The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
The book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey provides detailed analysis how to succeed in personal life and career. The author’s approach to life and work is holistic aimed at offering fresh solutions to perplexed working environment. In his book Covey covers important themes of transforming the power of principles in unchanging natural laws; adapting to changing environment and succeeding in it; adapting to principles and guidelines, etc. Special attention is paid to effective management leadership and employee empowerment.
In other words, the book is guidance how to become successful in life. The book is intended not only for managers, but also for social and thinking individuals. Every person who is interested in career success will find the book interesting and extraordinary. The author offers a life-transforming perception making us fully re-shape and re-think fundamental principles, attitudes and assumptions. In the beginning Stephen Covey claims that people have different perceptions of the world and it is natural because people view the world through their unique lens. So, it is hardly possible to separate observation from observer.
Covey suggests that all people have town paradigm – a map of how they perceive and view the world. Different people view ideal world differently. Further, Covey assumes that many people want to be effective and successful in their lives and in order to achieve the desired outcomes they should re-examine their paradigms. They should re-think the way they are looking at things. Covey promotes inside-out approach and says: “If you want to have a happy marriage, be the kind of person who generates positive energy and sidesteps negative energy rather than empowering it.
If you want to have more freedom, more latitude in your job, be a more responsible, a more helpful, a more contributing employee”. (p. 25) After the author discusses the importance of principles and characters in our life, he proceeds to the key theme of his book – the seven habits which should be incorporated in work. The first three habits are defined as the habits of independence meaning that these habits are necessary for achieving private victory and for becoming more independent and, thus, effective.
The last four habits are defined as habits of interdependence meaning that a person should learn how to work effectively with people rather then being totally independent or dependent from them. Habit 1: Be Proactive. Covey distinguishes between proactive and reactive people. He says that proactive people tend to focus their efforts and skills on the things they are acquainted or willing to be acquainted with, whereas reactive people tend to blame and accuse others behaving like victims. Reactive people always complain about external factors and other people’s weaknesses, whereas proactive people feel responsible for all living beings.
The author defines responsibility as ability to choose a response. Therefore, to be proactive means to recognize responsibility for things to happen. People, whose actions control feelings, need to empower their feelings. Covey writes when proactive people make any mistake, they are ready to admit, to recognize and to learn from it. Moreover, they try to correct it if possible. People should consider their resourcefulness and initiative while working towards personal goals and desires. For example, the author stresses the role of circle of concern and influence in the life of every person.
Covey concludes that the more effective a person becomes the more his circle of influence and concern expand. Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind. The author illustrates how this habit works on the example of considering one’s death. For example, he asks what people will say at your funeral and how will you be remembered in future. Covey is very persuasive as he refers to logical arguments and assumptions to defend his position. His ideas and thoughts are fresh and original. For example, he assumes that many people are climbing the ladder of success simply because they are willing to find that this ladder leans against the wrong wall.
Covey states that “we may be very busy, we may be very efficient, but we will also be truly effective only when we begin with the end in mind”. (p. 47) This habit suggests that it is necessary to think of the outcome and only then about the process. Stephen points that visualization helps people to succeed. He mentions that many sports performers are visualizers. Visualization can be applied to any area of life: “Before a performance, a sales presentation, a difficult confrontation, or the daily challenge of meeting a goal, see it clearly, vividly, relentlessly, over and over again.
Create an internal comfort zone”. (p. 48) It means that when you get into unfamiliar situation, it doesn’t seem foreign any more and doesn’t care you. Habit 3: Put First Things First. Covey writes that to put first things first means to understand that there are many significant things which can positively impact you life. Significant things shouldn’t be delayed because the same situation would be with your success. If you don’t do significant things simply because they aren’t urgent, your success may be delayed as well.
The author recommends balancing production with production capability. People should keep engine working and maintain the engine. Actually, this chapter teaches how to manage time effectively and to improve productive capability. Time management is very important as it helps to save time and to make everything in time. People should spend time only on doing important things. For Covey, time management means to organize and execute important things. I think that the author is correct and the chapter provides valuable information about time management.
Habit 4: Think Win/Win. Covey wants to show that it is necessary to seek for mutual benefit in interactions and cooperation. Nowadays many people think win/lose and they believe if they win, others will definitely loose. People should learn how to build meaningful relationships instead of focusing on power and credentials. People who think win/loose are driving people away and they are less likely to become effective. Instead, effective leaders learn to balance strengths and weaknesses of others to achieve win/win deal. Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.
This habit suggests that people should firstly learn to listen and only then to speak. Only few people are trained in listening to others. People fail to be understood as they don’t listen to other and wait to talk. Therefore, people can’t reach win/win deal as they don’t even listen to other parties. Covey recommends not reading personal autobiography into those of the other people. Listening should be attentive and careful rather than selective and scrappy. To be effective doesn’t suggest pretending to listen to others.
Habit 6: Synergize. Covey assumes: “What is synergy? Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” (p. 124) The author defines the role of synergy in business environment stressing that to be effective manager means to recognize that people have different perceptions and views of the world. In such a way, to be effective means to use differences as the source of insight. The author claims that “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”. (p. 125) Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw. In this chapter Covey stresses that we should take care of ourselves. The author distinguishes physical renewal as stress management; mental renewal as the need for reading and planning; social or emotional renewal as the need to communicate and interact, and the need to build own sense of ell-being; finally, spiritual renewal as mediation and religion.
Summing up, the book provides valuable recommendations how to improve personal life and to succeed in career. Some assumptions and recommendations are obvious, but the book is easily readable and understandable. It is known that happiness always hinges upon the obvious things. I think that Stephen Covey has managed to make people more aware of how to deal with life. Moreover, the book does not simply demonstrate lessons of personal success, but Covey provides practical examples how to improve our lives.