The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Review)

Once a year, my employer encourages everyone who works there to read business books and write reviews of them in exchange for cash (up to $200). I’ve been there for nine years now, and read many books in that time, but had never read one particular classic of the self-help genre. In part because The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has been so influential, it almost seemed as if I had read it before. Concepts like the character ethic vs. the personality ethic, production vs. production capacity, and efficiency vs. effectiveness have all made their way into other books and articles, to say nothing of the seven habits themselves: 1) be proactive, 2) begin with the end in mind, 3) put first things first, 4) think win/win, 5) seek first to understand, then to be understood, 6) synergize, and 7) sharpen the saw.

This book is about as good as you can get within the confines of the self-help genre, which focuses on the means of “self improvement” or “effectiveness” and remains largely agnostic about ends other than a vague definition of “happiness” (Covey alludes to his personal faith from time to time but insists that his habits apply to anyone). You’ll get the most out of this book, or any book in this genre, if you already have a “why” to live for and are looking for a better “how.”

Earlier this year, I read Drew Dyck’s book Your Future Self Will Thank You: Secrets to Self-Control from the Bible and Brain Science. It made me wish there were more books that transcend this limitation of the self-help genre: books that include some of the best wisdom and advice you get in mainstream self-help book but refuse to remain vague and/or agnostic about ultimate purposes and sources of meaning in life. Dyck read all the research on habit-forming, willpower, and self-control, but was clear throughout why we should pursue self control—to enable us to do what is right according to a Christian view of the world.

Now, I can see why a mainstream publisher would want to keep ultimate ends vague in order to reach the largest possible audience. But as an editor at Lexham Press, I think we have the potential to publish books that are a bit more specific regarding both the “why ” and the “how” of living a good life.