stephen covey
It's the book you've heard about for years, but probably never read - especially if you have an aversion to shallow self-help books promising success, influence, power and money. But Stephen R. Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is no shallow self-help book. It's actually a book about virtue - the development of character, and the timeless principles governing true success in life for as long as there has been history.

Today on MindMatters we discuss some of the overall themes of the book, Covey's unique but universal worldview, and some of the great stories he shares to really make his points hit home.

Running Time: 01:20:33

Download: MP3 — 73.7 MB

Here's the transcript of the show:

Corey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Now I know what you're thinking. What is such a self-helpy book {laughter}, what are we doing talking about this book? And I thought that too when it was first brought up. But after reading through The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People which was released back in the 1980s. It's an old book. It's been around for a long time. People's grandparents probably read it. {laughter}

But it's really a step-by-step book to go from being a self-centered, sleepwalking idiot to becoming an effective person in the Jordan Peterson sense of the word. It's the nuts and bolts of how you actually become somebody who is a loving partner, has good relationships, healthy relationships. You don't ignore the important things in your life. You are effective at managing your time and not just managing your time but actually doing things that matter for yourself and for the people around you. It's having a vision for life that is radically different than just "How do I become an effective businessman?" or "how to become a millionaire in seven days" or "how to heal your inner child". It's much more pragmatic and mature than all of that.

Harrison: Well one of the things that Covey talks about in the book is how he came to these principles, these seven habits, as he calls them. He wrote a dissertation on the self-help field, I believe for a masters degree. He read hundreds and hundreds of self-help books going back through American history. So as long as there's been publishing in the United States there have been self-help books of various sorts and he found that for the first 200 years or so, up until relatively recently, all of the self-help strategies were character-based, going back to the classics, the Greek and Roman philosophical traditions, building up your character.

After that, in the modern media age that changed to what he calls the personality-centered approach which is a utilitarian social engineering, but self-engineering strategy, dealing purely with surface level features of your personality.

Elan: "How to win friends and influence people".

Harrison: Right. It's pretty much manipulation for the sake of manipulation. There's no heart to it. There's no authenticity or integrity in those systems, at least that's how Covey sees them. It's not like a get rich quick scheme or how to effectively manage people, which is the trend even today when you look at not only self-help books, or a lot of them, but just trends in persuasion. If you go on YouTube there's the whole pick up artist scene and related fields to that where it's all about how to manipulate people, how to present yourself in a certain way to get what you want and that's as deep as it goes.

For Covey, being a highly effective person and the success that that brings is more of a natural outgrowth of the person's character. So he focuses exclusively on the character principles that will allow you to be the kind of person who can then become successful. It's not like, "Here's how to make a million dollars." It's "Here's how to be a good person and with that character basis, you can't help but be successful in whatever you're doing." It doesn't have to be in making money. It can be in any field. The thing about being character centered is that it applies to all types of fields and all types of contexts and situations and environments.

Adam: You can be an entrepreneur who's seeking to get a million dollars, but that is not the driving force behind what you're doing. The driving force is to be an individual who lives with integrity and applies these values in their life and lives by those values. As a consequence, if you're applying this into your field of entrepreneurship, if you're successful at it because you've lived by your principles, then that will come out as an outgrowth. But it is not the be-all/end-all which is, like you said, very shallow.

Elan: Corey, you started out by comparing it to the instruction and ideas that Jordan Peterson presents so well in his work. There's a reason why 7 Habits has become this kind of mega-popular self-help book and has maintained that status for so many decades I think and that is because, like Covey says, the truths that he is conveying and communicating in his book really are perennial truths, really do harken back to the wisdom of the self and building character as a means of becoming successful in life in any endeavour.

I was pleasantly surprised by how well this is written and how practical a lot of this is as well. What he's asking the reader to do basically is engage their own imagination and conscience in many instances in writing exercises and thinking exercises that would propel the reader forward in imagining the type of life they would have liked to live or the type of goal that they would like to achieve as an outgrowth of taking responsibility for themselves and how they behave towards others. That's one of the chief positive things about this book, which is just that it is self-directed. He's got a very interesting term for it. He calls it an inside-out approach which is to start with oneself, to not see the problems in one's life as being thrust upon you or make you feel like you're a victim of circumstance but to see them as opportunities to respond constructively. When you do that you take your "poor me" victim mentality out of the equation and you have the potential at least to grow as a result of responding to things which some amount of constructive behaviour and thinking.

So that's just a general outline from what I understood.

Corey: Yeah, I'll just kind of flesh the outline out a bit. He talks about three different kinds of maturity, the maturity continuum. One is the dependent person and clearly a child is the ultimate dependent person but you can be intellectually, emotionally, physically dependent on other people well into adulthood. After that there comes independence. You can be intellectually independent, physically independent, emotionally independent but then finally there's the interdependence which is where real maturity blossoms. At that stage you're able to accomplish things with other people. You're able to delegate tasks.

So a large part of this book is trying to move from the dependent into the independent because you can't do anything unless you're an independent person. You can't really accomplish anything. All hope for effectiveness is pretty much dead on arrival until you're an independent person. But just because you're independent doesn't mean that you're going to be effective. So you move through what he calls the private and public victories.

Your private victory is a mastery over yourself and your emotions. That inside-out approach is one element of that, all the exercises that he gives and those three habits. Then the public victory is more moving into interdependence where you're effective with other people. You become more of a leader, a better manager, a better husband or whatever and the fruits start to bear themselves out.

Harrison: I want to read a quote from the book on those three levels of maturity. Covey writes,

"Dependence means you need others to get what you need. All of us began life as an infant depending on others for nurturing and sustenance. I may be intellectually dependent on others' thinking. I may be emotionally dependent on other people's affirmation and validation of me. Dependence is the attitude of 'you take care of me' or 'you don't come through and I blame you for the result'.

Independence means you are pretty much free from the external influences in support of others. Independence is that attitude of I. It is the avowed goal of many individuals and also many social movements to enthrone independence as the highest level of achievement but it is not the ultimate goal in effective living. There is a far more mature and more advanced level.

The third and highest level in the maturity continuum is interdependence. We live in an interdependent reality. Interdependence is essential for good leaders, good team players, a successful marriage or family life, in organizations. Interdependence is the attitude of we. We can cooperate. We can be a team. We can combine our talents."

There's a lot in there. The whole book is structured around that. I think it's the first three habits are effectively independence habits. It's to become your own person, to not be dependent on others, to be truly independent because you need to be in order to get to the interdependent level. The next three habits are being effective by working with others. His win-win or no deal principle where he says there are various attitudes towards competition and negotiating, whether that's in business or in relationships. There are various attitudes that you can take like lose-lose, lose-win or win-win which is basically compromise.

But there's a level on top of that. He uses various mathematical analogies at various times but it's one plus one doesn't equal two. One plus one equals three or five or 10,000 or 50,000 because when you have two potentially conflicting wants on either side of the conflict, the best ideal to strive for is an outcome that benefits both. This is getting into the synergy aspect where you can create something that is better than either of the parts, so the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

So the whole book is structured on this maturity continuum but one of the points that he made that I was glad that he made was that you can't get to interdependence without independence. There's no jump from dependence to interdependence. You have to become your own person first. It may not be explicit, but there's somewhat of an overlap with Dabrowski's work. There's a multi-level approach, that there are distinct levels of being, levels of character and some people are stuck on some levels.

One of the areas my mind went when reading was that he accounts for and give their right due to both the independents, the people who strive for independence, but also the impulse that either the same people or other people will have towards a more community-oriented aspect or way of living. So you can see those exemplified in the rugged individualism of capitalism and the image that has in the world, like 'me first', and then the communist collective on the macro scale or communal living, hippy kind of stuff on the other.

But they're both incomplete. There are so many people and in any kind of society or group of large people you're going to get these varieties. You're going to have people who are dependent, either because something through no fault of their own, for instance some people with various genetic conditions or diseases or injuries who can't be independent on certain levels. They may be physically dependent on other people in order to survive. But there are also people who are dependent because they have just never learned or put the effort into becoming independent. Then for the people who do have the character to be interdependent, it's an achievement in itself but also you can't force interdependence on people. It is something that has to come from within. That's why I think this book is a good antidote to ideological movements that try to impose a morality on people such as "We must be interdependent so I'm going to force you to be interdependent" when all that does is cause problems because it's not coming from the individual.

Elan: It takes character out of the equation.

Harrison: Right.

Elan: And self-betterment and a self-directed, conscious movement and aim on the part of the individual who seeks to better themselves because people who are successful in life at any endeavour have had to do some work on it unless they're master manipulators or have inherited their positions through nepotism, like Joe Biden's son. {laughter} This is kind of the point. Just getting back to the ideological dimension to it Harrison, it would seem that even if you were born into the world at a great economic or social disadvantage, having these ideas under your wing and putting work into it can lift you out, at least to some extent and in experiencing that self-growth, that elevation of one's abilities and self-actualization, I think one comes to realize that they're less likely or prone to succumb to some overarching ideological philosophy that would put responsibility for the betterment of their lives onto a system as opposed to their own resources and their own energy.

Corey: The book is divided into four parts and the first part is all about paradigms and principles. So there is that paradigm that blames the world for whatever issues you have. Like you're saying, if you're born into poverty, you're born into some severe circumstances, that there is definitely a voice in all of our heads and humanity in general and you hear it a lot now with various social movements that says, "You're in this position because it's the world's fault. It's somebody's fault, the patriarchy, oppression. It's somebody's fault."

In a lot of cases, yeah, there is a lot of merit to that, in different cases, oppression, whatever crimes that were committed. Yeah, they occurred and they came from the outside and you have to live with it. But as he points out, in that whole paradigm there's a paradigm shift where you take into consideration the fact that you're a part of this story, that you have some determining power in how this story ends. You don't want to give all of that power away to the outside world because at that point you become a reactive puppet, basically. He doesn't say that in those words, but in so many words, that's what you are. You're a reactive puppet with no self-determination or free will and you give that up by allowing these other forces to dictate to you what you can or can't do in the world.

So you have to at least start with the understanding that you do have a role to play. The first part of the book is all about changing that paradigm and changing a number of different paradigms before moving into the different habits in part two which are part of that private victory over your own self. This is when you become an independent person really, once you become independent from being a slave to your emotions, whims, events and circumstances.

In the first habit he talks about being proactive, of having a personal vision and establishing a personal vision and a personal mission statement. The second habit is beginning with the end in mind. Now you can't really have these habits individually. You develop them all at the same time. The third habit is to put first things first. One phrase that I liked out of that part was that managers do things right and leaders do the right things.

So you have to take personal leadership over yourself and establish values through this whole process, so that when you're spending time doing things, you're not just making to do lists, you're not just focusing on the day, you're not just focusing on things that are important and urgent and living in constant crisis mode, but that you're also putting things that are important and not urgent into your field of vision, which is establishing relationships, building relationships, building trust, being somebody whom you would respect, taking care of others and being proactive about all of this, going back to your mission statement which comes out of beginning with the end in mind. He said it's basically preparing for your death. Do a thought experiment. You're in your casket and there are people there talking about you, what do you want them to say about you? What do you want your family members to say about you? Work colleagues to say about you? What do you want your church to say about you? This is the vision of your life, the person that you want to be and everything else you subordinate to those visions.

So then you become a leader of at least yourself. You're able to decide what is important and act on that in accordance with your deepest values, the things that you really hold most dear. It is, I think, a really big victory to be able to do that kind of a thing because it's not easy by any means. It's a constant ongoing process. "It turns out that wasn't as important to me as I thought." There's all sorts of periods in our lives where we gather values or ideas. We look up to certain people. We want to emulate those characteristics, emulate those traits, achieve something. Then maybe you achieve it or maybe you don't achieve it and you realize that really wasn't that important to me. "In my heart that wasn't important. It was a false idol", for whatever reason.

You're a teenager and you look up to this rock star or a rapper. You're going to college. You're getting your master's degree and your idols are these professors who have published whatever papers, all of the influences in life that are just random. It takes a lot of work to cut through all of that and to get to the real heart of what you want to live for. What is the god in your life? It's difficult to find that. It's not very easy and it's interesting to me that in this book, everything he has published, it's so religious in nature but it has completely taken all of the religious verbiage out of the equation so that it's very secularized. You would read this kind of material, I think, in a lot of different religious traditions. These are very perennial religious, character-building ideas.

It's interesting to me that so many millions of people have received this message and the world is still total garbage. {laughter}

Harrison: Well somewhat on that note, about Covey himself, he's actually a Mormon and really involved in the Mormon communities from Utah. But in the book of course, like you said, it's pretty secularized. I don't even know if he talks about it or if it was in one of the prefaces written by one of his family members or something like that, talking about how involved he was in the religious aspect of his life. He would always read scripture, but it doesn't come across in his book, at least in that kind of preachy element.

I can't remember which habit it's under or if it was in the section on principles where he's talking about the different centres, the different things that people will be centered towards, you have the self-centered person or the work-centered person, or the church-centered person, or the family-centered person, he points out the negative aspects of all these different centers, even in the ones that sound good. "Oh, family-centered or spouse-centered, that sounds pretty good." But then he points out, "No, look at it a bit deeper." A person who is spouse-centered for instance, will make a decision just based on what their spouse wants and that can lead to all kinds of resentment, lack of fulfillment about what the individual him or herself actually wants in their life, can create marital and family problems or business or work problems.

The church-centered person will be focused on their church community and do everything for their church and that will always be the first thing in their mind but that'll be one day of the week maybe. It doesn't say anything about how that person acts in the rest of their life. You can have a highly church-centered person who is totally active in their congregation, out there doing all kinds of things but who is still a pretty wretched person in real life.

I've been listening to the audio book and I thought that was pretty deep, especially for someone coming from a religious community, that he can and is willing and able to criticize that kind of mentality, that there's a higher level of spirituality or religiosity that transcends that group loyalty and rigid acceptance of dogma and the social situation as it is. I'd say he's almost a total anti-authoritarian because throughout the book he's constantly pointing out how bad it is to just accept the social norms, whatever they are, that the social norms don't really mean anything. The only way they mean anything is if they do come from that individual perspective of character, the values of society. That's where they should be grounded in independent individuals who live interdependently and not just people with what we've called in the past moral exoskeletons who just adopt other people's values for themselves.

Then you're still at stage one. You're dependent on others for your beliefs and values. You're not even yet your own person. You can't be interdependent. You can't be an active center in your community on any level from family upwards when you are dependent on society for anything, whether it's for physical well-being and survival or emotional feeling good, feeling right and at ease, adjusted to your social environment and intellectually, just believing what other people tell you because that's the norm. There's something very withered and brittle about that kind of dependence. There's nothing authentic to it. It hasn't become your own.

That's something that Jordan Peterson talks about repeatedly as well. The realization he came to as a young man was that he was just spouting off other people's ideas, that they hadn't become his yet. That's a really difficult thing to do. First of all, it's hard to realize it but then it's hard to actually make those ideas your own, to really put them to the test. On the other hand, it's very easy to just accept what other people say and accept the norms, like you're saying, going to school and your professors are your gods. It's very easy to adopt their mentality.

You see that repeatedly. I read a lot of books by academics and as good as those books are, what you often find is that the people in whatever field who are writing those books have adopted their professors' new thing. You see this in biblical studies a lot where one guy will have this new idea and create a new kind of perspective on looking at things. It can be a really good idea, kind of avant-garde, novel and something that no one has ever looked at before or that's seen as somewhat subversive. Then all their students grow up, get their PhDs, start writing books and they're all in the same lineage.

Again, they can be really great books but they've just adopted their professors', their gods' world views and these ideas and that has created the framework for their own work. It's not just biblical studies. You see that everywhere. It's just a complex phenomenon and that's all I have to say about that. {laughter}

Elan: Getting back to your point about the centeredness that certain people have towards things be it family-centered, work-centered or self-centered, I think part of his main point, I would just add, is that we can become so identified with these pseudo-priorities in our minds that are unexamined, that have little to do with any kind of values that we've established for ourselves, that there's a tendency for us to react to certain things automatically, mechanically, without due consideration towards its place and priority in the vast scheme of things.

So for instance, if an individual has a family and a job and he's asked to work overtime for instance - this is one example that Covey gives - one possible flaw in automatically going to the job and taking the overtime would be in neglecting the family at a crucial moment or at a moment where the employee and father has committed to a certain activity. He really gives a nuanced explanation about all the variables involved in such predicaments but his point is that we seem to give our power away. We seem to lose any semblance of integrity we have with ourselves and with other people when we aren't considering how a choice towards putting our focus into one sphere of activity can draw away from another.

That, on a very day-to-day practical level, gave me a lot of food for thought. There are times when I want that extra shift at work so I can make money so I can pay for things, which can be a very practical, necessary and important part of being responsible and functioning. At the same time - and he would actually criticize my use of the term have to because he would say that I would...

Adam: Don't have to.

Elan: Well he would say you're taking out conscious choice in the equation as soon as you insert the language of "I have to" or "I was told to" or "I should have" when the whole point is "I choose to" which is I choose to, knowing that I'm not going to make that money on that day, losing that shift or not taking that shift, I get to put my energy into those things that are also of great value to me, be it family or other responsibilities or even the self-care, going to a chiropractor if my job is physical, that would enable me to just continue to be fit enough to do the job and to fulfill other responsibilities.

So he's really helping one to take a very balanced approach to responsibility. It's not so much about taking on more and 'you can do it' in the superficial sense that many self-help books might otherwise be proponents of, but to be in integrity with oneself and one's values, which should be consciously examined and written down. He talks about mission statements for groups, organizations, businesses, churches. But he also talks about having personal mission statements, ideas and values which we hold ourselves to that can be expanded upon and worked on and created.

I really like the way he stresses how important all of this can be if we engage in a conscious process of self-examination and prioritizing so that we're acting out of our values.

Adam: And I thought it was also interesting with his coming in line with the idea that - at the very beginning of the book he talks about the various different cult of personality types. He has various quotes of different things. One that stuck out to me was Napoleon Hill's quote, "Anything the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve". On one hand, it makes sense but that and a lot of other self-help types of material always rubbed me the wrong way for whatever reason. There was something about it that I couldn't quite get, but with him, now I understand that these things are useful but they're Band-Aids. They are built on wrong principles and because they're built on wrong principles, it's not a long-lasting, deep change that's going to bring you to the place that you really actually do want to be. You have to define that for yourself by going in and creating your own mission statement and by doing like he recommended with the exercise of creating your own eulogy, something that you want to be read because this is who you actually are.

Corey: I think one problem with a lot of that other self-help stuff is that it really just butchers the complexity of people.

Adam: Yeah.

Corey: It comes at people like they're one dimensional. You're just popular or everything depends on how much money you make or how popular you are. It doesn't really capture the complexity of how all the different relationships and roles that we play, the tragedies that can occur, the history. Covey seems to come at it maybe as a man of faith. Maybe he has some of that in there from his upbringing. He includes a lot of vignettes. I think he had nine children. That's a lot of mouths to feed. That's a lot of pressure. That's a lot of stress and sleepless nights, keeping a relationship...

Adam: And he went on date nights with all of the kids too?! That's incredible!

Corey: Yeah, that's a lot of work to be doing so. He includes a lot of vignettes on how he would work in order to make his family healthy, make sure that his children grew up properly. He definitely had a very principled way of interacting with his whole family and that comes through. He doesn't just see people in a superficial way, but in a much deeper way.

Harrison: I just wanted to comment on his writing style and all the stories that he tells. I think it's in the introduction that he thanks his wife for that aspect of his writing because he said that she would read everything that he wrote but always tell him, "you need to explain that a bit more" or "that doesn't really work" or "you need to tell more stories", so there's lots of stories. For me, those are the things that really stuck out. They're the most memorable bits I think, to capture those things in stories.

One that came to mind when you were saying that Corey was the one where he's writing and he says that funnily enough he was writing on patience in his office and he hears one of his sons screaming outside. He's banging on the bathroom door and saying "Let me in! Let me in right now!" Covey gets up and says, "Do you have any idea how irritating that is and distracting from what I'm working on!? Now you go to your room and think about what you did!" Then he turns around and looks and his other son is sitting on the floor bleeding and then he realizes, "Oh, crap!" The problem was that his kids were playing hockey or some kind of ball game in the house and one of them got injured and the brother was knocking on the door because one of his daughters was in the bathroom and had the door locked and wouldn't come out and the other son needed to get in there to get a wet towel to clean up this injured son.

So he goes to the son and apologies. He says, "I'm sorry. I didn't have a good grasp on the situation. I made an assumption." The kid says, "I'm never going to forgive you! I'm not forgiving you for this one?" He says, "Well why son?" His son says, "Because you did this last week too!" That prompted a moment of self-reflection and for him it was an example of not only not getting a read on a situation but making those wrong assumptions in the heat of the moment without taking the time to see what's actually going on. His kid was naturally upset with him because I think he might have even used the image of the trust bank where you earn up credit with people by your interactions with them and you establish a certain level of emotional trust, basically a bank account with them. If you don't have any trust built up with someone then you can't get away with anything because you don't have any credit with them.

With these incidents with his son he'd slowly been taking withdrawals out of this account without putting in the right deposits. So he had no currency with his son at this moment. "I'm not forgiving you! It's too much!" It's an example of the effort that has to go into every interaction and the relationships that have to be established over time. If he hadn't been distracted in these weeks and had been focused on making deposits into the account with his son, this wouldn't have blown up in the way that it did. And since he was writing on patience, if he was practicing what he preached in this moment, he wouldn't have made that split second misjudgment of the situation.

That also makes him quite endearing. A lot of the stories are him screwing up. He also gives examples of the good things that he did, the right choices that he made, often with his wife in the family life examples.

Elan: I just wanted to say I found his humility in sharing a lot of his stories quite endearing also, where he's using his own life as an example of things he had learned. So he's not only drawing upon classic wisdom literature and self-help book ideas, but he's also saying, "Look, I'm fallible but this is what I learned and you can learn it too!" Not quite with such a salesman's pitch though I'm afraid.

One of the stories that he told which was really quite interesting and stuck with me for quite a while was how one of his sons was facing academic failure and failure as an athlete in his school. So Covey and his wife had both tried different strategies in terms of cheerleading and being supportive of their son.

Adam: All of the things that the cult of personality tells you to do to motivate somebody to do something, manipulating them.

Elan: That's a good point. These are all of the most superficial approaches towards "helping" somebody and I realized that these approaches were not helping their son. As a first step, what they came to realize was that they were really motivated out of their own self-importance and seeing their son as a reflection of them, really, his success as a reflection of their success or his failure as a reflection of their failure as parents. So they were very externally identified with their child's failure.

What they ended up doing, and what he describes, is that they ended up working on themselves and expanding their own being. That's a word he uses quite well on a number of occasions. What he meant in the book is that instead of working to improve his son's standings, they worked on improving their own acceptance of their son, of where he was at, and their own values and their own aims in being good parents and role models. It's from that that the son naturally had the space, I think to, as he describes it, grow and move on to become a better athlete, president of certain class associations and a good academic. But they had to get out of their son's way and had to get out of their own way in allowing themselves and in recognizing in themselves a space that they needed to grow into.

That's amazing to me. I had to think about some of the relationships in my life where there's a fervour to help that isn't helpful at all, or to give advice where it's not asked for or even necessarily the right thing to do at the time. So that's a big one! I'll be sitting with it for a while.

Harrison: One of the things in that example was that he was failing at baseball so at first they would say, "That's okay. You'll do better next time. Just make sure you keep your eye on the ball and don't swing until the ball's coming at you" because he was swinging before the pitcher had even thrown the ball, as one example. So one of the things that they decided was to stop protecting him from the laughter and the other people making fun of him. They stopped protecting him from that. They exposed him to it and left him to his own devices. They said it wasn't easy at first because he no longer had that protection from his parents, shielding him from the negative opinions of those around him. Like you said, his failure was a reflection on them of their failure, but when they let him fail on his own and deal with the social tension and repercussions of that on his own, that was one of the things that led to him finding himself and developing on his own. They stepped back and exposed him to the things that they previously wanted to shelter him from, to protect him from.

That's one of the things that stood out for me there. When you first read that you think it's kind of mean not to protect your kid from those evil bullies, but no, that's what he needed. Their true motivation wasn't out of concern for him. Like you said, it was out of their own self-concern and what he really needed for himself was to be able to, among other things, to experience that. Like you said, it was a success and he even ended up excelling at athletics in addition to everything else. That was a good one.

Elan: Here's a quote. There's one portion of the book that gets into relationships where somebody attending one of Covey's courses or a colleague shares with Covey that he no longer loves his wife or feels love from his wife. They're both family oriented and care about the children very much but they seem to be on this precipice of possibly divorcing one another. So what Covey says is, "Love your wife." The response from the guy is, "What are you talking about? What I'm telling you is that I don't love her. She doesn't love me so I'm asking you what I should do here." And Covey says, "Love your wife!"

Harrison: "I just don't feel it anymore. The feeling isn't there."

Elan: "The feeling isn't there." So this a quote from the book which explains, I think, a very key principle to love. It's not the whole enchilada of love because relationships are a complex thing, but certainly I think it goes a long way towards accounting for failures in relationships and probably failures in a number of other endeavours and spheres of life that people experience all the time. Covey writes,

"In the great literature of all progressive societies, love is a verb." And my progressive he's not meaning it in the ideological sense that we've come to understand today in contemporary politics. He goes on, "Reactive people make it, love, a feeling". They're driven by feelings. Hollywood has generally scripted us to believe that we are not responsible, that we are a product of our feelings. But the Hollywood script does not describe the reality. If our feelings control our actions, it is because we have abdicated our responsibility and empowered them to do so.

Proactive people make love a verb. Love is something you do. The sacrifices you make. The giving of self. Like a mother bringing a newborn into the world. If you want to study love, study those who sacrifice for others, even for people who offend or do not love in return. If you are a parent, look at the love you have for the children you sacrificed for. Love is a value that is actualized through loving actions. Proactive people subordinate feelings to values. Love, the feeling, can be recaptured.

So in a roundabout sense, Covey's advice is to put some more objective perspective into your relationship with someone in actively loving them and then see if those feelings don't naturally arise as a consequence of that objective love. I started a job about a year-and-a-half ago. When I was a newbie I was asking her something, probably not in the most appropriate way but it was a time-sensitive situation and this woman snapped and chewed my head off in the moment. She has a reputation in the department I work in of being reactive and snippy with people so I understood that. But I also understood that by being the best work colleague I could be, by just being respectful and working hard, I could possibly have a nice relationship with this person.

So my higher value was to just be able to work well with this individual since we all worked closely together. And it worked. I'm happy to say that we have a very nice working relationship right now. We're very pleasant to one another and we talk to one another. That's a rather mundane example of how this can work but it was an example to me of how my value of succeeding at this job I have and having everybody feel comfortable around me and reliant upon me to do a good job, was motivation enough for me not to feel so self-important and insulted and hurt by her snaps and her annoyance, which are considerable.

I'm sure if people look at their lives they'll see times where they were reactive towards certain things and made the situation worse and I have plenty of examples of that too. Or when they were...

Corey: Next week. {laughter}

Elan: Yeah, on next week's show I'll tell you how I fucked up in about a dozen different ways and all in a stupid manner that you can't possibly imagine. You'll be slapping your forehead for the remainder of the show. Covey describes this as a circle of concern versus a circle of influence. His point in making this distinction was that we can be self-concerned about how we look and we can be reactive towards certain things or we can try and take proactive approaches to life and situations that are uncomfortable and in doing so, in acting out of a greater value than "my feelings were hurt" we can create for ourselves a circle of influence where we're able to work with people and get to that latter stage that you were mentioning earlier Harrison, of interdependence, of eventually having the ability to provide leadership in however modest a way, in acting out of a higher value.

Corey: I think one of the really beneficial aspects of this book are all the examples of insight that he has and that he shows is possible. You can see that he see his value system, internally, however. He has a good model of what his value system is and he knows when he is violating it and he just shows by example how all of these different paradigms that he's talking about, all of these different habits, are the fruit of looking at that and these deep insights into what he calls the laws of nature, just like gravity, but they're ethical and they're moral laws. He says, "You can't break the law, you can only break yourself against it." You see that time and time again through personal experience or experiences with other people, members of the family. "If you do these things, you're going to keep getting the same results." We just break ourselves against the law it seems.

One of the best things of this book or of people who have this kind of ethical character is that they come down from the mountain with the 10 commandments and they say, "This is why y'all are so messed up! Stop acting like this! This is a higher law!" I really like how he described that so I want to read a portion from his part on the power of a paradigm. He says,

"Suppose you wanted to arrive at a specific location in central Chicago. A street map of the city would be a great help to you in reaching your destination. But suppose you were given the wrong map? Through a printing error the map labeled Chicago was actually a map of Detroit. Can you imagine the frustration, the ineffectiveness of trying to reach your destination?

You might work on your behaviour. You can try harder, be more diligent, double your speed, but your efforts would only succeed in getting you to the wrong place faster. You might work on your attitude. You can think more positively. You still wouldn't get to the right place but perhaps you wouldn't care. Your attitude would be so positive you'd be happy wherever you were. The point is, you'd still be lost. The fundamental problem has nothing to do with your behaviour or your attitude. It has everything to do with having a wrong map.

If you have the right map of Chicago, then diligence becomes important and when you encounter frustrating obstacles along the way, then attitude can make a real difference. But the first and most important requirement is the accuracy of the map. Each of us has many, many maps in our head which can be divided into two main categories - maps of the way things are or realities, and maps of the way things should be or values. We interpret everything we experience through these mental maps. We seldom question their accuracy. We're usually even unaware that we have them. We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be and our attitudes and behaviours grow out of those assumptions. The way we see things is the source of the way we think and the way we act."

So he's touching on this maps of meaning thing that Jordan Peterson has since come out and laid bare for the whole world in stunning fashion. We forget how important it is to just gather than information, to build that map, that that's the first step to any successful endeavour. That's the ultimate in being proactive, I think. Before you do anything, you make sure that you have the right map. If you've never made any effort to get that map then there's no better time than now to get that map. I think that goes with everything. It goes with relationships. It goes with hobbies. It goes with some undertaking.

"What's the best way to interact with this person? Do I know who this person is even? Do I have any idea what makes them tick?" As he talks later on in the book, these banks, the trust bank, the emotional bank, for one person what might be putting a deposit into the emotional bank, to another person it could just be tiresome and depleting that same source. Being able to see or testing yourself and understanding, being able to see where your assumptions and all these weird programs and everything that we have, where they lead us astray. That's a really big contribution I think on his part.

Harrison: There was one story that he gave as an example for habit number five, "Seek first to understand then to be understood". This is relating to what you were just saying Corey. He gave the example of a father that came out to share one of his problems and the father told Covey, "You know, I just don't understand my son. He doesn't listen to anything that I tell him." So Covey says, "Can you repeat that for me?" So he did and Covey says, "I thought that in order to understand someone you had to listen to what they say". He said that the guy's jaw kind of opened a bit and he could see the gears working and he said, "Yeah, I guess I didn't think about it that way". {laughter} It took a bit more in the conversation for him to make the point that if you want to understand your son you actually have to listen to him.

He gives several stories like that, often with parents and their children. He has one extended dialogue. I can't remember if it was a real story or one that he composed and put together. It was a son telling his father he's fed up with school and he doesn't see the point. The way the conversation goes he says, "My friend Joe dropped out and he's working as an auto mechanic and he's doing great. He's making money already." The father keeps coming back with interpreting and preaching to the kid and using his own autobiography. "When I was a kid..", that kind of thing.

But then he tells it from the kid's perspective, what the kid's thinking at every point in this conversation. "Oh god, here comes the lecture again. Oh, now he's going to tell me about when he was 12 and going to school uphill both ways in the snow, etc. etc." Then he rewrites the conversation for the father actually listening and not injecting any of his own stuff, not lecturing, just as one example of a direction the conversation might have gone if the father had just stepped back a bit and listened essentially. He says that's a skill that we don't have that isn't taught. He says whenever he would give lectures he'd ask how many hours people have learning how to read and they'd give some estimate. How about writing? Then he says, "Well how many of you have actually learned how to listen? How much time have you spent learning how to listen?" No one puts up their hand of course because it's not a skill that's taught.

It's just assumed that you know how to listen because it's this passive thing, right? You just sit there and sounds come into your ears. That's all you have to do. But it's actually a skill that you have to develop because as in the example of the father with his son, we constantly inject ourselves into the conversation. He gives the example of a person who complains about something that happened to them. "Listen to what just happened to me." You have the person who'll say, "Oh something like that just happened to me too" and then they go into their story about the bad thing that happened to them and this person has just completely taken over the conversation and turned the attention towards themselves as opposed to what this person was saying, to actually listening.

I like that one. But there are so many others because he was a consultant in all kinds of things. He'd go in and help businesses, entrepreneurs. I think he advised several presidents at various times. He's got so many stories about going in and his intervention and then the results and the things that change. He gives one example of two business partners or at least two people who had to work together in a close environment. They were dependent on each other in their positions at this corporation or business. He talked to one of them and got him psyched up to have a conversation where he was going to go in and try to set things right because the other guy was a prickly, hard to get along with guy. So finally the guy goes in and starts the conversation and says how he was afraid of having this conversation and these are the things I wanted to say. Then he finds out that the other guy was thinking the exact same thing about him and wanting to have the same conversation and the air immediately became lighter and these guys learned how to work together essentially.

There are so many stories like that of changing a few things, coming at a situation with a slightly different mindset that diffuses the situation, that makes things lighter, gives people what he might call psychological air. You automatically think about all kinds of situations and encounters in your life, the way things have gone wrong and it's really that approach, that mindset that, in a lot of cases, is what - it sounds cheesy - holds you back, what causes you to avoid getting an actual beneficial result or something that is mutually beneficial, by approaching things with a different attitude, there are other possibilities that you hadn't even seen as being possible. That's this win-win, 1+1=3 or something. It's that synergy that there are alternative possibilities as opposed to either you win or they win.

Again, he gives great examples like the mother and father who have planned a camping trip with the kids and the wife's mother is sick and she's worried because her mother's pretty old and maybe this will be the final illness that does her in. Maybe it's the last chance that she'll get to see her mother. But they've been planning the entire year for this fishing trip. How do you make that work? Again he gives all the possible scenarios. Either the husband can give in and say, "Okay, we'll go to visit your mom for this week" and then he's going to be resentful. Or the wife can decide, "Okay, I'll go on the trip and I'll avoid seeing my mom this time" and then god forbid her mom actually dies, then the husband's going to feel horrible and never forgive himself and she's not going to forgive him either.

There are these two bad situations and then in the synergized chapter he uses as an example, "Well if you're actually working together you can find not only an outcome that is good for both of you but that would be better than either of those possibilities. He gives the example that they might come up with ideas to come up with a camping place closer to where her mother is. Or go on the camping trip and then the husband would put extra effort in to give her a chance the week after to take some additional time off to go and visit. There are always those unseen and unimagined possibilities that can come out of the woodwork through this practice of interdependence based on all these principles. That really is a creative space to be in.

He gives all these examples of what he calls synergy and that can be anything from musicians all being in sync with each other, in improvisation, for example. It's an experience that's amazing to be a part of but also to witness because you can tell when you see it. You can feel it. You can see it and hear it. Something great comes out of that. But it can happen in all kinds of environments. Covey points out it doesn't have to be one of those rare things in life that you just get a glimpse of once in your life or every once in a while. If you are actually living your life based on these principles, then it can be a constant thing. You can be in a constant state of synergy with the people you're involved with, your coworkers, your family. It really is a product and an outgrowth of the character that you've developed and worked on. So I thought that was pretty cool.

Elan: After having read books like Character Disturbance and a number of other books, but also a fair share of self-help books, it's quite nice to see a book that in such simple, accessible language, makes some very basic ideas known, applicable and graspable. I'm going to delve a little more into this book. I had a chance to do a couple of the exercises in written form. They weren't so different from some of the ideas that we've read in books by Gurdjieff. I don't recall if it was written by him specifically, but The Last Hour Of Life.

Adam: Or Saltzman?

Harrison: Or one of his students.

Elan: Or one of his students, Jeanne de Saltzman. So that eulogy exercise that you mentioned earlier Corey, has parallels with it. The idea of having a circle of concern versus a circle of influence has a nice correlation to internal versus external consideration of other people. Clearly, he is drawing on a lot of good material and is up front with the idea that in a sense he didn't even write the book, these were all just ideas that had been out there that he distills for folks, be they religious, philosophical or esoteric. So really good stuff.

One last thing I wanted to mention here was his idea of private victories preceding public victories. I'll just read it. He says, "As you become truly independent" - this gets back to dependent/independent/interdependent progression that we might follow as per working to grow ourselves - he says,

"As you become truly independent you have the foundation for effective interdependence. You have the character base from which you can effectively work on the more personality-oriented 'public victories' of teamwork, cooperation and communication. To maintain the balance, the balance between the golden egg of production and the health and welfare of the goose (what he calls production capability) is often a difficult judgment call. But I suggest it is the very essence of effectiveness. It balances short-term with long-term. It balances going for the grade and paying the price to get an education. It balances the desire to have a room clean and the building of a relationship in which the child is internally committed to do it, cheerfully, willingly, without external supervision."

Once again, he's looking at the whole picture and he's saying that any kind of success worth its salt in life is going to come first as a little private victory, a victory that you have over yourself over a bad habit, over a mechanical way of responding to things. It's out of that victory that the possibility for a real interdependence or a growth of being where you can constructively incorporate the concerns and lives of the people you care about or work with or go to church with. It's out of those private victories, those little things or bigger things that you accomplish over the lesser part of yourself that the firmament, the ground from which to do well with others, grows.

Adam: The other thing that I wanted to mention is that I've read a number of different books on changing habits and the best ways that people have found to change bad habits, whatever they may be, or just start new habits, such as getting up and exercising every day or reading a book or whatever it is. This book takes into consideration and addresses the underlying map that is what constitutes your current habits and I guess I would say it is the best book on changing habits that I've read over the half dozen or so that I have read, that really gets to the main crux of the issue, which is that it's not just about "This is a bad habit and there are all these things that I can't control". It is about the way that you're looking at your situation and evaluating it and challenging it to make it into something that is truly who you are and your actions become a true expression of who you are and who you want to be and not just something that you're trying to do to please other people. And that's the best way to go about making a lasting, effective and productive change.

Elan: What was the name of the book? Was it Changing Your Habits?

Adam: One of them that I read was Atomic Habits, Making Habits, Breaking Habits. There were a couple more in there but I can't remember off the top of my head.

Corey: Well on that note, this is definitely a book to read, if you've got some spare time, if you've got an evening to yourself or you can make time to sit down and read it. It's not a self-help book really. As it says here in the blurb, "It's a wonderful book that could change your life". So there's this whole paradigm shift, {laughter} just in and of itself. But I would highly recommend reading this book. It's good soul food type material. We look forward to speaking to you again next week. Thank you very much. Hit like and subscribe and we'll see you next time.

Harrison: Bye.

Elan: Take Care.