The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
by Stephen R. Covey
Our character is made up of our habits. Habits consist of knowledge, skill and desire, and play a powerful role in our lives. Knowledge allows us to know what to do, skill gives us the ability to know how to do it, and desire is the motivation to do it.
The seven habits move us through the stages of dependence, independence and interdependence. To become interdependent, one must be independent first, since dependent people have not yet developed the character for interdependence.
- Habit 1: Be Proactive
- Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
- Habit 3: Put First Things First
- Habit 4: Think Win/Win
- Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
- Habit 6: Synergise
- Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
The first three habits focus on self-mastery that will allow one to move from dependence to independence. Habits 4, 5 and 6 address interdependence. Finally, the 7th habit addresses the continuous improvement of one’s capability to produce.
Habit 1: Be Proactive
To Be Proactive is to have the gift of self-knowledge or self-awareness – the ability to choose your own response. A proactive person is driven by values that are independent of other people’s reactions or responses. We can choose to use difficult situations to build our character and develop the ability to handle such situations better in the future.
Being proactive means assessing the situation and developing a positive response to it.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Begin with the End in Mind is a gift of imagination and conscience and occurs when you prioritise and plan with the end in mind. The end represents the purpose or driving force in your life. To engage in this habit you need to have a dream. By defining your own vision, and setting goals, measurable progress towards the fulfilment of your dream can occur.
When employing imagination and conscience – two unique human capacities – difficult situations can be alleviated. By using imagination and conscience, you don’t rely on memory. If you rely on memory or history, chances are you will lose your cool, make judgments regarding other people, and probably exacerbate the situation.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Put First Things First is the gift of willpower. It is a life of advantage and influence.
To really understand and apply this habit, you need to spend time doing what fits into your personal mission, observing the proper balance between production and building production capacity. Identify the key roles that you take on in life, and make time for each of them.
Habit 4: Think Win/Win
To Think Win/Win is an attitude of mind. It concerns bringing an attitude to the table that is committed to always finding solutions that will truly benefit both sides of a dispute. This idea is not based upon compromise – which is where most disputes naturally end. Compromise is the result of not perceiving the possible synergy of the situation properly.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood is the natural quality of courage balanced with consideration. It is the most important principle of interpersonal relations. Effective listening is the key to this habit and requires you to focus on the other person’s viewpoint, no matter how it may differ from your own.
The ability to listen first requires restraint, respect and reverence. By truly listening to the other side, and being committed to understanding what is being said, one can find a better pathway or solution that benefits both parties. This approach requires the ability to make yourself understood, through courage and consideration.
Habit 6: Synergise
Synergise is the natural quality of creativity, the creation of something. You understand basic underlying needs and interests, and find synergised solutions.
Finding a synergistic solution means finding a much better solution than either party might first propose. This synergistic solution can only be found if both parties truly understand each other’s position.
By having a positive, can-do attitude, listening to and understanding what the other party feels or wants, and then communicating to that party in their own way of thinking, you can usually get a better solution. This is the fruit of habits 4 and 5.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Sharpen the Saw is the quality of continuous improvement or self-renewal to overcome entropy. If you don’t constantly improve and develop yourself, you’ll fall into entropy, closing off inspiration and creativity, and welcoming stagnation. By continuously renewing, improving, innovating and refining, one stays in step with the world and profits by it.