Have you heard of Stephen Covey? He was an incredibly influential author, publishing the bestselling book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People which sold over 25 million copies.
Covey promoted what he called “the character ethic”, where people align their characters with universal and timeless principles.
For example, he was known for the following quotes making this point:
- “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”
- “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”
- “To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.”
In a rare interview published shortly before his death, Covey was asked about the perfect start to his day.
His response involves a combination of meditation, mindfulness, exercise and visualization.
Stephen Covey’s perfect morning routine
Here’s his response in full:
I make an effort every morning to win what I call the “private victory.” I work out on a stationary bike while I am studying the scriptures for at least 30 minutes. Then I swim in a home pool vigorously for 15 minutes, then I do yoga in a shallow part of the pool for 15 minutes. Then I go into my library and pray with a listening spirit, listening primarily to my conscience while I visualize the rest of my entire day, including important professional activities and key relationships with my loved ones, working associates and clients. I see myself living by correct principles and accomplishing worthy purposes. One of my favorite quotes is, “The greatest battles of life are fought out every day in the silent chambers of one’s own soul.” (David O. McKay) Much of this listening and visualizing work is very challenging, so I win the private victory when I have made my mind up and commit to live by correct principles and to serve worthy purposes.
The key components
Mornings are difficult for many of us. However, exercise is known for helping you get off to a great start to the day.
It helps to get your blood pumping and oxygen moving through the body.
Clarity of thinking for the rest of the day.
Covey indicates above that he also struggles to exercise, referring to it as a “private victory” when he manages to work out. He rides on his bike and multi tasks while he does so, studying his scriptures for 30 minutes. Then he swims intensively for 15 minutes, followed by a more relaxing yoga session.
One hour per day of exercise ensures the body is in great shape, and sets the tone of the rest of the day.
Covey refers to this part of his day as “pray with a listening spirit, listening primarily to my conscience.”
This is a kind of meditation where you let go of your thoughts and listen to whatever comes through. It takes some experience of meditating where you can filter out the chatter of the mind to see what’s beneath the surface.
If you’re interested in learning how to meditate, we recommend this course on Udemy. It’s very clear and practical.
“The body won’t go where the mind has not gone first.”
Covey’s visualization practice is simple but conveys a lot of depth. He not only imagines how his day will go in terms of his meetings and relationships with others. He also does this by thinking of the key principles by which he will carry out his day.
This means it’s not just about “manifesting” what he wants, but engineering his mental framework so that he lives “the good life”, according to a clear set of values.
If you’re interested in learning how to visualize in similar ways that Covey does, try this course on Udemy, another one we highly recommend.