stephen Covey

7 Lessons on Living Right from Stephen Covey

You’re a good person. You act with integrity, take responsibility, and live by the Golden Rule.

You’ve probably read tons of books on personal development because you’re always striving to do better. You believe you can never stop tweaking your habits and attitudes to improve yourself.

Your bookshelves might even hold the self-help classic, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” by the late Stephen Covey. When he died July 16th the world lost a great teacher and champion for personal responsibility.

In honor of his life, I want you to ask yourself a tough question: How good are you? Are you honest in every thought and statement, always act from your values, and never skip the high road for the low?

Are you sure?

It’s true: you’re no Bernie Madoff. You have integrity and would never dream of hurting others.

But whether you know it or not, you’ve grown comfortable with yourself and maybe, once in awhile, you let doing the right thing slide in favor of the easy. It’s holding you back from a truly exceptional life, the life you know you’re capable of.

 

The thing is, you’re human. You make judgment errors. And that’s okay, as long as you notice and correct them. You can’t be hard-core vigilant all the time, but just like with Covey’s habits, you can retrain yourself to make fewer of those mistakes over time.

You need a Living Right Check-up, using the words of the master himself.

Here are seven quotes from Stephen Covey, and how you can apply them to make sure you’re living with total integrity:

“Don’t argue for other people’s weaknesses. Don’t argue for your own. When you make a mistake, admit it, correct it, and learn from it – immediately.”

The problem: You do something thoughtless or hurtful, or something bad happens like divorce or your business fails. You absolve yourself of guilt by blaming it on a misunderstanding, or someone or something else (your ex-, the weak economy).

 

The fix: Take a close look, and you’ll see you were at least partly responsible. Maybe you weren’t as communicative or kind as you could have been with your ex-, or maybe you didn’t do enough research before you launched your business.

 

You’ve got to suck it up and admit you were at fault. It stings a little, but whoever you’re confessing to will respect you for it. Then, make it right, whether that’s with a sincere apology or restorative action. Lastly, learn from the mistake so it doesn’t happen again.

“Live out of your imagination, not your history.”

The problem: Bad stuff has happened in your life. Maybe it was a difficult childhood, financial trouble, or serious illness. It slowed you down then, and stops you from moving forward now.

The fix: Acknowledge that your past is not your future. Sure, all that stuff happened and it was awful, but you’re still standing, and you still have a brain, a heart, and big dreams. (You may have doubts, too, but that’s normal.)

You also have resilience, since you survived it, so imagine a better life – a life where you’re living your dreams – and step into your excellent future.

“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 behaviors grow out of these assumptions.”

The problem: That one teacher said you weren’t a good writer, and even though you love to draft stories or poems, you assume you’ll never get published because you believe she was right. So you don’t even try.

Or your parents taught you that money is evil, and even though you have a great idea for a lucrative, socially responsible business, you don’t start it because you’ve taken their words as truth.

The fix: Question your thoughts and assumptions. So much of what others tell us is about them, not us. There’s value in that thing you want so badly.

If you can’t banish that old negative message, get a second opinion from someone you trust. Ask for tough love, but kindness, too. Talent and good ideas need to be nurtured, so give yourself the gift of letting them grow.

“Be a light, not a judge. Be a model, not a critic.”

The problem: You see others doing things you don’t approve of. It’s easy to criticize from the sidelines, and you share it with anyone who will listen. But it leaves you feeling bitter and small.

The fix: There will always be someone doing something you don’t like. Always. Recognize this fact, and understand that judging doesn’t help either of you.

It’s frustrating to witness bad behavior. But rise above your frustration or anger and be better. Be an example of good behavior in all you do. You’ll effect positive change – the ripple effect – and it’ll leave you feeling expansive, satisfied.

“One of the most important ways to manifest integrity is to be loyal to those who are not present. In doing so, we build the trust of those who are present.”

The problem: You’re at a party and the person next to you gossips about a mutual acquaintance. Or that person makes a racial, sexist, or homophobic “joke.” You say nothing, because you don’t want to make waves or seem difficult. When you get home later you feel bad but tell yourself it was only a party, that no one will remember anyway.

The fix: No matter how trivial the situation seems, all those comments add up to negativity and prejudice. If someone says something you disagree with, speak up. It’s scary at first, and the person you’re standing up to may snap back or criticize you.

But everyone else standing there will admire you for it. They were probably thinking the same thing but didn’t have the courage to say it, so be the courageous one. Inspire someone else to do the same down the line.

“We immediately become more effective when we decide to change ourselves rather than asking things to change for us.”

The problem: You’re deep in debt, or stuck in a boring job or unsatisfying relationship. You daydream about winning the lottery, starting a business, or meeting Mr. or Ms. Right at the grocery store. But those things never happen.

The fix: Take charge and take action. It’s up to you to make your life happen, and all it takes are baby steps, one after another. Put an extra $50 a month toward your debt. Check the job listings every morning. Take a class or join a group to meet new people. Action leads to progress.

“Live, love, laugh, leave a legacy.”

The problem: You’ve let yourself get too serious and life feels, well, lifeless. Your days are full of tasks and responsibilities but you’re not having a good time. You remember getting crazy with friends, or trying new things just for the fun of it, but you don’t anymore. You worry that at the end of your life you’ll have little to show for it.

The fix: First, lighten up. You’ve got a lot of years left, and you need a joy infusion. Have some fun, love your people (and animals), laugh loud.

Next, think big. What do you want to be remembered for after you’re gone? Great art, good works, deep thoughts? Make your life stand for something bigger than yourself. Create change. Leave a mark. Start now.

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Drop off your email address at Life on the High Wire to sign up for free access. See you soon!

Oh, and one more thing – is there a quote from Stephen Covey you’d add to this list? Let us know in the comments!

DEONNE KAHLER writes at Life on the High Wire. She’s also mom to Sam the Wonder Pup and is obsessed with road tripping, national parks, and quirk.

 Photo credit: ‘Sunrise‘ by Big Stock

68 Responses to 7 Lessons on Living Right from Stephen Covey

  1. shubham says:

    nice post. nice image also.
    loved the line:  
    Live, love, laughFor students:www.howtostudyfortest.blogspot.com

  2. Shubham,

    Thanks for the kind words, though I’m afraid I can’t take credit for the beautiful image!

    Deonne

  3. Ally says:

    These statements really stood out to me as they are all what I’m dealing with at the moment.
    Past is not your future.
    Don’t take your parents words as truth.
    “We immediately become more effective when we decide to change ourselves rather than asking things to change for us.”
    Life feels, lifeless

  4. Ally,

    Those are powerful words, I agree! Every day is a new opportunity to make our lives better, and I hope yours feels full of life soon.

    Deonne

  5. Siegi says:

    Wonderful post. Great reminder of Steven Covey’s wisdom on leadership. Thanks for sharing. Build your leadership mindset with http://www.360heights.com. RIP Steven Covey. Thanks for what you left behind.

  6. Siegi,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Covey’s passing is a huge loss, but luckily his writings live on.

    Deonne

  7. Joshua Wold says:

    Thanks for sharing. The quote that really got me is “One of the most important ways to manifest integrity is to be loyal to those who are not present. In doing so, we build the trust of those who are present.”

    Wow, those words are powerful and cutting. I’m definitely guilty of not following this at all times. Keep up the good work!

  8. Steve Baines says:

    Great post Deonne! Covey was a master, and his teachings will go on to influence and inspire millions for generations.  Thank you for sharing these 7 gold nuggets. I loved how you followed each one up with “The Problem” and “The Fix”. My favorite one is “Live out of your imagination, not your history” I tweeted that the day he died.

  9. Steve Baines says:

    Great post Deonne! Covey was a master, and his teachings will go on to influence and inspire millions for generations.  Thank you for sharing these 7 gold nuggets. I loved how you followed each one up with “The Problem” and “The Fix”. My favorite one is “Live out of your imagination, not your history” I tweeted that the day he died.

  10. Joshua,

    I’m with you – that one really hits home. Silence can be easier in difficult situations, but it’s also wrong. I find that speaking up does get easier with practice, and luckily I don’t have to practice it too often. Must be hanging out with better people (ha).

    Deonne

  11. Steve,

    Thanks for the kind words! Covey seemed to have a mlllion inspiring one-liners, and that’s one of my favorites, too. Such hope in that statement.

    Deonne

  12. Hi Deonne,

    I  like how you took some of Stephen Covey’s great quotes and made them accessable to everyday life.  Here’s my favorite of his:

    The first choice we make each and every day is, “Will we act upon life, or will we merely be acted upon?”

  13. Carol,

    That is a good one! Covey was great at giving tough love with a solid dose of optimism. (There are so many great quotes from him, you can imagine how hard it was to whittle it down to just seven for this post!)

    Deonne

  14. Hi Deonne — so much wisdom. Sigh. I loved Stephen Covey’s book. It’s dog-eared and yellow, but still on my shelf. Great post. So positive. Thanks, Michelle

  15. You gave us a good one for each day of the week!

  16. Jan O'Hara says:

    I first read Steven Covey at a time when my life was dark and conflicted. He gave me hope and so many “aha” experiences I lost count. So nice to read this tribute, Deonne. When he died, we lost a great man.

  17. Michelle,

    I agree about the wisdom – which is why I can’t take much credit for this post. I’m just the messenger :).

    Deonne

  18.  Jan,

    Sounds like you found Covey just in time – I’m so glad you did. And I agree, the world lost a great one.

    Deonne

  19. Joshua Wold says:

    That always helps! Yeah, I need to make sure I practice this more. 

  20. The quote that is jumping out at me most right now is

    “The first choice we make each and every day is, “Will we act upon life, or will we merely be acted upon?”

  21. Lori,

    That’s a favorite. I totally identify with Covey’s proactive outlook, and it sounds like you do, too!

    Deonne

  22. Lori,

    That’s a favorite. I totally identify with Covey’s proactive outlook, and it sounds like you do, too!

    Deonne

  23. I was very sad to hear about his passing from a bicycle accident! Truly an inspiration!  Thanks for sharing this.

  24. I was very sad to hear about his passing from a bicycle accident! Truly an inspiration!  Thanks for sharing this.

  25. P. James,

    I agree. He was 79 and living a full life – an inspiration for us all.

    Deonne

  26. Shajta says:

    I like the way you’re clarifying  our problems and solutions with ”the problem” and ”the fix” thing. You’re doing great job. Great post as usually. Thank you.

  27. Jason Bates says:

    Great post Deonne. When I saw the post title I thought you were going to go with the obvious 7 habits… but you were much more subtle in picking out some nice wisdom from Stephen’s teachings.

    thanks.

  28. Jason Bates says:

    Great post Deonne. When I saw the post title I thought you were going to go with the obvious 7 habits… but you were much more subtle in picking out some nice wisdom from Stephen’s teachings.

    thanks.

  29. Jason Bates says:

    Great post Deonne. When I saw the post title I thought you were going to go with the obvious 7 habits… but you were much more subtle in picking out some nice wisdom from Stephen’s teachings.

    thanks.

  30. Jason Bates says:

    Great post Deonne. When I saw the post title I thought you were going to go with the obvious 7 habits… but you were much more subtle in picking out some nice wisdom from Stephen’s teachings.

    thanks.

  31. Hi Deonne, really enjoyed this post especially w your “the problem / the fix” approach. Fav quote by the man himself is 
    Every human has four endowments- self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.

  32. Hi Deonne, really enjoyed this post especially w your “the problem / the fix” approach. Fav quote by the man himself is 
    Every human has four endowments- self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.

  33. Kirsten says:

    Deonne, this is great. His books are so full of wisdom – and that’s the wonderful thing – he may have passed on but this wisom lives on.

    My husband and I refered to “7 habits of highly effective families” often as we brought up our 3 kids.

    One of the most useful concept for people in a relationship is the concept of the emotional bank account. If you manage your relationships using the power of this concept, all will be well!

    Kirsten Long
    Coach 4 Life
    http://coach4life.co.za/blog/?p=388
    A chellenge in honor of Stephen Covey

  34. Ruth says:

    I really liked the post – but I have to say that I was kind of taken aback by the sentence: ”
    But whether you know it or not, you’ve grown comfortable with yourself and maybe, once in awhile, you let doing the right thing slide in favor of the easy. It’s holding you back from a truly exceptional life, the life you know you’re capable of. ” It’s too much of a statement hence a bit harsh. Change it to a question and it flows with the content of this really enlightening post :)

  35. William_Drop_Dead_Money says:

    Thanks Deonne – good thoughts!  The second to last one really resonated with me – deciding to make a change in me.

    To that I’d add setting goals to give that change teeth and to provide internal accountability to not slip into New Years Resolution mode.

  36. William_Drop_Dead_Money says:

    Thanks Deonne – good thoughts!  The second to last one really resonated with me – deciding to make a change in me.

    To that I’d add setting goals to give that change teeth and to provide internal accountability to not slip into New Years Resolution mode.

  37. Shajta,

    Thanks so much! As both a writer and a reader I’m a big fan of clarity, and strive for that in my own work. No reason to make it harder for the reader!

    Deonne

  38. Jason,

    I appreciate the kind words. I put a lot of thought into this post, simply because Covey inspired me so much and his work deserved that kind of reflection. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Deonne

  39. Zivana,

    Love that quote! Thanks for sharing it.

    Deonne

  40. Kirsten,

    Exactly. Thank god he published! Good point about the emotional bank account, which applies to so many areas of life.

    Deonne

  41. Ruth,

    I knew I was making a strong statement there, but I like your idea about turning it into a question. Duly noted for next time! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    Deonne

  42. it’s a great post

  43. Amit Amin says:

    Great quotes! Easy to read, easy to imagine, but it takes a lifetime of discipline and self-correction to implement. 

  44. Katie says:

    Deonne, 

    this is a powerful post –  love the quotes in bold –  and have to admit –  I have never read the book-  might just get it now : ) Katie.

  45. Kim Hall says:

    Love the “be the light.” It is so much easier, and human nature, I think, to focus on who or what’s wrong. This list is a humbling reminder of a great man and his legacy. Well done, Deonne!

  46. William,

    It’s that deciding part that’s so tantalizing, isn’t it? We have the power, not anyone else.

    Goals and accountability – definitely. New Year’s Resolution Mode is great until the champagne wears off (ha).

    Deonne

  47. Amit,

    Glad it was helpful! But yes, this stuff doesn’t happen overnight. Practice, practice, practice.

    Deonne

  48. Katie,

    Go out and get the book now! That way I can say I’ve created a convert (ha). Seriously – it’s a classic for a reason.

    Deonne

  49. Kim,

    That is such a beautiful suggestion, isn’t it? So glad you liked the post. It was a joy to write.

    Deonne

  50. Abufaris says:

    I believe in Stephen Covey. He is a personal development sientest that will never be matched.

  51. Abufaris,

    I agree! Thanks for commenting.

    Deonne

  52. Abufaris,

    I agree! Thanks for commenting.

    Deonne

  53. “Are you leaning your ladder against the wrong wall?”

  54. “The word ‘universe” means one song.”  (Where he argues for universal brotherhood.)

  55.  Ferdinand,

    Love those! That universe quote is just beautiful – apropos with how good we feel about the Olympics. Thanks for sharing.

    Deonne

  56. Rob_Leonardo says:

    Awesome post! I respect Covey as a guru who has influenced me a lot.  one thing i learned from him is the value of our being as we are and how we are inter-related to one another.  He explained it in so simple terms that i have learned to live this (or at least I’m still trying).  I am currently re-reading the 8th habit.  :)

  57. Rob,

    Glad you liked it! Understanding that everything we do impacts others might be one of the simplest ways I know to make the world a better place. No action happens in a vacuum. I wish all of us could remember that fact all the time!

    Deonne

  58. Kally says:

    Love this!  Very inspirational.  
    Kally http://www.wellnessandtoys.com

  59. Kally,

    Glad you liked it! Thanks for commenting.

    Deonne

  60. Mahmood Shokraneh says:

    SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO nice ! So light !

  61. Rohail abbasi says:

    so informative and excited information..stephen covey contribution are remarkable…..in every chang ….their is contribution of covey…….sir we really miss u…..

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  63. Like Jim Rohn, Stephen Covey may not be “sexy” in terms of wisdom or advice. He’s just dead on right. It’s also not a coincidence he was able to use his principles to cross over to success in other ventures. Thank you for bringing him front and center where he belongs, Deonne. :)

  64. Larry – Agreed, and my pleasure!

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