The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was originally written by the late Stephen Covey in 1989 and is still a best seller. A very worthwhile, useful manual for self-improvement.

Covey advises: “Private Victory precedes Public Victory. Algebra comes before calculus.”  First, we must master ourselves, then we can achieve outward success.

Much of what you find in this book has been distilled from philosophy over the ages, from Aristotle and Cicero and many more since. There are references to psychology and modern scientific discoveries. Covey presents a can-do program of easy-looking steps calling for self-discipline.

The key message from 7 Habits is that you are what you habitually do, so adopt productive habits. And understand that you have the ability to improve your habits and your life.

To develop these habits you must:

  • Know – understand what you want to do and why you want to do it
  • Develop skills – become able to do it
  • Desire – you must want and will yourself to do it.

Seven Habits

The seven habits of highly effective people are:

  1. Be Proactive (take initiative)
  2. Begin with the End in Mind (focus on goals)
  3. Put First Things First (set priorities)
  4. Think Win/Win (only win when others win)
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood (listen, communicate)
  6. Synergise (cooperate)
  7. Sharpen the Saw (build capability)

Habit 1: Be proactive

Highly effective people take the initiative, they are proactive. They do not impose limits on themselves that prevent them from acting. They may not be able to control their circumstances, but they can decide whether to use those circumstances or be restricted by them. Being proactive really means to be capable of consciously choosing how you respond to any given situation.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Begin with the end in mind is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation to all things. Think carefully about your goals. Success is not just a matter of reaching a goal, but rather achieving the right goal.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

In Goethe’s words, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.” Never let your most important priorities fall victim to the least important. Don’t confuse the urgent for the important. The urgent is easy to see. The important is harder to find time for when you are loaded up with urgent tasks.

As Covey says  “Effective people stay out of Quadrants III and IV because urgent or not, they aren’t important. They also shrink Quadrant I down to size by spending more time in Quadrant II… Quadrant II is the heart of effective personal management.”

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

Do you approach relationships (business or personal) with a true desire to see the other person “win”? Or, are you focused on win/lose relationships where you’re more concerned about “winning”/being right/getting the better end of the deal.

Highly effective people strive for win/win transactions, which make it profitable for everyone to cooperate because all the parties are better off in the end.

Habit 5: Seek first to Understand, then to be Understood

Communication is a two-way street. Find out what the other parties want, and what winning means to them. Don’t assume you know. Listen. Always try to understand what the other people want and need, before you begin to outline your own objectives. Put them in terms that respond directly to the other party’s goals.

Habit 6: Synergise

Cooperation multiplies the power of one. If you put two pieces of wood together, they will hold much more than the total weight held by each separately. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. One plus one equals more than two. Effective synergy depends on communication. Cooperation and communication are the two legs of a synergistic relationship. Listen, reflect, respond and cooperate.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Take time to renew. Highly effective people take the time to sharpen their ‘tools’, their body and mind. A program of exercise and healthy eating to build energy and stamina. Engage in challenging activity to keep your mind alert, active and engaged.

» Action: Beg, borrow or buy the book and read it!

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