I never met Stephen Covey, who died on Monday aged 79, but his writings have had an immense effect on my life and practice as a psychotherapist and life coach. I've written elsewhere summarizing his 7 habits, so I won't repeat all that here. Covey's most famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Living, has consistently topped my yearly list of personal development favourites which reflects the influence his work has had on me. Though his influence may be more obvious in the coaching and business world, I see more than a passing resemblance between Covey's ideas and some of the "new" third-wave CBT therapies, such as Behavioural Activation and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
In this short article, I just want to highlight the 3 ideas from Covey that I find most inspiring
1) Be Proactive
This really is the key to all personal development work - call it Proactivity, the Serenity Prayer, using the gap between stimulus and response, or, as I did in this article, choosing mindfulness over living on autopilot. Unless you are aware of your freedom to change, and the limitations to what you can and cannot change, then you cannot really get going on the road to personal development.
2) Begin with the End in Mind
Know what matters, clarify your values, develop enlightened values - if you don't do this, then even if youare proactive, you won't be using that freedom wisely or ethically.
3) Think Win-Win
We might want the world to fit in with our wishes, but the world doesn't usually work that way. Thinking win-win, having the attitude to get what you want and to help the other person gets what they want, is a much better option than compromise, and infinitely better than the other alternatives such as Lose-Lose and Lose-Win that Covey spells out so logically. We need to seek first to understand others, then be understood, then aim for a solution that gets as much as possible of what matters to both of us..
Simple ideas, which Covey would have been the last to claim were original - the greatness of Covey's work is that he put them together i a logical structure and made them be equally applicable to home and work.
Stephen Covey, you lived a highly effective life, your work will live on