Every single one of us wants to succeed. And every single one of us has habits.
Some of our habits will help us and others will hurt us on our path to success. Would it help to identify the habits that will help us on the path to success?
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, in my opinion, is a masterful piece of work. And I recommend you read the entire book.
Feel you don’t have the time to read all 432 pages of this bestseller?
I understand. A lot of us don’t. That is why I have summarised the book for you.
Dr Steven Covey didn’t invent the habits, he observed them through reading success literature over centuries and brought them together into a sequential flow of 7 habits that helps us become more effective in our lives by living them.
The book opens with an exciting premise. Covey believes our perceptions dictate the way we see the world.
Playing this out, if we want to change any given situation, we must first change ourselves. And if we’re going to change ourselves, we must change our perceptions first.
These days, people want shortcuts to success. We all ask, “How do you do it?” We hope to save time and effort and still achieve our desired outcome.
But these shortcuts we seek only provide short-term solutions. The drawback is that they don’t address the underlying condition.
Covey writes, “The way we see the problem is the problem.” He suggests that we must change ourselves on a deeper level, called paradigm shifts, to achieve true change.
And that’s where the seven habits of highly effective people come in.
What habits do highly effective people have?
- Be Proactive
- Begin with the End in Mind
- Put First Things First
- Think Win-Win
- Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
- Sharpen the Saw
When I read this book years ago, the massive benefit to me happened from the first habit. It changed my thinking on mindset forever.
Habit 1: Be Proactive
We all have a fundamental choice, we can choose to be reactive or proactive. Covey stresses this is true whatever situation we find ourselves in.
The central premise is that by choosing to be proactive, you are choosing to increase your circle of influence.
Increasing our awareness and our freedom to choose aligns us with the principle that each of us has that freedom.
It is our job to change our situation, create the opportunity, then live proactively and responsively in the opportunity we are proactively creating.
It all hinges on your level of control. There are things that you can control in life. And there are things you can’t directly control. These include things such as the weather, your place of birth or decisions made by your company.
One of the most important things that
you can control is how you react.
How you react to events and situations may be the only thing you can truly control in your life.
When you become upset when the weather is gloomy, you are being a reactive person. You are letting the environment control you. You are simply reacting to external stimuli.
When you are reactive, your focus is on things that you cannot control.
Covey stresses the secret to being proactive is to focus on what you can control. And this, in turn, increases your personal effectiveness.
You bring more power into your life by making a choice to focus on the things that you can control. And this widens your circle of influence.
In my view, the single most proactive thing that anyone can do is increase his or her own proactivity.
How do we do this? By practising habits of awareness, healthy conscience, imagination, and independent will.
Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind
We can achieve our goals.
Awareness is crucial to goal achievement. And the central premise here is that it is easier to achieve our goals if we are aware of what we truly want.
People frequently have conflicting desires. What I wanted yesterday is sidelined by the new thought I have today.
If we can synchronise and unify the functions of our mind, we achieve inner synergy.
Thus, when we develop a vision of what we truly want, we lead from the right side of our brain. This is the more artistic and creative side of the brain. And we allow our lives to be guided by our inner intuition and sense of rightness.
Then we manage from the left side of our brain. This is the more academic and logical side of the brain. And allows us to rationally lay out a schedule of activities that will shape our character and achieve our goals.
Covey uses the terms right and left to refer to two different human capacities: Creative experiential living and rational, committed planning and action.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Several principles come into play in putting first things first, where we turn our long-term goals into a weekly schedule, week after week.
The first principle is that the priorities in our mind create the priorities in our lives.
The second is that work fills the time allotted.
The third is that success comes through first planning, and then carrying out the plan.
The fourth is that unexpected things happen.
The first step of the solution is to set a weekly goal towards our long-term goals. Then we make a schedule where we put what matters most first in our minds and, as much as we can, first each day.
Then we live that schedule and rearrange as needed when unexpected things happen.
Doing this for 52 weeks, we achieve our goals for the year. Doing this year after year, we create our destiny.
Habit 4: Think win-win; win-win or no deal
The underlying principle is that only what is beneficial for everyone involved is beneficial for each one of us.
There is no real case of “I win; you lose.”
Even in competitive sports, the real benefits come from participating more than from winning, so, when competitive sports are done in a healthy way, everyone wins.
Understanding this is challenging because each of us carries a very deep paradigm of competitiveness.
Some feel they must win; others that they must lose. To achieve win-win, we take responsibility for our own individual adaptation of the competitive mentality of our society, and we seek something better.
We seek relationships where everyone benefits. We even come to a place where we engage only in such relationships. That’s called win-win or no deal.
Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then be understood
Principles behind seek first to understand include:
Humility. Let us not rush ahead thinking we understand when, in all likelihood, we do not understand deeply enough.
Easing of anxiety and fear. Everyone lives with some anxiety and fear, often a lot of it. The principle here is that people listen better when we feel safe, and we feel safe when we know we are heard.
Speak within another person’s language and way of thinking so they can work with what they hear. This post will help you speak their language.
Putting these together, we listen first. We understand first. We ensure the other person feels safe and feels understood. Then we ask permission to share our view.
Once we do this, we have their attention, and genuine communication is possible.
Habit 6: Synergize
This habit is tough to write about. The underlying spiritual principle is harmony.
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When each person is in harmony with himself or herself, and true to himself or herself, and we share common goals and are responsive to one another, unexpected and wonderful results arise.
Habit 7: Sharpen the saw
All people, all living systems, are always changing. We need renewal. And this habit is about self-care and self-improvement.
Healthy habits create a healthy body and mind.
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We are creative and self-creative. If we are not being creative, we get sick or get tangled in unhealthy habits of time-wasting and even addiction.
Thus it is necessary to develop and maintain healthy habits of body, emotions, mind, energy, creative soul, and spirit.
Hope you found this summary of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People useful. Choosing to perform the right actions will make them habits and further us on our path to success.
If you are looking for some inspiration, this may help: How To Find Inspiration With Four Simple Thoughts.