The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – by Stephen Covey

By far our favourite book we’ve ever read. We don’t usually push books on people, but this is one that everyone must read – grab yourself a copy here –

We hope we do this book justice. There’s a lot of info to cover in a relatively short amount of time. The ‘7 Habits’ are all about progress along the Maturity Continuum from Dependence to Independence and then to Interdependence. This is through…

Private Victory:

Habit 1 – Be Proactive

Habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind

Habit 3 – Put First Things First

Public Victory:

Habit 4 – Think Win/Win

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

Habit 6 – Synergise

Balanced Self-Renewal:

Habit 7 – Sharpen The Saw

Absolute must-read.


Powerful lessons in personal change



This is our favourite book that we’ve ever read. Do yourself a favour – grab a copy of your own and read it:


Here is a dot point summary of the book!


Part 1 Paradigms and Principles


Foreword – to learn and not do is really not to learn


Inside Out



Personality Ethic vs Character Ethic

Personality ethic

Social image consciousness, techniques, quick fixes, social band-aids and aspirin that addressed acute problems and may appear to solve the problem temporarily

Personality = techniques, character = changes in yourself


Character ethic

Integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, simplicity, modesty

  • Put the effort on you, not on techniques, but on your deepest motives and perception
  • Character ethic is the idea that a person advances based on character.


Power of a Paradigm

  • Paradigm is a frame of reference/assumption/theory
  • Picture of a lady .. Half the class is shown a hot french chick beforehand.. People are looking at the same photo getting in an argument
  • “The more we are aware of our basic paradigms, maps, or assumptions, – we can take responsibility for those paradigms, examine them, test them against reality, listen to others and open to their perceptions, therefore getting a larger picture and a more objective view
  • Paradigms create the lens we see through the world

Power of a Paradigm Shift

  • We can only achieve quantum improvements in our lives as we quit hacking at the leaves of attitude and behaviour and get to work on the root, the paradigms from which our attitudes and behaviours flows


  • Admission of ignorance is often the first step in our education. By asking a question, or revealing your ignorance – you will not learn or grow. You cannot pretend for long, you will be found out.



  • The book is about a principle centred character based inside out approach to personal and interpersonal effectiveness


The 7 Habits an Overview

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”


  • Habits are the intersection of desire (want to), knowledge (what to, why to) and skills (how to)


Production vs Production Capacity

  • University or education or relationship building works on production capacity
  • Production is the work you do.
  • “Balance between the olden egg (production) and the health and wealthfare of the goose (capacity)


Part 2 Private Victory


Habit 1 – Proactivity: “Be Proactive”

  • We have the unique ability of self awareness
  • The ability to think about your own thought processes


There are 3 social maps typically

  • Genetic determinism : Says your grandparents did it to you
  • Psychic determinism : Says your parents did it to you
  • Environmental determinism: Says your boss/spouse is doing it to you


Between stimulus and response

  • Between the stimulus and response, man has freedom to choose


Proactivity defined

  • **It means more than taking initiative. It means as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives


Response – ability

  • Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility


  • Reactive people are driven by feelings, circumstances and conditions
  • “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday
  • “What matters most is how we respond to what we experience in life”
  • Difficult circumstances often create paradigm shifts, whole new frames of references by which people see the world and themselves
  • “Many people wait for something to happen or someone to take care of them. But people who end up with the good jobs are the proactive ones who are solutions to problems themselves, who seize initiative to do whatever is necessary


  • Every other habit relies on your exercise of your proactivity muscles


Reactive language

  • “nothing I can do”
  • “That’s just the way I am”
  • He makes me mad
  • I cant
  • I must


Proactive language

  • Lets look at the alternatives
  • I can choose a different approach
  • I choose
  • I prefer
  • I will


Circle of concern vs circle of influence

  • Proactive people focus their efforts in the circle of influence
  • Reactive people focus on the circle of concern. This empowers things to control us


  • “By working on ourselves instead of worrying about conditions, we are able to influence the conditions
  • “If you really want to improve the situation, you can wok on the one thing you have control over yourself. “


Setting little goals and commitments

  • Make a promise to self and keep it, you are building inner integrity and awareness of self control
  • The power to make and keep commitments to self is the essence of developing effectiveness


Habit 2- “Begin with the end in mind”


– Begins with a powerful image of you are your funeral


  • Begin with the image, pic or paradigm of the end of your life as the frame of reference today
  • Each part of your life, can be examined as part of the whole
  • TO begin with the end in mind is to know where your going, so you can better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction
  • Easy to get caught in the activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder climbing the ladder only to find out it is leaning against the wrong wall
  • It is possible to be very busy without being effective


All things are created twice

  • First creation is mental, second is physical
  • Make sure the blueprint, the first creation is really what you want
  • All things are created twice, but not all first creations are by conscious design. If we do not develop self awareness and become responsible for our first creations, we empower other people and circumstances outside our circle of influence to shape much of our lives by default
  • Habit two says we don’t have to live those scripts


Leadership and management – two creations

  • Leadership is the first creation, management is the second
  • Management is how can I best accomplish certain things, leadership deals with what do I want to accomplish?
  • Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right thing


  • “Efficient management without effective leadership, is “Like straightening deck chairs on the Titanic”


Personal mission statement

  • Based on correct principles is the basis of making major life directing decisions


  • Habit 1 says you are the programmer
  • Habit 2 says write the program


“ultimately man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but must rather recognize that it is he who is asked”


Roles and goals give structure and organized direction to your personal mission



Habit 3 – “Put First things First”


  • You cant become principle cantered without first being aware of and developing your own proactive nature
  • You cant become principle centered without a vision of and a focus on the unique contribution that is yours to make
  • You cant become principle centered without moment by moment self management


4 quadrants Urgent Non Urgent vs Important not important

  • Coveys version of time management leads a lot of focus on quadrant 2, non urgent but important
  • Urgent matters are usually visible, they press on us and insist on action. They are pleasant, easy and fun to do – but usually unimportant
  • Importance on the other hand has to do with results. It contributes to your mission, your highest priority/goals


  • Some people are beaten up by problems all day. 90% quadrant 1 and 10% quadrant 2
  • Some people spend a lot of time in audrant 3, urgent but unimportant. The urgency is based on the priorities of others
  • Effective people stay out of  2 and 3, because urgent or not, they are unimportant


  • Whether you are a student at uni or a fashion designer, if you are to have the proactivity to ask what is in quadrant 2 and go after it, your effectiveness will increase dramatically
  • It is almost impossible to say no to the popularity of 3 or pleasure of 4 without a bigger burning yes inside!


  • Habit 1 you are the programmer, 2 write the program
  • 3 is run the program


Part 3 – Public Victory


Habit 4 – “Think win – win”


Win – Win

  • Win-win is the game of mind and heart that constantly seeks benefit in all human interactions
  • Agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial
  • Win-win sees life as a cooperative , not a competitive arena


Win – Lse

  • Normal distribution curve reinforces win/lose scripting. In academia, you get an A because someone else got a C
  • Athletics , winning is beating the others
  • Certainly there is a place for win/lose thinking in truly competitive and low trust situations. But most of life is not a competition


Lose – win

  • Worse than win lose, because it has no standards, demands, no expectations and no vision
  • They seek strength from popularity or acceptance


Lose – lose

  • Some people are so centered on an enemy, they get blinded to everything except their desire for that person to lose


Which is best? It depends

  • Most situations are part of an interdependent reality, where win-win is the only viable alternative
  • To go for win-win you need to be courageous and considerate


Habit 5 – “Seek first to understand , then to be understood”


Empathetic listening

  • We typically seek first to be understood
  • Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply
  • They are filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people’s lives
  • They prescribe their own glasses with whom they interact


  • Listen with intent to understand
  • This gives them psychological air, putting a huge deposit in an emotional bank account


Autobiographical response

  • We evaluate (agree or disagree)
  • We probe (ask questions from our frame of reference)
  • We advise (give counsel based on our experience)
  • We interpret (we try to figure people out based on our own motives)



Habit 6 – “Synergize”


Defined – it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts

  • One plus one equals 3 or more
  • The essence of synergy  is to value the differences, to respect them, to build strengths, to compensate for weaknesses
  • The mental, emotional, psychological differences between people
  • Key to valuing those differences is to realize that all people see the world, not as it is but as they are


  • The person who is truly effective has humility and reverence to recognize his own perceptual limitations and to appreciate the rich resources available through interaction with the hearts and minds of other human beings
  • When we are left to our own experiences, we constantly suffer from a shortage of data


  • ” Good we see it differently! Help me see what you see!”



Part 4 – Renewal

Habit 7 – “Sharpen the saw”


  • It is the habit that makes all of the others possible
  • A quadrant 2 activity
  • Physical, social/emotional, spiritual, mental


  • The single best powerful investment we can ever make in life, is ourselves. It is the only instrument we have which to deal with life and to contribute






Meditate, music, writing, religion




Social / emotional




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