I had no intent of letting a book instruct me on the importance and how to’s of living fully, communicating successfully, having (and acting on) a life philosophy, becoming a leader, being a mentor, or the hundreds of other things that make me who I am today. Why would I need a book to teach me what I obviously already knew and did at the wizened age of twenty-something? What an absurd thought - a book. Really??
Then one was recommended to me by someone I respected. So I read it. In my usual nonchalant way of my late 20's mindset, I pooh-poohed the exercises and activities that came at the end of each chapter. Not that I disagreed with the author's insights or that he didn't set my mind to critical thinking. No, it was more like, "Who has time for that?" and "I don't have to actually do them; just skimming for the gist would do the job." It was a cop-out and I knew it. And, when my friend eventually asked how I liked the book and what I had learned doing the exercises, I put on my poker face and said I was still working on them. Caught between my ridiculousness and the sincerity of my friend, I went back, reread the book, and did the exercises.
They were hard. Thought provoking. Searching. Introspective. Embarassing. Humbling.
I read each section. Did each exercise. And found my eyes opened to what was important to me, what I expected of myself, my principles and how to organize my actions and my life to align with them. I discovered what I wanted from my career, my marriage, being a mom, being a part of the human condition. More importantly, I learned what I had to give to get those things.
Now, before you start to think that I think, with a few more books under my belt and even more years, I have it all figured out and am a shining example of perfection- uh, no. I discover every day that figuring it out is a never ending road of over corrections and refinements that generally fall in the right direction. I've gone back to that book and those exercises time and time again as my life circumstances changed, a previously unconsidered philosophy or alternative came before me, or I just plain screwed up. Each run at it has resulted in slightly different wording of my principles and desires. Slight adjustments to my thinking and actions. Refreshed direction and results.
That book was, "The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People" by Stephen Covey. Oh, there have been others: “Principle Centered Leadership” (also by S. Covey),”How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber, “The Five Love Languages” by Gary D. Chapman, “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell, and many others. But Seven Habits was the first, and it hit me hard.