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The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People



The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey is still on the bestseller lists having sold some fifteen million copies. And, people want to know more about the book. So, we decided to review the book in more detail, and give you an overview of what is already a classic business book.


Habit 1: Be Proactive

Stephen Covey says you must use your resourcefulness and your initiative to work toward your personal goals. In particular, each person has both a circle of influence and a circle of concern. Worrying endlessly about things outside of your circle of influence isn’t particularly productive. Working within your circle of influence is productive. Further, the more effective you become, the more your circle of influence will expand.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

In the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey starts with the extreme example of considering your death. What do you want people to say about you at your funeral? How will you be remembered? Note to budding, self-help writers: Leave the funeral spiel out. It’s not particularly motivating!


In 7 Habits of Highly Success People, Stephen Covey says that many people climb the ladder of success only to find the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. He writes, “We may be very busy, we may be very efficient, but we will also be truly effective only when we begin with the end in mind.”


To succeed, Stephen Covey suggests visualization. He points out many peak, athletic performers are visualizers. Covey writes: “You can do it [visualization] in any area of your life. Before a performance, a sales presentation, a difficult confrontation, or the daily challenge of meeting a goal, see it clearly, vividly, relentlessly, over and over again. Create an internal “comfort zone.” Then, when you get into the situation, it isn’t foreign. It doesn’t scare you.”


Habit 3: Put First Things First

Put First Things First is the habit that became a book. But, we’ll wait for the movie. While we strongly recommend 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the book, First Things First, didn’t really seem to add any significant insight to the basic theme. Big rocks, sand, jar. Put the big rocks in the jar first, so they will fit. Same old, same old.


The key to putting first things first is to understand that you have many things you can do which will have a significant, positive impact on your life. But, you probably don’t do them, because they aren’t urgent. They can be delayed. Of course, so will your success.


Stephen Covey stresses that you must balance Production (P) with Productive Capability (PC). You must keep the engine producing, but also maintain the engine. You must allocate time to improve your Productive Capability. You shouldn’t spend time doing unimportant things.


Covey says that all time management can be summed up by one short line: “Organize and execute around priorities.” He’s correct. And, that’s why you don’t need to read First Things First! The first-things-first chapter in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People will teach you all you need to know about time management.


Habit 4: Think Win/Win

Thinking Win/Win means seeking mutual benefit in your human interactions. Covey points out that many people think Win/Lose. They internally believe, “If I win, you lose.” Such people focus upon power and credentials, but have trouble building meaningful relationships. Such people drive other people away and are seldom extremely effective. Such Win/Lose thinking is encouraged and programmed into us by society.


Stephen Covey writes: “[A] …powerful programming agent is athletics, particularly for young men in their high school or college years. Often they develop the basic paradigm that life is a big game, a zero sum game where some win and some lose. ‘Winning’ is ‘beating’

To be successful you should learn to leverage the strengths of others. To do this effectively involves being able to find Win/Win deals. No deal is better than any non-Win/Win deal.


Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood

Stephen Covey observes that few people have training in listening. Most people don’t listen. They wait to talk. But, how can you discover Win/Win deals, if you aren’t even listening to the other party? Covey also suggests that you don’t read your own personal autobiography into the lives of other people. Listening shouldn’t be selective listening. Nor should we only pretend to listen to others.


Stephen Covey writes: “Communication experts estimate, in fact, that only 10 percent of our communication by the words we say. Another 30 percent is represented by our sounds [tone? Or, does he mean “sounds” like chortle, chortle, grunt, grunt ?], and 60 percent by our body language. In empathic listening, you listen with your ears, but you also, and more importantly, listen with your eyes and with your heart. You listen for feeling, for meaning. You listen for behavior. You use your right brain as well as your left. You sense, you intuit, you feel.”


Habit 6: Synergize

Stephen Covey writes: “What is synergy? Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Covey goes on to discuss synergy in the classroom and synergy in business.


To be effective, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People emphasizes that we must value the differences between people and how they view the world. That difference can be used as a source of insight.

Stephen Covey says: “Valuing the differences is the essence of synergy-the mental, the emotional, the psychological differences between people. And the key to valuing those differences is to realize that all people see the world, not as it is, but as they are.”


Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

The final habit discussed in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “Sharpen the Saw,” which focuses upon self-renewal. There is an analogy with Habit 3: Put First Things First, where we learned that we must balance Productivity (P) with future Productive Capability (PC). Just as a machine will wear out quickly if not properly maintained, the same is true for your own personal productivity. You must take care of yourself.


Covey breaks personal renewal into four dimensions:

Physical Renewal covers topics such as exercise and stress management.


Mental Renewal discusses the need to read, visualize, and plan.


Social/Emotional Renewal involves interacting with others to build our own sense of well being.


Spiritual Renewal involves possible religion, study, and meditation.


The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People should be at the top of everyone’s reading list, and it should be read every quarter.


by Sam Leccima and Shani Leccima