7 Habits of Highly Effective People

March 25, 2019 2:28 pm | Published by | Leave your thoughts

My summary of a brilliant book that shows how we can live and work with fairness, integrity and honesty.


I spend a lot of time walking, it clears my mind and helps me to focus on what’s important. A good friend of mine suggested I subscribe to Audible so I could make use of my time walking. I actually enjoy the serenity when walking, but it did get me thinking about other ‘dead’ time that I could utilise. So I signed up and started listening to books while in the car, cooking tea, getting ready etc.

One of the first books I listened to was the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, written and read by Stephen R Covey.


The Blurb

In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,  Covey presents a holistic, integrated, principle-centred approach for solving personal and professional problems. Covey reveals a step by step pathway for living with fairness, integrity, honesty and human dignity. Principles that give us the security to adapt to change, and the wisdom and power to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates.

What I love about this book is that despite being written 30 years ago, it’s still as relevant today. Unlike disruptive marketing strategies and parenting fads,  living with fairness, integrity, honesty and human dignity will never go out of trend.

The audio for this book is over 13 hours long! I’ve done my best to summarise the book, so you can quickly understand and apply the principles if you wish.

I read somewhere that the best way to learn is to teach! I’ve also written the blog so I can review it weekly as a personal reminder to apply the habits.   I’ve had a difficult week,  some of my actions and interactions would have been much more effective if the 7 habits were fresh in my mind.


The 7 Habits


1. Be Proactive

2. Begin with the End in Mind

3. Put First Things First

4. Think Win-Win

5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

6. Synergize

7. Sharpen the Saw


Habit 1 – Be Proactive

Recognise that you have response-ability

Rather than thinking problems are happening to us and are beyond our control. Proactive people, recognise that they have responsibility or “response-ability” which Covey describes as the ability to choose how you respond to a given stimulus or situation.

In this chapter, Covey refers to another book which also greatly affected me, ‘Mans Search for Meaning‘ by Victor Frankl. Frankl was a psychiatrist imprisoned in death camps of Nazi Germany. One day, naked in a small room Frankl became aware of what he later called “the last of the human freedoms” – the freedom his captors could not take away. They could control his entire environment, they could control what they did to his body,

“but only Victor himself could decide how this was going to affect him.”


Circle of Concern &  Circle of Influence

Another way of becoming more aware of our own proactivity is to look at where we focus our time and energy.

We each have a wide range of concerns,  our health, our children’s diet, relationships with coworkers, new competitors  Brexit, global warming, homelessness, equality, world hunger, the list goes on. Those are in our circle of concern, when we look at our circle of concern it becomes clear that there are some things we have no real control over and others we can do something about. The latter is our Circle of Influence.

To be proactive, we must focus on the Circle of Influence, in other words, we must work on the things we can actually do something about.

The Have’s and the Be’s

The circle of concern is filled with have’s

> Once I have a better house I’ll be happy

> If only I had a more patient husband

> If only I had more effective colleagues


The circle of influence is filled with be’s

> Be kind

> Be loving

> Be wise

Anytime we think the problem is out there – that thought IS the problem.


Habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind

Begin with the end in mind focuses on the ability to envision what you want to achieve.  If you don’t make a conscious effort to visualise who you are and what you want in life, then you allow other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default.

Covey suggests that one of the best ways to incorporate Habit 2 into your life is to develop a Personal Mission Statement.  Focusing on your own uniqueness and then defining the personal, moral, and ethical guidelines within which you can most happily express and fulfil yourself.

Your mission statement makes you the leader of your own life.

After reading the 7 habits and  “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek, I started to think about, and visualise what I wanted out of life.

My mission statements:


To help those with the tenacity to work for themselves so that together we can enjoy gratification and accomplishment in our careers while giving us the freedom to pursue joy and fulfilment in all aspects of our lives.


To have financial stability, time and the freedom to enable me to, spend time with family/friends, do a job I love, give back to the community, meet new people and experience new places until old age.

My children (and other children)

Have the knowledge and resources to help them pursue their passion and purpose so they can enjoy happiness and fulfilment in all aspects of their lives.

If I let it, reading my mission statement can make me sad, I’m  45 and I  wish I knew when I was 18  what I know now!

However, I can’t turn back time, so I focus on being grateful that I am still only 45 and not on my deathbed wishing I’d lived a life of purpose and spent more time with those I love.


Habit 3 – Put First Things First

You have to recognise that not doing everything is okay.  Realising that it’s all right to say no when necessary and then focus on your highest priorities. We must have the discipline to prioritise our day-to-day actions based on what is most important, not what is most urgent.

This is an area where I need to keep practising discipline. A few tips I’ve picked up from the books “Getting Things Done” and the “Power of Habit” along with the project management app Asana, have helped me to become better at focusing on the most important jobs and creating good productivity habits.

Paradigms of Interdependence

After habit 3 there’s a short introductory chapter to the next three habits called “The Power of Interdependence”. Covey suggests, if you have applied the first three habits in your life, then you have achieved private victory or independence.

Public victory is the effectiveness in dealing with other people, it’s the achievement that other people see and appreciate.

In this chapter Covey introduces ‘the emotional bank account‘. The emotional bank account is an account of trust rather than money. An emotional account is the amount of trust created in a relationship. Acts of kindness are deposits. An act of disrespect could be a major withdrawal. Every action you make is either a potential deposit or withdrawal.

I love this concept and is something I try to apply to my personal relationships, especially with my children. Over the years, when I’ve been busy, stressed or under emotional strain,  I have missed many opportunities to make deposits into their emotional accounts. Which is why habit 7 is crucial.


There are six major deposits that one could make to build the emotional bank account:

1. Understanding the Individual: More than listening, we need to empathise. Understand in the way you would want to be understood.

2. Attending to the Little Things: What might seem little to us could be a HUGE deposit to others. 

3. Keeping Commitments: According to Covey, there’s probably not a more massive withdrawal than to not keep a promise.

4. Clarifying Expectations

5. Showing Personal Integrity: Demonstrate integrity and be loyal to those who are not present.

6. Apologising Sincerely When You Make a Withdrawal: Mean your apology and make a conscious effort to never do it again.


Habit 4 – Think Win-Win

Think Win-Win isn’t about being nice, nor is it a quick-fix technique. Covey explains that to go for win-win, you have to be empathic, confident,  considerate, sensitive and brave.

Another important factor in win-win situations is having an abundance mentality or the belief that there’s plenty out there for everyone.

Covey explains that there are six paradigms of human interaction:

1. Win-Win: Both people win. Agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying to both parties.

2. Win-Lose: “If I win, you lose.” Win-Lose people are prone to using position, power, credentials, and personality to get their way.

3. Lose-Win: “I lose, you win.” Lose-Win people are quick to please and appease, and seek strength from popularity or acceptance.

4. Lose-Lose: Both people lose. When two determined, stubborn, ego-invested people interact, the result will be Lose-Lose.

5. Win: People with the Win mentality don’t necessarily want someone else to lose that’s irrelevant. What matters is that they get what they want.

6. Win-Win or No Deal: If you can’t reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial, there is no deal.


Habit 5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.

Before we can effectively interact with another person, we must seek to deeply understand them and their perspective through empathic listening.

We typically seek first to be understood. Most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. At any given moment, they’re either speaking or preparing to speak.

You filter everything you hear through your life experiences and your frame of reference. You check what you hear against your autobiography. And consequently, you decide prematurely what the other person means before they have finished.

When we listen autobiographically we tend to respond in one of four ways:

1. Evaluate: Agree or disagree with what is said

2. Probe: Ask questions from our own frame of reference

3. Advise: Give counsel based on our own experience

4. Interpret: Try to figure out the person’s motives and behaviour based on our own motives and behaviour

As I summerise this chapter, I hang my head in shame. I can be guilty of filtering things I hear through my own frame of reference.  I’m going to keep a copy of this post by my bed so I can refresh myself of the habits often. Primarily, to remind me to be an empathetic listener and to avoid missing opportunities to make emotional deposits into the accounts of the people around me.


Habit 6 – Synergise

Synergise is the habit of creative cooperation. It is teamwork, open-mindedness, and finding new solutions to problems. But it doesn’t just happen on its own. It’s a process where people bring all their personal experience and expertise to the table. Together, they can produce far better results that they could individually.  It is the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.


Habit 7 – Sharpen the Saw

Sharpen the saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – YOU!

It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life:

  1. Physical – diet, exercise and rest
  2. Social/emotional – meaningful connections with others
  3. Mental – learning, reading, writing and teaching
  4. Spiritual – spending time in nature,  meditation, music, art…


I sincerely hope that at least one other person finds this summary of a wonderful book useful. Personally, it has reminded me of the importance of reflecting on and applying what I’ve learnt.

Get in touch if you have any book recommendations or would like to summarise a book that has had a significant impact on you.

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