The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly effective people: Book Summary

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey turned out to be a life-enhancing book for me. There are many self-help books out there that teach us “you can have it all” and you can get there by just manifesting that stuff into your life. Personally, I think that’s nonsense, and the 7 Habits explains why.

The 7 Habits teaches us that success comes from what we practise every day. If you want to be successful, focus on your habits rather than motivation. It’s the hard work that requires focus and self-discipline. You can’t simply evoke a nice house into your life by thinking about it in your mind’s eye, you got to get your hands dirty and do the stuff that most people don’t want to do.

Most people don’t like habits because most people lack self-discipline. That’s why we’re bombarded by Buzzfeed-ready titles like “Learn Japanese in 60 minutes a day” or “The Secret”. These are the silver bullets. Like diets, people try them and fail but there memory is short enough that they simply bounce to the next trend.

Being effective however, requires constant work. Like meditation, you got to keep bring yourself back. Covey describes this as flying the plane. An airplane spends 95% of its time off course. Like our daily lives, planes are buffeted around by the winds of circumstance. But, by constant re-focus, the pilot keeps bringing back on course, landing it at the destination.

If you want to get more out of the themes, ideas and lessons from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I recommend taking my premium 7 Habits course here.

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Stephen Covey Quote

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Infographic: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

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Life is Easier when You are Hard on Yourself

Motivation and persistence aren’t the keys to success.

Sure, you need them but you can’t rely on them. It’s what you consistently do every day that defines your success. You need a lot of self-discipline. As author Brian Tracy says, “Good habits are hard to form but easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to form but hard to live with”. Lifestyle Entrepreneurs aren’t lazy, they need to have more self-discipline than the average person. What appears to be a life of leisure on the outside is in fact the product of a lot of hard work behind the scenes.

Stephen Covey Quote

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10 Powerful Stephen Covey Quotes

  • “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”
  • “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
  • “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”
  • “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
  • “It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.”
  • “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside. The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good’.”
  • “If I really want to improve my situation, I can work on the one thing over which I have control – myself.”
  • “The way we see the problem is the problem.”
  • “Be a light, not a judge. Be a model, not a critic”
  • “Live out of your imagination, not your history.”
  • “Admission of ignorance is often the first step in our education.”

Stephen Covey Quote

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Habit 1: Be Proactive

There is a space between what happens in the world and how we choose to act on that event. If we “react” we become a victim of events, we lose control. If we choose to be “proactive” however, we take control back.

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind

Stephen Covey likens this to the golf swing. Golf swings are hard to perfect. It takes a lot of work and repetition to get things right. One habit that pros practise is the habit of visualization. They “see” the final follow-through form of the swing. What does the body look like when you’re holding the end of the swing? With that in mind, it’s a lot easier for the brain to follow through on the steps.

Sports psychologists have long documented the power of visualization in achievement. Athletes would “see” their success, right down to the medal ceremony. The seeing has more to do with calming the brain and letting it know where you’re going rather than any kind of “manifestation” mumbo-jumbo.

It works in all areas of life. Gandhi famously practised visualization when making speeches. He would “see” the crowds clapping and cheering before it actually happened.

Habit 3: Put first things first

Most people major at minor things. Stephen Covey’s quadrant is a powerful tool for us to assign our time effectively during any given day.

In a world of social media, memos and other distractions, it’s easy to get lost on the minor things. One minute you were checking emails the next you’re on Facebook looking at pictures of cats.

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pic: Stephen Covey’s time quadrant (link to my 7 Habits Productivity Bonus Course)

Being highly effective means making time for planning, making time for the stuff that’s both important and not-urgent. The not-urgent part is critical here. You’re not reacting to other people’s agendas but working on your own.

Habit 4: Think win-win

You can’t do it all alone. Some people want to. Some people end up that way.

Win-lose people have a scarcity mindset. Their success can only come by taking from others. Your success takes from them. They may be outwardly supportive of your efforts, but on the inside they are secretly eating their heart out.

Surround yourself with win-win people who don’t criticize your efforts or try to bring you down. These are the people that will propel you to success.

Stephen Covey Quote

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Habit 5: Seek first to understand then to be understood

Empathy is key to success. Empathy is the driving force behind the success of brands like Apple and Starbucks.

Empathy means if you want to get your story out there, you must first understand the stories of others. It’s basic startup science. If you want to create a product that people will love, first listen to those people and find out what their pains, frustrations, hopes and dreams are.

Habit 6: Synergize

Find out your strengths and weaknesses. Work with people who complement your skills and cover your blind spots.

If you are a developer, maybe you should team up with a sales-type person who can get your product out there, hustle.

If you are a good figurehead and enjoy beind in the public spotlight, maybe you should team up with a developer who can put some substance behind the media attention.

Co-operate creatively. Your time in partnerships should never be a horse trading of hours but an attempt to create a multiplication of your skills.

Stephen Covey Quote

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Habit 7: Sharpen the saw

The most important habit is that of self-renewal. Covey refers to the Japanese concept of “Kaizen” which means constant evolution. It’s how Japanese auto manufacturers came to dominate the world with their lean manufacturing philosophies (which later spawned the lean startup movement).

Learning is key to success. If you’re not constantly learning you’re falling behind. That means reading books – like the 5 books that will help you become a successful Lifestyle Entrepreneur.

So, on that note, here are 2 quotes on learning that I have personally learned from reading the works of others:

Peter Drucker, management guru, once wrote that, “the only skill you’ll need in the 21st century is the ability to learn new skills.”

And finally Mark Twain, who said, “if you don’t read, you have no advantage over the man that can’t read.”

How to Be Less Stressed, More Focused and Get More Done

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Based on advice from the bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

"Happily, this book has advised and encouraged us for 25 years. Now, I encourage us to be loyal and supportive for another 25 years."
- Maya Angelou