The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey: Summary

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is a must read. Described as one of the most influential books ever written, Stephen R. Covey demonstrates how people can truly control their destiny with 7 straight-forward rules to live by. The full version of this book will show you how these rules can be applied in today’s modern society and help you get ahead in whatever you are looking to achieve.

Get the book here: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

1. Be Proactive

We think we know what it means to be proactive. It means to take the initiative, to make the first move and progress your life but it means so much more. 

Consider two aspects of life: One which you cannot control, your circle of concern which includes: weather, politics, the economy etc. The other, the circle of influence: your attitude, enthusiasm, habits etc. Reactive people complain about their circle of concern, things they cannot control, however, proactive people take action towards things they can control. 

By being proactive in life you don’t get bogged down by the things you cannot control, instead take responsibility and choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize this; they don’t blame circumstances for their behavior but understand behavior is a product of their own conscious choice. Take responsibility and be proactive!

2. Begin with the end in mind

Have a clear understanding of your destination. By doing this you know where you’re heading so you can figure out what steps to take so that you’re always going in the right direction.

It may seem over the top to start planning your retirement, especially if you’re reading this just finishing high school but this is important. Find your purpose in life and make sure it was something visceral behind it; forget the generic “to be wealthy” or “to be famous” statements but really figure out what you want. 

Write out a personal mission statement. It could be something as simple as wanting the world to be a better place. By doing this you avoid any unnecessary struggles to realize your goals. With everything going on around you, you may not have had time to realize what you wanted in life so you keep plugging away only to find at the end it wasn’t something you actually wanted. 

So start now, start beginning with the end in mind, work out your destination and work towards it!

3. Put first things first

A self explanatory title but an important one nonetheless. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said: 

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

Take the time to focus on what really matters and relate this back to Habit 2. Start to question your bad habits in your life, e.g. waking up late, having a poor diet, being unorganized and over stressed. Simple things but important ones, but these are examples of you needing to put first things first. 

Next time you get a chance, try categorizing your daily life by urgency and importance; this table to help you figure out how to proceed:

4. Think win win

There are six types of relationships:

  1. Lose/Win – Where you lose and they win
  2. Win/Lose – Where you win and they lose
  3. Lose/Lose – You both lose out
  4. Win – You win, but no relationship is formed
  5. No Deal – Neutral relationship
  6. Win/Win – Where both parties benefit

Win/Win is of course the relationship you should always be striving for. Life is not a zero sum game where someone has to either win or lose, life can be mutually beneficial. If the deal is not going to be mutually beneficial then seek a 5. No Deal and try again. 

Next time, look at every situation with a Win/Win mentality. This is the abundance mindset and just know that there is plenty to go around.

5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Communication is one of the most important skills one can learn. You can’t expect to be understood yourself if you don’t understand others. We can get frustrated at people because they don’t think the way we think but when you consider how many differing views we have, whether it’s music taste, political opinions or something simple like having a favourite colour, it soon becomes obvious that we all have very differing thoughts.

Next time you come up against this problem, really listen to them and try to understand them from their perspective. Respond in an empathetic way instead of a generic, advice driven way.  This is called empathetic listening and gives an atmosphere of caring. It’ll greatly improve your communication skills and really help you to understand people.

6. Synergy

Synergy is the cooperation of people to use their different strengths, skills and perspectives combined to create something greater than the sum of themselves individually. Value peoples differences as you can be sure that someone will pick up on something you missed due to them having a different outlook towards yours. This is a skill all good managers require, as narrow mindedness can lead to inferior results. 

So next time you come up against a problem, try using synergy as a method to provide you with the best solution possible.

7. Sharpen the saw

Put down your carpentry tools (though actually this may be a helpful point if you are going to use them at some point). Consider cutting down a tree. If you use your saw as is it may not be fully sharpened and it may take 3 hours to do so. If you take one hour to sharpen your saw, a sharp saw will cut the tree down in one hour, therefore cutting down the tree in 2 instead of 3 hours, therefore saving you a whole hour. 

We are our own tool and we have to keep ourselves sharp. We can break ourselves down into 4 parts of health: 

  1. Physical
  2. Spiritual
  3. Cognitive
  4. Social

Think continuous improvement. There’s a Japanese word for it ‘kaizen’. It means continuously improving your operations and involving everyone in the process, no matter how important or unimportant you think they are. Keep sharpening your saw and no task big or small will get in your way!

Get the book here: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey