secret life is the key to a quality life and that in
turn is the key to a quality culture, products, and
services. Once in New York City, I attended the
Broadway play, The Secret Garden. The play was
particularly poignant for me that evening because my
mother had just died.
The Tony Award-winning musical is the story of a
young girl whose mother and father die of cholera in
India as the play begins. She is sent to live with
her uncle in a large British manor. The old house is
filled with romantic spirits. As the restless girl
explores the grounds of the estate, she discovers
the entrance to the magical secret garden, a place
where anything is possible.
When she first enters the garden, she finds that it
appears to be dead, much like her cousin, a
bedridden boy, and her uncle, still haunted by
memories of his lovely wife who died giving birth to
the boy. In harmony with natural laws and
principles, the girl faithfully plants seeds and
brings new life to the garden. As the roots are
warmed and the garden cultivated, she brings about a
dramatic transformation of her entire culture within
In my many years of teaching and training, I have
seen several such transformations brought about by
proactive people who exercise principle-centered
leadership and the Seven Habits in their secret,
private, and public lives.
When I returned home to Salt Lake City the next day
to speak at my mother's funeral, I referred to the
Secret Garden, because for me and many others, my
mother's home was a secret garden where we could
escape and be nurtured by positive affirmation.
her eyes, all about us was good, and all that was
good was possible.
Our Three Lives
We all live three lives: public, private and secret.
In our public lives, we are seen and heard by
colleagues, associates, and others within our circle
of influence. In our private lives, we interact more
intimately with spouses, family members, and close
friends. The secret life is where your heart is,
where your real motives are the ultimate desires of
Many executives never visit the secret life. Their
public and private lives are essentially scripted by
who and what precedes and surrounds them or by the
pressures of the environment. And so they never
exercise that unique endowment of self-awareness the
key to the secret life where you can stand apart
from yourself and observe your own involvement.
Courage is required to explore our secret life
because we must first withdraw from the social
mirror, where we are fed positive and negative
feedback continuously. As we get used to this social
feedback, it becomes a comfort zone. And we may opt
to avoid self-examination and idle away our time in
a vacuum of reverie and rationalization. In that
frame of mind, we have little sense of identity,
safety, or security.
Examine Your Motives
The most critical junctures in my life take place
when I visit my secret life and ask, "What do I
think? What do I believe is right? What should my
motives be?" These are times when I choose my
motives. One such time occurred when I first heard
Dag Hammarskjold say, "It is more noble to give
yourself completely to one individual, than to labor
diligently for the salvation of the masses."
That statement had such a profound effect on me that
I started to say to myself in regard to my
relationships with other people, "Wait a minute;
it's my life. I can choose whether I want to make
reconciliation with this person or not. I can choose
my own motives."
One of the exciting fruits of the "secret
garden" is an ability to consciously choose
your own motives. Until you choose your own motives,
you really can't choose to live your own life.
Everything flows out of motive and motivation that
is the root of our deepest desires.
Now, when I get into a frustrating or perplexing
situation, I enter into my secret life. That's where
I find not only motives but also correct principles;
that's where the inner wisdom is. As I learn to be
proactive in exploring the secret life, I tap into
self-awareness, imagination, conscience, and into
the exercise of free will to choose another motive.
People who regularly explore their secret life and
examine their motives are better able to see into
the hearts of others, practice real empathy, bestow
real empowerment and affirm worth and identity.
A healthy secret life will benefit your private and
public lives in many ways. For example, when I'm
preparing to give a speech, I read aloud a favorite
discourse on faith hope and charity because it helps
me to purify my motive. I lose all desire to
impress. My only desire is to bless. And when I go
to a public setting with that motive, I have great
confidence and inner peace. I feel more love for the
people and feel much more authentic myself.
Executives who attend our leadership training in the
mountain setting of Sundance often tell me,
"This is the first time in many years that I've
done any soul searching. I've seen myself as if for
the first time, and I've resolved that my life is
going to be different. I'm going to be true to what
I really believe." Recently, many people have
written me to say, "Your habits and principles
have made the difference. I'd never really thought
about some of them before, but I resonate with
them." That's because these principles are
found in people's secret life.
And yet most of us spend our busy days privately
doing our thing, never pausing long enough to enter
the secret life, the secret garden, where we can
create masterpieces, discover great truths and
enhance very aspect of our public and private lives.
Having a healthy secret life is the key to having a
quality private and public life, as well as a
quality culture, product or service.
* * * * *
Reproduced with permission from the Jim Rohn Weekly
Dr. Covey is the author of several acclaimed books,
including the international bestseller, The 7
Habits of Highly Effective People.