Like many students, Samantha Acosta (’14) and Tyler J. Hawks (’14) have struggled to find direction in their college careers. Recently they had the opportunity to receive guidance from Stephen R. Covey (PhD ’76), a distinguished BYU alumnus and author of the continuous best seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
As part of a BYU Alumni initiative promoting student mentoring, Covey spent a day in February with the two students, participated in a Q and A, and delivered a lecture at the university. He suggested how alumni can give back to the university by touching the lives of students.
Acosta and Hawks joined Covey in the Q and A with five other student Covey fans. In addition to discussing The 7 Habits, Covey emphasized service and self-discipline as paths to finding solutions to problems.
Several students had questions about time management and indecision. “Many people put urgent things ahead of important things,” Covey said. “That’s why I focus a great deal of importance on writing a personal mission statement and building your life around it to have a clear sense of purpose and direction in your life.” A mission statement, he stressed, should “address the body, mind, heart, and spirit of a person or organization.”
Senior Lisa Harris (’11) worried about the uncertainty of life after graduation. “How do I begin with the end in mind if I don’t know what the end could be?” she asked.
“It’s important to be patient with yourself and write about your present view,” replied Covey. “As you deepen your experience and understanding, write down your new approach to life. It’s flexible; you’re going to change it.”
After a lunch with Hawks and Acosta, Covey spoke to a full house in the Maeser Auditorium. He opened by saying, “The key to success is not accumulation but contribution.” His lecture focused on being proactive as a way to shape a successful life through four human endowments: self-awareness, imagination, conscience, and independent will. To hone these endowments, he advises feasting on the words of Christ.
Covey made a positive impact on Hawks. “He talked about being internally motivated and how that can change everything.” Hawks looks forward to writing a mission statement so that he can focus on and achieve his goals.
“It helped so much to have someone who can relate to you say, ‘Maybe you don’t have to decide right now,’” Hawks says. “I think it would be great to have more alumni return to campus and work with students and show what they’ve done with their careers.”
Acosta calls the day a blessing. “I was surprised and touched by how loving [Covey] was.”
“The event was fabulous,” says Linda M. Palmer (BS ’71), managing director of the Alumni Association. “There’s nothing like that one-on-one mentoring experience for students. Our professors do a lot of mentoring, but we have 280,000 alumni who have tremendous experience and can reach out to students and ask, ‘How are you doing? Can I help?’”
“It’s not hard to mentor,” Palmer adds. “We all can reach out to someone following in our footsteps and help them out.”