7 Habits of Highly Effective People

In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey presents a holistic, integrated, principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems. With penetrating insights and pointed anecdotes, Covey reveals a step-by-step pathway for living with fairness, integrity, honesty, and human dignity – principles that give us the security to adapt to change, and the wisdom and power to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates.

1. Be Proactive

Personal Vision

Many people wait for something to happen or someone to take care of them. But people who succeed are those who are proactive with providing solutions to problems, who seize the initiative to do whatever is necessary, consistent with correct principles. 

Reactive Language

Proactive Language

Reactive people are driven by feelings. Nevertheless, should our feelings control our actions, it is because we have abdicated our responsibility and empowered them to do so.

Proactive people subordinate feelings to values of love. Should you want to study love, study those who sacrifice for others, even for people who offend or do not love in return. Proactive people make love a verb, not a feeling. Proactive people are willing to make sacrifice, and, give up of the ego-self.

Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying, causing their Circle of Influence to increase. 

2. Begin with the End in Mind

Personal Leadership

To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination.

How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and, keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most.

If you want to have a successful enterprise, you clearly define what you are trying to accomplish. You carefully think through the products or service you want to provide in terms of your market target, then you recognize all elements – financial, research and development, operations, marketing, personnel, physical facilities, and so on – to meet that objective. 

Effectiveness – often even survival – does not depend solely on how much effort we expend, but on whether or not the effort we expend is in the right juggle.

Because I am self-aware, because I have imagination and conscience, I can examine my deepest value. 

I begin each day with my values firmly in mind.  I make decisions based on my values. I can act with integrity. I do not have to react to the emotion or the circumstance. I can be truly proactive, value driven, because my values are clear.

There are positive consequences when we live in harmony with the principles. By centering our lives on timeless, unchanging principles, we create a fundamental paradigm of effective living. It is the center that puts all other centers in perspective.

My mission is to live with integrity and to make a difference in the lives of others. 

3. Put First Things First

Personal Management

Habit 1 says, “You are the creator. You are in charge.” It is based on the four unique human endowments of imagination, conscience, independent will, and particularly, self-awareness. It empowers you to say, “That’s an unhealthy program. I’ve been given from my childhood, from my social mirror. I don’t like that ineffective script. I can change.”

Habit 2 is the first or mental creation. It’s based on imagination – the ability to envision, to see the potential, to create with our minds what we cannot at present see with our eyes; and conscience – the ability to detect our own uniqueness and the personal, moral, and ethical guidelines within which we can most happily fulfill it. It’s the dep contact with basic paradigms and values and the vision of what we can become.

Habit 3, then, is the second creation, the physical creation. It’s the fulfillment, the actualization, the natural emergence of Habits 1 and 2. It is the exercise of independent will towards becoming principle-centered. It’s the day-in, day-out, moment-by-moment doing it.

We shall identify which task and activity adhere to our principles and be helpful and effective with producing constructive results to realize our goals.

4. Think Win-Win

Interpersonal Leadership

Effective interdependence can only be built on a foundation of true independence. 

The techniques and skills that really make a difference in human interaction are the ones that almost naturally flow from a truly independent character. 

As we become independent – proactive, centered in correct principles, value driven and able to organize and execute around the priorities in our life with integrity – we then can choose to become interdependent – capable of building rich, enduring, highly productive relationship with other people.

Our interdependence relationships are kept in an emotional bank account that is a metaphor that is built up with courtesy, kindness, honesty and trust.

5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Empathic Communication

Should you want to interact effectively with one, you first need to understand the person. 

The real key to your influence to the person is your example, your actual conduct. Your example flows naturally out of your character, or the kind of person you truly are – not what others say you are or what you may want to proclaim who you are. 

Your character is constantly radiating, communicating. Over the long run, the person comes to instinctively trust or distrust you and your efforts.

You may say you care about and appreciate me. I desperately want to believe that. But how can you appreciate me when you don’t even understand me? All I have are your words, but do you walk your words? 

“Seek first to understand” involves a very deep shift in paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. We never really understand what’s going on inside another human being.

When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air. After that vital need is met, you can then focus on influencing or problem solving.

Empathic listening is also risky. It takes a great deal of security to go into a deep listening experience because you open yourself up to be influenced. You become vulnerable. It’s a paradox, in a sense, because in order to have influence, you have to be influenced. That means you have to really understand. 

That’s why Habits 1, 2, and 3 are so foundational. They give you the changeless inner core, the principle center, from which you can handle the more outward vulnerability with peace and strength.

6. Synergize

Creative Cooperation

Synergy is the essence of principle-centered leadership. It catalyzes, unifies, and unleashes the greatest powers within people. All the habits we have covered prepare us to create the miracle of synergy.

One of the very practical results of being principle-centered is it makes us whole – truly integrated. 

Ecology is a word which basically describes the synergism in nature – everything is related.

Synergy is the crowning achievement of all the previous habits. It is effectiveness in an interdependent reality – it is teamwork, team building, the development of unity and creativity with other human beings. 

Although you cannot control the paradigms of others in an interdependence interaction or the synergistic process itself, a great deal of synergy is within your Circle of Influence.

Your own internal synergy is completely within the circle. You can respect both sides of your own nature – the analytical side and the creative side. 

You can exercise the courage in interdependent situations to be open, to express your ideas, your feelings, and your experiences in a way that will encourage other people to be open also.

7. Sharpen the Saw

Balanced Self-Renewal

Habit 7 preserves and enhances the greatest asset you have – you. It’s renewing the four dimensions of your nature – physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional.

“Sharpen the saw” basically means expressing all four motions. It means exercising all four dimensions of our nature, regularly and consistently in wise and balanced ways.

This is the single most powerful investment we can ever make in life – investment in ourselves, in the only instrument we have with which to deal with life and to contribute. We are the instruments of our own performance of taking time regularly to sharpen the saw in all four ways.

The physical dimension involves caring effectively for our physical body – eating the right kinds of foods, getting sufficient rest and relaxation, and exercising on a regular basis. 

The spiritual dimension is our core, our center, our commitment to our value system. It draws upon the sources that inspire and uplift us and tie us to the timeless truths of all humanity. 

Education – continuing education, continually expanding the mind – is vital mental renewal. We shall read broadly and expose ourselves to great minds.

While the physical, spiritual, and mental dimensions are closely related to Habits 1, 2, and 3 – centered on the principles of personal vision, leadership and management, the social/emotional dimension focuses on Habits 4, 5, and 6 – centered on the principles of interpersonal leadership, empathic communication, and creative cooperation.

The social and the emotional dimensions of our lives are tied together because our emotional life is primarily, but not exclusively, developed out of and manifested in our relationships with others.

Intrinsic security comes from within. It comes from accurate paradigms and correct principles deep in our mind and heart. A life of integrity is the most fundamental source of personal worth. Peace of mind comes when your life is in harmony with true principles and values.