Book Review: ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen R. Covey

In Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen insists that our lives are based on principles and values, and should be careful on how we formulate the principles that become the basis of our lives. Effectiveness and success start from the inside, not the other way round and that is why the first three principles are about personal or private success and the last three about public success or effectiveness.

Below is a brief summary of each habit stated in the book:

Habit 1: Be Proactive

We can either choose to be reactive or proactive and most of the time we find ourselves being the former. We should not have to let life’s circumstances determine our mood and worth; hardships happen but we have the power to choose how we feel and what we shall do about that. Being reactive puts us in a position of blaming people, God or circumstances, hence giving away our power and control. Stephen offers a 30 day challenge of being aware of what you say and how you react, a challenge to stay positive.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

This must be the most frightening habit because no one wants to think of their death. In this chapter, one is asked to write about their obituary and life mission. This habit challenges you to think of how you want live your life and the legacy you want to leave behind. Questions of how you will be remembered after you’re gone: will my family think I was too busy for them or a loving daughter and sister? Will my boss think I was too lazy or a creative hardworking woman?

It is also advised to write a personal mission statement and always evaluate yourself every now and then.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Have you ever seen someone being so busy and yet you see no result? Or have you ever had your close ones complain that you have no time for them because you are so busy meeting other people that you truly could not call your friends?

This may be summarised as: “Organise and execute around priorities.” When you start listing priority things, vs. important things vs. unimportant things; you will find order and focus in all you do and have productive results. Stephen also mentions the power to say no to things that are not beneficial to either yourself or the person requesting for the favour; no to things that may take the place of your priorities.

Habit 4: the Win – Win Situation

This habit begins with the public victory and might be very challenging. The win-win situation demands that both parties have an agreement and leave satisfied without one feeling compromised or cheated. Of course, there are situations where it cannot be applied like a football match but in most cases it should. Stephen states that in order to have a win-win situation, you need to have a character of integrity.

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

Well the title speaks for itself! Seeking first to understand involves listening. Not just hearing. In this habit, Stephen explains how important and fulfilling it is to listen with the intent of understanding and not with the intent of replying. Listening with empathy creates a favourable relationship and eases things even for you.

Habit 6: Synergise

Synergising through communication fulfills habit 2 – starting with the end in mind. This means that you communicate clearly stating what you want to obtain from the conversation and leaving no room for assumptions or manipulation. Stephen defines synergy as “simply the whole being greater than the sum of its parts” Working together means each leaving their comfort zone to fulfill what you have set out to.

Habit 7: Sharpening your Saw

This one sums up all the six habits and is very practical. Stephen states the four dimensions of our lives that need constant renewal and fulfillment. From physical, spiritual, intellectual to emotional/social dimension that need daily practices of improvement. A daily 10 minute workout, a daily quality time to pray and meditate, a daily ten page reading of a book, a five minute call to your friends or daily reminder of how much you love your spouse. These little invisible efforts are what make the big visible things of what we call the breakthrough.

This book that sheds a lot of light on creating habits and creating the life you want.

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