Problem 19181 of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

by phil on Sunday Apr 27, 2003 3:45 PM
life lessons

I have many problems with Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The book goes through first destabilizing other forms of "centered" living, such as a self-centered or money-centered living. Instead, he proposes something called a principle-centered living. This is the kind of life where everything you do revolves around your life-fulfilling principles. But, Covey never actually goes into examples of what would be good principles. Instead, he emphasizes that we should be "principled" people, as if principled was a sort of stern moral expression that one paints with taut lips. He does offer a method of identifying principles, which involves imagining you are dead and various token people are delivering eulogies. Token as in you'd consider your boss, your co-workers, a family member, a friend, etc. You then imagine what you would want them to say, and those would be the foundation of your principles.

These principles sound more like goals. Like, I would want my co-workers to say that I was always diligent and never gave way to politics. Well, those are goals, not principles. However, the word principle has a lot of social cache. Covey takes prinicples to emphasize doing good things, or working hard. His book makes a lot of references to God, so being religious is another. He's also a Protestant, so his book is basically a testament to the Puritan work ethic.

But the underlying problem with the whole funeral scenario is that it bases your whole life around social currency. This social currency is not only based on how you would appear to others, but how you would appear to others when you're dead!

No wonder this book has sold many copies. It's so Politically Correct and socially acceptable that it defeats the purpose of self help. It's easy to mentally justify such a kind of thinking because it works in our best interest that others think exactly in this manner. Thing is, when you're dead, you'll never get to hear your eulogies, and people shower praises all the time when you're gone. Shouldn't you strive to be praised now?

And back to social currency, you can't explain or justify all your actions around that one thing. If I were to live a social currency-based or "principled" life, I wouldn't be able to blog. I blog to feed an addiction, to cater to a useless fame, to make myself feel intellectually stimulated, to get relief through self-expression, and to improve my writing skills for the sake of my writing skills. Blogging has no social currency except in slashdot-like circles. And yet I still do it, and wouldn't want to develop a lifestyle that would demand I give it up for the sake of what I won't hear when I'm gone.

Just another example why categorical imperatives are bunk in the first place.

Unfortunately, the book didn't live up to my expectations for providing a consistent system of thinking to improve one's life. However, it does provide a lot of useful morsels that I have employed every now and then when I wanted to look at myself in the mirror, and go, damn, this makes me look good.

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