“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle
Some decisions are best made with the brain, others with the heart, and still others with some combination of both. The challenge, obviously, is to know which decisions are best made rationally, emotionally, or intuitively. When discussing this book, Stephen M.R. Covey suggests that his cousin, Johnny Covey, “focuses on the proactive behavior of choosing [what to be and do] in a way that favo9rs the heart without excluding the head. Learning to trust our heart is the most important thing each of us can do for ourselves, and Johnny shows us how we can do this intentionally. He shows us how we can exercise courage in being who we really are, how we can use our imagination and intelligence to consciously create our experience and how our choices profoundly affect what we feel and do.”
As I began to work my way through the narrative, I was again reminded of a book I read years ago, Denial of Death, in which Ernest Becker acknowledges the inevitability of physical death but asserts that there is another form of death than CAN be denied: that which occurs when we become wholly preoccupied with fulfilling others’ expectations of us. After years of struggling to fulfill others’ expectations of him, Johnny Covey chose to experience his life, “not just [being and] doing what others say is best for me. Many people have told me to change, but I feel that this life is what is best for me and my family.”
Perhaps channeling Aristotle, Covey recommends five habits to develop: be and become courageous, you, present, restored, and a conscious creator. Briefly, here’s my take:
o It really does take courage to challenge what Jim O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” Dante reserved the last and worst ring in hell for those who, in a moral crisis, preserve their neutrality.
o Covey obviously agrees with Polonius’ advice to son Laertes: “This above all: to thine ownself be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” Also with “Oscar Wilde’s admonition, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”
o To be present is to be engaged in the given situation rather than merely involved, fully aware of the circumstances, “experiencing things as they really are.” This is what Ellen Langer calls mindfulness. Dan Goleman calls emotional intelligence. You get the idea.
o The word “kaizen” is a Japanese term for continuous improvement and is usually associated with Toyota’s production line. For those who work there, it could also refer to their personal growth and professional development. Restoration enables us to recapture past experience that helps to nourish our heart and head as we embrace new opportunities.
o The last habit, conscious creation, is possible only if and when we have embarked on establishing the other four habits. Keep in mind that Covey is talking about an on-going process, not an ultimate destination. Over time, as the five habits – what we “repeatedly do” — become more durable, we gain a sense of greater freedom that would otherwise not be possible. We make better choices that produce more beneficial results.
There are no head-snapping revelations in Johnny Covey’s material – nor does he make any such claim — but I think many readers will find that much of it will have what I call a “time capsule effect.” That is, delayed relevance and then impact. That is why I highly recommend that those who read who read this book highlight key passages (information, insights, and counsel) that resonate with them now, then review those passages on a regular basis later.
It is in everyone’s best interests to have a sharp mind, a loving heart, and an enlightened intuition when making decisions, especially those that have serious implications and could have significant consequences. In essence, that is what this book is all about. What are you about?