Reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

A summary/reaction to one of the most popular books in personal development of the past 30 years: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People explains how to optimize your personal character, gain independence from the judgement and actions of others and develop interdependent relationships to help you win at life. It challenges you to look at who you are and how you interact with the world and leaves you with the tools to become a better version of yourself.

The Seven Habits

Covey’s seven habits are:

  1. Be proactive. Be proactive, not reactive. Instead of complaining about the things you cannot change, change the things you can.
  2. Begin with the end in mind. Visualize the kind of person you want to be, then work towards that every day of your life. Writing a personal mission statement can help focus you here.
  3. Put first things first. If your goals are to improve your health or develop strong family relationships, you must devote time to those things every day. In your daily actions, prioritize what’s most important and not what’s most urgent.
  4. Think win-win. For you to win, another person does not have to lose.
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Avoid the me me me mentality and practice empathetic listening in your interactions with others.
  6. Synergize. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, so collaborate.
  7. Sharpen the saw. Always be improving the physical, mental, social and spiritual parts of your life.

The habits are also summarized nicely in video form by FightMediocrity:

Seems like pretty straight-forward common sense, right? Maybe so, but few people put these principles into practice in their daily lives. I set about making them a part of mine.

Habits 1 – 3: Developing Your Character

While some of the habits (be proactive, put first things first) are so simplistic as to make you say ‘duh!’, making these habits part of your daily life takes constant vigilance and dedication. We humans are set in our weird ways and this book alone will not transform you into a better person. But if you want to level up in life and aren’t sure how to go about it, this book is a good place to start.

My favorite concept presented in this book is that of developing a personal mission statement. By writing down your goals, values and the kind of person you strive to become, you can focus your time on being who you want to be – which takes work. It’s definitely a strange activity but one I’ve enjoyed doing and found helpful.

Habits 4 – 6: Connecting With Others

From Habit 4 onwards is when Covey challenges you to think about how you interact with other people. Up to this point in the book, I felt like the first four habits were already a part of me (hurray, I’m an effective person!) When I got to Habit 5, I really started to analyse how I listen and provide value to others. I realized that while I live life independent of others, a more mature approach would be to adhere to the concept of interdependence – working with others in a mutually beneficial way to accomplish more together than one ever could achieve alone.

I’m searching for ways to put this abstract concept into reality. In a work situation, I can think more about what unique value I bring to the table. Why have I been hired? Why am I here in this meeting? Instead of trying to conform to the dominant opinion, I can add more value by showing people my perspective, listening to theirs, and allowing synergy to occur.

Habit 7: Always Be Improving

Habit 7 ties every other habit up with the lesson that you’ll never reach supreme effectiveness in your life. You will always be learning, experiencing setbacks and growth and developing new relationships until the day you die. By spending time every day devoted to your physical (working out), spiritual (getting out in nature, meditation) and mental (reading great literature, writing) dimensions, you’re sharpening the saw that is yourself.

Thinking About Picking Up A Copy?

I enjoyed this book for the thoughts and ideas it triggered in my mind about how to live a more effective life. I feel the massive success of this book is as a result of the big promises it makes – but this book will not work miracles on your life. No book can. It will help you take an introspective look at your life, your character and your relationships, but the power to change them for the better has to come from you.

Choice Quotes:

“If I am intellectually interdependent, I realize that I need the best thinking of other people to join with my own.”

“It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.”

“…our most difficult experiences become the crucibles that forge our character and develop the internal powers, the freedom to handle difficult circumstances in the future and to inspire others to do so as well.”

“If I really want to improve my situation, I can work on the one thing over which I have control—myself.”

“It is much more ennobling to the human spirit to let people judge themselves than to judge them.”

“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.”

“You can exercise the courage in interdependent situations to be open, express your ideas, your feelings, and your experiences in a way that will encourage other people to be open also.”

“…there is a gap or a space between stimulus and response, and that the key to both our growth and happiness is how we use that space.”