The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey wanted to learn from someone 25 years his junior. He didn’t create the principles but put together them for others. This book was created after 30 years of research. The book focuses on timeless principles and about character-building. The book contains many anecdotes and stories as well. Leadership is all about character. Bill Gates was a very proactive person. This book is more on achieving great personal effectiveness. Have a life purpose that is beyond yourself. When you read it, you can feel the book speaking back to you.

He did save a man who appeared to be drowning. He had 9 children. Steven (His dad) passed away in July 2012. His plan was to unleash human potential in a big way. He was a man of great integrity. Later, he met many of the heads of state. He didn’t believe in being a hypocrite. Short naps were his thing and his way of recharging. The only lasting way of success is to live by your timeless principles. He wanted us to serve others to attain true happiness. The principles are still very useful today.

Life is a lot more complex as compared to when it was published in 1989. They will continue to be relevant years ahead. Fear and insecurity are common problems. Blame and victimism are others. The feeling of hopelessness sucks. Lack of life balance is a real problem. Keep thinking about yourself only. People are hungry to be understood. They do not listen well. Conflict and differences arise. Learn to develop personal mission statements. Apply what you have learned. Try to inculcate it in your daily lives.

Sometimes, professional success might affect your personal life. You can’t keep to a diet properly. Problems can be deep and can be difficult to solve. Our son was doing poorly at school and was also bullied at school. We tried giving rewards when he did something well. Learn to change yourself before changing others. A lot of the past literature on self-improvement focused on the superficial stuff. Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography is about his character ethic. People can only achieve happiness if they integrate principles into their basic character. Now, it is the personality ethic. Character took a backseat for a while. The key is to learn to focus on yourself instead. See everyone in their own unique space and respect their inner selves. Sometimes, you just have to accept yourself for who you are. Character traits are first, personality traits are second. If you try to use tactics on others to motivate them but if you have a flawed character, it is difficult to be successful. Your true motives will be revealed sooner or later. There are also situations where people have character strength but lack communication skills. The 7 habits are all primary principles. A paradigm is a theory of something else. The accuracy of your character is more important than your attitude or diligence. Our mental map must be correct. ‘Two people can see the same thing, disagree, and yet both be right. It’s not logical; it’s psychological.’ Conditioning affects our perceptions. It is difficult to be truly objective as we are always seeing things from where we are. There are paradigm shifts whenever someone creates a new theory. Sometimes, people are a little weird because of how they were brought up or the circumstances that happened before the event. To change your life in a drastic way, you need to work on the basic paradigms. Work on the roots of the problem. Learn to see things from the other person’s angle. Paradigms affect how we see the world. Principles are like lighthouse. Fairness is one of the main principles. Integrity and honesty are principles, so is human dignity. Service, excellence, potential are all other principles. Growth is another. So is patience, nurturance, and encouragement. Principles are not values and they are guidelines for human behavior. It takes time. There are no shortcuts sometimes. It is possible to put on a false front for a stranger. Borrowed strength can’t last forever. The Way We See the Problem is the Problem. Don’t seek quick fixes. A new level of thinking is required. Change yourself before trying to change others. Think inside out.

Into the hands of every individual is given a marvelous power for good or evil – the silent, unconscious, unseen influence of his life. This is simply the constant radiation of what man really is, not what he pretends to be. – William George Jordan

Our level of development is fairly obvious with tennis or piano playing, where it is impossible to pretend. But it is not so obvious in the areas of character and emotional development. – Stephen Covey

The 7 Habits – An Overview. ‘Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.’ Habits are super powerful. It is always most difficult in the beginning. Habit is the intersection of knowledge, skill and desire. Move from dependence to independence and interdependence. Interdependence is the higher state for humans. The first 3 chapters are on private victories. Habit 7 is about continual growth. They are all habits of effectiveness. Effectiveness is measured by production and production capability. There are 3 types of assets: physical, financial and human. You need to respect both P and PC. It is very important. The PC principle for companies is to always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers. Golden eggs = short-term solution. Read the book with the aim of sharing it with others. If you share with others, you will improve too.

Habits are like a cable. We weave a strand of it every day and soon it cannot be broken. – Horace Mann

Habit 1: Be Proactive. We are self-aware and conscious of our thought process. We are not our feelings. There are 3 types of determinism. The first is genetic determinism, the second is psychic determination (parents), the last is environmental determinism. A stimulus leads to a response. The author shares a story about Viktor Frankl. No one can take away your basic identity and how an event will affect you. He helped others find meaning in their suffering and dignity. ‘Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.’ Man’s capacity is unlimited. The habit of proactivity now arises. Do not blame circumstances and conditions. The proactive model consists of ‘self-awareness, imagination, conscience and independent will.’ Reactive people are affected by social and physical environment. They build their lives around emotions. Proactive people are driven by values. No one has the power to hurt you unless you give them consent. There are 3 central values in life: 1) experiential; 2) creative; 3) attitudinal. Act or be acted upon. It makes a heck lot of difference between someone who is proactive and not proactive. Develop your proactive muscles. Ask yourself what can you do about it? How can you respond? Proactivity is also being realistic. Listen to our language. Being proactive is to transfer the responsibility to yourself. If you are reactive, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Love is a verb, not a feeling. Love is something you do and give. Create a ‘Circle of Concern’ to see whether things are in your control or outside your control. Channel your energies only on those things which you can control. Circle of Influence is within the Circle of Concern. Negative energy reduces the circle of influence. Direct control means working on your habits. Indirect control means changing our methods of influence. Learn to live with your problems even though you don’t like them. Expand the circle of influence. Proactive people aren’t pushy, rather, they are smart and value driven. The circle of concern is filled with ‘the have’s’…If I had this…. The circle on influence can be filled with ‘be’…I can be…. Learn to be different and say I can be more diligent, more creative. Happiness is the proactive choice. Think about consequences and mistakes. Acknowledge and learn from your mistakes. Do not deceive yourself. Keep commitments and promises is a manifestation of our proactivity. Make small commitments, keep them and follow through. Do the 30 day test. We are responsible to the bulk of life’s circumstances.

I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. – Henry David Thoreau

Proactivity means that as human beings, we are responsible for our lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen. – Stephen Covey

Many people wait for something to happen or someone to take care of them. But people who end up with the good jobs are the proactive ones who are solutions to problems, not problems themselves, who seize the initiative to do whatever is necessary, consistent with correct principles, to get the job done. – Stephen Covey

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind. Imagine yourself at your funeral. What would you like your speakers to say about you? Use the end of your life as the frame of reference. So you should only do the things that matter. Have a clear understanding of your destination. Know what is deeply important to you. All things are created twice. One is the mental creation, the other is the physical creation. First creations are by conscious design. The second design is either by us or by other people’s agendas or circumstances. Habit 2 is the first creation, Habit 1 is the fact that you are the creator. Check to see if you’re in the wrong jungle first. You must use your effort in the right jungle. Managers should venture into leadership, not just management. Learn to rescript yourself. The real victory is the one over yourself. Re-write your own script based on principles and values. Develop a personal mission statement that contains character, contributions, achievements, values and principles. It will be like the United States Constitution. Logotherapy helps man detect his unique meaning, his mission in life. With this mission comes proactivity. Your centre is surrounded by wisdom, power, guidance and security. Spouse centeredness is not good. Family centeredness as well. Money centeredness is another problem. Work centeredness, possession centeredness, pleasure centeredness. Pleasure offers no deep, lasting satisfaction or sense of fulfillment. Don’t get caught on the hedonic treadmill. Friend centeredness is succumbing to peer pressure. If you hate someone, don’t let him/her get into your thoughts. Church Centeredness can be a real issue. Self-centeredness is being selfish. How to identify your center? Do not fluctuate from one center to another. Principles don’t change. They are bigger than people or circumstances. We can’t choose the consequences to our principles. However, they are generally positive consequences. A principled person will act without emotion, take a step back, come up with alternatives, and take all factors into consideration. Habit 1 ‘You are the programmer’; Habit 2 ‘Write the program’. It takes you time to write a mission statement. Learn to use your whole brain. Develop both sides of your brain. Nowadays, we find it difficult to tap into our right brain. Learn to tap on it. You can create your own paradigms through imagination. The dominant of their activities is love. Use visualization and affirmation. Write the affirmation and visualize it. Identifying roles and goals. Writing helps integrate the conscious and subconscious minds. Goals must be an extension of your mission statement. Focus on results rather than activity. It should be specific and translate into activity. Families should have shared visions and values. Put the mission statement up on the wall. Review those goals twice a year. Everyone should participate in the mission statement for organizations. The problem is when the individual’s values are not aligned to the organization’s.

It means to be responsible for my own first creation, to rescript myself so that the paradigms from which my behavior and attitude flow are congruent with my deepest values and in harmony with correct principles. – Stephen Covey

Habit 3: Put First Things First. ‘Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.’ Goethe. Answer these 2 questions: 1) What one thing could you do that, if you did it on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life? 2) What one thing in your business or professional life would bring similar results? Habit 3 is the physical creation whereas Habit 2 is based on imagination and conscience. Habit 3 is about effective self-management. Independent will is extremely important. It is the ability to make decisions and choices. Have the discipline to carry it out. What makes successful people so is that they put the important things first and have the discipline to do them. Organize and execute around priorities. Compare the activities with your goals. Make a plan to achieve those goals. Instead of managing time, manage yourself. Maintain the P/PC balance. They are often 4 kinds of tasks: Urgent and Important, Not urgent and important, Urgent and not important, not urgent and not important. Urgent and Important tasks might lead to stress, burnout etc. Make sure the task is important to yourself and not how others view them. Quadrant 2: Not Urgent but Important is the one that you should focus on. This includes writing a mission statement etc. Keep the quadrant 1 small. Focus on quadrant 2 instead. Quadrant 2 is about building relationships. Ask yourself what lies in quadrant 2 and your effectiveness will improve. You need to say ‘no’ to some of the stuff in quadrant 3 and 4. Decide what your true priorities should be. You must have a mission statement and principle guided life. Don’t just check off to do lists and think that you are effective. Your organizer will need these 6 criteria: Coherence with vision and mission; Balance (so that family, personal development, health are not neglected); Quadrant 2 (organize your life on a weekly basis); Have a people dimension; flexibility; portability. Learn to identify roles (like family member, individual etc). Select some goals. Write down what must be done in the week. Learn to schedule time for those tasks. Habit 3 says ‘Live the program’. Consider yourself in terms of effectiveness. The Quadrant 2 management system is principle-centred and conscience directed. Sometimes, you need to practice effective delegation. Delegation involves other people. If you spend one hour of input, you can potentially get a lot more output through delegation. Don’t simply tell people to do this, do that. The better form of delegation is stewardship delegation. It focuses on results instead of methods. The following need to be established: desired results; guidelines; resources; accountability; consequences. Trust is the highest form of human motivation but it takes time to build. Empowering others is good but it needs time.

If your priorities grow out of a principle center and a personal mission, if they are deeply planted in your heart and in your mind, you will see Quadrant II as a natural, exciting place to invest your time. – Stephen Covey

Paradigms of Interdependence. You can’t take shortcuts in the private victory. Sometimes, problems need time to be solved. Your actions should flow from your natural character. Interdependence opens up more opportunities for us. Caring for relationships is one of the keys to success. Emotional bank account is one that describes the trust level in a relationship. When the trust account is very high, communication is much easier. If it is low, you will start doubting yourself. We can use P/PC as a guide. You need to invest in relationships. Make sure the deposits exceed the withdrawals. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to listen. Building and repairing relationships take time. There are 6 major forms of deposits: 1) Understanding the Individual (Understand things from his point of view); 2) Keeping commitments; 3) Clarifying Expectations; 4) Showing Personal Integrity; 5) Apologizing sincerely when you make a withdrawal; 6) The Laws of Love and the Laws of Life.  ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.’ Attend to the little things in a relationship. Even a simple act like putting a coat around someone would be highly valued. People are very tender inside. Unclear expectations will lead to misunderstanding, disappointment, and withdrawals of trust. Do not violate the basic expectations. Make it clear and explicit at the beginning. Integrity is conforming reality to our words. ‘Be loyal to those who are not present.’ It is very important for people to trust you. Sincere apologies make deposits. Renounce conditional love.

Some people say that you have to like yourself before you can like others. I think that idea has merit, but if you don’t know yourself, if you don’t control yourself, if you don’t have mastery over yourself, it’s very hard to like yourself. – Stephen Covey

Habit 4: Think ‘Win-Win’. If you create a win-lose situation for managers, people are going to leave. You don’t expect people to co-operate if they are in competition with one another. Win-Win is the philosophy of human interaction. There are 6 types of paradigms: 1) Win/Win; 2) Win/Lose; 3) Lose/Win; 4) Lose/Lose; 5) Win; 6) Win/Win or No Deal. It is a frame of mind and heart. Life is a co-operation. Win/Lose people use power to get what they want. For instance, don’t compare one child to another. Your child may be programmed to a win/lose mentality and may compete with siblings. Life is not a zero-sum game. Life is very independent in nature. Lose/Win is when someone has given up and lowered expectations. They are easy to please and hide their feelings. This is weak and chaotic. If both parties are damn stubborn, it could be lose-lose. Sometimes you want your enemy to fall, but unknowingly you fall yourself. Or you can just Win. Win/Lose could become Lose/Lose in the long run. Make sure it is win/win. Do not be confused. If you feel it’s a lose/lose, say no deal. Only go for win/win. Do not settle for less than win/win or your relationship might be affected. It is best established at the beginning of an enterprise. There are 5 dimensions of win/win. It starts with character and then moves into relationships and then to agreements. Character is the foundation of everything. The first one is integrity; the second one is maturity (courage and consideration); Abundance Mentality (plenty out there for everyone). You have to nice and tough to get win/win. The second dimension is relationships and that the emotional bank account be full. We will learn to be open and respect each other. If the emotional bank account is full, then sometimes it’s okay not to go for win-win too. The third dimension is agreements. State the desired results, guidelines, resources, accountability, consequences. Win/Win Management Training. Use learned controlled instruction. Focus on results and not methods. Let people evaluate themselves. Let people choose their own results sometimes. Managers can control 4 consequences: Financial, Psychic, Opportunity, Responsibility. The reward system must also be win/win and aligned to that. Let individuals select self-selected performance objectives. Separate the person from the problem, focus on interests and not on positions, invent options for mutual gain, insist on objective criteria. See things from the other point of view, identify the key issues etc.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood. We often don’t diagnose before we prescribe in communication. We think good advice is enough. Habit 5 is the key to effective interpersonal communication. Reading, writing, speaking and listening are the basics. Some people lack the listening skills. It has to seem natural too, not forced. Influence through your actual conduct. Seek to understand the other person first. Technique is not good enough, you need to engage in empathic listening. Most people listen with filters in their head or they are already intending to speak. Everyone wants to be understood. The highest form of listening is empathic listening. It is skill-based. Listen with intent to understand first and imagine yourself in their frame of reference. 60% of communication is from the body language. You’re basically inside the other person’s heart and head. Empathic listening is a tremendous deposit in the emotional bank account. Give people that psychological air. It can help you win deals if you’re in the sales line too. Always diagnose before you prescribe. A salesperson must understand the customers’ needs etc. All professionals need empathic listening in their jobs. Do not pass judgment fist. Evaluate, Probe, Advise or Interpret. Constant probing might not help. Mimicking content is one of the first ways to go about it. Rephrasing the content is slightly better. Reflect feeling. Rephrase the content and reflect feelings. Listening and understanding can lead to a big difference. If the conversation is logical, you can ask questions and give advice. But if the conversation is emotional, you need to practice empathic listening. Often, people know the solution to their own problems. They just want someone else to listen. People will open up to good listeners. Learn to understand perception. Ethos is your personal credibility. Pathos is your empathic side. Logos is your logical side. Ethos, Pathos and Logos, in that order.

Habit 6: Synergize. All the other habits prepare us for this habit. It is essential for principle-centered leadership. Find new possibilities and opportunities. Apply the principles of creative cooperation. Recognize that everyone is different. Open your mind and heart to new possibilities. You do not know what will happen but you have this sense of excitement. People like being in a spirit of trust and safety. Producing something meaningful was important. Everyone needs to be mature as well. Everyone should become very open and understanding. It is exciting. If a group of people are very closely bonded, synergy develops and things happen. Synergistic communication is when trust and co-operation levels are both high. 1+1 may be more than 8. The people in the group will enjoy the creative process. A high emotional bank account leads to high trust and open communication. Do not try and manipulate as synergy doesn’t thrive in that environment. Sometimes, differences are good as it forces the other person to see another point of view. Internalize your principles. Gain access to both sides of your brain. Valuing the differences is the key in a relationship. See people as they are. Everyone has different perceptions. Value the point of view of others. Force Field Analysis is where driving forces meet restraining forces. A legal process should be the last resort. All of nature is synergistic. It is the correct principle which unifies things. Look for the good in others and learn to affirm them.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw (Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal). Sharpen the saw to go faster. It is the PC. There are 4 dimensions: Physical; Mental; Social/Emotional and Spiritual. Most theories embrace these 4 dimensions. Invest in yourselves. Care for our physical bodies and exercise. It should fall in Quadrant 2. Exercise only takes up a bit of time. You can exercise at home and learn to build endurance, flexibility and strength. Endurance comes from aerobic exercise. Know your maximum heart rate, 220 – age. Flexibility comes through stretching. Build strength from muscle resistance. The benefits of exercise comes at the very end. Build patience. People tend to overdo exercise if they haven’t been doing it for a while. Stick very closely to your schedule and don’t deviate from it. Develop your habit 1 muscles of proactivity. Immersion into literature can provide spiritual renewal. Be like how you were like when you were a child. Listen to your surroundings. Examine your motives. Prayer is a form of releasing energy. Learn to meditate. A personal mission statement is very important. After school, most people don’t think enough. TV can subtly change our way of thinking. Limit the number of hours you watch tv. Educational is vital for mental renewal. It is important to read broadly. For example, one can read good literature. ‘The person who doesn’t read is no better off than the person who can’t read.’ Writing is another way to sharpen the mental saw. Spend one hour building habits 1, 2 and 3. The social and emotional elements are in habits 4, 5 and 6. Be emotional secure. You can only be intrinsically secure if your daily habits reflect our deepest values. There is value in serving others and contributing in a meaningful way. Negative synergy will be created if an organization is only concerned about money. A job needs all 4 aspects to thrive. Learn, Do, Commit and keep repeating the cycle.

A long, healthy and happy life is the result of making contributions, of having meaningful projects that are personally exciting and contribute to and bless the lives of others. – Dr. Hans Selye

This is the true joy in life – that being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. That being a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations. – George Bernard Shaw

You cannot play with the animal in you without becoming wholly animal, play with falsehood without forgetting your right to truth, play with cruelty without losing your sensitivity of mind. He who wants to keep his garden tidy doesn’t reserve a plot for weeds. – Dag Kammarsjjold

As long as you feel you are serving others in your profession, you do the job well. When you are concerned only with helping yourself, you do it less well – a law as inexorable as gravity. – Arthur Gordon

The first rule with my family is not to prove but to empathize. If there was too much pain, we would quit for the day. Talk through your problems. The key to love is to keep talking. Work on the essential paradigms of conversations. It is important to have a strong intergenerational family. Change must be done at the root of the problem. Strive to achieve unity with your associates. Centre your life around the correct principles. Start with inside out, the private victories first.

My contemplation of life and human nature in that secluded place had taught me that he who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality, and will never, therefore, make any progress. – Anwar Sadat



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