The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People

by Stephen R. Covey

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: February 23, 2024
 6 min read
The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People
The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People

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What Are The Big Ideas?

  1. We have the power to choose our responses to life's challenges, shaping our experiences and outcomes.
  2. Visualizing and focusing on our ultimate goals guides our actions and decisions towards achieving them.
  3. Prioritizing tasks and focusing on what's most important leads to true effectiveness and success.
  4. Understanding others before seeking to be understood fosters better communication and stronger relationships.
  5. Regularly renewing and improving ourselves in all aspects - physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual - is key to sustained effectiveness and personal growth.


The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first
  4. Think win/win
  5. Seek first to understand then be understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the saw

Be Proactive

  • “Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.”
  • “Proactive people can carry their own weather with them. Whether it rains or shines makes no difference to them."
  • “The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person."
  • “It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.”

Begin with the End in Mind

  • “Leadership is communicating others’ worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.”
  • “To focus on technique is like cramming your way through school.”
  • “The way we see the problem is the problem.”
  • “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”—Aristotle

Put First Things First

  • “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.”—Thomas Edison
  • “Private victories precede public victories.”
  • “True effectiveness is a function of two things: what is produced (the golden eggs) and the producing asset or capacity to produce (the goose).”
  • “Effectiveness lies in the balance—what Stephen calls the P/PC Balance.”

Think Win/Win

  • “Principles are the territory. Values are maps. When we value correct principles, we have the truth—a knowledge of things as they are.”
  • “Admission of ignorance is often the first step in our education.”
  • “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”—Albert Einstein
  • “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

  • “We have many maps in our heads and each can be divided into two main categories: maps of the way things are, or realities, and maps of the way things should be, or values.”
  • “We interpret everything we experience through these mental maps."
  • “Our paradigms, correct or incorrect, are the sources of our attitudes and behaviors, and ultimately our relationships with others.”
  • “We see the world, not as it is, but as we are—or, as we are conditioned to see it.”


  • “To try to change outward attitudes and behaviors do very little good in the long run if we fail to examine the basic paradigms from which those attitudes and behaviors flow.”
  • “Paradigms are inseparable from character. Being is seeing in the human dimension. And what we see is highly interrelated to what we are.”
  • “Paradigms are powerful because they create the lens through which we see the world."
  • “The power of a paradigm shift is the essential power of quantum change, whether that shift is an instantaneous or a slow and deliberate process.”

Sharpen the Saw

  • “On practices vs. principles: ‘Practices are situationally specific. Principles are deep, fundamental truths that have universal application.’”
  • “Stephen defines a habit as the intersection of knowledge, skill, and desire."
  • “To make something a habit in our lives, Stephen explains, we need to have all three.”
  • “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.”—Henry David Thoreau

The three central values in life

The Experiential, or That Which Happens to Us

  • This value is about the things that happen to us in life. It's important because our responses to these experiences shape who we are and our life's journey.
  • "What matters most is how we respond to what we experience in life."

The Creative, or That Which We Bring into Existence

  • This value focuses on what we create or achieve. It could be anything from making art to starting a business. It's about using our skills and creativity to add something new to the world.

The Attitudinal, or Our Response in Difficult Circumstances Such as Terminal Illness

  • This value is about how we respond when facing tough situations, like serious illness. It's about having a positive attitude and focusing on what we can control, even in hard times.
  • "Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying, causing their Circle of Influence to increase."

The problems we face fall in one of three areas

Direct Control: Problems Involving Our Own Behavior

  • Explanation: These are problems where we can directly change the outcome by changing what we do.
  • Example: If you're always late to meetings, you can decide to start leaving earlier to be on time.

Indirect Control: Problems Involving Other People's Behavior

  • Explanation: These problems involve how other people act, which you can't control directly, but you can influence.
  • Example: You can't make your coworker be more organized, but you can suggest tools or methods that might help them.

No Control: Problems We Can Do Nothing About, Such as Our Past or Situational Realities

  • Explanation: These are problems that are out of our hands, like things that already happened or situations we can't change.
  • Example: You can't change the weather if it's raining on your outdoor event, but you can have a backup plan.

The five ingredients of a good affirmation

It’s Personal

  • Explanation: A good affirmation is about you and uses "I" or "My" to make it directly relevant to your life.
  • Example: "I am capable of achieving my goals."

It’s Positive

  • Explanation: Affirmations should be uplifting and focus on positive outcomes or feelings.
  • Example: "I am surrounded by abundance and prosperity."

It’s Present Tense

  • Explanation: Affirmations are more effective when phrased as if they're already true, creating a sense of immediacy.
  • Example: "I have the strength to handle any challenge that comes my way."

It’s Visual

  • Explanation: Incorporating vivid imagery makes the affirmation more engaging and easier to connect with.
  • Example: "I see myself successfully leading projects and being recognized for my hard work."

It’s Emotional

  • Explanation: Good affirmations tap into your emotions, making you feel good and motivated.
  • Example: "I feel joyful and energetic as I pursue my passions."


  1. How do I choose my response to what happens to me?
  2. What end goal am I working towards in my life?
  3. How can I create situations where everyone wins?
  4. Am I truly listening to understand others before I seek to be understood?
  5. How can I combine different strengths and perspectives to achieve more?
  6. What can I do regularly to take care of my physical and mental well-being?
  7. How do my daily habits reflect my deepest values and goals?
  8. How do my reactions to events shape my life's journey?
  9. What behaviors of mine can I change to improve a situation?
  10. How can I positively influence others' behaviors?
  11. What are the things I can't change and how do I accept them?

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