The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Favorite quote from the author:

You can learn great things from your mistakes when you aren't busy denying them. - Dr. Stephen R Covey

This is special anniversary edition book which includes a new foreword and afterword written by late Dr. Steven Covey. This book has been most recognized and one of “the most influential business book of the century” despite being written some years ago but values & messages it delivered remains meaningful today as well. That explore whether the 7 Habits are still relevant and answer some of the most common questions he has received over the past 15 years.

Let’s quickly dive-in seven habits which are narrated in this book:

Habit 1 - Be proactive

What is proactivity? By Covey’s definition, it’s more than taking the initiative. It’s about assuming responsibility for ourselves. We take the responsibility to make things happen. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances for their behavior.

An excellent way to become truly proactive is to look at where we focus our time and energy. There are some things over which we have no real control and others that we can do something about. Proactive people work on the things they can do something about – their Circle of Influence.

To take the first steps to proactivity: 
1. Make a promise — and keep it. 
2. Set a goal — and work to achieve it. 

The power to make and keep commitments to ourselves is the essence of developing the neccessary habits of effectiveness.

Habit 2 - Begin with the end in mind

When we set out on a journey, we never start with not knowing where it's going to end….right? In case of professional life that happens more often than not. It’s straightforward to get caught up in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder to climb the ladder of success…on to discover it’s leaning against the wrong wall. 

If we want to be successful, we need to define what we need to accomplish precisely. Depending on how well we have the end in mind will govern whether or not we succeed. 

Don’t let other’s outside your Circle of Influence to shape your destiny. Covey suggests an effective way, to begin with - develop a personal mission statement, focusing on it break down that statement in specific actionable goals. 

Habit 3 - Put first things first

This practice relates to efficient management. Many tasks and activities in our lives can be urgent or important…but not all. Effective management is all about how you deal with things that are not urgent but are important.

Covey put-forth four key facets of effective management:

  1. Principle-centered. 
  2. Conscience-directed.
  3. It defines our unique mission, include values and long-term goals.
  4. It helps balance our life by identifying roles and by setting clear goals.

Habit 4 - Think WIN/WIN

Win/Win is a philosophy of human interaction. Its considered as one of the core principles of interpersonal leadership. The character is the foundation of Win/Win, and Covey describes three traits of it:

Integrity. The value we place on ourselves.

Maturity. The balance between courage and consideration.

Abundance Mentality. The belief that there is plenty out there for everybody.

To practice it, let’s first identify a relationship where we’d like to develop a Win/Win situation, then we need to step into other person’s shoes and see how that person sees the solution/situation. 

Habit 5 - Seek first to understand, then to be understood

The key to effective interpersonal communication is to seek first to understand, then to be understood. According to Covey, when another person speaks, we listen at one of four levels: We may be ignoring another person, not listening at all.

Pretend listening. We pretend toothed person that we are listening but we are not

Selective listening. We wish to hear only certain parts of the conversation & that which we like to hear. 

Attentive listening. When we pay attention by focusing on the words that are being said. 

…but very few of us ever practice the fourth level, the highest form of listening, Empathic listening. Listening with intent to understand. 

In empathic listening instead of imposing our perspective blindly on others, we’re dealing with the reality inside another person’s head and heart. 

Take a deep dive into the book to know how we can be an empathetic listener. 

Habit 6 - Synergize

What is synergy? Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 

When we communicate synergistically, we are opening our mind and heart to new possibilities, new alternatives, and new options. Synergy is exciting. It’s amazing what open communication can produce.

Covey said people see the world, not as it is, but as they are…this is the reason why we need to value person’s mental, emotional and psychological differences. Life is not always binary - there are almost always third alternatives. If we work with a Win/Win philosophy and seek to understand, we can find a solution that will be better for everyone. 

Habit 7 - ‘Sharpen the saw’ principles

Habit 7 is personal, professional development. It’s all about enhancing the greatest asset we have – ourselves. 

“Sharpen the saw” means exercising all four dimensions of our nature: Physical.This dimension involves caring your physical body: eating the right food, sufficient rest, and regular exercise. 

Spiritual. This dimension is your core values and how committed you are towards it.

Mental. After schools, we stop reading/writing instead we watch TV & browse Twitter & Facebook. Continuing education is essential.

Social/Emotional.This is tied to your relationship with others. This doesn’t need much time, but it needs careful attention.