The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey )

Introduction


What is a highly effective person? A highly effective person is someone who has a good character. He is someone who has strong values. Have you experienced being in conflict with a relative or a workmate? Before trying to change others, you must start with yourself. Do you think you have qualities that you can improve? 
A highly effective person is also someone who has good relationship with other people. He maintains harmony with his family, relatives, friends, neighbors’ and workmates. This good relationship can last for a long time. 


By reading this book, you will learn how to be highly effective. Whatever your job is, you will learn from this book. If you are a parent, you can learn something to have a better relationship with your child. If you are a boss, you can learn a few tips on how to be a better leader. 
When you have a good character, people would want to be near you. That is what makes “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” an International Bestseller. This book focuses on improving character. Most books out there will tell you how to win friends or how to make people follow. But 7 Habits focuses on the individual first.


If you have a good personality, that will make you an effective person but only for a short time. People will soon realize that you have a motive behind your actions. But if you have a good character, that will last a lifetime. You can influence the people around you without noticing it.
Remember that you must start from inside out. You must start with yourself first. Are you ready to make the change? Are you ready to become a highly effective person today? 


 
Habit 1
Be Proactive


What does it mean to be proactive? The psychologist Victor Franklsaid that we cannot control what is happening around us. But we can control how we respond to them. 
To be proactive means not being affected by the opinions or behavior of other people. When people say hurtful things, it is often that there is nothing wrong with you. It just shows that there is something wrong with them. The negative things they say to you reflect their negative view of the world.
To be proactive also means not being affected by the bad situations. The weather or the traffic may be bad, but still a proactive person is not affected. He may experience poverty or hardships, but still he can be happy. A proactive person does not complain but instead, keeps on working. 


The opposite of being proactive is being reactive. People who are reactive are easily affected by their environment. If bad things happen to them, they become negative as well. 
There was one time when the author, Stephen Covey, was giving a lecture in Sacramento. Suddenly, as he was speaking, a woman stood up from the crowd. She got excited and began talking. When the woman noticed people staring at her, she sat back down. 
After his lecture, Stephen Covey approached the woman. He learned that the woman is actually a nurse. She is attending full-time for a difficult patient. Her patient always shouts at her. To the patient, everything she does is wrong. The patient never said thank you to her. 


As a result, the woman felt miserable. She is not happy with her job. The subject of Stephen Covey’s lecture then was Reactivity. Covey explained that if you are proactive, nothing can hurt you. No one can hurt you unless you let them to. 
The woman became excited because she realized that she can choose her response. She told Covey, “I had chosen to be miserable, I also realized that I could choose not to be miserable. At that moment I stood up…No longer am I going to be controlled by the treatment of some person”.

Habit 2
Begin with the End in Mind


What do you want most in life? To begin with the end in mind means that all your actions must be in line with your values, with your purpose. You must know your destination so that each step you take will be towards it. 
We are often caught up in many problems and concerns every day. The challenges of life make us forget what truly matters. For example, you need to provide for your children. But as you work hard and make a living, you forget to spend time with them. You forget that more than the material things, they need your love and support.  


If you truly value your children, show it to them each day. The way you speak and act towards them must reflect your love. The same goes with your parents and other people who mean so much to you. 
Begin with the end in mind means knowing what is really valuable to you. It can be your loved ones. It can also be the principles that you believe in. If you are busy doing something that is not according to your principles, then you are being ineffective as a person.
Imagine that you are building a house. Before getting the tools, what you must do first is to plan everything. If you have kids, every space in the house must be child-friendly. If you love to cook, you might want to upgrade the kitchen. Your blueprint must be clear before you make any move. 


If your house is not planned well, it will not be constructed properly. In the end, you will only spend more money doing repairs. Everything in life needs planning. That is how you begin with the end in mind. Think of what you will do first. Make sure that it fits with your values. 
Do you value honesty? Do you value respect? Begin your day by remembering them. Hold your values firmly. This is so that whatever challenge you face, all your actions will be according to those values. 


Habit 3
Put First Things First


Put First Things First is not only about time-management. It is about self-management. As humans, we are self-aware. That makes us superior to all living things. We have the ability to evaluate ourselves, to know what we are doing wrong so we can change it. 
When we have many things to do, the best move is to set priorities. Some people have planners to help them remember. Others have to-do-lists and boards to remind them. But still, there are times when we are not able to accomplish our priority task. 
When you fail to meet your priorities, the problem is not lack of self-discipline. The true reason is that you did not put that priority in your heart and mind. What makes it your top priority? Why is it important to you? Think about it. This will motivate you more.


“The challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.” Put first things first means following your priorities. It also means learning to say “no”. If you have many things to do, learn to say “no” to tasks that are not part of your priority. 
For example, Sandra was asked to be a chairman of a community project. She is already committed to more important tasks. However, she felt pressured to say “yes”. 
Sandra called her neighbour Connie to ask if she also wants to join the project. Connie listened as Sandra talked. But Connie said, “Sandra, that sounds like a wonderful project…For a number of reasons, I won’t be participating myself, but I want you to know how much I appreciate your invitation.”


Afterwards, Sandra thought that she should have done what Connie did. She should have politely said “no” when she was asked to be the chairman. The project is good for the community. But Connie knows her top priorities. She has more important tasks to do. And so, she had the courage to politely say “no”.
If you plant that priority in your mind and heart, it is easier for you to say “no” to other things. It will also be easier for you to accomplish. More than self-discipline, you must have that will power to put first things first. 

Habit 4
Think Win-Win


Win-win is a solution that benefits you and also the person you are interacting with. In any issue you have with your family or workmate, you must settle for a solution that is good for everyone. Win-win is the best solution. If somebody wins and the other loses, that will not foster a good and lasting relationship.
Imagine that you have a disagreement with your colleague. What you must do is to talk about the problem. Find a solution that is good for both of you. Do not let your colleague win over you. Do not make your colleague lose either. It must be balanced. Both of you must win.
In this way, you and your colleague will have cooperation. You can work as a team. That is more effective than competing with each other. 


Now, imagine that you are the boss. If you have a disagreement with one of your employees, it is logical that your employee would just let you win. Of course, he wants to keep his job. As the boss, you will win the argument. But, in the long run, you will lose. That is because your employee will not be motivated. He will not be productive. 
It would be better to compromise. Even if you are the boss, it will be better not to use your position. You can get more out of your employees if they are happy. If you settle for a win-win situation, your employees will be more effective. It will be good for your company. Plus, you do not need to hire and train once again. 
Win-win does not only apply in the workplace. It is applicable to all kinds of relationship. Whether you have a disagreement with your partner, your children, your friend or your neighbor, it is better to think win-win. You will find that there will be more love and trust in your relationships. 


 
Habit 5
Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood


When was the last time someone shared to you their problems? Did you listen carefully? Did you understand what they feel before giving advice? Seek First to Understand, then to Be Understood is about good communication. 
We communicate through writing, reading, speaking and listening. As children, we spend years on learning how to write, read and speak. But there is no equal training for good listening. 
The best way to communicate with others is to first listen to what they are saying. Good listening is when you put yourself in that person’s situation. You see the problem the way that person does. 
You do not listen so that you have something to reply to that person. You listen so that you will understand how that person feels. You listen so that you can give good advice and truly help that person.


Once, there was a man who went to an optometrist. He was having troubles with his vision. The man told the optometrist that he cannot see clearly. What the optometrist did was to give the man his own glasses. 
The optometrist said, “Put these on. I’ve worn this pair of glasses for 10 years now and they’ve really helped me. I have an extra pair at home; you can wear these.” The man wore the glasses. But they only made his vision worse. 
“They work great for me. Try harder”, the optometrist told him. So the man tried. But still, the optometrist’s glasses don’t work for him. The man still cannot see things clearly.
The optometrist told him to just think positively. The man replied, “Okay, I positively can’t see a thing.” It made the optometrist upset. After all, he is just trying to help the man. The optometrist thought that the man is being ungrateful. 


Sometimes, we are like the optometrist. We just say “I’ve been there” or “Take my advice”. But we do not try to understand how the person really feels. The result is that the person would not trust us anymore. He or she would not come to us to share their problems. 
If you truly want to help a person, you must seek to understand them first. By doing so, you will gain their trust. They will find that you have no motives behind your action. They would also begin to understand you. 

Stephen Covey
Habit 6
Synergize


Synergy means “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. If one person helps another, they will accomplish many things. If the members of a team cooperate with each other, they will deliver amazing results. 
When there is a calamity, like fire, typhoon or earthquake, people synergize. They break down their walls to help those in need. The calamity makes them forget their differences. People cooperate at once to survive. 
Synergy also means cooperation or collaboration. It also means working together or combined effort. Any group would benefit so much if there is synergy. The problem is synergy does not happen every day. 
People find it hard to set aside their differences. Each one of us has a different point of view, a different way of thinking. We do not see the world as it is. We see the world based on our own interpretation.


We must recognize that our view of the world is limited. We need the knowledge and experience of other people. It is like an optical illusion. I may see a young lady but you may see an old woman. 
We interpret the image differently but both of us are right. There is no use for us to argue. To synergize, we must understand each other’s point of view. In this way, we will see the bigger picture. 
Synergy is about cooperation. It is about appreciating our differences. Do not insist that you are right and the other person is wrong. Try to see things in that person’s perspective. It will increase your knowledge. 
That is a better alternative than arguing. When you appreciate the views of other people, you can work with them. You can cooperate with them. And together, you can create so much more. 

Habit 7
Sharpen the Saw


To sharpen the saw means to sharpen your biggest asset. And that is your own self. You must renew yourself regularly. You must do it in all the aspects of your life, meaning physically, spiritually, mentally, socially and emotionally. 
You can renew yourself physically by doing regular exercise. You do not have to go to the gym or buy expensive equipment. You can do simple exercises at home. You can also run, jog or rapid walk every morning. If you do not have any form of exercise, you can start slow. Day by day, you will feel your body improve.
The spirit needs to be renewed as well. There are times when we feel burned-out. We feel tired from the challenges of every day. What we must do is to get inspiration. You may find inspiration by praying, listening to music, reading a book or being with nature. It depends on you, on what makes your spirit feel renewed. It is also important to take a break, to give yourself some time for reflection. 


When we were young, our mind always gets its own exercise. But when we finish school, we rarely read a book anymore or learn something new. But learning must not stop at school. We can still choose to educate ourselves. Try to learn new things other than the normal tasks you do at work. Challenge yourself to finish at least read one book per month. 
Our social and emotional aspects are closely related to each other. This is because we derive our emotions from our social interactions. Every day, you have the opportunity to improve your relationships with other people. “Earn thy neighbor’s love.” You can live a long and happy life if you are kind to others. 
Imagine that you are taking a walk in the woods. You passed by a man sawing down a small tree. You notice that the man is very exhausted. You ask him how long he has been doing it. The man answered, “Over five hours and I’m beat! This is hard work.”


You suggest to the man that maybe he can take a few minutes break. Maybe he should try to sharpen the saw. “I’m sure it would go a lot faster”, you added.  But the man declined. He told you that he is very busy sawing. He does not have time. 
In order to cut effectively, you must sharpen the saw. Likewise, in order to become a more effective person, you must take time to renew yourself. You already possess the tools you need in life. They are your body, spirit, mind and soul. Like a saw, you must remember to sharpen them. 


 
Conclusion


You learned the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Habit 1 is Be Proactive. Habit 2 is Begin with the End in Mind. Habit 3 is Put First Things First. Habit 4 is Think Win-Win. Habit 5 is Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. Habit 6 is Synergize. Lastly, Habit 7 is Sharpen the Saw.
Habits 1, 2 and 3 will help you improve your character. Habits 4, 5 and 6 will help you improve your relationships with other people. Lastly, Habit 7 will help you keep these good qualities for life.
Now, you must try to apply what you have learned every day. Whenever you are in a bad situation, choose to be proactive. Whenever you are in a conflict with anyone, choose the win-win solution. 
If you do something repeatedly, it is only then that it will become a habit. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

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