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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change - Stephen R. Covey

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About the book




On the maturity continuum, dependence is the paradigm of you you take care of me; you come through for me; you didn't come through; I blame you for the results.

Independence is the paradigm of I-I can do it; I am responsible; I am self-reliant; I can choose.

Interdependence is the paradigm of we-we can do it; we can cooperate; we can combine our talents and abilities and create something greater together.

Dependent people need others to get what they want- Independent people can get what they want through their own effort- Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Look at the word responsibility-"response-ability"-the ability to choose your response- Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility- They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior- Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.

Because we are, by nature, proactive, if our lives are a function of conditioning and conditions, it is because we have, by conscious decision or by default, chosen to empower those things to control us.

In making such a choice, we become reactive- Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment- If the weather is good, they feel good- If it isn't, it affects their attitude and their performance- Proactive people can carry their own

Reactive people are driven by feelings, by circumstances, by conditions, by their environment- Proactive people are driven by values-carefully thought about, selected and internalized values.

Proactive people are still influenced by external stimuli, whether physical, social, or psychological- But their response to the stimuli, conscious or unconscious, is a value-based choice or response.

As Eleanor Roosevelt observed, "No one can hurt you without your consent-" In the words of Gandhi, "They cannot take away our self respect if we do not give it to them-" It is our willing permission, our consent to what happens to us, that hurts us far more than what happens to us in the first place.

Habit 2: Begin With An End In Mind

To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you're going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction. It's incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover it's leaning against the wrong wall. It is possible to be busy-very busy-without being very effective.

People often find themselves achieving victories that are empty, successes that have come at the expense of things they suddenly realize were far more valuable to them. People from every walk of life-doctors, academicians, actors, politicians, business professionals, athletes, and plumbers-often struggle to achieve a higher income, more recognition or a certain degree of professional competence, only to find that their drive to achieve their goal blinded them to the things that really mattered most and now are gone.

How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and, keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most. If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster. We may be very busy, we may be very efficient, but we will also be truly effective only when we begin with the end in mind.






Spouse Centered

  • Your feelings of security are based on the way your spouse treats you.
  • You are highly vulnerable to the moods and feelings of your spouse.
  • There is deep disappointment resulting in withdrawal or conflict when your spouse disagrees with you or does not meet your expectations.
  • Anything that may impinge on the relationship is perceived as a threat.
  • Your direction comes from your own needs and wants and from those of your spouse.
  • Your decision-making criterion is limited to what you think is best for your marriage or your mate, or to the preferences and opinions of your spouse.
  • Your life perspective rounds things which may positively or negatively influence your spouse or your relationship.
  • Your power to act is limited by weak- nesses in your spouse and in yourself.

Family Centered

  • Your security is founded on family acceptance and fulfilling family expectations.
  • Your sense of personal security is as volatile as the family.
  • Your feelings of self- worth are based on the family reputation.
  • Family scripting is your source of correct attitudes and behaviors.
  • Your decision-making criterion is what is good for the family, or what family members want.
  • You interpret all of life in terms of your family, creating a partial under- standing and family narcissism.
  • Your actions are limited by family models and traditions.

Money Centered

  • Your personal worth is determined by your net worth.
  • You are vulnerable to anything that threatens your economic security.
  • Profit is your decision- making criterion.
  • Money-making is the lens through which life is seen and understood, creating imbalanced judgment.
  • You are restricted to what you can accomplish with your money and your limited vision.

Work Centered

  • You tend to define your- self by your occupational role.
  • You are only comfortable when you are working.

You make your decisions based on the needs and expectations of your work.

  • You tend to be limited to- your work role.
  • You see your work as your life.
  • Your actions are limited by work role models, occupational opportunities, organizational constraints, your boss's perceptions, and your possible inability at some point in your life to do that particular work.

Possession Centered

  • Your security is based on- your reputation, your social status, or the tangible things you possess.
  • You tend to compare what you have to what others have.
  • You make your decisions- based on what will protect, increase, or better display your possessions.
  • You see the world in terms of comparative economic and social relationships.
  • You function within the limits of what you can buy or the social prominence you can achieve.

Pleasure Centered

  • You feel secure only when you're on a pleasure "high".
  • Your security is short-lived, anesthetizing.
  • You see the world in based on what will give you the most pleasure.
  • You see the world in terms of what's in it for you.
  • Your power is almost negligible.

Friend Centered

  • Your security is a function of the social mirror.
  • You are highly dependent on the opinions of others.
  • Your decision-making criterion is "What will they think?"
  • You are easily embarrassed.
  • You see the world through a social lens.
  • You are limited by your social comfort zone.
  • Your actions are as fickle as opinion.

Enemy Centered

  • Your security is volatile, based on the movements of your enemy.
  • You are always wondering what he is up to.
  • You seek self-justification and validation from the like-minded.
  • You are counter-dependently guided by your enemy's actions.
  • You make your decisions based on what will thwart your enemy.
  • Your judgment is narrow- and distorted.
  • You are defensive, over- reactive, and often paranoid.
  • The little power you do have comes from anger, envy, resentment and vengeance-negative energy that shrivels and destroys, leaving energy for little else.

Church Centered

  • Your security is based on church activity and on the esteem in which you are held by those in authority or influence in the church.
  • You find identity and security in religious labels and comparisons.
  • You are guided by how others will evaluate your actions in the context of church teachings and expectations.
  • You see the world in terms of "believers" and "nonbelievers," "belong-ers" and "non-belong-ers."
  • Perceived power comes from your church position or role.


  • Your security is constantly changing and shifting.
  • Your judgment criteria are: "If it feels good- "What I want-" "What I need."
  • You view the world by how decisions, events, or circumstances will affect you.
  • Your ability to act is limited to your own resources, without the benefits of interdependency.

Principle Centered

  • Your security is based on correct principles that do not change, regardless of external conditions or circumstances.
  • You know that true principles can repeatedly be validated in your own life, through your own experiences.
  • As a measurement of self-improvement, correct principles function with exactness, consistency, beauty, and strength.
  • Correct principles help you understand your own development, endowing you with the confidence to learn more, thereby increasing your knowledge and understanding.
  • Your source of security provides you with an im- movable, unchanging, unfailing core enabling you to see change as an exciting adventure and opportunity to make significant contributions.
  • You are guided by a compass which enables you to see where you want to go and how you will get there.
  • You use accurate data which makes your decisions both implementable and meaningful.
  • You stand apart from life's situations, emotions, and circumstances, and look at the balanced whole- Your decisions and actions reflect both short- and long-term.considerations and implications.
  • In every situation, you consciously, proactively determine the best alter- native, basing decisions on conscience educated by principles.
  • Your judgment encompasses a broad spectrum of long-term consequences and reflects a wise balance and quiet assurance.
  • You see things differently and thus you think and act differently from the largely reactive world.
  • You view the world through a fundamental paradigm for effective, provident living.
  • You see the world in terms of what you can do for the world and its people.
  • You adopt a proactive lifestyle, seeking to serve and build others.
  • You interpret all of life's experiences in terms of opportunities for learn- ing and contribution.
  • Your power is limited only by your understanding and observance of natural law and correct principles and by the natural consequences of the principles themselves.
  • You become a self-aware, knowledgeable, proactive individual, largely unrestricted by the attitudes, behaviors, or actions of others.
  • Your ability to act reaches far beyond your own resources and en- courages highly developed levels of interdependency.
  • Your decisions and actions are not driven by your current financial or circumstantial limitations- You experience an interdependent freedom.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Effective management is putting first things first. While leadership decides which "first things" are, it is management that puts them first, day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Management is disciple, carrying it out.

Discipline derives from disciple - disciple to a philosophy, disciple to a set of principles, disciple to a set of values, disciple to an overriding purpose, to a superordinate goal or a person who represents that goal.

In other words, if you are an effective manager of your self, your discipline comes from within; it is a function of your independent will. You are a disciple, a follower, of your own deep values and their source. And you have the will, the integrity, to subordinate your feelings, your impulses, your moods to those values.

"The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don't like to do".

The Time Management Matrix


Not Urgent


Quadrant I results:

  • Stress
  • Burnout
  • Crisis management
  • Always putting out fires

Quadrant II results:

  • VIsion, perspective
  • Balance
  • Discipline
  • Control
  • Few crises

Not Important

Quadrant III results:

  • Short-term focus
  • Crisis management
  • Reputation-chameleon character
  • See goals and plans as worthless Feel victimized, out of control
  • Shallow or broken relationships

Quadrant IV results:

  • Total irresponsibility
  • Fired from jobs
  • Dependent on others or institutions for basics

Urgent matters are usually visible. They press on us; they insist on action. They're often popular with others. They're usually right in front of us. And often they are pleasant, easy, fun to do. But so often they are unimportant! Importance, on the other hand, has to do with results. If some- thing is important, it contributes to your mission, your values, your high priority goals.

As long as you focus on Quadrant I, it keeps getting bigger and bigger until it dominates you.

There are other people who spend a great deal of time in Quadrant III, thinking they're in Quadrant I. They spend most of their time reacting to things that are urgent, assuming they are also important. But the reality is that the urgency of thee matters is often based on the priorities and expectations of others.

Effective people stay out of Quadrant III and IV because, urgent or not, they aren't important. They also shrink Quadrant I down to size by spending more time in Quadrant II. Quadrant II is the heart of effective personal management. It deals with things like building relationships, writing a personal mission statement, long-range planning, exercising, preventive maintenance, preparation - all those things we know we need to do, but somehow seldom get around to doing, because they aren't urgent.

You have to be proactive to work on Quadrant II because Quadrants I and III work on you. To say "yes" to important Quadrant II priorities, you have to learn to say "no" to other activities, sometimes apparently urgent things.

We accomplish all that we do through delegation-either to time or to other people. If we delegate to time, we think efficiency. If we delegate to other people, we think effectiveness. Many people refuse to delegate to other people because they feel it takes too much time and effort and they could do the job better themselves. But effectively delegating to others is perhaps the single most powerful high-leverage activity there is.

Transferring responsibility to other skilled and trained people enables you to give your energies to other high-leverage activities. Delegation means growth, both for individuals and for organizations. Because delegation involves other people, it is a Public Victory and could well be included in Habit 4.

Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people. But it takes time and patience, and it doesn't preclude in the necessity to train and develop people so that their competency can rise to the level of that trust.

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

Public Victory does not mean victory over other people. It means success in effective interaction that brings mutually beneficial results to everyone involved. Public Victory means working to gether, communicating together, making things happen together that even the same people couldn't make happen by working independently. And Public Victory is an outgrowth of the Abundance Mentality paradigm.

In the Win/Win agreement, the following five elements are made very explicit:

  • Desired results: (not methods) identify what is to be done and when.
  • Guidelines: specify the parameters (principles, policies, etc.) within which results are to be accomplished.
  • Resources: identify the human, financial, technical, or organizational support available to help accomplish the results.
  • Accountability: sets up the standards of performance and the time of evaluation.
  • Consequences: specify-good and bad, natural and logical-what does and will happen as a result of the evaluation.

So often the problem is in the system, not in the people. If you put good people in bad systems, you get bad results. You have to water the flowers you want to grow.

As people really learn to think Win/Win, they can set up the systems to create and reinforce it. They can transform unnecessarily competitive situations to cooperative ones and can powerfully impact their effectiveness by building both P and PC.

In business, executives can align their systems to create teams of highly productive people working together to compete against external standards of performance. In education, teachers can set up grading systems based on an individual's performance in the context of agreed upon criteria and can encourage students to cooperate in productive ways to help each other learn and achieve. In families, parents can shift the focus from competition with each other to cooperation. In activities such as bowling, for example, they can keep a family score and try to beat a previous one. They can set up home responsibilities with Win/Win agreements that eliminate constant nagging and enable parents to do the things only they can do.

Win/Win puts the responsibility on the individual for accomplishing specified results within clear guidelines and available resources. It makes a person accountable to perform and evaluate the results and provides consequences as a natural result of performance. And Win/Win systems create the environment which supports and reinforces the Win/Win performance agreements.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

We have such a a tendency to rush in, to fix things up with good advice. But we often fail to take the time to diagnose, to really, deeply understand the problem first. If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication.

The real key to your influence with me is your example, your actual conduct. Your example flows naturally out of your character, or the kind of person you truly are-not what others say you are or what you may want me to think you are. It is evident in how I actually experience you.

You may say you care about and appreciate me. I desperately want to believe that. But how can you appreciate me when you don't even understand me? All I have are your words, and I can't trust words.

We're filled with our own rightness, our own autobiography. We want to be understood. Our conversations become collective monologues, and we ne really understand what's going on inside another human being.

Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is a form of agreement, a form of judgement. And it is sometimes the more appropriate emotion and response. But people often feed on sympathy. It makes them dependent. The essence of empathic listening is not that you agree with someone; it's that you fully, deeply, understand the person, emotionally as well as intellectually.

"Ethos, pathos, logos" - your character, and your relationships and then your logic of your presentation. This represents another major paradigm shift. Most people, in making presentations, go straight to the logos, the left brain logic, of their ideas. They try to convince other people of the validity of that logic without first taking ethos and pathos into consideration.

The next the you communicate with anyone, you can put aside your autobiography and genuinely seek to understand. Even whe people don't want to open up about their problems, you can be empathic. You can sense their hearts, you can sense the hurt, and you can respond, "You seem down today. They may say nothing That's all right. You've shown understanding and respect

Don't push, be patient; be respectful. People don't have to open up verbally before you can empathize. You can empathize all time with their behavior. You can be discerning, sensitive, and aware and you can live outside your autobiography when that needed.

And if you're highly proactive, you can create opportunities do preventive work. You don't have to wait until your son or daughter has a problem with school or you have your net business negotiation to seek first to understand.

  • Spend time with your children now, one on one. Listen to them, understand them. Look at your home, at school life, at the challenges and the problems they're facing, through their eyes Build the Emotional Bank Account. Give them air.
  • Go out with your spouse on a regular basis. Have dinner or do something together you both enjoy. Listen to each other; seek to understand. See life through each other's eyes.

Habit 6: Synergize

Levels of Communications





(Win/Lose or Lose/Win)




The lowest level of communication coming out of low-trust situations would be characterized by defensiveness, protectiveness, and often legalistic language, which covers all the bases and spells out qualifiers and the escape clauses in the event things go sour. Such communication produces only Win/Lose or Lose/Lose. It isn't effective - there's no P/PC balance - and it creates further reasons to defend and protect.

The middle position is respectful communication. This is the level where fairly mature people interact. They have respect for each other, but they want to avoid the possibility of ugly confrontations, so they communicate politely but not empathically. They might understand each other intellectually, but they really don't deeply look at the paradigms and assumptions underlying their own positions and become open to new possibilities. Respectful communication works in independent situations and even in interdependent situations, but the creative possibilities are not opened up. In interdependent situations compromise is the position usually taken. Compromise means that 1 + 1 = 1½ Both give and take. The communication isn't defensive or protective or angry or manipulative; it is honest and genuine and respectful. But it isn't creative or synergistic. It produces a low form of Win/Win.

Synergy means that 1 + 1 may equal 8, 16, or even 1,600. The synergistic position of high trust produces solutions better than any originally proposed, and all parties know it. Furthermore, they genuinely enjoy the creative enterprise. A mini-culture is formed to satisfy in and of itself. Even if it is short lived, the P/PC balance is there.

The person who is truly effective has the humility and reverence to recognize his own perceptual limitations and to appreciate the minds of other human beings. That person values the differences because those differences add to his knowledge, to hus understanding of reality. When we're left to do our own experiences, we constantly suffer from a shortage of data.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

The physical dimensions:

  • Endurance comes from aerobic exercises, from cardiovascular efficiency - the ability of your heart to pump blood through your body.
  • Flexibility comes from stretching. Most experts recommend warming up before and cooling down/stretching after aerobic exercise. Before, it helps loosen and warm the muscles to prepare for more vigorous exercise. After, it helps to dissipate the lactic acid so that you don't feel sore and stiff
  • Strength comes from muscle resistance exercises - like simple calisthenics, push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups, and from working with weights.

The spiritual dimensions is your core, your center, your commitment to your value system. It's a very private area of life and a supremely important one. It draws upon the sources that inspire and uplift you and tie you to the timeless truths of all humanity. Spiritual renewal takes an investment of time. But it's a Quadrant II activity we don't rally have time to neglect.

The mental dimension:

  • Wisdom in watching television requires the effective self-management of Habit 3, which enables you to discriminate and to select the informing, inspiring, and entertaining programs which best serve and express your purpose and values.
  • Education - continuing education, continually honing and expanding the mind- is vital mental renewal. Sometimes that involves the external discipline of the classroom or systematized study programs; more often it does not. Proactive people can figure out many, many ways to educate themselves.
  • Reading good literature: you can get into the best minds that are now or that have ever been in the world.
  • Writing is another powerful way to sharpen the mental saw. Writing good letters - communicating on the deeper level of thoughts, feelings, and ideas rather than on the shallow, superficial level of events - also affects our ability to think clearly, to reason accurately, and to be understood effectively
  • Organizing and planning represent other forms of mental renewal associated with Habits 2 & 3. It's beginning with and end in mind and being able to mentally to organize to accomplish that end.

The social/emotional dimensions: peace of mind comes when your life is in harmony with tre principles and values and in no other way. There is intrinsic security that comes from service, from helping other people in a meaningful way.

Although renewal in each dimension is important, it only becomes optimally effective as we deal with all 4 dimensions in a wise and balanced way. To neglect any one area negatively impacts the rest.

The more proactive you are (Habit 1), the more effectively you can exercise personal leadership (Habit 2) and management (Habit 3) in your life. The more effectively you manage your life (Habit 3), the more Quadrant II renewing activities you can do (Habit 7). The more you seek first to understand (Habit 5), the more effectively you can go for synergetic Win/Win solutions (Habits 4 and 6). The more you improve in any of the habits that lead to independence (Habits 1, 2, and 3), the more effective you will be in interdependent situations (Habits 4, 5, and 6). And renewal (Habit 7) is the process of renewing all the habits.