7 Habits of Highly Effective People – By Stephen R. Covey

Summary: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People 

An Approach To Solving Personal and Professional Problems

The 7 habits provide an incremental, sequential, integrated approach to the development of personal effectiveness moving us progressively from dependence (on others) to independence (take care of ourselves) to interdependence ( looking after others and combining strengths).

Habits 1, 2 and 3 deal with self-mastery or private victories and lay the foundation for other habits.

Habits 4, 5 and 6 deal with the public victories.

Habit 7 is the habit of renewal of the four basic dimensions of a meaningful life.


Habit 1 – Be proactive.

Being proactive means to actively choose what our response will be in any situation rather than to react blindly. Each person has the ability to be either reactive or proactive in every situation that arises. Proactive people are highly responsible. Proactivity means to subordinate impulses to values.

Reactive people are swept away by the heat of the moment. Proactive people are driven by values that are both well thought out and internalized.

It is not what happens the this important. It is our response to whatever happens that makes all the difference. Often, the most difficult circumstances become crucibles that forge our character and develop hidden reserves of strength. What matters most in life is not what happens to us, but how we respond to whatever happens. Our basic nature is to act, not to wait to be acted upon.

Being proactive doesn’t mean being pushy, aggressive or insensitive.  Rather, proactivity means to control a situation from the inside out. Or in other words, to affect positive change, stop focusing on immediate circumstances and instead consider your response to the conditions that exist. Do that and you have removed the power of anything external to affect you. 

While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions. 


Habit 2 – Begin with the end in mind.

To begin with the end in mind requires a clear vision of your destination, and where you now are. Then you can clarify what needs to yet be done to get where you’d like to end up.

A particularly effective way to get into the habit of beginning with the end in mind is to write your own mission statement, philosophy or creed. This should focus on what you want to be (character), do (contributions & achievements) and on the values or principles upon which being and doing are based. 

A mission statement is a personal constitution. It is a written standard, the key criterion by which everything is evaluated and directed. It becomes the basis by which decisions are made on a day to day basis, It is a basic direction from which to set long-term and short-term goals. 

The ideal situation is to centre our lives on correct principles. Correct principles do not change, and do not react to anything. They are deep, fundamental truths that are consistent, exacting and timeless. They don’t require recognition for their validity. And best of all, they can be validated in our own lives, Principle-centered living provides wisdom and guidance in that we see things as they really are, have been and will be. They power of this type of living comes from freedom of the influence of other people’s attitudes. The wisdom of principle-cantered living means that we have the correct perspective on events that occur.


Habit 3 – Put first things first.

There are four basic types of activities:

  1. Important and Urgent Activities

 These include responding to a crisis, pressing problem or tight deadline. Crisis managers and problem – minded people are consumed primarily with this area of time management.

  1. Important but Not Urgent Activities

Preventative maintenance, relationship building, creative thinking, planning and recreation. This area is at the heart of effective personal management, and holds the key to business efficiency.

  1. Not Important But Urgent Activities

Phone calls, mail, some meetings and other pressing matters. These tasks are often only urgent because someone else has that expectation, and some people spend time here thinking they are covering essential matters.

  1. Not Important And Non-Urgent Activities

Includes trivia, some mail, time wasters and pleasant harmless activities. Spending all your time here is a sure way to be totally ineffective.


Habit 4 – Think win/win.

The most effective way to work with other people is to structure a win/win relationship focused on results, not methods.

Win/Win is a frame of mind and heart constantly seeking mutual benefit in business and personal transactions.  All parties feel good about decisions and commit to the plan.


Habit 5 – Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Most people don’t listen with an intent to understand – they listen with the intent to reply. They are either speaking or preparing to speak. They see others through the lens of their own autobiographies. 

Remember, satisfied needs do not motivate a person to action. When they are fed, they no longer look around for food. Similarly, you cannot and should not move on to satisfying a person’s need to solve a problem before satisfying the need for them to feel like they have been understood by you. Diagnose before you prescribe. It actually requires a great deal of security on your own part, as you will also be opening up yourself to be influenced by that person. 

A lawyer first gathers the facts to understand the situation, including laws and precedents, before preparing a case. A good engineer will understand the forces and stresses at work within a design before drawing a bridge. The key to good judgment is understanding. If we judge first, we will never fully understand.


Habit 6 – Synergies.

Synergy means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, each of the parts combine to create new and exciting unexpected discoveries that were not possible before. 

When you communicate synergistically, you are opening your mind and heart to new possibilities, new alternative and new options. You create something entirely new that is better than you ever thought it could be. This is the very essence of team spirit. 

Synergy draws its energy and its effectiveness from the differences between people – mental, emotional and psychological differences all contribute. It is this combination of individual paradigms that make the synergetic process so powerful. 

When we value the differences in perception that exist between people, we are able to transcend the limits created.


Habit 7 – Sharpen the saw.

Sharpening the saw involves four separate dimensions:

  1. Physical exercise – Exercise on a regular basis will preserve and enhance your capacity to work and adapt and enjoy.
  2. Spiritual – Renewing the spiritual dimension provides leadership to your life. The spiritual dimension is at the very core of your value system, drawing upon the sources that inspire and uplift you.

Immersion in great literature or music can provide spiritual renewal for some people. So too can time spent alone communicating with nature. 

  1. The mental dimension – Continuing education – honing and expanding the mind – is vital mental renewal. It is also valuable to read broadly and to expose yourself to the thoughts of great minds. Reading good books on a regular basis broadens your outlook on life. Writing is another powerful way to sharpen the mental saw. Writing also affects our ability to think clearly, to reason accurately and to be understood effectively. Organizing and planning are other habits which sharpen the mind.
  2. The social / emotional dimension 



Interesting Points:

  1. Everyone carries with them mental maps of two types – the way thing are and the way things should be. We often assume the way we see things is the way they really are. All our attitudes and behaviours grow out of those assumptions. They also affect the way we interact with other people. In the words, sincere, clear headed people can each see the same thing differently because each person is looking through the unique lens of their own experience.
  2. Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Habits are powerful factors in our lives because they express our character and produce our effectiveness. A habit can be defined as the intersection of knowledge ( what to do), skill ( how to do it) and desire (the motivation to do it). We need all three to form a habit. Happiness can be defined as the front of the ability to sacrifice what we want now for what we want eventually. True independence of character empowers us to act rather than be acted upon. However, life is, by its very nature highly interdependent. Much more can be achieved through interdependence. It opens the opportunity to share meaningfully with others, and provides access to the vast resources and potential of other people. You can’t be effectively interdependent until you are truly independent. 
  3. Effective people are not problem minded – they are opportunity minded. 
  4. The most important ingredient we can contribute to any relationship is not what we say or do, but what we are. If our words and actions come from superficial techniques rather than an inner core, people will sense that. So, the place to begin building any relationship is in our own character. 

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