Summer Reading: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens

You may have heard of Stephen R Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which was a huge bestseller in the last decade (it's weird that I'm old enough to say things like that from experience). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens is written by his son, Sean Covey, and is based on his father's work, written and formatted to be more relatable to teens. Both books are designed to help you become a better you, by teaching you how to engage in habits that strengthen your character and help you lead a more productive, fulfilling, and happy life.

Overall, I liked the book. It's a fairly quick read. It definitely is geared more towards teens-- myself having just left that pack by turning 20 in April, I found it a little less relatable than I would have had I read it in middle or high school. The language is very conversational which I thought was fitting given that it was written for kids in high school. Overall though, the book has a really good message and is organized in a way that makes sense. The 7 habits are definitely going to become a part of my lifestyle, and I think doing so will make me healthier, happier, and more productive!

The book has its flaws, though. One must read it with the understanding that Sean Covey comes from a fairly privileged background and a somewhat conservative Christian background at that. He speaks through his experiences and the experiences of the youth that he has worked with, but sometimes the filter of his own experience and values takes away from the universality of it all. In general, the 7 habits will definitely improve you as a person, and your life as a result-- but at times those aren't the only things that come into play. One story from a black teen he quoted basically said in her words that she didn't think racial stereotypes and discrimination are an excuse to lower ambitions as her mother and boyfriend believed-- but I think that example, while a real quote from that teen, was very reductive toward the inherent racism built into our society. It's a dangerous thing, especially for someone without the experience of a person of color, to frame things like that in their book. Racism is real, and it is systematic. Are we living in a better society today than we did in the 50s? Of course. But the way that Covey framed that particular example left a bad taste in my mouth. The girl, of course, was speaking more about refusing to let prejudices become a crutch for failure, and instead of resigning to them, believing that there is a way to do whatever you aspire to do. The way the quote was framed and excerpted, I think, was a little off.

In addition, there are some pieces of advice that I find a little more conservative than necessary. And it's not the bits that suggest prayer, finding a higher power, or meditating as a way to help recharge that I take issue with-- I find religion to be a powerful positive influence on many, even though I consider myself an atheist. I take more issue with the fact that, under the heading of signs you aren't ready for sex, he included "you do not have the means to support a child" along with things that made more sense to me like "you don't understand how contraceptives/pregnancy works" "you think sex will get you love" and "you think you can't get pregnant the first time." I think it's unrealistic to assume that only people with the means to support a child should be able to have sex at all especially if it's protected and all parties involved are very well informed. While it should be something to consider, I think that that line struck me the wrong way as well, since I felt it sort of weakened the points I agreed with. Having the means to support a child should be more of an intermediate factor in the decision to have sex, not one of the deciding ones.

Overall, though, I would recommend the book, especially to teenagers. I think people in college can learn a lot from it as well, but we're definitely just outside Covey's target audience. Covey also does a really great job at illustrating the habits with examples from his life and the lives of others, as well as discussing how to break poor habits and understanding why we are not effective. He talked about centers and how being family-centered, work-centered, food-centered, friend-centered, etc. can all be unhealthy ways of living, which I think really spoke to me. I think I tend to be work-centered, which I had considered to be a really good thing, but as Covey writes and my past few months have shown, being work-centered can lead to neglect of other areas of my life and lead to burn-out and a poor sense of self outside the work world. The only center that works is being principle-centered. With that, we can prioritize and know when to make sacrifices with the different areas of our lives in accordance with our principles, instead of around just one or two facets of our lives like school and friends. I think I was raised for so long with a school-centric mentality, and later it turned to a work-centric mentality, but trying to build my life around those things isn't as effective as building my life around my principles.

The book is also filled with little scenarios that play out, cartoons and quotes, and exercises to help you think through how to make the 7 habits work in your life.

I've actually had this book since 7th grade-- a friend got it for me as a 6th grade graduation present. (Apparently that's a thing.) I finally read it all-the way through. All-in-all I would recommend it!

Read any good books lately? What's on your summer reading list?


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