Reach for the Possible
How do you choose to react
to experiences both good and
bad? According to Johnny
Covey, author of 5 Habits to Lead from Your Heart, there are
two choices to make: You can
react with your head or you can
react with your heart. When you
react with your head, he writes,
you are mostly trying to protect
yourself. In essence, you are acting out of fear or selfpreservation.
A better alternative, Covey argues, is to react
with your heart instead — to focus on progressing instead
Covey uses this dichotomous choice in response to
experience to build a head-to-heart framework. Across the
top of the framework are his three Ps of progress: previous,
present and possible. The present is the experience you are
reacting to, Covey writes, and the other two Ps represent
the different choices: the “head” choice to retreat to the
comfort of the past (the previous) or the “heart” choice to
reach for the possible.
Under previous and possible, Covey places the three
phases of experience: think, feel and do. Thus, faced with
an experience, one can react by thinking, feeling and doing
what was done previously or, on the contrary, by thinking,
feeling and doing something new, ambitious and courageous
so that you can progress.
Covey’s five habits are intended to lead his readers to
choose possible over previous.
Making the Right Choices
The first habit is to Be Courageous. For Covey, this is
the foundational habit of leading from your heart. Covey
describes, as an example, the decision he and his wife made
to become foster parents — when at the time they had
four children aged 5, 3, 2 and 7 months. Their heads told
them not to become foster parents (as did many of their
friends and family). However, Covey writes, they took the
plunge and became foster parents to two girls, who are
now teenagers thriving in the Covey household.
Covey’s second habit is to Be You. In this section, Covey
urges readers to understand why they feel the way they
do (their core motivations), what they are good at doing
and how they think about things. In each of these areas,
Coveys offers four archetypes. For example, “visionaries,”
“thinkers,” “artists” and “researchers” are the do archetypes,
each having different strengths. “Managers,” “project
managers,” “organizers” and “playmakers” think differently.
And our core motives, Covey writes, will lead each one of
us to be a “producer,” “people” person, “playful” person or
The third habit is to Be Present. Covey’s emphasis
in this section is on making the right choices in reaction
to what is currently being experienced. For example, he
writes, leading from the head will cause us to take a defensive
position: We feel wrong and alone, we think in terms
of flight or fight, and we do what we can to seek comfort
and control. Covey advocates a heart response: feeling
worthy and accepted, thinking in terms of imagination
and intelligence, doing in terms of creating and following
The last two habits are to Be Restored, which focuses
on moving from past experience to present experience to
possible experience, and to Be a Conscious Creator.
The last habit, writes Covey, is in fact the “execution” or
“doing” of the four habits.
Covey devotes three chapters to each of the five habits,
ending each chapter with an exercise as well as a reference
to a 5 Habits community webpage, where readers share
their results of the exercise.
5 Habits to Lead from Your Heart is filled with personal
stories drawn from Covey’s life, including his response to
going from wealth to bankruptcy in the housing crash
of 2008. Rather than return to business after the debacle,
Covey was inspired by his great-uncle, Stephen R. Covey,
to become a motivational thinker and writer. This book is
the thoughtful result of that decision.
Receive our latest book reviews in your inbox each month.