Stuck on Your New Year’s Resolutions? Check Out Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits
Updated: Jan 13
With the advent of the New Year, many people have already jumped aboard the popular tradition of committing to resolutions. However, as previous years have shown, most people are unable to keep up their ambitious goals and their resolutions quickly fall to the wayside. If you’re one of those people, consider looking to Stephen Covey’s classic bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, for resolutions that are ambitious, timeless, and attainable. Almost 30 years after it was first published, 7 Habits still stands as a remarkable piece of business and self-help literature. What about this book has caused it to resonate with so many people? Covey’s interest in how to be highly effective started when he began studying American success literature written since 1776. He realized that most of the success literature from the past 150 years focused on quick fixes to people’s problems—telling them that they would attain happiness and success if they just adopted a more positive attitude or used tactics to influence those around them or even made themselves appear more powerful. Instead, Covey argues that the root of most people’s problems is how they view them and the attitudes they adapt in response. Covey pushes you to stop having the way society has conditioned you to rule your life and instead have eternal principles of good inform the way you perceive and behave in the world. For the sake of brevity, this article will briefly summarize the most compelling of the habits, habits one and two, that focus on the internal changes you need to make within yourself. Habit 1: Be Proactive The first habit tells you to merely concern yourself with what you can control. Here, Covey upended the popular stimulus-response theory at the time which argued that all of your actions are in response to something else. In Covey’s book, he argues that, in between the stimulus and your response, you actually have the freedom to choose what your response will be. In simpler terms, this means you have the power to decide how you will react to situations. Whether it’s someone putting you down or doing something that bothers you, it is your choice—and your choice alone—whether to be hurt or not. Covey pushes you to only concern yourself with what you have power over, your own reactions and attitudes. As much as you want to change the people around you, you ultimately can’t control how they behave and feel without them wanting to change themselves. Overall, Covey asserts you should feel empowered to be a proactive person who controls how they react to a situation by examining their own behaviors and thoughts instead of being reactive and trying to modify situations that are out of your control. Habit 2: Begin with The End in Mind The second habit tells you to start with a clear understanding of the person you want to become so that you can understand where you are now and where you need to go to achieve that goal. Covey explains how, to everything, there is a first and second creation. He uses the example of building a house. The first creation is your mental plan. You don’t just go into an empty lot and start nailing things together, hoping that a house will suddenly emerge. First, you have your vision and plan—or the first creation. Then, once you have your plan, you carry out the physical creation of the house—or the second creation. Covey says that, with our lives as well, there is both a first and second creation. However, he argues most people use other people’s agendas, their circumstances, and the habits they develop as a result of social conditioning as their first creation. Instead, Covey encourages you to create your own first creation based on eternal and fundamentally good principles. So Why Do These Matter? Habits One and Two remain the two most important habits in Covey’s book. Why? They deal with the most difficult part of change: recognizing and identifying the roots of the problem and developing the right mindset in order to move forward in a productive and positive manner. Covey’s perception of personal change can even be tied to the popular ADKAR model. Only by first working through the internal Habits One and Two can you achieve the Awareness and Desire needed for effective change.