Back to Basics – Covey and His 7 Habits

In the busy world of business, knowledge and a plan may be the two most important things to managers these days. One thing you hear so much from the most successful entrepreneurs is how much they read on a regular basis and their overall lifelong commitment to learning.

Today we are getting back to basics with a summary of the classic 1989 best seller by Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey (1932 – 2012) was a professor, businessman and professional speaker amongst many other things. His most famous book has sold over 25 million copies worldwide and is the basis for much of the trainings his organization taught and sold. 

Some key themes to understand in Covey’s 7 habits book are character, interdependence, discipline, planning and priorities. The overriding theme of character (called the ‘Character Ethic’) is the foundation of the 7 Habits. Your principles have to be universal and timeless, to not only succeed in life but also to achieve things bigger than yourself.

When one uses the 7 Habits, you move thru 3 stages: Dependence (like a child who relies on other people), then Independence (take care of ourselves) to finally - Habits 1 – 3, Interdependence (cooperate with others to achieve more than could be done alone) – Habits 4 - 6. Then ultimately is the act of Continuous Improvement (Habit 7) to reach the stage of overall success in your life professionally and personally.

Here is a quick review of each of the 7 Habits:

Habit 1 - Be Proactive: “Taking initiative does not mean being pushy, obnoxious, or aggressive. It does mean recognizing our responsibility to make things happen.” – take control of your life

Habit 2 - Begin With the End in Mind: “(This habit)…is based on imagination — the ability to envision, to see the potential, to create with our minds what we cannot at present see with our eyes…” – have a plan and follow it

Habit 3 - Put First Things First: “Create a clear, mutual understanding of what needs to be accomplished, focusing on what, not how; results not methods. Spend time. Be patient. Visualize the desired result.” – prioritize what needs to be done and work on the important tasks

Habit 4 - Think Win-Win: “Win-Win is a frame of mind that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-Win means that agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying.” – create lasting relationships helping others to succeed with you

Habit 5 - Seek First to Understand, Then be Understood: ‘Seek First to Understand’ involves a very deep shift in paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They’re either speaking or preparing to speak. They’re filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people’s lives.” – connect with others by being more in tune with their lives and needs

Habit 6 - Synergize (Synergise): “Synergy works; it’s a correct principle. It is the crowning achievement of all the previous habits. It is effectiveness in an interdependent reality – it is teamwork, team building, the development of unity and creativity with other human beings.” – only by working with others will you succeed far beyond what you hoped

Habit 7 - Sharpen the Saw: “This is the habit of renewal…It circles and embodies all the other habits. It is the habit of continuous improvement…that lifts you to new levels of understanding and living each of the habits.” – this includes continuous learning, but also taking the time to care for yourself and work on the most important relationships in your life


Now, personally I found the book a slow read the first time I tried to read it, but the information and ideas are timeless. Last year I went back to the book, but instead listened to book on CD. I bring this up to help busy business owners who want to learn on limited time. Books on CD during can be listened to on daily commutes is a great way to be productive with your time. There are also websites that for a small fee provide detailed summaries of business books. I have provided some quick reference material to get more info. Good luck with your new habits.


Further Material and Links:

Habit 3 - Put First Things First / Visual Matrix






Summary PDF Link –



Related Article – in Forbes 9/2012 by Eric Jackson, Contributor

The Only Thing You Need To Remember About The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People



Summary Video of 7 Habits on Youtube - The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People







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