principles underlying the 7 Habits. In fact, I'm convinced that the 7 Habits are increasingly relevant in today's turbulent, troubled, complex world of change. To live with change, to optimize change, you need principles that don't change. Let me reason with you for a moment.
First, let's define effectiveness as getting the results you want in a way that enables you to get even greater results in the future. In other words, success that endures sustainable and balanced success.
Second, the Habits are embodied principles, principles that are lived until they become habitual, almost second nature. Principles are simply natural laws that govern our life, whether or not we know them, like them, or agree with them again, like gravity. I didn't invent the principles. I simply organized them and used language to describe them.
I've often been asked, particularly by the media, for examples and evidence. I've shared both extensively. But I find that the best examples and evidence come when I propose, and even challenge the questioners with, this task: "Think of any successful person or family or project or organization you've come to admire for his/her/its enduring success and there is your example and evidence." Whether the admired people are aware of the 7 Habits or not is irrelevant. They're living by proven principles. I've never had anyone seriously argue against one of the underlying principles. They legitimately may not like the language or the description of the Habits. That's okay. They may not relate to the stories at all. In fact, in their situation they may think of an opposite example of the same principle. But the principle of responsibility (Habit 1) is self-evident. So also are having purpose and values (Habit 2) and living by them (Habit 3). So are mutual respect and benefit (Habit 4), mutual understanding (Habit 5), creative cooperation (Habit 6), and the need for renewal and continual improvement (Habit 7). Principles are like the vitamins and minerals found in all kinds of foods. They can be concentrated, combined, time-sequenced, and encapsulated into a food supplement. So it is with the 7 Habits. The basic elements called principles are found in nature and can be expressed in many forms. Millions of people all over the world have found the time-sequenced encapsulation of the balanced set of principles in the 7 Habits useful. The "why" and "how" are shown in some of these stories. Give God or nature the credit for the source nutrients.
My Two Roles
I will try to play two roles throughout this book, guide and teacher. First, guide: If you were a tourist, say, going up the Nile River, you'd probably want a guide to give you an idea of what to look for and of its significance. On the other hand, if you'd been there several times before or had prepared in your own special way for the experience, you might prefer to guide yourself. So it is with these stories. You decide if the guide is helpful or not. if not, ignore the preface.
Second, teacher: There's a short postscript to each story emphasizing a particular point or angle or an entirely new way of thinking that may enhance your understanding and/or your motivation to act in some way. Again, you decide. You may choose to come to your own conclusions or learning and to pass by the postscript. Great.
I've come to believe that repetition is the mother of learning and that if you really want to help people become consciously competent, you should repeat similar words and ideas again and again in fresh ways and from different angles. That's what this book attempts to do. Since it is a book about people trying to live the 7 Habits, the language of the 7 Habits will be found continually throughout the book. The storyteller has often identified the Habit being lived right in the middle of the story. Where he or she hasn't identified it specifically, where it is an important insight, and particularly if I don't mention it in my comments before or after the story, I have occasionally inserted the name of the Habit being practiced in brackets, such as [Habit I: Be Proactive]. If for some reason this annoys you, just forget it and move on, but I am persuaded that it will help most people, 7 Habits familiar or not, become more consciously aware of what principle is operating.
In the postscript I will often mention the Habit again, perhaps with another twist or angle or experience. Remember, the purpose of the book is to help you, the reader, deepen your understanding and commitment to the principles that are embodied in the Habits. Don't allow word symbols to turn you off. The key thing is the principle that exists in nature and governs the consequences of all actions.
Remember, also, that these are self-evident principles. I am only using language that identifies some of the truths you already know deep inside. I'm trying to make them explicit so that they affect the way you think and decide and act. Therefore, the very words of the 7 Habits are only symbols of a world of principles. They are like the key that opens a door to meaning.
These are all true stories and, in most cases, in the actual words of the storyteller. In some cases there needed to be some editing, but every effort was made to preserve the original meaning and intent, the tone, and the spirit of the storyteller. Most of the names of people in the stories have been changed to preserve their anonymity. The exceptions are those who are identified by name in the title of the story.
The Inside-Out Struggle
As you read these stories, notice that, most often, the people take an Inside-Out Approach, usually requiring personal struggle and sacrifice of pride and ego, and often a significant alteration of life and work style. The alteration almost always requires painstaking effort, patience, and persistence. All four unique human gifts or endowments self-awareness, imagination, conscience, and independent will are usually exercised and magnified. Almost always there's a vision of what's possible and desirable. And almost always, marvelous things result. Trust is restored. Broken relationships are redeemed. Personal moral authority to continue the upward change effort is evident.
You'll identify with some stories more than others. Ponder the visuals. They were carefully selected to reflect the uniqueness of the stories. As you pay the price with each story and come to see the underlying universal principles involved, your confidence will grow in your ability to adapt and apply the 7 Habits framework to any difficult situation or challenge you may face now or in the future. You'll also begin to see an opportunity in your problems so that your creative powers are released. When we solve problems, we get rid of something. When we create, we bring something into existence. Ironically, the creative mind-set solves problems better than the problem-solving mind-set. You'll see this again and again in these stories. Enjoy them, learn from them, reflect on them. They will inspire hope and increase faith in yourself and in your own creative powers.
Copyright © 1999 by Franklin Covey Co.