In “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen Covey presents a holistic and principle-centered approach to achieve success through positive change from within. Covey’s 7 habits are defined based on a review of some 200 years of success literature, and his ideas still form the foundation for many personal development books and programs today. In this summary, we’ll outline the 7 habits and explain various powerful management and productivity tools that first originated from this book.
Fundamental Change from Inside Out
To become more effective, you need to increase your Production (of desired results) and Production Capacity (the capacity to deliver such results). A central idea of his book is to improve P/ PC from “inside-out”, i.e. start with change within oneself. This goes beyond merely improving one’s skills or knowledge, but deals fundamentally with who you are, or who you become as an individual.
The habits are progressive in nature, though there’s no need to perfect one habit before moving on to the next. Each habit sets the foundation for the next level:
• Dependence => Independence: Habits 1-3 provide your “Private Victories” as you develop your character and self-mastery.
• Independence => Interdependence: Habits 4-6 shift how you interact with others, to form trusting relationships with healthy emotional bank accounts. These are your “Public Victories.”
•Renewal: Habit 7 creates an upward growth spiral as you continually renew and grow yourself and hone the 6 previous habits.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
HABIT 1: BE PROACTIVE
This essentially means to take full responsibility for your lives and choices. To be proactive, you should take the initiative, choose proactive language and focus on your Circle of Influence.
HABIT 2: BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
This is the habit of personal leadership. It is about having a clear vision in your mind on your end destination and goals. This is important because everything happens first in your mind before becoming reality in the physical form. To get started, you’ll need to start by examining your center and developing your personal mission statement.
HABIT 3: PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST
With clear priorities identified and created mentally (Habit 2) , you move into the habit of personal-management. This is where you exercise willpower and discipline, to organise and implement activities that translate your goals into reality. Covey shares the time-management matrix and hhow to effectively manage your time using 6 key principles.
HABIT 4: THINK WIN-WIN
This is the habit of interpersonal relationship. Win-win is a mind-set and philosophy built on an approach of achieving mutual benefit for the parties involved. Where a win-win solution cannot be reached, consider agreeing to disagree amicably, rather than “force” a deal. Check out the 5 dimensions to achieve win-win highlighted in the book.
HABIT 5: SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD
This is the habit of communication, and it is built on emphatic listening. Emphatic listening represents an entire paradigm shift because it is not about applying listening skills, but “listening with intent to understand”. This is opposed to how most people listen – with the intent to speak or respond; They are still in their own frame of reference, not that of the other person’s.
HABIT 6: SYNERGIZE
This is the habit of creative co-operation, where “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. It’s about acknowledging that people are all ‘correct’ in their different perspectives, and are prepared to “value this difference”, you gain new knowledge and understanding of reality, and open up Third Alternatives.
HABIT 7: SHARPEN THE SAW
This is the habit of self-renewal, and has a synergistic impact on all the other habits. All 4 key dimensions – Physical, Spiritual, Mental, Social/Emotional – are interrelated and must be renewed in a balanced way. In fact, when we sharpen the saw in any one dimension, it creates positive synergistic effects on the other dimensions and all seven habits.
In a separate book, Covey goes beyond the 7 habits of highly effective people to explain The 8th Habit which brings you beyond effectiveness to greatness (read The 8th Habit summary here)
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