How to be a Highly Effective Marquette Student: Insights from Sean Covey

9780684856094_p0_v1_s260x420By Aubrey Murtha – When I was in middle school, my parents gave us Murtha kids a book by Sean Covey for Christmas entitled The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens. 

I am a big fan of self-help literature because, hey, if someone knows how to live more fully than I do, I’ll take any advice that I can get. The other day, I was doing homework at my desk in Schroeder Hall, and I was reminded of the infinite wisdom in this book when I spotted it on my shelf. I was inspired to write a post about it because I remembered how helpful these tips where for me during my early teenage years.

All of the steps come directly from Covey’s book, and I’ve incorporated some of my own insights into the explanations. MU students, think about making it a summer goal to adopt some of these pointers.  Teachers, you might share them with your middle and high schoolers.

Be Proactive

You’re the pilot of your own life, the conductor of your own orchestra, the director of your own Broadway show. Don’t sit back, whine, and wallow in self-pity. If something is not happening for you, go out and make it happen. Sure, some social barriers may stand in your way, but give yourself a fighting chance by pursuing your interests and aspirations. Take responsibility for your successes and failures and remember that you are not, nor should you be, a victim.

Begin with the end in mind

Be goal oriented. There’s no need to map out your life—there’s value in spontaneity!—but as Covey would argue, “all things are created twice—first mentally, second physically.” It takes at least a loose plan of action to achieve something meaningful.

Put first things first

                This is often very tricky for Marquette students. It’s tough to admit to yourself that you’re overcommitted or that you party a bit too much or perhaps that it was not the wisest decision to watch that eighth episode of Friends last night. Prioritizing is oh-so-important because it increases your productivity and decreases your stress. By keeping your eye on the prize, you’ll avoid unnecessary distractions and stay both focused and organized. As Covey says, “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

Think Win-Win

This habit suggests that we seek win-win solutions to our problems: that is, that we avoid selfish (I win, you lose) or martyr (I lose, you win) resolutions to pressing issues. It is important to approach conflict resolution with an “everyone-can-win attitude” since life so often involves cooperative collaboration.

Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Listen, process, absorb. Then speak your mind respectfully. This is my favorite of the habits because we SO often struggle to understand. I think so many of our daily conflicts could be remedied if we closed our mouths and opened our ears every now and then (Covey reminds us that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason). No one has all the answers, so sit down, shut up, and listen intently to your neighbor. Then share your opinions because your views are valuable, too!


Work with others to produce a strategy together that is far better than it could have been had you devised it alone. Covey talks about synergism as creating a third alternative or utilizing a combination of individual strengths to develop a plan that is not yours or mine, but ours. Teamwork makes the dream work, am I right? Marquette students, think of how many brilliant and talented peers you have. Unite and do something beautiful.

Sharpen the Saw

Phew. After all of that self-improvement, you probably need a break. Take some time to do what you love and renew yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You earned it. According to Covey, this is the habit that enables us to live out the other six fully and completely. So, take full advantage of the opportunity to play some pick up ball, take a hot bath, or go on a romantic date with bae. Refuel and reenergize.

Go forth, now, and be effective human beings.

Did you like this post?  Check out Covey’s awesome site at  or give his book a read.  Some information taken from:

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