I don’t remember who recommended this book to me, as it was some time ago already. I didn’t think I’d need to read something like this, because I already felt I was being quite effective, but now after having read it, I think I wasn’t entirely correct on my assumption. I learned that once again, I could do better. Weird how this same mantra keeps repeating itself the more I read…
7 Habits of Highly Effective People is different from many other books in this genre of books, as it is more of a philosophical approach to achieving efficiency in your life, rather than offering straight forward solutions to your problems (it does that too, just not in the same manner that at least I’m used to seeing in this genre).
It definitely was an interesting read once again, and I do recommend you read it for yourself as it is not too long.
I’ll go through what I learned from this book, perhaps it will help you decide if its worth your time reading it.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Stephen R. Covey managed to become quite an influential figure in the 90s when The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was fresh and new. Published in 1989, the book immediately gained popularity and was (and still is) considered one of the best self-help books of all time, having sold more than 25 million copies over its lifetime. It is by far Coveys best selling book, and to have such fame, there is always a reason.
In the book, as you might have guessed from the name, Covey sets out to dissect what are the 7 habits that highly effective have. We all have an idea what it means to be effective, but do we know how to become effective ourselves? I’d say trying to find an answer to that question is worth your time, no matter who you are.
Let’s see what Covey thinks are the 7 habits of highly effective people.
The book talks about the habits within categories. Obviously, if you want to be as efficient as possible, you also have to be able to work independent of others. If other people have too much influence over you, it will be impossible for you perform efficiently.
For example, I’ve had to experience this myself in my past relationships, I’ve become too reliant on the other person, and neglected my own duties when the relationship has gone through rocky times. That has caused me to be less independent, and made me much less efficient than I’d like to be.
But that’s enough about me, let’s get to the habits, and the contents of the book itself, already.
Habit 1: Be Proactive
The first habit is to be pro-active. You should aim to work from within your own center in influence, and constantly try to expand it. Don’t be reactive, be proactive instead, and this will increase your efficiency.
Let me explain further, because what I just wrote hardly makes sense.
In every day life, there are moments that you witness happening around you. Only a subset of these events concern you in any way, and the rest really shouldn’t matter to you. For example, let’s say you are waiting for someone to contact you (oh how many times I’ve been there…), send a message or call you, and you just sit there waiting for them to finally do it. You can’t control when they will contact you, so why are you there waiting for something that you have no control over? They will contact you, but only after they have the time for it. Don’t worry about it so much.
How can you start fixing this? Start paying attention how many times you are thinking about things you can’t have control over. Is there something you can’t achieve, and it’s constantly on your mind? Are you constantly worried about events that might happen in the future? You can stop worrying about that stuff. Start being proactive and live your life instead.
I’d say Covey makes a fair point.
Habit 2: Begin With The End In Mind
Have you ever been a participant in a really well planned event? Wasn’t that just a great time? Yeah, it was. Wasn’t it?
The start to this chapter is rather grim, as it asks you to think of your funeral. What do you think the people in your life have to say about you after your death? What kind of a person, what kind of a legacy, do you want to leave behind? I think it’s a bit cliché to ask these questions, as heard it countless times before, but thinking about it does matter if you want to live a fulfilling life, even if you don’t really care what people have to say after you’ve already passed away.
After this comes the more important part of the chapter. You are asked to write your very own personal mission statement. What do you want to achieve in life? What do you want, what are your goals? Write them down and think how you can achieve them.
What would you like to hear people say at your funeral? Think about that when you’re writing your mission statement.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
The things that we do every day can be divided in two different ways: the things we do are either important or not important, and they are either urgent or not urgent. What we really wish for is for things that we do to be important. Ideally we don’t want anything to be urgent, because that causes stress.
In this chapter Covey asks you to think of everything in your life, what are your goals, and start thinking of how to make those goals a reality. For example, you might think that spending time with your spouse is important, but you may have a problem following up on that goal.
The simple way to fix this is to schedule the important events/things you want to accomplish during your week ahead of time. Simply write what’s important down in the calendar, and stick to your schedule. This way you get to accomplish important things, without them needing to be urgent.
Oh, and you totally should ask your spouse out on a date next weekend. Schedule for it together.
In this chapter Covey talks about interdependence, also known as, how to work with others.
While independence is important, we can’t achieve anything without other people. So, working together like a well oiled machine, is a really good goal to have set for yourself.
Habit 4: Think win-win
If you don’t already think like this, then you should start working towards it. In relationships it’s important to try and find a solution that ends in “win-win” situation at every possible moment. Now, I understand it isn’t really possible to always achieve this, but I think it’s good if you start approaching situations from this angle, and try to find a solution that benefits the both of you.
Thinking like this should make you less defensive about what you want, and also it should also make you take the other person into account more. I think that’s what this chapter is all about. It’s there to remind us that people are ultimately selfish, and to reach the best conclusion to anything, you really should try and consider the needs of the other person, as well as your own.
Habit 5: Seek First To Understand, Then Be Understood
I read a book about communication not too long time ago, and this here exactly was one of the stressed points in that book as well.
When trying to build a trusting relationship with someone, it is very important that you first understand the other person, and only then try to be understood.
Simply put, we jump to conclusions too soon. We should ask more questions, and not try and “fill the planks” the other person is leaving behind in a conversation. If you don’t understand, then ask for a clarification.
Covey talks of a parent talking to his or her teenage child. You can already imagine where this is going. The parent comes in and asks the child questions, the child doesn’t really know how to communicate his or her actions well, and then the parent starts assuming what the problems might be, without asking questions. Have you ever been in a similar situation? I know I have.
What can we learn from this? Always ask questions first. Don’t make assumptions, and don’t jump to conclusions without at least giving them the time to help you understand their perspective.
Habit 6: Synergize
This habit is all about building synergy between you and the people you interact with. Yes, that means even the people you don’t really get along with.
It would be highly beneficial if you took the time to think about the people you have to get along with, sometimes its easier than at other times, and start thinking why those people in your life are beneficial, and also what traits about them make it difficult for you to fully like them. We all have such traits, it’s impossible to please everyone, and even with people that we like we can’t do that all the time.
Once you have identified all the good and bad traits about a person, start thinking of how those traits can be used well together with your good and bad traits. This way you should be able to identify what needs to be done in order for there to be as good of a synergy as possible.
Yes indeed, the last chapter has only one habit in it, and it is the most important chapter of them all in my opinion.
This chapter is all about you, and what you need to do to achieve everything else described in this book.
Habit 7: Sharpen The Saw
Not literally, of course. Unless you want to… I guess that’s fine.
This last habit is all about the need to do things that renew you physically, mentally, spiritually and socially/emotionally. We often neglect this very important part of our lives, as we get caught up in the day-in and day-out business of life. We forget that we should take a step back once in a while and take care of ourselves as well.
What Covey wants to tell in this chapter is that you should try to find time for yourself. Exercising, reading, meditating or just thinking in general, we all know this is important.
Like mentioned earlier, in the chapter about putting first things first, important doesn’t necessarily mean urgent, and what did we do with important things? We scheduled for it ahead of time, and then we made sure we stuck with that schedule.
Start scheduling exercise, reading and time for thinking, as well as those all too important social events, in your calendar. Any amount that you can personally take is good, but ideally you want to spend 2-3 hours doing each every week (divided among many days).
Thank You For Reading
That was all. I think writing about the book taught me more than the reading the book itself, but that doesn’t mean you should read it for yourself.
If you found the ideas I wrote here interesting, everything is explained so much better in the book that you can buy here: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
For now, have a nice day.
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