7 Habits of Highly Effective People Book Summary
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey is a personal development book. It is written on Covey’s belief that the way we see the world is entirely based on our own perceptions. In order to change a given situation, we must change ourselves, and in order to change ourselves, we must be able to change our perceptions.
In studying over 200 years of literature on the concept of “success,” Covey identified a very important change in the way that humans have defined success over time. In earlier times, the foundation of success rested upon character ethic (things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden Rule). But starting around the 1920s, the way people viewed success shifted to what Covey calls “personality ethic” (where success is a function of personality, public image, attitudes and behaviors).
That’s where the seven habits of highly effective people come in:
• Habits 1, 2, and 3 are focused on self-mastery and moving from dependence to independence.
• Habits 4, 5, and 6 are focused on developing teamwork, collaboration, and communication skills, and moving from independence to interdependence.
• Habit 7 is focused on continuous growth and improvement and embodies all the other habits.
HABIT 1: Be Proactive. The first habit that Covey discusses is being proactive. What distinguishes us as humans from all other animals is our inherent ability to examine our own character, to decide how to view ourselves and our situations, and to control our own effectiveness. Reactive people take a passive stance — they believe that the world is happening to them. They say things like: “There’s nothing I can do.” “That’s just the way I am.” They think the problem is “out there” — but that thought is the problem. Reactivity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and reactive people feel increasingly victimized and out of control. Proactive people, however, recognize that they have responsibility — or “response-ability,” which Covey defines as the ability to choose how you will respond to a given stimulus or situation.
HABIT 2: Begin with the End in Mind. Start with a clear destination in mind. Covey says we can use our imagination to develop a vision of what we want to become and use our conscience to decide what values will guide us. Covey emphasizes that our self-awareness empowers us to shape our own lives, instead of living our lives by default, or based on the standards or preferences of others. Beginning with the end in mind is also extremely important for businesses. Being a manager is about optimizing for efficiency. But being a leader is about setting the right strategic vision for your organization in the first place, and asking, “What are we trying to accomplish?”
HABIT 3: Put First Things First. In order to manage ourselves effectively, we must put first things first. We must have the discipline to prioritize our day-to-day actions based on what is most important, not what is most urgent. In order to maintain the discipline and the focus to stay on track toward our goals, we need to have the willpower to do something when we don’t want to do it. We react to urgent matters. We spend our time doing things that are not important. We need to act according to our values rather than our desires or impulses at any given moment.
HABIT 4: Think Win-Win. In order to establish effective interdependent relationships, we must commit to creating Win-Win situations that are mutually beneficial and satisfying to each party. In solving for Win-Win, we must consider two factors: Consideration and courage. Another important factor in solving for Win-Win situations is maintaining an Abundance Mentality, or the belief that there’s plenty out there for everyone. To achieve Win-Win, keep the focus on results, not methods; on problems, not people.
HABIT 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. Before we can offer advice, suggest solutions, or effectively interact with another person in any way, we must seek to deeply understand them and their perspective through empathic listening. To listen empathically requires a fundamental paradigm shift. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. At any given moment, they’re either speaking or preparing to speak. When we’re able to present our ideas clearly, and in the context of a deep understanding of the other person’s needs and concerns, we significantly increase the credibility of your ideas.
HABIT 6: Synergize. By understanding and valuing the differences in another person’s perspective, we have the opportunity to create synergy, which allows us to uncover new possibilities through openness and creativity. Synergy allows us to create new alternatives and open new possibilities. It allows us as a group to collectively agree to ditch the old scripts and write new ones. By putting forth a spirit of trust and safety, we will prompt others to become extremely open and feed on each other’s insights and ideas, creating synergy. The real essence of synergy is valuing the differences — the mental, emotional, and psychological differences between people.
HABIT 7: Sharpen the Saw. To be effective, we must devote the time to renewing ourselves physically, spiritually, mentally, and socially. Continuous renewal allows us to synergistically increase our ability to practice each habit. There are four dimensions of our nature, and each must be exercised regularly, and in balanced ways: Physical Dimension: The goal of continuous physical improvement is to exercise our body in a way that will enhance our capacity to work, adapt, and enjoy. Spiritual Dimension: The goal of renewing our spiritual self is to provide leadership to our life and reinforce your commitment to our value system. Mental Dimension: The goal of renewing our mental health is to continue expanding our mind. Social/Emotional Dimension: The goal of renewing ourselves socially is to develop meaningful relationships.
The article is inspired by the blog on hubspot.com.
The following books are on my June reading list:
• The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness by Stephen R. Covey
• Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill