7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
CategoriesSales Consulting

Our character is a collection of our habits, and habits have a powerful role in our lives. “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 intersection of Knowledge—what to do, Skill—how to do it and Desire—motivation to do it. Habits CAN be changed. For that one needs to overcome gravity of old habits, and one will require much effort in the initial stage (just as a Rocket needs thrust to overcome Earth’s gravity pull)

The 7 Habits progress us thru’ 3 stages: (a) Dependence (b) Independence & (c) Interdependence

First 3 Habits help progress from ‘Dependence’ to ‘Independence

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First

Next 3 Habits help progress from ‘Independence’ to ‘Interdependence

  • Habit 4: Think Win/Win
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
  • Habit 6: Synergize

The 7th habit is Sharpen the Saw—for one’s renewal and continual improvement. To be effective, one must find the right balance between ‘Production’ and (improving one’s) Production Capability

Habit-1: Be Proactive

“Our behaviour is a function of our decisions, not our conditions”

What distinguishes us as humans from other animals is self-awareness and ability to choose how to respond to a stimulus (Animals respond to a stimulus like a computer responds to a program).

“Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose”—Victor Frankl (Freedom to choose self-awareness, imagination, conscience, or independent will). If you’re unhappy, unsuccessful, etc., it’s because you chose to let something make you that way instead of choosing your own response. Being Proactive means assessing situation and developing a Positive response for it

Everyone has a “Circle of concern,” representing all the things that one cares about. In order to be proactive, focus on the things that one can influence—Circle of Influence—rather than by simply reacting to external forces. The more one focuses on things outside your “Circle of Influence,” the fewer things one will be able to control, and circle of influence shrinks. In contrast, if one focuses only on those things within one’s control, the Circle of Influence grows
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

In everything you do, begin with the end in mind. Start with a clear destination— clear picture of your ultimate goal. That way, you can make sure the steps you are taking are in the right direction

The best way to start is to develop a principle‐centered# personal mission statement. It describes what we want to be (character) and to do (achievements). Extend the mission statement into long‐term goals based on personal principles

  • People can be spouse-centered, family-centered, money-centered, work-centered, pleasure-centered, friend or enemy-centered, or self-centered. Whatever is at the center of your life will be the source of your security, guidance, wisdom, and power. But, you must center lives on correct principles. Other centers subject to frequent change, correct principles don’t! You can depend on them. (The difference between values & principles—Robbers can have good values, but they are wrong in principle. Values govern behaviour, but principles ultimately determine the consequences)


Habit 3: Put First Things First

“The challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves. The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

We are caught between the urgent and the important, and quite often we react to urgent matters—whether important or not. But one must act to take care of important matters, even as urgent things scream for attention. When you focus on Quadrant II, it means you are thinking ahead, working on the root-cause, and preventing crises from happening! To focus energy & time on Quadrant II, you have to learn how to say “no” to other activities, and to delegate effectively“Think effectiveness with people and efficiency with things”

Manage your life according to your needs & priorities. Focus on doing what fits into your personal mission, & maintaining the proper balance between Production & Production Capacity

Practice this regularly:

  • Identify your key roles—business, family— whatever you think is important.
  • Think of 2-3 results for each role that you will achieve in a week (Think ‘Week’—Thinking Days will get you to focus on tasks and Thinking Month reduces the sense of urgency)
  • Decide actions for the week
  • Act

Habit 4: Think Win-Win

With Win-Lose, or Lose-Win, one appears to get what one wants for the moment, but in long term the results negatively impacts the relationship. For effective Relationships, we must commit to creating Win-Win situations. Relationships are like emotional bank account. By proactively making deposits, you can be sure that when the time comes, you can withdraw from it

You must develop the three character traits essential for Win-Win

  1. Integrity: Stick with your true feelings, values, and commitments
  2. Maturity: Ensure the balance between Courage and Consideration. “To go for Win-Win, you not only have to be nice, you have to be courageous”
  3. Abundance mentality: Believe there is plenty for everyone

If no Win-Win, then use No Deal option as a backup. No Deal option liberates you from needing to manipulate people and push our own agenda

To ensure the spirit of Win-Win within an Organisation, align the reward system with goals & values

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Here are his 5levels of listening: (1) Ignoring (2) Pretending to listen (3) Selective listening (4) Attentive listening & (5) Empathic listening.  And, quite often we tend to listen from our frame of reference (even if we are listening attentively) and have these “autobiographical responses”: (1) Evaluate—agree or disagree (2) Probe—ask questions (3) Advise—based on our own experience “We prescribe a solution before we diagnose the problem and (4) Interpret—explain people’s actions based on our own motivations

If you want to interact effectively with people and influence them, you must first understand them. And, it is always in your Circle of Influence to seek first to understand (Needs stop motivating people once those are satisfied. Satisfy the need to be understood, and you can move on to being productive)

Empathic listening is with the ears, eyes, and heart—for feeling, meaning & understanding. Listen to people not with intent to reply, to convince, to manipulate; listen simply to understand —emotionally and intellectually—to see how the other person sees things. Empathic listening is a powerful emotional deposit, because it provides the speaker with ‘Psychological air.’

The other half of this habit, then, is being understood. Use the Greek approach for your communication of Ethos—character, Pathos—relationship, and Logos—logic of what you’re saying

Habit 6: Synergize

“The basis of synergy is that two people can disagree, and both can be right. It’s not logical. It’s Psychological.”

The real essence of synergy is valuing the differences— the mental, emotional, and psychological differences between people. “The key to valuing differences is to realize that all people see the world, not as it is, but as they are.”

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 can be created as the culmination of the first five habits and confidence, integrity, and empathy

Synergy allows you to:

  • Expand your perspective “If a person of your calibre and intelligence has a different opinion, let me understand it”
  • Have courage to be open and encourage others to be open
  • Avoid negativity, and look for the good
  • Solve conflicts and find a better solution(than individual solution)

Once people have been through synergy, they’re not the same again.  They know that the possibility of such mind-expanding adventures always exists

Habit-7: Sharpen the Saw

7th Habit surrounds all of the other habits and makes each one possible by preserving and enhancing your greatest asset— yourself

To sharpen the saw means renewing ourselves, in all four aspects of our natures:

  1. Mental: To renew mental health & expand mind. Action: Read, visualise, write, plan
    Physical: To enhance our capacity to work, adapt, and enjoy. Action: Exercise, nutrition, stress management, rest and relax
  2. Emotional: To develop meaningful relationships. Action: Seek to deeply understand other people, make contributions, maintain an Abundance Mentality, and seek to help others find success
  3. Spiritual: To provide leadership to life and reinforce commitment to value system. Action: Meditation, communicate with nature, immerse great literature or music