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10 Essential Strength Books: Part 4 – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

10 Essential Strength Books discusses the 10 books that have had the greatest impact on my strength training.  Strength does not necessarily refer to muscles or lifting weights–any book that has made me stronger is fair game.  I know that 7 Habits…looks like an odd choice, but hear me out.

They are all related

They are all related

What is strength training, if not a habit?

Strength has many facets.  You can have strong muscles, strength of will and character, or unshakable integrity.  You can have them all if you’re dedicated and willing to monitor yourself.  The problem is, being strong in just one area is not enough.  Imbalance is imbalance.  I’m convinced that these areas are interdependent.

Getting stronger physically requires that you get stronger mentally.  Getting stronger mentally requires that you evaluate yourself.  Evaluating yourself takes guts because you might not like what you see.

Before I get too ahead of myself…

What getting stronger (in any sense of the word) requires

  • You must have a goal
  • You must have a plan to reach that goal
  • You must stick to that plan
  • You must stick to that plan for as long as it takes to reach your goal
  • You must be able to hold yourself accountable for your progress (or lack of)

That last point is why I chose to review The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in my series about essential strength books.  This book taught me how to keep promises to myself, and how to be accountable.

Think about it–say you make a goal to lose 20 lbs.  How will you do it?  You may toss some vague notion about “eating better” and “exercising more” out there, but that’s why these plans seldom work: the vagueness and the ease of letting yourself off the hook.  It’s convenient to say you want something but plan for it.

So many people I know, including myself, have less trouble keeping promises to other people than to themselves.  Why?  Why should breaking a promise to yourself feel easier than breaking a promise to another person?

When I break a promise to myself, is it still a lie?

I believe it is, but it might not feel like it.  Part of the problem is that breaking a promise to another person risks public shame.  Nobody wants that.  Break a promise to yourself, and who knows but you?  New year’s resolutions, anyone?

This book taught me how to make promises to myself, to follow through on them, and to feel badly if I let myself down.  It’s about saying “I’m better than this and I can prove it, even if nobody else will know.”

That’s the other side: when you keep a promise to yourself, you can feel just as good about it as if you came through for another person.

About Steven R. Covey

  • Some people worship him blindly.  (Don’t do this)
  • Some people hate his style.  (it’s not so bad)
  • Some people are annoyed by his habit of putting a word inside of a circle and then copyrighting it (this annoys me too)

Don’t hate him or love him because of who he is or isn’t.  Give The 7 Habits an honest try based on the book and nothing else.  For what it’s worth, I’ve never gotten much out of Covey’s other books: they all read like rehashes of 7 Habits.

If you read this book and apply its principles, you will be a stronger person.  You can decide what strength means for yourself.

Oh, and do not listen to the audiobook unless you have read the book first.  The voices and music are really irritating and will send you screaming into the street.


This is part 4 in a series: read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

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  • David Cain May 11, 2009, 10:47 am

    I have been meaning to go back to this book. Years ago I stalled halfway through it, but I was much less receptive to habit change or personal development of any kind.

    Some of the principles are outright brilliant (seek first to understand) but I have to agree with the complaints about his style. It’s rather dry reading a lot of the time, IMO.

    • Josh Hanagarne May 11, 2009, 10:51 am

      Dry like the Sahara. Dry like powdered milk. Amen.

  • Ben Owens May 11, 2009, 10:48 pm

    I know a lot of people that swear by this book. I don’t think I could make it through the thing though. I like to read, but I’d rather do almost anything (ANYTHING) than read self-help books. They bore me to tears.

    • Josh Hanagarne May 12, 2009, 6:25 am

      I think the people who feel the way you do are the ones who write self-help books. Then they don’t have to read them. Seriously, though, this one is pretty good. It’s the only one I’ve gotten much out of. Too many self-improvement books are just rehashed lists of bullet points from other books. Not surprising, though. The advice isn’t new – it’s all common sense.