Living the 7 Habits

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Stephen Covey assembles this follow-up to the bestselling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) from stories sent to him by people who have practiced the habits. The stories are organized into four subject areas: Individual, Family, Community and Education, and Workplace. Each story is short, averaging one to three pages, and is introduced by a paragraph highlighting which of the seven habits is featured. (The front and back inside covers feature an overview and brief explanation of the seven habits for readers who might not have read Covey’s earlier work.) The author follows many of the stories with an anecdote which complements or reinforces the main point. Typical stories cover subjects such as repairing the communication in a marriage, dealing with the loss of a parent or spouse, and parenting small children or teenagers.

This book follows the pattern of its predecessor. The tone is upbeat, the stories lend themselves to being read in short bursts, the message is encouraging. Some readers may be distracted by the often-parodied jargon in books of this type; “synergy,” “mission statements,” and “emotional bank accounts” make numerous appearances here. After a time, the introductions to the stories can come to seem heavy handed, as they direct the reader to notice this or that habit being demonstrated in the story.

On the other hand, Living the 7 Habits is good at what it does. The habits are drawn from universal human traits. But any thought that these truths are obvious is quickly contradicted by abundant evidence that too many people seem unaware of them. As long as so many people behave in so many self-defeating ways—in business, in social settings, in their personal and family lives—there will be a market for the time-tested formulae demonstrated in Living the 7 Habits.