Book summary and best nuggets from The 7 Habits for Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
How can 7 Habits definitely change your life? Stephen Covey seems to have the answer to this question. Published in 1990, Stephen Covey’s motivational book – The 7 Habits for Highly Effective People – continues to be a business bestseller. The summary of the book below brings in the front line the main ideas and best nuggets (visual quotes from books).
HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE / THE 7 HABITS
There is no effectiveness without discipline, and there is no discipline without character
I was impressed when I realized that this book was actually written in 1989 and what I was reading was a 25th anniversary edition.
The 7 Habits were put on paper after more than 30 years of observation, practice and study. One idea that I found particularly interesting is the fact that he did not want people to become more successful after reading and implementing the habits. Instead, he wanted to define leadership. To build character and thus to become better leaders.
His reasons were not focused on material wealth and on success in one’s career. This is more about being a better person in all the fields of your life and the rest will follow automatically.
Before he unravels the first habit, Stephen Covey feels the need to give a personal example from his family life. And he used this personal example in order to explain the importance of the paradigms we use when we are looking at those around us:
“It taught me that we must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as at the world we see, and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.”
His relationship with his teenage son changed for the better only when Covey was able to stop putting pressure and expectations on the young boy. When he accepted and loved him for who he was. That was the point when a dramatic change took place and the boy started to flourish.
By implementing the 7 habits you will manage to go from a dependent to an independent and finally to an interdependent stage. Independency is not the final line.
And that’s because we live in a society surrounded by other humans and we need to evolve to this higher state:
“Interdependence is a choice only independent people can make. Dependent people cannot choose to become interdependent. They don’t have the character to do it; they don’t own enough of themselves.”
Be Proactive. This is the first habit. In order to inspire us to be more proactive, Stephen Covey describes the situation of Viktor Franklin, a Holocaust Survivor. In the darkest hours of humanity, Viktor Franklin, managed to go on and find meaning in everything that happened.
Being proactive means to accept our responsibilities. Means to do the best we can with what we have. Not to complain about our circumstances:
“Proactive people can carry their own weather with them.”
It is important to understand that we have the choice every day to feel in a certain way. Bad things can happen. But we are the only ones that have the power to decide about how we will react to them.
The things we cannot control go into what Stephen Covey calls Circle of Concern. The things we can do something about, go into our Circle of Influence.
And being proactive, means spending more time in the Circle of Influence than in the Circle of Concern:
“By working on ourselves instead of worrying about conditions, we were able to influence the conditions.”
“Begin with the end in mind”. This is how Stephen Covey named the second habit.
This idea can be seen also as “look at the bigger picture” of a project. But Stephen Covey wants you to think about every action, every decision you make, from a greater perspective.
What you need is to think about the end of your life and imagine how you would like people to remember you. About what legacy you wish to leave behind. Every step is going in that direction and you have the choice day by day to build a personality that will be remembered in a certain way.
The 3rd habit is called “Put first things first”. This chapter focuses on developing leadership abilities and explaining the difference between management and leadership. It’s all about setting our priorities before we start working on something. You will see in this part of the book, the 4 quadrants of Time Management.
Many people believe that the activities presented in the first quadrant, the ones that are urgent and important should have our main focus during the day. But it’s actually the second quadrant, the activities that are important, but not urgent, that you need to take care of.
These are usually preventive activities, small steps that you need to take day by day in order to achieve your personal development goals or in order to prevent something bad from happening. If you want to be healthy, you need to eat right and exercise regularly. Otherwise, an illness or obesity will appear as emergencies in quadrant 1.
The 4th habit called “Think Win/Win” shows you how important it is to listen actively when you are in a meeting and to try and do the best you can do for your business partners. By showing them a Win/Win solution and developing an attitude that wants to collaborate and find solutions, not just gain profit, on the long term you will achieve great success.
The 5th habit is in perfect continuity and accordance to the previous one and it’s called: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.
You have to pay close attention to what the people around you want and also you have to sit and reflect on their needs rather than just be in a hurry to give back an answer.
Soon you will realize that they open up so much more and they relate to you in a different way. Especially in business meetings, try to really understand what your partners need. Make things clear by asking a lot of questions and show them your desire to really understand:
“You’ve spent years learning how to read and write, years learning how to speak. But what about listening?”
Habit 6 is called “Synergize”:
“The essence of synergy is to value differences— to respect them, to build on strengths, to compensate for weaknesses.”
This is part that challenges us to deal with the difference we find in others. To try and see if we can find common ground. And maybe even to create something new and unique.
When you have 2 totally different points of view, you can look for a 3rd one. This alternative represents the synergy of those two ideas. In a company, for example, it’s crucial to combine the strengths of more people. And it is also very important to focus on team work in order to achieve better results that if the task would have been done by a single individual.
The 7th and last habit is called “Sharpen the saw”.
This is the habit that, as Stephen Covey likes to say, surrounds all the other habits and makes sure you know how to take care of all your needs:
“It’s preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have— you. It’s renewing the four dimensions of your nature— physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional.”
Besides the presentation of these habits, the book has a lot of practical examples. So it will be not only easy to understand, but also you’l be engaged in a dynamic reading.
Maybe “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” remains one of the classic books of personal development. But the great thing about it is that all these principles can be applied on a personal level but also in companies, at an organizational level.
But what stands behind all that habits? Can The 7 habit work on their own?
“There is no effectiveness without discipline, and there is no discipline without character.”
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