This is a comprehensive summary of the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski.
Worksheet: Download the interactive sheet for taking notes.
The Book In Three Or More Sentences:
Stephen R. Covey lays down 7 habits that are practiced by the most influential people on the planet: Sharpen the saw; Don’t work yourself to death; Be proactive; Begin with an end in mind; Put first things first; Think win-win; Seek first to understand, then to be understood; Synergize. Along with the practical advice, he also adds real-life stories that additionally amplify the words inside.
The Core Idea:
Your habits determine your character and later define your life. Don’t blame outside factors when you fail in life. Also, don’t think that succeeding in one area of your life will mean that you’re destined for triumph. Both your misfortunes and achievements are based on your habits. Obviously having good routines will mean positive things for you and your family will happen while bad ones will withdraw any form of joy from your life.
5 Key Lessons from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
Lesson #1: You Can’t Skip Steps Onwards
Our life is full of stages that we mustn’t skip if we want to truly learn something. For example, you can’t start running before learning how to walk, first.
The previous is valid for everything. Each stage is important if we really want to build lasting habits in our lives. Unfortunately, some don’t really understand this simple process. They start projects without examining what are the required essentials. No wonder these people fail miserably short after they’ve started. Unfortunately, when they do fail, they never blame themselves, because they’ve also missed this step.
Let’s just say you get yourself involved in a race. A street race. You start the engine, shift the gears like Vin Diesel in the famous movie Fast and Furious and let’s also say, for the sake of the example, that you do win your first street race. That’s great. You’re probably a born racer. But on the inside, you probably just got lucky. If you don’t really know the dynamics of the car, what happens when you shift gears, why street racers use
The same applies to our relationships with each other. We can all imagine a beautiful girl attracted to a millionaire. Over time, we all know what happens: the beautiful girl escapes with the gardener. Why? Because, like we’ve all heard, money can’t buy happiness. Since the relationship with the rich guys was only superficial, without deeper feelings that can keep them closer, it all falls apart.
So, don’t skip steps when you’re building something, whatever it is: relationship with someone or a business. If you want to make it last and worth it, take the needed time to get to know all the details.
Lesson #2: Inside Out
As Albert Einstein said it a long time ago: “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.” The author talks a lot about the “inside out” concept in the book. In short – it’s a concept that makes you look inside yourself when tackling a problem or facing an obstacle.
Let say you want to lose weight. 20 kilos to be more precise. Obviously, your current lifestyle led you to a point where you want to lose weight, meaning, that if you continue to do the same things you will 1) not lose any weight 2) you will probably gain even more weight over time. So, something must change in order to reach the desired kilograms, right? A diet and a gym membership will surely help, but if you don’t change your mindset, your eating habits, the way you perceive your health, things will be the same over time.
In order a change, any change in particular, to be something lasting, it has to first start from the inside. To become aware of the problem. Only when you understand the importance of good health, only then, you will adopt the needed habits to lose weight.
Don’t think that getting a gym membership will give you the beach-perfect body. Except for going regularly to the drill house, you also need to want it. Like, really want it. To change other tiny aspects of your life: your eating, drinking, habits and even the way you rest. But most importantly, you need to want to become a healthier person. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time and money.
Lesson #3: P/PC Balance
To maintain the P/PC Balance, the balance between the golden egg (production) and the health and welfare of the goose (production capability) is often a difficult judgment call. But I suggest it is the very essence of effectiveness.” Stephen R. Covey
In short, what Covey wants to say with P/PC balance is this: you must pay equal attention to both the process that helps you earn money and the actual object that enables you to earn them. If by writing you’re making a living, then writing is your P (production) and your laptop is part of your PC (production capability). In the previous example, there are other things involved in the PC: your mood, your health, your inspiration. You can’t write a novel if your hands are tied or heavily injured.
Often we neglect one of the two – either the production or the production capability. We regularly work late nights which will supposedly increase our production but decreases our production capability over time – or the so-called work overburn. Also, when your prime focus is towards your work, you neglect other two important aspects of your life: your health and your relationships with others. The same two are part of your production capability. If you don’t mind what you eat because you’re constantly working, this will eventually influence your health and will threaten your capability of actually working.
The above applies to the material things we use in our every-day lives. We rarely take care of our shoes, our car, our apartment, for example, which are all in a way production capabilities. They help us move, work, rest, thus helps us make a production.
So ask yourself, what is your P and what are your PC’s?
Lesson #4: What Is Your Core?
Asking yourself, “what is at the center of your life” is crucial for becoming a fulfilled person. Sometimes, this is not an easy question. Nevertheless, it’s a question that will help you find your true meaning in life.
Often our core or our center is one, or a combination of the following: partner, family, money, work, material possessions, pleasures, friends, enemies, religion, yourself. As you can see, some of the things from above aren’t quite admirable to be your core principles in life. I’m mostly referring to money and material possessions. However, whether we like it or not, a lot of people find happiness only when they purchase stuff.
Ideally, you will want to clearly understand your core, what drives you, no matter what it is. Only by knowing what you currently value, you can change it, if needed, or embrace it even more.
God created 10 commandments for us to follow. Even though we should all be aware of these rules, and try to pursue them, it will be even better if we create our own principles in addition to the above 10. By basing our lives on principles, on the right principles, we will create a favorable environment for us and for all the people around us.
Lesson #5: Follow The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People To Be More Effective
Below I will describe in short the 7 habits mentioned in the book:
- Be proactive: A must-have ability for anyone who wants to progress in his life. You just can’t move forward if you don’t take responsibility for your actions, or inactions. Finding a better job, a spouse, losing weight, writing a book, are only a few of the things you won’t achieve if you don’t get up your ass and start doing. Remember, you’re responsible for your own life. Be proactive and live it the way you want.
- Begin with the end in mind: The easiest and the cruelest way to understand this model is by embracing this idea for a moment: Imagine that you will die after one year! How will people define you at your funeral? Good, bad, helpful, creator of… When you imagine the end goal it will be much easier for you to pinpoint the steps in order to get to that goal.
- Put first things first: This habit is about prioritizing. About starting to act upon what you’ve come up within the previous habit. It’s about self-management. Controlling your actions towards what you want to achieve. Put first things first, and remove the unnecessary things from your list to make room for what truly matters.
- Think win-win: As social beings, we’re eager to communicate. However, as humans addicted to consumerism, we’re more focused on winning more money than helping the fellow citizen. Adopt the win-win way of thinking. In short, this means that you’re looking for mutual benefits in your communications with other people, not only satisfying your own needs. This is something really powerful for building long-lasting relationships with people.
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood: Communication is the most important skill. We spend most of our conscious life communicating with other people, but we tend to condemn people before we even hear them what they have to say: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Before you speak, do your best to understand what the other person is trying to say. A fairly simple thing to do, but often neglected.
- Synergize: In short, synergy means that the whole is much better than the sum of the separate things/tasks (e.g. 1+1=3). Put into context, it will mean that we should work together with others in order to achieve better results. When you’re working with someone you both have much better chances of succeeding, than if you work separately on the same task.
- Sharpen the saw: This habit refers to the importance of regularly checking these four things: physical health, social health, spiritual health, mental health. Regularly sharpening the saw is the most important thing you can do in your life. To be effective in life, to live a good life, you should not neglect any of the above. If you’re ill, you won’t be effective, therefore you won’t be happy.
Making the above things part of your life will surely influence your life in a positive way.
Actionable Book Notes:
- What drives you? What makes you get up in the morning? What motivates you? What do you do on the weekends? Usually, the answer is your core. The thing you should strive to pursue and do more often.
- Personal mission: The easiest way to form your own personal mission is to start with the end in mind. If you’re still wandering in life and you don’t know what the hell you want to happen to you in the future, take this exercise very seriously. Think about what kind of person do you want to become? What do you want to accomplish in the long term? Next, break it down. Remember though, there should be a nice balance. Don’t neglect your family over your work.
- Do things that no one likes: Successful people are successful because they continue to do things that are hard and a lot of times feel like a burden. Nevertheless, they continue to execute them for an obvious reason. No one likes to exercise, every-single-day. But only by hitting the gym regularly you can proudly show off your body in front of a whole world – by sharing your photo on Instagram, for example.
- Change: Be a person of change. Don’t ever think that your knowledge in a certain area is constant. Things change all the time – especially nowadays. The moment you consider that you’ve mastered a specific topic and that you shouldn’t ever invest time to upgrade your skills is the moment you’re not the best in the field. Pass this growth mindset to your children. They’ll need it even more than us.
Commentary And My Personal Takeaway
This book explains 7 principles that make you more effective both as a person and as a professional. The author starts his book with a topic so powerful, yet so neglected by people: changing yourself from within. You simply can lose weight – or make any kind of progress in your life – if you don’t first change the way you think about food and regular exercises.
Quite often, books and other influential people offer quick fixes or shortcuts towards success, which are only a temporary solution. If you really want to change your life and point it in a positive direction, you first need to change the way you think. This is exactly what you will first master in the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Ultimately, the author’s main idea is to help you build positive habits in your life but that’s not all. He also wants to upgrade the way we think. To install a growth mindset in our brains so we can continue to advance.
Beware though. There is something I must warn you about. Don’t think that once you read the book you will magically become successful or more productive guy|/girl, no. You must commit, think, do. Thankfully, the book offers a lot of practical advice.
“To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.” Stephen R. Covey
“It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.” Stephen R. Covey
“If I really want to improve my situation, I can work on the one thing over which I have control – myself.” Stephen R. Covey
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