continuous improvement as a way of life

Habit, Psychology

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Book cover The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Stephen Covey


Download this executive summary in PDF: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey



  • Character Ethic: success and happiness require these principles, integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, and modesty.
  • Personality Ethic: success depends on personality, skills, attitude, and techniques.
  • There are two kinds of maps, realities, and values that guide our decisions, and they influence our perception of the world and our behavior.
  • Principles are guidelines for human conduct that are proven to have enduring, permanent value.
  • Inside-Out, start with self, with our character, motives, and paradigms.

The 7 Habits—An Overview 

  • Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do, why), skill (how to), and desire (want to). 
  • Maturity continuum: dependence (you take care of me), independence (I am responsible), interdependence (we cooperate).
  • Effectiveness is the balance between the production of desired results and the production capability (goose and golden egg story).
  • Three kinds of assets: physical, financial, and human.
  • The assets are the production capabilities, protect and nurture them.


HABIT 1: Be Proactive 

Principles of Personal Vision

  • Self-awareness is the ability to think about your very thought process. 
  • People are conditioned by genetic determinism, psychic determinism, and environmental determinism.
  • Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.
  • Proactivity, our behavior is a function of our decisions based on values, not our conditions. 
  • Reactive people are affected by their social environment and the behaviors of others.
  • Taking the initiative, recognizing our responsibility to make things happen.
  • I have to vs I choose to.
  • Love is a verb, not only a feeling. Show love by doing more.
  • Proactive people focus their energy on the circle of influence, on things they can control.
  • Reactive people spend their energy on the circle of concern, on circumstances they have no control over.

HABIT 2: Begin with the End in Mind 

Principles of Personal Leadership 

  • Begin with the end in mind, how do you define success when you have already passed away.
  • All things are created twice, you plan then you do, and you have a business plan before creating the business. 
  • Take charge of the first creation according to your principles.
  • Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
  • People have the conscience and imagination to write their scripts.
  • Write a personal mission statement like the Constitution to be your compass when you have to make a decision.
  • Security, guidance, wisdom, and power are the interdependent factors at the center of our life that define our life.
  • Security: personal sense of worth, self-esteem, emotional anchorage.
  • Guidance: principles, direction in life, standards.
  • Wisdom: a perspective on life, judgment, discernment, comprehension.
  • Power: capacity to act, strength to accomplish something
  • There are different kinds of centers: spouse-centered, family-centered, money-centered, work-centered, possession-centered, pleasure-ventured, friend-ventured, enemy-centered, church-centered, self-centered, and principle-centered.
  • As a principled-centered person, you perceive each experience and decision through the lens of your principles. 
  • The left brain is logical/verbal, the right brain is intuitive/creative.
  • Write your personal mission statement with personal, positive, present tense, visual, and emotional sentences.
  • Writing the mission statement must involve everyone if you want a commitment to the company.

HABIT 3: Put First Things First 

Principles of Personal Management 

  • Independent will is the ability to make decisions and to act in accordance with them.
  • Integrity is the capacity to walk the talk, to realize what our independent will planned to do.
  • With discipline, you are the follower of your values. You subordinate your feelings and emotions to those values.
  • The common denominator of success is being able to do even when you don’t want to.
  • Time management: organize and execute around priorities.
  • Effectiveness increases when you focus on important priorities (urgent and not urgent).
  • Learn to say “no” to not important tasks.
  • Coherence between your goals/missions and your important tasks.
  • A balance between health, family, work, and personal development.
  • Flexibility, you are the master of your important tasks.
  • Your schedule is built around your values and priorities, it is not a prison.
  • Delegate effectively with clear desired results, guidelines, resources, standards of performance, and consequences.


Paradigms of Interdependence 

  • Self-mastery is the foundation of good relationships with others.
  • Building trust takes time, same as a bank account, making a deposit of trust builds up the reserve from which we can make withdrawals.
  • When the trust is very low, the relationship deteriorates.
  • Understand the person and what really matters to him.
  • Little acts of kindness and courtesy, keeping commitments, clarifying expectations, showing personal integrity, and apologizing sincerely build up trust.

HABIT 4: Think Win/Win 

Principles of Interpersonal Leadership 

  • Win/Win is the habit of interpersonal leadership that involves character, relationships, and agreements.
  • The three traits of character are integrity, maturity (balance between courage to confront and consideration to empathically understand), and abundance mentality (there is plenty for everybody). 
  • Relationships are built on trust, credibility, and mutual learning. Even if we have a different view, we will find a solution beneficial for both parties.
  • A clear agreement gives the standards and manages expectations between people.
  • Set up a system that serves Win/Win relationships: “If you put good people in a bad system, you get bad results.”

HABIT 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood 

Principles of Empathic Communication 

  • Listen to understand the other person, not to reply.
  • Diagnose before you prescribe.
  • Four autobiographical responses: evaluate (agree/disagree), probe, advise, interpret with on our own experience.
  • Good listening is rephrasing the content and reflecting the feeling.
  • Ethos (personal credibility, integrity, competency), pathos (emotion), logos (logic). Effective communication is in this order.

HABIT 6: Synergize 

Principles of Creative Cooperation 

  • Parties in synergetic communication gain more insight and learn more.
  • Three levels of communication: defensive with low trust (Win/Lose or Lose/Lose), respectful but not creative (low Win/Win), and synergetic (Win/Win).
  • You can exercise courage to be open and express your feelings to encourage others to do so.
  • Value the difference in other people.
  • Look for a third alternative for a Win/Win relationship.


HABIT 7: Sharpen the Saw 

Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal 

  • Four dimensions of renewal: physical (exercise, nutrition, stress management), spiritual (clarification, commitment, study, meditation), mental (reading, visualizing, planning, writing), and social/emotional (service, empathy, synergy, intrinsic security).
  • Balanced self-renewal is synergetic. Each dimension has a positive impact on the three others.

Inside-Out Again 


Download this executive summary in PDF: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

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