Book Review: The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness by Stephen Covey
“Life is not accumulation, it is about contribution.” – Stephen Covey
Last year, the death of Stephen Covey saddened many. He was one great person who made a difference probably not only in the field of management but in the hearts of many people including me.
His words transcend not as mere management principles but something deeper. When I read his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I thought it was not just one of the most influential business management books of the 20th century.
It was like a new standard of living life of purpose and balance. It was the creed of character and integrity.
I discovered you can be an effective professional who can be in harmony with your colleagues when working on a specific goal. His encouragement to create a mission statement gives one a more sense of purpose.
Overall his writings transcend any dimension of one’s life- that is- not only in one’s career, but also in one’s family life, physical being and social responsibility.
And here’s more. He added the 8th habit to cap it all.
How to Read the 8th Habit
One of the interesting points I appreciate about the book is how it encourages ‘reflective reading’. In the beginning of the book, Covey recommended an effective way of using the book- ‘yearlong personal growth and development program’.
He suggested reading through one chapter per month and applying what was learned for that month.
My Take Out from The Book
Choice: a birth gift
We are a product of neither nature nor nurture; we are a product of choice, because there is always a space between stimulus and response – The 8th Habit, Stephen Covey
These words are not new as we’ve heard this from Covey’s other books. However, it strikes a better chord this time as he emphasizes this in discovering one’s voice. We will find our voice if we are open to the gift of choice.
This struck me as I read it years ago in a previous work. In spite of the existence of a bully freak who legitimately terrified everyone in my work place, I thought, I could muster courage and face the challenges each time. I have survived those days trying to make a dialogue, composing myself and keeping my cool. I have emerged a winner by choosing to act instead of wasting time arguing and shouting.
How do we apply this in our own life? How do you behave at our workplace? How do you manage a freaking boss who micromanages? How do you face a colleague who keeps repeating mistakes at her work? How do you face the consequences of your errors?
The 4th Intelligence- the Spirit
Where talents and needs of the world cross, therein lies your vocation – Aristotle
Another familiar thing in a Covey book is four intelligences- the mind, heart, body and spirit. What he taught us to focus this time is the ‘spirit’.
What is interesting is how he makes the ‘spirit’ a more tangible part of us with its manifestation – our desire of leaving a legacy or making a meaningful contribution in our environment.
Until today as I re-read the book, the message resonates. I would like to use the words in the cartoon movie Rise of the Guardians to ask myself: “what is my center?” It seems that this question has stuck in my flesh that it has become an automatic question in my everyday life. I feel the need to make a difference in my place- work, family and whichever sphere of influence I have.
This makes the 8th habit a challenge to move on to a higher level from the 7 Habits.
At this present moment, are you aware of what you can contribute to your environment?
Taking action through personal leadership
Self-knowledge is best learned, not by contemplation, but by action. Strive to do your duty and you will soon discover of what stuff you are made. – Johann Goethe
Self-mastery is required in order to be a useful voice. What makes the 8th Habit more compelling is its self-improvement component. It teaches you to make a difference but this can only happen if you start making a change within you.
After learning about possible ways I can have a voice and share it, I was not discouraged that I am not perfect or may end up preaching what I do not practice. I learned that I can have a voice by first doing and hence becoming the model. No required words or airtime for sermons.
As a result, I change myself and start becoming a good example.
What specific action can you make that will make a difference in one area of your life and that of others?
At the advent of internet, it is of great help that the book also offered tools such as mini-movies to entertain and learn from. These were suggested in the book and of course you have to go online to watch them. I have not been able to do this concurrent to the pages I was reading as it was a disadvantage if you were reading outside and not have a connection.
Nevertheless, the videos were excellent way to organize discussion groups.
Meaning of Life from Management Perspective
The book offers another answer to our search for meaning in life taking the management perspective as a starting point.
It provided a different face to the meaning of life which perhaps can open the minds of hardened hearts in the field of business and make a leap of faith.
This book definitely influences the conscience of the professional man who strives to be excellent and seeks to make a meaningful life lived on earth.
Two questions you need to answer if you want to make a difference: What legacy do you want to leave behind? Who do you want to ‘pay it forward’ to?
Get into the habit! Grab your copy here: The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness