Having sold more than 25 million copies in over 40 languages, Stephen Covey’s masterpiece deserves its place in the self-help hall of fame. He shows how habits are the basic units of both personal changes Then outlines how to adopt the seven habits that set effective people apart. The book so impacted President Bill Clinton, that he invited Covey to coach him on how to integrate it into his presidency.
Habit 1: Be Proactive
This requires taking total responsibility for your life. A proactive person doesn’t blame external factors for failure. Rather than re-acting to events, they take the initiative to learn, grow, and change. The proactive mindset focuses on what is in your control whereas the reactive mindset worries or complains about things they can’t control. Focusing on what you can do is an empowering mentality. Taking responsibility for it is proactivity.
Habit 2: Begin With The End In Mind
This is having a clear vision of what you are aiming at. Covey invites readers to take the funeral test. You simply imagine your own funeral, then ask yourself what legacy you want to leave. Now start living based on how you want to finish. Yet most of us ramble though life responding to events without being intentional about our direction. While you can’t start at the finish line, you can begin with the end in mind.
Habit 3: Putting First Things First
This is the habit of prioritizing the truly important things in your life. Using the Urgent/Important matrix, Covey shows how easy it is to get caught up doing urgent tasks even if they are really important. Putting first things first requires the discipline of saying no to secondary things.
Habit 4: Think Win/Win
Win/Win is a mindset that seeks mutual benefit. In a competitive landscape, it’s tempting to default to seeking Win/Lose situations– believing that someone has to lose for you to win. But to master this habit, you should see life as a cooperative arena rather than a competitive one. Seeking Win/Win builds trust, increases collaboration, and develops long lasting relationships
Habit 5: Seek First To Understand, Then Be Understood
This is the habit of empathetic listening; seeking to genuinely understand people. To improve your relationships, Covey argues that you must endeavor to understand a person when they are talking. Only when you think you have understood them should you seek to make yourself understood.
Habit 6: Synergize
Synergy is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s why teamwork is so effective. A habit of understanding and valuing the differences creates synergy. Habitually seeking to synergize with others who are different to you allows you to uncover new possibilities through exchange of ideas. Synergy means you don’t have to be great at everything, but you can still bring your strengths to the table.
Habit 7: Sharpen The Saw
The last habit is self-renewal. Sharpening your saw means to invest in yourself. This renewal can be done through focusing on four dimensions of your life: the physical, spiritual, mental, and social dimensions. Abraham Lincoln famously quipped that if he had six hours to chop down a tree, he would spend the first four sharpening the axe.
Mastering these habits will boost your personal effectiveness, deepen your relationships, and bring you all the personal changes you desire.