The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People- Book Summary/Review

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey

The 7 Habits is one of the great personal development books of our time. It is pretty much recommended reading wherever you look and for good reason. It is based on some solid principles that are timeless and is focused on a holistic approach to getting more out of life. I went into the book thinking it would be more about how to be effective professionally, but realized pretty quickly that it is more about being effective as a human being. The framework of the book is set up in the first chapter called ‘inside-out’ where he  discusses the Pygmalion effect- where perceptions become reality and you find that there are often self-fulfilling prophecies. What this teaches us is that we must look at the lens itself, through which we see the world as well as the world we see. The focus on the sense shapes how we interpret and respond to situations. Paradigms are another focus of this chapter- a paradigm is the way we ‘see’ the world in terms of perceiving, understanding, or interpereting. He gives an example using a map as an analogy. If you were trying to find your way, but the map you have has errors on it or if it was a map of a different city than the one you are in, you would not be able to find your way. ‘character ethic’ solutions would not help you such as working on your behavior or attitude about the situation. you just plain have the wrong map. Page 32 has an exercise that shows this. the exercise is to show two pictures to different groups with very minor differences in them. The first is obviously a young woman and the other is of an old woman. Then a third picture is shown that blends the two together a bit, two both groups and they will often argue their points strongly. Because each side has a different paradigm to start from, they are not seeing the other person’s perspective. The point is that neither is right or wrong, but rather that their experiences has persuaded them that they must be correct. If you are looking at the book, the pages are on 33/34/53. “where we stand depends on where we sit”.  Paradigm shifts-  the term paradigm shift has been used to describe the phenomenon that in almost every significant breakthrough in the field of scientific endeavor is first a break with tradition, with old paradigms. Cecil B. Demille observed “it is impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the law.” On learning: ‘if you don’t let a teacher know at what level you are- by asking a question, or revealing your ignorance- you will not learn or grow. WE must learn to listen, and this requires emotional strength- highly developed qualities of character. There are times to teach and times not to teach. When the relationship is strained and air charged with emotion, an attempt to teach is often perceived as a form of judgement and rejection.

  • The way we see the problem is the problem.

An overview of the 7 habits

  • For this book, we define ‘habits’ as the intersection of knowledge, skill and desire
  • The book is supposed to be progressive to get you away from dependence, to independence, and finally into independence. This is the maturity continuum.
    • Dependence- the paradigm of you – you take care of me, you come through for me, etc.
    • Independence- the paradigm of I, I can do it, I am responsible, I am self-reliant, etc.
    • Interdependence- The paradigm of we– we can do it, we can cooperate, etc. Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their great success.
  • Covey says that effectiveness lies in a balance- what he calls the P/PC Balance. With P/PC you want to make sure you are not sacrificing the PC to get a short term P. In the book he compares this to killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
    • P  stands for production of desired results
    • PC stands for production capacity – the ability or asset that produces P. There are basically 3 types of assets:
      • Physical – An example is a power lawnmower- the “p” would be that it is mowing your lawn. However if yo neglect the PC and do not do the maintenance on it, you will find that will lose its power capacity and essentially fail to provide your P.
      • Financial – example is our capacity to earn. if we do not continually invest in improving our own PC, we limit our options and can be locked in our present situation.
      • Human- One example is a marriage. An issue would be if the couple are more concerned about getting the ‘golden eggs’ or benefits, than they are about preserving what makes them possible, they become sensitive and inconsiderate, neglecting the things important for a deep relationship.
    • Suggestion for better learning of the principles in this book: share, discuss and teach what you learn within 48 hours of when you read it. It will help you internalize it.
  • Private Victory- the first three habits are the habits of Private Victory. To get you from dependence to independence. They are mean to increase your self confidence and get you to know yourself in a deeper, more meaningful way. You will be able to define yourself from within
  • Public Victory- habits 4-6. You will discover and unleash both the desire and resources to heal and rebuild important relationships that have deteriorated or even broken.
  • The 7th habit – if deeply internalized will renew the first six and make you truly independent and capable of effective interdependence.

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Private Victory

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive
    • Based on the premise that we are self-aware beings. You are able to look as an observer to your own involvement in something. The story of Victor Frankl- who was a Holocaust survivor that was able to realize his basic identity that they could not take away: “He could decide within himself how all of this was going to affect him” – It was his freedom to choose his response.
    • “Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.”
    • In addition to self-awareness, we have imagination. Or the ability to create in our minds. We have a conscience, or a deeper awareness of right and wrong. Finally we have independent will – the ability to act based on our self-awareness, free of all other influences
    • Proactivity is that we have responsibility for our lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We have responsibility – “response-ability” – the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values.
    • There are 3 central values in life:
      • Experiential- what happens to us
      • Creative – that which we bring into existence
      • Attitudinal- our response to difficult circumstances. Frankl considers this the highest of central values.
    • Initiative- means recognizing our responsibility to make things happen.
      • “Use your R&I” resourcefulness and initiative. This is what Covey says that you should say when people are not living up to their abilities.
      • Holding people to the responsible course is not demeaning- it is affirming
      • Take initiative and ACT!

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    • Circles of influence
      • Proactive people focus their efforts on the circle of Influence: They work on the things that they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging, and magnifying, causing their circle of influence to increase. This would be considered a positive feedback loop where your influence spirals larger as you concern yourself only with the things you can control.
      • Negative energy causes the circle of influence to shrink. This happens by blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language, feelings of victimization, etc.

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    • Problems will fall under 3 categories:
      • Direct control- involves our own behavior
      • Indirect control – problems involving other people’s behavior
      • No Control – problems we can do nothing about (past or situational realities)
    • Proactive story- pages 94-95 about a proactive executive that was able to grow his circle of influence by focusing on what he had control over. He was able to make the president of the company’s weaknesses irrelevant, which was noticed. and eventually the president brought him into the ‘inner circle’
    • Proactive doesn’t mean to be pushy or aggressive. It is simply to be smart, value driven an knowing what is needed.
    • The “have’s” and “be’s” on page 96 – is a good way to figure out if you are focusing within or outside of your circle of influence.
    • The proactive approach to a mistake is to acknowledge it instantly, correct, and learn from it.
      • NOT to acknowledge a mistake, not to correct it and learn from it, is a mistake of a different order. It puts a person on a self- deceiving and self-justifying path.
    • Making commitments and promises is in the very heart of the circle of influence. This is an area we can work on immediately: we can make a promise and keep it.  Or we can Set a goal- and work to achieve it. 
    • 30 day proactivity test and Application suggestions on pages 100-101
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End In Mind
    • Exercise to think of yourself at your own funeral- what would you want people to say?
      • Personal answer/themes: Genuine person/Innovator/helped thousands of people/visionary/friend
    • Use the above exercise to help define success for yourself. Think about the motives and why these things are important to you. Then put it into action.
    • All things are created twice: In mind and in physical creation
      • Whether we realize it or not, we are either the second creation of our own proactive design, or we are the second creation of other people’s agendas, of circumstances, or of past habits.
    • Leadership vs. management
      • “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall”
    • In Habit 2 we have the ability to ditch the scripts we were raised with and have the responsibility to “create new ones that are more effective, more congruent with our deepest values, and with the correct principles that give our values meaning”
    • Develop your own Personal Mission Statement- pages 113-115
    • Logotherapy- helping an individual find his unique meaning, mission, true purpose in life.
    • Whatever is in the center of your life will be the source of your security, guidance, wisdom, and power
      • Security – Sense of worth, identity, emotional anchorage, self esteem , basic personal strength
      • Guidance – Your source of direction in life
      • Wisdom – “Your perspective on life, your sense of balance, understanding of how various parts and principles apply and relate to each other. It embraces judgement, discernment, comprehension. it is the gestalt or oneness, an integrated wholeness”
      • Power- your faculty or capacity to act, the strength and potency to accomplish something
    • Alternative Centers – or core paradigms of people
      • Spouse centeredness- strong emotional dependence of a spouse. You tend to revert back to the scripts you had growing up.
      • Family centeredness – get their sense of security from the family tradition and culture or the family reputation
      • Money centeredness – This focus will bring about its own undoing. You will become too vulnerable to things that may impact your net worth.
      • Work Centeredness – Their fundamental identity comes from work
      • possession centeredness – tangible material possessions as well as intangible possessions such as fame, glory or social prominence
      • Pleasure centeredness- centered around fun and pleasure. Often become too quickly bored with each succeeding level of ‘fun’.
      • Friend/enemy centeredness – identify themselves by their friends or even their enemies. An example of enemy centeredness is when an enemy has so much control over your happiness and you will take no responsibility for the issue.
      • Church-centeredness – image or appearance can become a dominant consideration. These people will label others ‘active’ ‘inactive’ ‘liberal’ etc.
      • Self-centeredness – perhaps the most common today. very little security, guidance, wisdom, or power in the limited center of the self.
      • There is a summary of all the centers and the impacts on guidance, security, wisdom and power.
    • A Principle Center
      • Centering yourself on correct principles. You will be able to create a solid foundation for the development of the four life-support factors.
        • Security comes from knowing that correct principles do not change. We can depend on them.
        • Wisdom and Guidance – come from correct maps, from the way things really are, have been and will be.
        • Personal power is of a self-aware, knowledgeable, proactive individual, unrestricted by the attitudes, behaviors, and actions of others or environmental influences.
        • Summary of principle centers for the 4 life support factors on page 132.
    • Personal mission statement- page 136-137
      • We ‘detect’ vs invent our missions in life
      • If Habit 1 tells you ‘you are the programmer’, habit 2 tells you ‘now write the program.’
        • “Writing or reviewing a mission statement changes you because it forces you to think through your priorities deeply, carefully an to align your behavior with your beliefs
      • Habit 2 primarily uses the right side of the brain- of Imagination and conscience.
        • “I can use my right brain power of visualization to write an ‘affirmation’ that will help me become more congruent with my deeper values in daily life”
          • A good affirmation has five basic ingredients: it’s personal, positive, present tense, visual, and emotional. example on page 141. The more vividly you can imagine it, the more deeply it will be experienced.
        • “All peak performers are visualizers: they see it, they feel it, they experience it before they actually do it. they begin with the end in mind”
        • Affirmation and visualization are forms of programming. Be careful not to submit ourselves to programming that is not in harmony with our basic centers.
        • make sure you do not get completely absorbed by one role and neglect the other important ones.
      • Mission statements should be written for families: page 146, and organizations: page 147.
        • Organizational mission statements must be written by everyone. “no involvement, no commitment.”
    • Pages 152-153 have the application exercises.
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First
    • “You are the creator, you are in charge.”
    • You can live out habit 3 by practicing effective self-management.
    • Left-brain:management; right-brain: leadership. “manage from the left; lead from the right.”
    • All successful people have one thing in common: they put First Things First. Leadership decides what the first things are. Management puts them first, day by day, moment by moment. Carrying it out.
    • The Four Generations of Time management
      • Notes and checklists
      • Calendars and Appointment books
      • Prioritization, clarifying values and relative worth of activities based on those values. (this is mostly where we are today)
      • The Fourth Generation is that we do not manage our time, rather we manage ourselves. Instead of focusing on ‘things and time’ we focus on preserving and enhancing relationships and on accomplishing results. (P/PC balance)
    • The two factors that define an activity are ‘urgent and important’ There is a time management matrix in the book that shows you do not even want to do quadrants III and IV. Quadrant II is where we want to focus: it is the box that takes initiative and proactivity to get after. It is the quadrant where progress is made.

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    • The enemy of “Best” is often “good”
      • Decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage to pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically say “no” to other things
      • Our personal mission empowers us with the wisdom to make these decisions effectively.
    • The 6 important criteria of a Quadrant II organizer:
      • Coherence – harmony integrated between your vision and mission, roles and goals, priorities and plans, and desires and discipline. Also a place for your short and long term goals.
      • Balance Keep your various roles right in front of you so you do not neglect certain areas
      • QII focus- tool that encourages and motivates to spend time in Quadrant II. He suggests organizing your life on a weekly basis so you can prioritize the things without getting sucked into the whirlwind of the day to day.
      • A ‘people’ dimension – a tool that deals with people, not schedules. you need to think in terms of effectiveness when dealing with ‘people’
      • Flexibility – your tools should be your servant, never your master
      • Portability- you should be able to carry it with you most of the time.
    • 4 Keys to becoming a QII self-manager. There is an example of their version on pages 174-175
      • Identifying roles – write down your key roles. Examples on page 171
      • Selecting goals – One or two important results you should accomplish in each role during the next seven  days.
      • Scheduling – should be able to see the week ahead. get your goals in there. Leave room fro spontaneous experiences.
      • Daily adapting – Review your schedule every morning to put you in touch with the value based decisions you made when you organized the week.
    • Advances on the ‘fourth generation’ of time management skills. It is…
      • Principle centered
      • Conscience-directed
      • Defines your unique mission, including values and long term goals
      • Helps you balance your life by identifying roles
      • Gives greater context through weekly organizing.
    • Delegation means growth. If done properly with growth in mind. You want to use what Covey calls ‘stewardship delegation. Which is focused on “what” not “how”
      • Focus on results vs. methods. Make a clear, up front mutual understanding of expectations in five areas:
        • Desired results
        • Guidelines
        • Resources
        • Accountability
        • Consequences
        • **remember that trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the best in people. it does take time and patience.  For more on how to use this”stewardship delegation” look through pages 182-186.
    • Application suggestions on page 188-189

Public Victory

  • The Paradigms of Interdependence
    • The emotional bank account- the feeling of safeness you have with another human being
    • You can make deposits through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping commitments. You can build up a reserve. When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective
    • If you have a habit of showing discourtesy, disrespect, cutting people off, overreacting, ignoring, becoming arbitrary, betraying trust, etc. you can overdraw an emotional bank account and the trust will be low. Characterized by having to walk on eggshells and having to think about everything you say, etc. Many families and marriages are filled with it.
    • 6 Major deposits
      • Understanding the other person- “one person’s mission is another person’s minutiae”. Our tendency is to project out of our own autobiographies what we think other people need or want.
      • Attending the little things- “in relationships, the little things are the big things”
      • Keeping commitments- People tend to build their hopes around promises, particularly promises about their basic livelihood.
      • Clarifying expectations- all about communication
      • Showing personal integrity: keeping promises, fulfilling expectations. Be loyal to those not present. In doing so, you build the trust of those who are are present.
      • Apologizing sincerely when you make a withdrawal: Great deposits come in sincere words… “i was wrong” “that was unkind of me” “I gave you no dignity, and I’m deeply sorry” etc. It takes a great deal of character to apologize quickly and out of one’s heart rather than out of pity. Also, it must be perceived as sincere.
    • P Problems are PC opportunities- a chance to build the emotional bank accounts that significantly affect interdependent production
  • Habit 4: Think Win/Win
    • There are six paradigms of human interaction:
      • Win/Win- this is what we are aiming for. Think about it in terms of negotiation. This is based on the paradigm that there is plenty for everybody, and that one person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others. Its not your way or my way, its a better way,  a higher way. And the only real alternative in interdependent realities.
      • Win/Lose
      • Lose/Win
      • Lose/Lose
      • Win
      • Win/Win or No Deal
    • Five dimensions of Win/Win- Win/Win involves mutual learning, mutual influence, mutual benefits
      • Character
        • Integrity – you need to have a deep sense of what a Win is for you
        • Maturity- the balance between courage and consideration. The ability to express one’s own feelings and convictions balanced with considerations for the thoughts and feelings of others.
        • Abundance mentality – There is plenty out there for everybody. The abundance mentality takes the personal joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment of habits 1/, 2, and 3 and turns it outward.
      • Relationships-Focus on the issues, not the personalities or positions. If the Emotional Bank accounts are high, you will have a deep enough respect for one another. Remember No Deal is always an option, or you could also choose to go to the low-form of Win/Win – Compromise.
      • Agreements- Performance or partnership agreements shift the paradigm of productive interaction from vertical to horizontal, from positioning to being partners in success. The Five elements of a win/win agreement are:
        • Desired results- what is to be done and when
        • Guidelines – or parameters
        • Resources – Human, financial, technical etc. support available to accomplish the job
        • Accountability- standards of performance and time of evaluation
        • Consequences- Good and bad, natural and logical- what does and will happen as a result of the evaluation
        • It is much more enabling to to the human spirit to let people judge themselves than to judge them.
      • Win/Win Management training
        • learner controlled instruction – incentive for learner story on pages 235-238
      • Win/Win Performance agreements- focus on results, not methods.
        • “Following a deep and thorough discussion of expectations, guidelines, and resources to make sure they are in harmony with the organizational goals, the employee writes a letter to the manager that summarizes the discussion and indicates when the next performance plan or review discussion will take place.”  This agreement shows a ton of commitment
        • There are 4 kinds of consequences (rewards and penalties)
          • Financial- raise
          • Psychic- recognition/approval
          • Opportunity- training, development, perks, other benefits
          • Responsibility – scope and authority – either of which can be enlarged or diminished.
        • Win/Win Agreements specify consequences in one or more of those areas and the people involved know it up front. Everything is clear from the beginning.
      • Systems- Reward systems must be primarily focused on people achieving self-selected performance objectives and on groups achieving team objectives.
        • “It is often the system, not the people. If you put good people in bad systems, you get bad results. You have to water the flowers you want to grow.”
      • Processes – Four step process to achieving Win/Win Solutions
        • See the problem from the other point of view. Really seek to understand and to give expression tot he needs and concerns of the other party as well or better than they can themselves
        • Identify the key issues and concerns involved (not positions)
        • Determine what results would constitute a fully acceptable solution
        • Identify posible new options to achieve those results
    • Application suggestions on page 245-246
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand…  Then to be Understood
    • “Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication”
    • Empathic listening- you need to build the skills of empathic listening on a  base of character that inspires openness and trust.
      • Most people do not listen with the intent of understanding. They listen with the intent to reply.
        • They prescribe their own glasses for everyone with whom they interact.
      • It is a deep, full understanding of the other person’s viewpoint, as well as an intellectual understanding.
      • Satisfied needs do not motivate- it’s only the unsatisfied need that motivates. Next to physical survival, the greatest need is psychological survival- to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.
    • “the amateur salesman sells products; the professional sells solutions to needs and problems. The professional learns how to diagnose, how to understand.
    • 4 Autobiographical Responses
      • Evaluate- we agree or disagree
      • Probe- Ask questions from our own frame of reference
      • Advices- give counsel based on our own experience
      • Interpret – Try to figure people out, and explain their motives, behaviors, etc. based on our own motives and behavior.
    • Covey goes into a really good breakdown of this communication behavior – starting on page 257 and ending 264. It does a good job of illustrating how someone would typically respond, and how the conversation would go if you focus on understanding the underlying issue.
    • You need to be candid, and vulnerable. Also the skills in this chapter will not be effective unless they come from a sincere desire to understand.
    • Then seek to be understood
      • Greeks had a philosophy of ethos, pathos and logos. This can be applied to making effective presentations.
        • Ethos – your personal credibility. The faith people have in your integrity and competency
        • Pathos – the emphatic side. the feeling. You are in alignment with the the emotional thrust of another person’s communications.
        • Logos is the logic- the reasoning part of the presentation.
        • The sequence counts in a presentation. You want to establish credibility, understand and the person you are presenting to, THEN go forward with the logical side of your presentation. See pages 267-268 for more.
          • You can use this sequence by “Describe the alternative they are in favor of better than they can themselves. Show that you understand them in depth. Then carefully explain the logic behind your request.
    • The more deeply you understand other people, the more you will appreciate them
    • Application suggestions on page 271
  • Habit 6: Synergize
    • All the other habits prepare us for the habit of synergy
    • Two ingredients to having synergy takes place are Maturity and chemistry.
    • The more authentic you become, the more genuine in your expression. The more people can relate to your expression and the safer it makes them feel to express themselves.
    • The essential purpose behind creative work can be recaptured even if it is difficult to recreate a particular synergistic experience. It can be summed up by “we seek not to imitate the masters, rather seek what they sought.”
    • Cooperation + Trust in Communication = Synergy
    • Win/Win is looking for a higher way, better way than could be achieved with just the two opposing positions. Search for the ground that can be a win for all.
    • Valuing the differences  is critical to synergy- the mental, emotional, psychological differences between people.
    • seek first to understand, then to be understood, then seek synergy
    • Application suggestions on page 296.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

  • Focused on the 4 Dimensions of renewal (interestingly enough, practicing Yoga fits all 4)
    • Physical – this means exercise that focuses on endurance, flexibility, and strength. You need to focus on exercise, nutrition and stress management.
    • Mental – Most comes through formal education, but after that most people let their minds atrophy. Try limiting TV to 7 hours per week. You should try to read broadly to expose yourself to great minds. Make a goal: book per month, every two weeks, every week. “the person who doesn’t read is no better off than the person who can’t read”. Writing is another powerful way to sharpen the mental saw. It promotes clarity, exactness and context.
    • Spiritual – a daily practice of meditation. There is a story on page 305 of a prescription on how to come back to yourselves called ‘the turn of the tide” by Arthur Gordon. It is worth a read every once in a while. The prescriptions given were “listen carefully”, “try reaching back” and “examine your motives”. If one’s motives are wrong, nothing can be right. Then the final prescription was “write your worries on the sand”
    • Social/Emotional- centered more on the principles of interpersonal leadership, empathic communication, and creative cooperation. Covey believes a life of integrity is the most fundamental source of personal worth.

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    • You should see this investment in yourself as a type of healthy addiction
    • Balance in renewal. You need to make sure none of the 4 dimensions are neglected as it will impact the rest.
    • Synergy in renewal- you will find that these dimensions have effect on each other
      • Physical health has affect on mental health
      • spiritual health affects social/emotional strength
    • “your economic security does not lie in your job; it lies in your own power to produce- to think, learn create and adapt. That’s true financial independence.
    • The upward spiral- “regular feasting on inspiring literature, thinking noble thoughts, and above all, living in harmony with its still small voice” The upward spiral of personal growth gets us to learn, commit, and do on increasingly higher levels.
    • Application suggestions on page 319

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  • Inside-Out again
    • The key to growth and happiness is the space between stimulation and response. There is a good story in the book starting on page 322 about how he spent a year in Hawaii and how he was able to deepen his relationship with his wife while applying many of the principles in this book.
    • ‘The highest and most powerful motivation in doing that is not for ourselves only, but for our posterity , for the posterity of all mankind. As once someone observed, “there are only two lasting bequests that we can give our children-one is roots, the other wings”‘
      • empower your children ‘give wings’ with the freedom to rise above negative scripting that has been passed down to us.
    • “achieving unity-oneness-with ourselves, with our loved ones, with our fiends and working associates, is the highest and best and most delicious fruit of the seven habits.
    • T.S. Eliot quote to end the book “We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time.”

– RG-

 

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