“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” presents paradigm-shifting techniques to internalize these habits. Paradigm is the way an individual perceives something, and Covey says that before making changes it is necessary to focus on individual attitudes and behaviors.
The book’s focus is on achieving personal and interpersonal effectiveness. The author is of the opinion that private victories precede public victories and that it is necessary to keep the promises we make to ourselves before making promises to others. The first three habits refer to one’s own person. Habits 4, 5 and 6 relate to teamwork, cooperation and communication.
These habits refer to the transformation of a person from dependence, to independence and then interdependence. The seventh principle refers to the continuous development and becoming of the individual.
You are what you habitually do, so adopt productive habits. You have the ability to improve your habits and life.
People with highly effective habits:
- They take the initiative. “Be proactive.”
- They focus on goals. “Begin with the end in mind.”
- They set priorities. “Organize and execute priorities in order.”
- They only win when others win. “Think in terms of win – win “
- They communicate. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
- They cooperate. “Find the synergy!”.
- They reflect and correct their mistakes. “Sharpen the saw.”
Focus on character development, not personality.
Much of the business success literature in recent decades has focused on developing a good personality. This emphasis is not misplaced. Developing a healthy character is more important and productive. Your personality can emerge naturally when your character is rooted and formed by positive principles. Forcing yourself to display a personality that is incompatible with your character is like wearing a mask. It is deceptive, manipulative and ultimately destructive.
“In fact, until we consider how we see ourselves (and how we see others), we will not be able to understand how others see and feel about themselves and their world.”
To develop a healthy character, you need a healthy paradigm, a solid new way of seeing things. Before the germ theory established a new paradigm, for example, surgeons did not wash their hands. When patients died from infections, no one understood why. Sterile operating blocks emerged as a result of a new paradigm, a new way of looking at how disease works.
Choose solid principles – integrity, dignity, quality, service, patience, perseverance, care, excellence, courage – and try to live by them by adopting seven habits.
Today, many people have a deterministic paradigm. They believe that their genetic makeup determines how they will act, or that their parents’ failures have permanently weakened their own chances, or that their environment or experience has restricted their freedom to change. In fact, determinism is a paradigm.
To forge strong character, abandon determinism and embrace a paradigm of freedom. This new paradigm allows you to see that you can change, that your character is a habit, and that a habit is what you consistently do. If you act consistently in a new way, you will form and have a new, improved character.
“In choosing our response to circumstances, we powerfully affect our circumstance.”
Certain core principles and values make people more effective. These are fairness, equity, integrity, honesty, human dignity and worth, excellence, the spirit of service, patience, perseverance, care, concern, courage, encouragement and a can-do attitude that recognizes limitless potential. The person whose character grows out of these classic principles is a leader who, having mastered the self, can inspire and help others. Character is a habit. Excellence is a habit, not a skill. As Aristotle said, we are what we habitually do. To develop the habit of acting according to these principles you must:
- Know – Understand what you want to do and why you want to do it.
- Skill Development – Become able to do it.
- Desire – You must desire and want to do it yourself.
The most important work is the inner work. When you master your inner self, you will master what is outside of you. Many people mistakenly focus on production, on making a measurable visible difference in the outside world. They neglect productive capacity, the source of energy that makes production possible.
These people are in the situation of the person who runs a few hours a day and brags about the extra years he will live, but does not notice that he spends all the time gained running. He may gain extra years, but he won’t be able to do anything more with them, and the time he spends running could be better spent developing deeper relationships with his spouse, family and friends.
Habit 1: Be proactive. You are free because you can choose how to respond to circumstances.
Highly effective people take the initiative. They are proactive. They do not impose limits on themselves that prevent them from acting. They recognize that they have the freedom to determine the type of character they will have because they can decide how they will act. They may not be able to control their circumstances, but they can decide whether they will use those circumstances or be abused by them. They live according to the “principles of personal vision”.
“The most effective way I know to begin working toward a goal is to develop a personal mission statement, philosophy, or creed.”
Viktor Frankl was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. His entire family, except for one sister, was killed in the camps. Horrible as his circumstances were, Frankl recognized that he was free because he could decide how he would think and act in the midst of the horror. Even as a starving prisoner, he visualized himself teaching in a classroom, telling students about the horror and what he learned from it.
His mental discipline made him stronger than the camp guards. He inspired fellow prisoners and even some of the guards. Frankl was proactive. He took the initiative and took responsibility for his fate. He admitted that it was his fate to decide. He did not have the power to move away from the camp, but he had the power to hold it.
“By centering our lives on timeless, unchanging principles, we create a fundamental paradigm of effective living.”
You start being proactive by speaking the language of initiative and responsibility:
- “No, I can’t do anything” – but let’s think of some possibilities.
- “No, it’s just me” – but I can change the way I am.
- “No, it annoys me to death” – but I can choose how I let it affect me.
- “No, I can’t or must” – but you decide and you choose.
Proactive people operate in the realm of the possible. They see what they can do and they do it. By taking responsibility and taking action, they expand the realm of the possible. They get stronger as time goes on. They become able to do more and more. They start by committing to change something inside and can eventually change the world around them.
Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind. Write a personal mission statement to clarify your principles and set your goals.
Think carefully about your goals. Many people spend a lifetime pursuing a goal that turns out to be meaningless, unsatisfying, or destructive. You see them on the covers of the tabloids, rich, famous, busted for drugs, or watch their marriages fall apart. Power, money and fame were the goals they desired and achieved, but at what cost? Effectiveness is not just a matter of achieving a goal, but rather of achieving the right objective.
Imagine standing behind the camera at your funeral. Imagine what people could honestly say about you based on the way you are now. Do you like what you hear? Is this how you want to be remembered? If not, change things up. Take control of your life! Implement “personal leadership”.
“Principles are guidelines for human behavior that have proven to be of enduring and permanent value.”
Start by writing a personal mission statement that outlines your goals and describes the type of person you want to be. Think carefully about this mission statement. Examine yourself. To see yourself as you really are. Are you self-centered? Obsessed with work? Hungry for money? Decide what you need to change and what you want to become. Write the statement. Make a commitment. Honor this commitment.
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Habit 3: Organize and execute on priorities. Balance the attention you give to each of your roles.
You have the power to change who you are, but that means changing how you act. Never let the most important of priorities fall victim to the least important. Many people spend their time reacting to urgent circumstances and emergencies and never invest the necessary effort to develop the ability to prevent emergencies, to exercise “personal management”. They confuse “important” with “urgent”. The urgency is easy to see. The importance is harder to discern.
“An effective manager organizes and executes priorities.”
It emphasizes planning, avoiding pitfalls, developing relationships, cultivating opportunities, and getting adequate recreation. Don’t think about cramming too many activities into your schedule, but rather make sure you allocate the necessary time to the important things. Think about the different roles of partner, parent, manager or community volunteer. Give each role an appropriate allocation of time in your schedule. Don’t rob Ion to pay George ; make sure each role does its job.
Habit 4: Think win-win. Multiply your allies!
In marriage, business or other relationships, exercise “interpersonal leadership” to make both parties win. Two wins make everybody better; two losses puts everyone in a worse situation. A win/lose relationship creates a winner and leaves someone hurt. Highly efficient people strive for win/win transactions, which makes cooperation profitable for everyone. Any other kind of transaction is destructive because it produces losers and thus enemies and negative feelings such as enmity, defeat and hostility. People become highly effective by multiplying their allies, not their enemies. A good alliance is win-win .
Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Communication and trust are two-way streets.
To develop win/win relationships, find out what the other parties want and what winning means to them. Don’t assume you know. Listen. Always try to understand what others want and need before you start presenting your own goals. Don’t object, argue, or confront what you hear. Listen carefully and think. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the other parties.
“Think people efficiency and things efficiency.”
Good lawyers make a practice of writing the strongest possible case from the opponent’s point of view. Only when they understand the best possible arguments for the opposition do they begin to write the case from their client’s point of view. This tactic is equally valuable in personal relationships or business deals. Always understand what the other side needs and wants and why. Then, when you present your own goals, put them in terms that directly address the other party’s goals. It operates according to the “principles of empathic communication”.
Habit 6: “Find the synergy.” The whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts.
Cooperation multiplies one’s power. In fact, “creative cooperation” can produce a force greater than the sum of its parts, just as a spring can support more weight than two poles can support. The bow multiplies the strength of both pillars. The buzzword to describe this type of relationship is “synergy,” which means bringing together a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts.
“Real self-respect comes from self-mastery.”
Effective synergy depends on communication. Many people make synergy impossible by reacting from scripts. They do not listen, reflect and respond, but instead hear and react reflexively. Their reactions can be defensive, authoritarian or passive. They can oppose or go along – but they don’t actively cooperate. Cooperation and communication are the two legs of a synergistic relationship. Actively listen, reflect, respond and cooperate.
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Habit 7: Sharpen the saw. Take time to sharpen your tools: body, soul, mind and heart.
In an older story, a man is cutting a log. The work is slow and the man is exhausted. The more it sees, the less it cuts. A passer-by watches for a while and suggests that the man take a break to sharpen the saw. But the man says he can’t stop sharpening the saw because he’s too busy cutting! A dull saw makes work tedious, boring and unproductive. Highly effective people take the time to sharpen their tools, which are, in fact, their bodies, souls, minds, and hearts. It is time for “self-renewal”.
Effective people take care of their bodies with an exercise program that combines endurance, flexibility and strength. It’s easy to plan such a program and you don’t need to join a gym to implement it. Effective people nurture their souls with prayer and meditation if they are inclined to a religiously based spirituality, or perhaps by reading great literature or listening to great music. Never neglect this spiritual dimension; it provides energy for the rest of your life.
“Most people do not listen with the intention of understanding; listen with the intention of responding.”
The mental repair can mean changing habits, such as your TV viewing habit. Watching television encourages the passive absorption of mind-numbing values, attitudes, and moods. Read, build puzzles, do math exercises, or participate in a challenging activity to keep your mind alert, active, and engaged.
The heart is about emotions, which are very dependent on others. Work to develop your heart, emotional connections and engagement with other people. Communicate, listen and be a little picky. In everything you do, try to make others better and put them first. By doing so, you will transform yourself into a highly effective person.