The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989, is a business and self-help book written by Stephen R. Covey. Covey presents an approach to being effective in attaining goals by aligning oneself to what he calls “true north” principles of a character ethic that he presents as universal and timeless.
Covey defines effectiveness as balancing obtaining desirable results with caring for that which produces the desirable results. He illustrates this by referring to the fable of the “Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs”. He further claims that effectiveness can be expressed in terms of the P/PC ratio, where P refers to getting desired results and PC is caring for that which produces the results.
Covey’s best-known book has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide since its first publication in 1989. The audio version became the first non-fiction audio-book in U.S. publishing history to sell more than one million copies. Covey argues against what he calls “The Personality Ethic”, something he sees as prevalent in many modern self-help books. He promotes what he labels “The Character Ethic”: aligning one’s values with so-called “universal and timeless” principles. Covey adamantly refuses to conflate principles and values; he sees principles as external natural laws, while values remain internal and subjective. Covey proclaims that values govern people’s behavior, but principles ultimately determine the consequences. Covey presents his teachings in a series of habits, manifesting as a progression from dependence via independence to interdependence.
The book first introduces the concept of paradigm shift and helps the reader understand that different perspectives exist, i.e. that two people can see the same thing and yet differ with each other. On this premise, it introduces the seven habits in a proper order.
Each chapter is dedicated to one of the habits, which are represented by the following imperatives:
- 1 – Be Proactive
- Talks about the concept of Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern. Work from the center of your influence and constantly work to expand it. Don’t sit and wait in a reactive mode, waiting for problems to happen (Circle of Concern) before taking action.
- 2 – Begin with the End in Mind
- Envision what you want in the future so you can work and plan towards it. Understand how people make decisions in their life. To be effective you need to act based on principles and constantly review your mission statement. Are you – right now – who you want to be? What do I have to say about myself? How do you want to be remembered? Change your life to act and be proactive according to the Habit 1. You are the programmer! Grow and stay humble.
- 3 – Put First Things First
- Talks about difference between Leadership and Management. Leadership in the outside world begins with personal vision and personal leadership. Talks about what is important and what is urgent. Priority should be given in the following order:
- 1) Important and Urgent
- 2) Important and not-urgent
- 3) Not Important and Urgent
- 4) Not important and Not urgent
Habit 2 says: you are the programmer. Habit 3: Write the program. Become a leader! Keep personal integrity: what you say vs what you do.
The next three habits talk about Interdependence (e.g., working with others):
- 4 – Think Win-Win
- Genuine feelings for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships. Value and respect people by understanding a “win” for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten his way. Think Win-Win isn’t about being nice, nor is it a quick-fix technique. It is a character-based code for human interaction and collaboration.
- 5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
- Use empathic listening to genuinely understand a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, and positive problem solving.
- The Habit 5 is greatly embraced in the Greek philosophy represented by 3 words:
- 1) Ethos – your personal credibility. It’s the trust that you inspire, your Emotional Bank Account.
- 2) Pathos is the empathic side — it’s the alignment with the emotional trust of another person communication.
- 3) Logos is the logic — the reasoning part of the presentation.
- The order is important: ethos, pathos, logos — your character, and your relationships, and then the logic of your presentation.
- 6 – Synergize
- Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals that no one could have done alone.
The final habit is that of continuous improvement in both the personal and interpersonal spheres of influence.
- 7 – Sharpen the Saw
- Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle. It primarily emphasizes exercise for physical renewal, good prayer (meditation, yoga, etc.) and good reading for mental renewal. It also mentions service to society for spiritual renewal.
Covey explains the “Upward Spiral” model in the sharpening the saw section. Through our conscience, along with meaningful and consistent progress, the spiral will result in growth, change, and constant improvement. In essence, one is always attempting to integrate and master the principles outlined in The 7 Habits at progressively higher levels at each iteration. Subsequent development on any habit will render a different experience and you will learn the principles with a deeper understanding. The Upward Spiral model consists of three parts: learn, commit, do. According to Covey, one must be increasingly educating the conscience in order to grow and develop on the upward spiral. The idea of renewal by education will propel one along the path of personal freedom, security, wisdom, and power.
- 8 – Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has sold more than 25 million copies in 40 languages worldwide, and the audio version has sold 1.5 million copies, and remains one of the best selling nonfiction business books in history. In August 2011 Time listed 7 Habits as one of “The 25 Most Influential Business Management Books”.