Stephen Covey: Seven Habits, Stephen Covey: 7 Habits, Stephen Covey: Seven (7) Habits

Stephen Covey, 7 Seven Habits, Stephen Covey, Seven 7 Habits, Stephen Covey, 7 Seven Habits,

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Stephen Covey and the Seven (7) Habits: Is Pleasure the Goal?

Stephen Covey and the Seven Habits philosophy contains many gems of insight. One of those which comes out strongly in Covey's Seven Habits books is this: Pleasure is not the Goal of Life. What does this mean, according to my own reading of the work of Stephen Covey?

Stephen Covey sets up his philosophy as containing 7 components, each one distilled into a one-sentence "habit." One of those is "Beginning with the End in Mind". In order to do this, Covey says, we have to be able to determine what things constitute the "Ends" for us. Having done this, Covey recommends learning to put ethical and other tried-and-tested principles of life ahead of those ends.

Covey names a number of these ends in his 7 Habits book, and frames them as those areas of life experience upon which your life is centered, or which take precedence over other possible "centers." Examples listed by Covey include spouse-centeredness, work-centeredness, money-centeredness, possession-centeredness, friend-centeredness, enemy-centeredness (!), and church-centeredness. The area which I would like to talk about here, however, is that which is called "Pleasure-centeredness" by Covey.

Covey points out that there are those who decide things based on that which would bring them most pleasure (at least, as they see it). Implied within this is, I think, immediate pleasure. This is, however, a tricky issue because, surely, strictly speaking pleasure is the reason we do everything. Perhaps a closer look at this fact and how it relates to Covey's assertions might help shed light on Covey's Second Habit and, more generally, the philosophy of the 7 Habits of Stephen Covey.

Covey would say that pleasure, in and of itself, can bring no fulfillment. But, if the purpose of Covey's seven habits creed is self-fulfillment (even if Covey might say that, no, the purpose of life is "service," surely this is hard to separate from the sense of fulfillment that comes from service to others), isn't fulfillment identifiable as a type of pleasure? Even self-denial or self-sacrifice are motivated by "selfish" pleasure: still, you give yourself to a greater good because it brings you pleasure to do so.

Let us examine the idea, by contrast, that Stephen Covey's Seven Habits are designed to promote service to others as a way of life, and that this is something that is intrinsically worth embracing, irrespective of how it might make you feel. Now here I wonder if in fact Covey could then argue that, no, pleasure does not always have to be the end of any action. What if we could simply learn to see service to others, even though tempered by a Win-Win mentality that includes attention to our own wellbeing in the equation, as an emotionally neutral end which we take and accept purely on faith? Then, surely, it could be argued that pleasure is not, in fact, always the end of every act, and thus we need not accuse Covey's moral philosophy of being internally inconsistent.


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