Book Summary: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Quick Summary: There are seven habits outlined in this book that will help you achieve your full potential. You’ll gain insight into your routines and develop a lifestyle that leads to your own version of success with their enlightening advice and insightful anecdotes.

You’ll learn practical principles that will help you succeed in both your personal and professional lives in this incredibly influential guide.

Most of us strive for a corner office, a loving family, and a deep sense of accomplishment. However, even the best can sometimes feel that their goals are beyond their reach. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to unlock our hidden potential?

You do not have to read the entire book if you don’t have time. This book summary provides an overview of everything you can learn from it.

Let’s get started without further ado.

What Are The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People?

A shortcut or trick that works only in certain circumstances isn’t self-improvement. According to Stephen R. Covey, developing strong habits based on guiding principles is the most meaningful way to improve your life and become more effective.

The seven habits of highly effective people are as follows:

  1. They are proactive.
  2. They are focused on long-term goals.
  3. They set their priorities.
  4. They focus on win-win situations.
  5. They communicate by seeking understanding and being understood.
  6. They cooperate with others.
  7. They reflect on their flaws and work to fix them.

By internalizing these imperatives and cultivating a commitment to them over time, you’ll gradually begin to reap the benefits of living an effective life.

Basic Principles and Values of Highly Effective People

It is well-established that “principles are guidelines for human conduct that are proven to have enduring, permanent value.” This means that principles are not changing with simple deeds, instead, they tend to remain deeply rooted, with their values enduring despite efforts or time.

Many people today have a deterministic paradigm. This means that their genes determine and control how they act. Moreover, they are tempted to believe that their parents’ failures have permanently affected their opportunities and possibilities in life. These beliefs irrevocably shape people. Determinism is a paradigm. To develop and nurture strong character, people must free themselves from determinism and embrace a paradigm of freedom.

This paradigm of freedom enables people to see what they can change. People who embrace the paradigm of freedom are able to see that character is really just another one of the many habits they have.

The habit of character is reinforced by every action that people consistently perform. This also means that people who change their actions while remaining consistent can form a new character, an improved character.

Know – people have to understand what they want to do in the end, what their final objective is and what their motivation is, or simplistically, why they want to achieve that;

Develop skills – to be able to achieve the ultimate goal, people need to develop their knowledge and skills so that they can fulfill the objective

Desire – the last step implies that people have to want and be willing to do what they wish for.

When people decide how to respond to circumstances, they can influence the circumstances themselves. Therefore, the most important task for someone is to work on himself, the so-called inner work. Only when people become masters of their own selves can they master external influences and factors.

In their haste, many people focus on how important it is to be productive. So they want to be as productive as possible in order to make a difference in the outside world that is both visible and measurable. It is a common mistake that production capability is neglected. Production capability is what makes production possible in the first place.

People who focus solely on production and neglect production capability are comparable to a person who runs many hours every day and takes pride in how many years longer he will live compared to other people. What he disregards, on the other hand, is how he spends all that extra time running.

In other words, the jogger may gain a few extra years, but he can not do anything with them because he trades them for the extra time he spends running. Instead of spending that extra time running, he could be spending it better with his family and friends, building relationships with them.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Highly effective people take the initiative, they are proactive and do not set limits on themselves that prevent them from acting. They are aware of the fact that they can determine what kind of character they will have because they have the freedom to decide how to act. People may not be able to change their circumstances, but they can decide whether to let those circumstances abuse them or use them for their own interests. These people live according to the principles of personal vision.

The author illustrates this situation with the experiences of Viktor Frankl as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. His family, except for one sibling, was murdered in the camps.

Despite the horrific circumstances, Frankl realized that he was not a prisoner – he was free because he had free will and could decide how he wanted to think and act under those circumstances. Even when he was starving, he imagined himself as a lecturer in a classroom telling students about his horrific experiences and what he learned from them.

Frankl’s mental discipline made him stronger than the power of the camp guards. He managed to inspire other prisoners and even some of the camp guards. He was a proactive person who took the initiative and accepted his circumstances and the responsibility for his fate. He realized that he could control and decide his own future. Frankl was not strong enough to leave the camp, but he was strong enough to master it.

People can become proactive by exercising statements of initiative and responsibility, such as :

  • Change “I can’t do anything” with, “but let’s think about some options.”
  • Change “That’s just me” with, “but I can change the way I am.”
  • Change “He drives me up the wall” with, “but I can choose how I’ll let him affect me.”
  • Change “I can’t, or I have to” with, “but I will decide, and I will choose.”

Proactive people seek what they can do, and they do it. They take responsibility, act, and expand the realm of possibility as much as possible. Over time, they grow stronger so that they can do more and more. They commit to changing their inner selves and eventually change the world in which they live.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

People who want to be highly effective think very carefully about their goals. Most people spend their entire lives focusing on goals that are meaningless, unsatisfying, or even destructive.

These are the people who appear in the tabloid magazines; they are rich and famous, but get arrested for drug use or watch their marriages fall apart. They desired power, fame, and money, but the price was too high. Being productive is not only about achieving your goals, but also about achieving the right goals.

People need to implement personal leadership. They can start by creating a personal mission statement. This should outline the goals and the kind of person one wants to be. In drafting this mission statement, people should think carefully about themselves and examine their behaviors and character-whether they are self-centered, money-hungry, workaholics, or whatever.

Then they need to decide what part they want to change and what they want to become. Finally, they must write down that statement and commit to change and keep that commitment.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

All people have the power to change who they are, but to do so they must change their behavior. It is critical not to compromise priorities and allow them to go to the bottom of the list.

Many people also spend extra time and energy responding to emergencies, but they never develop their skills to prevent those emergencies from happening in the first place. These people confuse critical circumstances with urgent ones. The urgent is easy to recognize, but the important is more difficult.

People need to practice their planning skills and avoid pitfalls. Building relationships, cultivating opportunities and getting enough rest are also important. For example, they should not cram too much business into a tight schedule, but find ways to spend time on what is important.

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

Interpersonal leadership is useful both in marriage and in business or other relationships with people. In this way, both parties can become winners, and two wins improve everyone’s situation, just as two losses worsen it. A situation where someone wins and someone loses creates a loser and a winner.

Thus, one person is harmed. Highly effective people make all parties better off. Any other kind of situation that is not for gain is destructive because there are losers. As a result, there are enemies and many bad feelings, including defeat, hostility, and animosity.

Highly productive people become like this by making sure they increase their allies instead of having enemies; a good alliance is a win-win situation.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Communication always involves two parties. To have a win-win alliance, people need to understand, then they want to be understood. This means that in a win-win relationship, you must first find out what the other party wants, what they see as a win, and what it means to them.

You can not make assumptions, you have to be open and listen. You must always try to understand the other person’s wants and needs before clearly stating your own goals. When listening to your interlocutor, it is important not to disagree, contradict or argue with what is being said.

You have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Lawyers often write the most substantive cases from the opponent’s point of view. Only after they understand the other side’s best arguments can they formulate their own case. This tactic can be applied to other relationships as well, such as personal or business relationships. This is called the “principles of empathetic communication.”

Habit 6: Synergize

Creative cooperation is a significant force because it multiplies power. It can be compared to an arch that can support more weight than two pillars. This effect is described by the word “synergy”, which means that the joining of parts into a whole is always stronger than the sum of the individual components.

Effective synergy depends on communication. When people hear and react reflexively instead of listening, thinking about what they hear, and then reacting, synergy is impossible.

Because acting reflexively means they are authoritarian, defensive, or passive, either agreeing or resisting, either way, it means they are not cooperating. Cooperation and communication are the two pillars that form the arch; they are the legs of a synergy: listening, reflecting, reacting, and actively cooperating.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

A man is sawing wood. The work is tedious and progresses slowly. The man becomes very tired, but the more he saws, the smaller the cuts become. A passerby who sees the man thinks about this and suggests that he should take a break to sharpen the saw.

To this, the man replies that he cannot take a break to sharpen the saw because he is far too busy sawing. A dull saw makes work tedious, tiring, and unproductive. Highly effective people take a break to sharpen their saws or their tools – like body, mind, soul, and heart.

People who are highly effective focus on exercises that combine flexibility, endurance, and strength. This plan is easy to implement and does not require a gym membership. Effective people use meditation and prayer to take care of their souls, or perhaps they listen to music or read great literature. The spiritual dimension is crucial as it provides energy for the rest of your life.

The second dimension or ‘saw’ that needs sharpening is the mind. Spiritual repair requires a change in habits, such as watching TV. People who watch television are encouraged to passively adopt values, dispositions, and attitudes that dull their minds.

Finally, the heart concerns with feelings and emotions. Through the development of the heart, commitment to others and emotional connections grow. In everything people do, they should put others first and try to make them better. By following these principles, anyone can transform into a highly effective person.

Conclusion

“The 7 habits of highly effective people” lists seven principles that help people become highly effective, both personally and professionally. It explores how people can use a few fundamental principles to improve their character, which essentially leads to a productive life.

About The Author

Known for his bestselling books The Leader in Me and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey was a businessman, a lecturer, and an author. He was named one of TIME Magazine’s 25 Most Influential Americans in 1996 for his distinguished career.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Review

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People presents a principle-centered approach to interpersonal and personal effectiveness. 

As opposed to altering your outward behavior and attitude, it aims to alter your inner core, character, and motivations.

You will learn seven habits in this book that will help you move from dependence to independence and then finally to interdependence. 

Society and most self-help books emphasize independence as the ultimate goal, but Covey asserts that interdependence leads to greater success. 

The concept of interdependence has matured and advanced. Since working alone excludes the knowledge that you are a unique individual, working alone will yield fewer results than working with others. In order to achieve this level of interdependence, each of the seven habits in the book must be practiced. 

It is the main message of the book that you must master some basic habits before you can progress to bigger and better things. Covey offers these basic lessons in an informative and emotionally moving presentation.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Quotes

“But until a person can say deeply and honestly, “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,” that person cannot say, “I choose otherwise.”

 

“Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”

 

“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are──or, as we are conditioned to see it.”

 

“Two people can see the same thing, disagree, and yet both be right. It’s not logical; it’s psychological.”

 

“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

View our larger collection of the best 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Quotes.

Further Reading

If you like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you may also like reading the following books:

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