The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
“The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey discusses seven ways of life that people must imbibe and practice in order to become efficient in all aspects of life. Covey defines being effective as being able to work on bringing about desired results or outcomes in order to achieve success and fulfillment. Success and fulfillment, according to Covey are not accomplished through tangible or overtly observable characteristics and means. Success and fulfillment are rather products of the inner being – the display of personal ethics and character ethics, morality, the practice of good virtues such as veracity, truthfulness, patience and perseverance, discipline and modesty, and such. He discovered the seven habits as he realized that most people who are highly successful exhibit them.
The seven habits as revealed by Covey are guided by a set of principles that govern efficiency as a person to achieve success and fulfillment. These principles create a fusion between what is real and what is ideal, such that the seven habits are shaped to become useful and fruitful under the context of the realities of the world and the ideal perception of man as a product of morality and goodness.
Aside from the real-ideal aspect of the seven habits, Covey determines that people should undergo stages embedded within the habits that will lead them to become primarily independent, free from needing and reliance, and finally to become mutually supporting of other people. The former looks into the development of inner strength and self-assurance as it builds on man as an individual and independent human being, while the latter looks at the need of man to not only coexist with other people but to build a life that is considerate and compassionate of the needs and concerns of other people. Overall, Covey stresses on the idea that highly successful and effective people should work on improving themselves not only on their outer self but most importantly on their inner being as well. The principle of the seven habits was framed to focus on the character and the inner being of man as a means to achieve success and fulfillment.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
The seven habits of highly effective people, according to Covey, are as follows: being pro-active, the ability to look into the results or outcomes of plans and actions by creating a personal mission or goal, the faculty to prioritize and put first things first, thinking about the success and fulfillment not only of oneself but also of other people, understanding other people before demanding understanding from other people, building strong and lasting relationships with other people and cooperating with them to achieve success and fulfillment, and striving to become a better individual in the process.
Be Pro-active. The first habit distinguishes man as a unique living thing on earth. Human beings are gifted not only with instincts but also knowledge and rationality that allows man to respond to his environment. The gift of knowledge and rationality comes with a price – that is man should be able to take on the responsibility of propelling his life to utter goodness and morality. It is part of his nature as a thinking human being to make rational decisions based on established principles of right from wrong and not only simply respond to his external environment.
I believe what Covey meant in being pro-active is acting up on the natural faculties of man to acquire knowledge and think rationally. Due to this magnificent gift, he should be able to do something productive and desirable that pleasingly changes things and situations – and that is, because he can; that is, because man is capable of doing so. Proactive people are those who look at life in developmental stages or processes. They look at problems as sources of solutions, and they look at difficulties as opportunities to succeed. For proactive people, they do things because they should do something about these things, and they acknowledge the fact that they have the power to do these things.
Begin with the End in Mind. The second habit defines success as deep-rooted in what people perceive to be the end result of life. Seeing and understanding what a person wants himself to become in the future allows him to feel a sense of purpose and directs his life to the realization of his end mission and goals in life. If we think about the second habit, we might take ourselves back to our childhood when we were asked who or what we want to become when we grow up. If a person wants to become a doctor, he will exert much time and effort in studying – that is preparing himself for medical school even in the primary and secondary years of his education. When he reaches the tertiary level of education, he chooses to take up medicine and continues to accomplish school and professional requirements to finally achieve his dream. The second habit reveals that life starts with a dream or a vision of what should or would be in one’s future.
First Things First. The third habit considers the importance of life goals and the imperative accomplishment of these goals. To realize the third habit, people should learn to prioritize and manage their time wisely. They should list down their life goals according to importance and the need to accomplish them in due time. For Covey, in order to achieve success and fulfillment, people should put the most urgent and significant things first, before moving on to accomplish things that are less urgent although essential to achieve life goals.
The third habit is highly dependent on the accomplishment of the first and the second habits. As aforementioned, the seven habits of highly effective people follow steps or stages to accomplish success and fulfillment through effectiveness. What the first three habits express is that first, people should choose to do something good about their life and other people’s lives. Second, they should come up with an ultimate mission or goal in life where they incorporate everything they perceive to be important in their lives. Third, they should categorize their life goals according to short-term and long-term goals, and work on achieving them one by one in this order. Following these three habits allow people to break free from ambiguity and dependence and take control of their lives as self-determining and responsible human beings.
Think Win/Win. This habit requires optimism, positive thinking, and evenhandedness. It looks at the need to resolve problems or disputes in such a way that two parties or sides are benefited or gains an advantage.
Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. In dealing with other people, there is a need to set aside oneself entirely, in such a way that one focuses on the concerns or demands of other people before revealing concerns or demands from them. For Covey, disputes or conflicts are best solved if one person seeks to listen and understand in order to come up with a reasonable, and gain an evenhanded solution. Moreover, it fosters two-way communication between it establishes a mutual and understanding relationship between people.
Synergize. Establishing collaborative relationships is a good approach to solve problems and conflicts. It follows the notion that “two heads are better than one.” When people work together as teams, their ideas are fused together to come up with a creative solution that works for a diverse set of issues and concerns. Synergizing means that individuals contribute thoughts and ideas and synthesize them to come up with highly effective solution that answers questions and problems. It does not focus on individual success, but on the success of the team.
Sharpen the Saw. The last habit focuses on self-improvement. Developing or improving oneself is what sharpening the saw meant. An individual is compared to a saw which needs to be sharpened once in a while in order to stay efficient and instrumental in achieving its purpose. Covey not only discussed this habit as improving oneself as an entity, but concentrating on each aspect of the individual such as the physical body, the mental faculties, and the spiritual aspect of life. Self-improvement also means that one is able to grow and develop holistically, keeping all aspects of his life balanced and equally influential and mobile.
The book of seven habits that people must acquire in order to become effective was written through the eyes of an author who sees life in two views or positions – that is, the position of a human being as an independent individual and the position of a human being as part of a world where individuals coexist interdependently. The good thing about this is that it does not take success or fulfillment as a personal issue, but looks into the matter as a universal thing shared by all people despite their individuality. It also focuses on humanity and compassion as it upholds respect and understanding of other individuals in one’s way to fulfill his personal goals and ambitions in life.
The seven habits also support holistic development as it attempts to discuss the need to strengthen all aspects of life – physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, socially, and psychologically. Building all these faculties within the human being does not only benefit him, but holistic development is perceived to be a personal and independent action that provides great contributions to the lives of other people and society in the process. Covey’s book successfully uncovers seven guiding habits that individuals should strive to pursue not only to become successful in one’s life but also to contribute to the success and fulfillment of other people, as it is an inalienable responsibility that we must achieve as part of the natural design of the world. The seven habits in Covey’s book are perfect for individuals who are trying to seek guidance and direction within the chaotic and complex dimensions of our present world.
Covey, S. R. (1990). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. NY: Free Press.