7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Book Summary

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989, is a business and self-help book written by Stephen Covey. Covey presents an approach to being effective in attaining goals by aligning oneself to what he calls "true north" principles based on a character ethic that he presents as universal and timeless.


  • All in all, having a good character matters more in the long run.
  • "Into the hands of every individual is given a marvellous power for good or evil -- the silent unconscious, unseen influence of his life. This is simply the constant radiation of what man really is, not what he pretends to be."
  • We see the world, not as it is, but as we are -- or, as we are conditioned to see it.
  • "For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root."

Principles of Growth and Change

  • Attempting to seek a shortcut only resutls in dissapointment and fustration.
  • Borrowing strength builds weakness
  • Once children gain a sense of real possession, they share very naturally, freely, and spontaneously.

The way we see the problem is the problem

New Level of Thinking

  • The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.
  • Inside Out is always better than ourside in


  • a habit as the intersection of knowledge, skill, and desire.

The Maturity Continuum

  • We need to be interdependent on each other to survive


  • But as the story shows, true effectiveness is a function of two things: what is produced (the golden eggs) and the producing asset or capacity to produce (the goose).
  • Effectiveness is the Porduction/ Production capability Balance

Three Kinds of Assets

Private Victory

Habit 1: Be Proactive -- Principles of Personal Visio

  • Our Pardigms = the way we see ourselves
  • Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose
  • As human beings, we are responsible for our own lives.
  • Our behaviour is a function of our decisions not our conditions
  • Proactive people are driven by values -- carefully thought about, selected and internalized values
  • No one can hurt you without your consent.
  • It is not what happens to us but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.
  • What matters most is how we respond to what we experience in life
  • Love is a value that is actualized through loving action

Circle of Concern Circle of Influence

  • Focus on your circle of incfluence - Things you can do something about
  • We fear taking responsibility because we'll soon wee that we are irresponsible
  • Circle of Concern is the "Have's", Circle of Influence is the "Be's"
  • It is important to immediately admit and correct our mistakes so that they have no power over that next moment and we are empowered again
  • The power to make and keep commitments to ourselves is the essence of developing the basic habits of effectiveness

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind.

  • Each day of your life should contribute in a meaningful way to the vision you have of your life as a whole.
  • To Begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination.
  • 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.
  • People often find themselves achieving victories that are empty, successes that have come at the expense of things they really want.
  • All things are created twice.. first in the mind then in reality.
  • "Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things".
  • We're into managing with efficiency, setting and achieving goals before we have even clarified our values.
  • 3 human endowments are self-aweness, imagination and conscience.
  • Real Success is not in having things, but in having mastery, having victory over self.
  • 4 life support factors Security, Guidance, Wisdom and Power
  • The ideal, of course, is to create one clear center from which you consistently derive a high degree of security, guidance, wisdom, and power, empowering your proactivity and giving congruency and harmony to every part of your life.
  • We are free to choose our actions, based on our knowledge of correct principles, but we are not free to choose the consequences of those actions.
  • Left brain focusses on logic while right brain focusses on intuition and creativity.
  • Organizational Mission Statemens should involve everyone in the organisation

Habit 3: Put First Things First TM -- Principles of Personal Management

  • The Focus should be on the second quadrant
  • Stwardship deligation is the best approach in which focus is kept on the results.
  • With immature people, you specify fewer desired results and more guidelines, identify more resources, conduct more frequent accountability interviews, and apply more immediate consequences.
  • With more mature people, you have more challenging desired results, fewer guidelines, less frequent accountability, and less measurable but more discernible criteria.
  • Trust is a big mortivator when deligating work to other people.
  • The Quadrant II paradigm that empowers you to see through the lens of importance rather than urgency.

Public Victory

Paradigms of Interdependence

  • Self-mastery and self-discipline are the foundation of good relationships with others
  • Six Major Emotional Deposits
    • Understanding the Individual
    • Attending to the little things
    • Keeping Commitments
    • Clarifying Expectations
    • Showing Personal Integrity
    • Apologizing sincerely when you make a withdrawal
  • It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.
  • We need to value problems as an opportunity to build relationships.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win TM -- Principles of Interpersonal Leadership.

  • But you can't change the fruit without changing the root.
  • The moment you step from independence into interdependence in any capacity, you step into a leadership role
  • We should always strive for win-win / No deal agreements since it gives us much freedom
  • Foundations of win win
    • Character
      • intergrity (values we place on ourselves)
      • Maturity (balance between courange and consideration)
      • Abundance Mentality -Ther is plenty out there for everybody
    • Relationships
      • Trust is the emotional bank account
      • The relationship is key and not the win win outcome
    • Agreements
      • It is much more ennobling in the human spirit to let people judge themselves than to judge them.
    • Win-Win Management Training
      • Taining should be objective
    • Win-Win Performance Agreements
      • Focus should be on the results and not the methods.
      • The problem is often the system and not the people.
      • The system should be win-win. People would be rewarded for both the P and the PC
    • Processes
      • The essence of principled negotiation is to separate the person from the problem, to focus on interests and not on positions, to invent options for mutual gain, and to insist on objective criteria -- some external standard or principle that both parties can buy into.
      • Steps
        • See the problem from the other point of view
        • Identify the key issues and concerns
        • Determine what results would constitute a fully acceptable solution
        • Identify possible new options to achieve those results

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood TM

  • Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. This principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication.

Character and Communication

- reading, writing, listening and speacking are the 4 basic types of communication
- Unless you're influenced by my uniqueness, I'm not going to be influenced by your advice.

Empathic Listening

  • Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.
  • Listening with the intet to understand.
  • Satisfied needs do not motivate. It's only the unsatisfied need that motivates.
  • In order to have influence, you have to be influenced. Emotional listening makes you vulnerable

Diagnose before you Prescribe

  • The amateur salesman sells products; the professional sells solutions to needs and problems.
  • Understand the problem you are to solve before solving it.
  • Seek first to understand is a correct principle evident in all areas of life. It's a generic, common-denominator principle, but it has its greatest power in the area of interpersonal relations.

Four Autobiographical Responses

  • We tend to respond in 4 ways
    • we either agree or disagree;
    • we probe -- we ask questions from our own frame of reference;
    • we advise -- we give counsel based on our own experience;
    • we interpret -- we try to figure people out, to explain their motives, their behavior, based on our own motives and behavior.
  • Don't judge people when they open up to you.
  • People want to be understood and investing time to understand is a huge deposit tothe emotional bank account.

Understanding the Perception

  • A presentation should contain ethos (integrity) pathos(empathy) and logos (logic)

One on One

  • The time you invest to deeply understand the people you love brings tremendous dividends in open communication.
  • Base your next presentation on empathy.

Habit 6: Synergize

Principles of creative cooporation

  • The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
  • "We seek not to imitate the masters, rather we seek what they sought,"

Snergy and Communication

  • Attribute should be If a person of your intelligence and competence and commitment disagrees with me, then there must be something to your disagreement that I don't understand, and I need to understand it. You have a perspective, a frame of reference I need to look at.
  • One of the very practical results of being principle-centered is that it makes us whole.
  • Valuing the differences is the essence of synergy -- the mental, the emotional, the psychological differences between people. And the key to valuing those differences is to realize that all people see the world, not as it is, but as they are.
  • it logical that two people can disagree and that both can be right? It's not logical: it's psychological. And it's very real.

Force Field Analysis

  • There's almost always a Third Alternative, and if you work with a win-win philosophy and really seek to understand, you usually can find a solution that will be better for everyone concerned.

All Nature is Synergistic

  • Don't always look at solutions as your solution and the wrong one


Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

  • Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things.... I am tempted to think...there are no little things.
  • 4 Diumentions of nature
    • Physical,
      • Excercise
    • Spiritual
      • Nature
    • Mental
      • Keep feeding the mind with learning.
    • Social/Emotional
  • As long as you feel you are serving others, you do the job well. When you are concerned only with helping yourself, you do it less well
  • The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul.
  • Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.
  • "Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be."
  • To keep progressing, we must learn, commit, and do -- learn, commit, and do -- and learn, commit, and do again.

Inside-Out Again

  • "That which we persist in doing becomes easier - not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased." Emerson
  • "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience." -- Teilhard de Chardin