The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
(Compiled from an article by Stephen R. Covey)
The Two Sides of Success
Aesop’s Fable, “The Goose and the Golden Egg,” is
the story of a poor farmer who one day visits the nest of his goose
and finds at her side a glittering golden egg. Though he suspects a
trick, he decides to take it home where he learns to his delight that
the egg is actually pure gold. Every morning thereafter the farmer gathers
one golden egg from the nest of the goose, and soon becomes fabulously
wealthy. As he grows rich, however, he also grows greedy and impatient
with the output of the goose. In an attempt to get at once all the gold
in the goose, he kills and opens it, only to find nothing.
The moral of this old fable has a modern ring to it. Like the foolish
farmer, we often emphasize short-term results (golden eggs) at the expense
of long-term prosperity (the goose). Indeed, it seems that we are often
more concerned with doing things right (efficiency) than with doing
the right things (effectiveness). In his attempt to be efficient, the
farmer became grossly ineffective; he destroyed his capability for getting
the desired results.
In this presentation, I introduce seven habits of highly effective people
– habits used consistently by people who achieve desired results.
Albert E. Gray in his essay, “The Common Denominator of Success,”
says, “Successful people have the habit of doing the things
failures don’t like to do. They don’t like doing them either,
necessarily, but their disliking is subordinated to the strength of
Habits are patterns of behavior composed of three overlapping components:
knowledge, attitude, and skill. Since these are learned rather than
inherited, our habits constitute our second nature, not our first. We
are not our current habits; hence, we should avoid defining ourselves
in terms of our habits, characteristics, and reactive tendencies. Habits
of effectiveness can be learned, habits of ineffectiveness unlearned.
Successful people daily weave habits of effectiveness
into their lives. Often, they are internally motivated by a strong sense
of mission. By subordinating their dislike for certain tasks, they develop
the following seven habits and discipline their lives in accordance
with fundamental principles.
As illustrated, these habits are interrelated, interdependent, and sequential.
The first three are habits of character; they will help you achieve
the daily private victory and progress from a state of dependence to
independence. The next three are the outward expressions of character
and lead to interdependence, mutual benefit, and public victories. The
seventh habit renews “the goose” and sustains the growth
Habit 1: Be Proactive
The habit of being proactive, or the habit of personal vision, means
taking responsibility for our attitudes and actions. It’s most
instructive to break the word “responsibility” into two
parts: response/ability. Proactive people develop the ability to choose
their response, making them more a product of their values and decisions
than their moods and conditions.
The more we exercise our freedom to choose our response/ability, the
more proactive we become. The key is to be a light, not a judge; a model,
not a critic; a programmer, not a program; to feed opportunities, starve
problems; to keep promises, not make excuses; and to focus upon our
immediate circle of influence, not upon the larger circle of concern.
Habit 2: Begin with
the End in Mind
This is the habit of personal leadership, meaning to begin each day
with a clear understanding of your desired direction and destination.
Management is concerned more with efficiency and speed along that course.
Effective people realize that things are created mentally before they
are created physically. They write a mission or purpose statement and
use it as a frame of reference for making future decisions. They clarify
values and set priorities before selecting goals and going about the
Ineffective people allow old habits, other people, and environmental
conditions to dictate this first creation. They adopt values and goals
from their culture and climb the proverbial ladder of success, only
to find, upon reaching the top rung, that the ladder is leaning against
the wrong wall.
The second or physical creation follows from the first, just as a building
from a blueprint. If the design is good, the construction will go faster
and better. Quality, after all, can’t be inspected into a product;
it must be designed and built into it from the beginning.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
This is the habit of personal management, and it involves organizing
and managing time and events around the personal priorities identified
in Habit Two.
Studies show that about 80 percent of the desired results flow from
a few (20%) “high leverage” activities. To “leverage”
our time, we should devote less attention to activities that are urgent
but unimportant, more time to those things that are important but not
I Urgent & Important
· Pressing problems
· Deadline-driven projects, meetings, preparations
II Important but not urgent
· Values clarification
· Relationship building
· True re-creation
III Urgent and not important
· Interruptions, some phone calls
· Some mail, some reports, some meetings
· Many proximate, pressing matters
· Many popular activities
|IV Not urgent, not important
· Trivia, busywork
· Junk mail
· Some phone calls
· Escape activities
Urgent things act on us and we usually react to them.
But we must be proactive to do the important but not urgent things.
Only by saying “no” to the unimportant can we say “yes”
to the important (Quadrant II).
If you neglect Quadrant II prevention and opportunities, Quadrant I
crises will disrupt your life. And if you plan daily instead of weekly,
you will live in Quadrant I, and your “planning” will only
prioritize your problems.
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Win-win is the habit of interpersonal leadership. In families and businesses,
effectiveness is largely achieved through the cooperative efforts of
two or more people. Marriages and other partnerships are interdependent
realities, and yet people often approach these relationships with an
independent mentality, which is like trying to play golf with a tennis
racket – the tool isn’t suited to the sport.
Win-win is the attitude of seeking mutual benefit. Win-win thinking
begins with a commitment to explore all options until a mutually satisfactory
solution is reached, or to make no deal at all. It begins with an abundance
mentality, a belief that by synergistically increasing the “pie,”
there are pieces enough for everybody. People with a scarcity mentality
believe that there is only enough for the best; they seek win-lose solutions.
And people who are kind but lack courage usually end up with the lose-win
leftovers. Effective people model the win-win principle in their relationships
The win-win performance agreement clarifies expectations by making the
following five elements very explicit: desired results, guidelines,
resources, accountability, and consequences.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then
to be Understood
The fifth habit is the habit of communication-one of the master skills
in life, the key to building win-win relationships, the essence of professionalism.
Doctors diagnose before they prescribe; top sales people pre-assess
needs and sell solutions to problems, not products.
We see the world as we are, not as it is. Our perceptions come out of
our experiences. Most credibility problems begin with perception differences.
To resolve these differences and to restore credibility, one must exercise
empathy, seeking first to understand the point of view of the other
person. Empathic listening is deeply therapeutic because it gives people
“psychological air.” Once people are understood, they lower
Hammering emotionally rooted problems by probing is often counterproductive.
Evaluation, sympathy, and advising are also ineffective as a means of
gaining understanding and influence – but they may have value
once the other person feels understood.
Habit 6: Synergize
This is the habit of creative cooperation or teamwork. For those who
have a win-win abundance mentality and exercise empathy, differences
in any relationship can produce synergy, where the whole is greater
than the sum of its parts. Synergy results from valuing differences
by bringing different perspectives together in the spirit of mutual
respect. People then feel free to seek the best possible alternative,
often the “third alternative,” one that is substantially
different and better than either of the original proposals.
Synergy is the human resource approach to problem solving as opposed
to a “please or appease” human relations’ approach.
Insecure people tend to make others over in their own image, and surround
themselves with people who think similarly. They mistake uniformity
for unity, sameness for oneness. Real oneness means complementariness.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
This is the habit of self-renewal. As the farmer in the fable learned
from sad experience, success has two sides: the goose, which represents
production capability, and the golden egg, the production of desired
It is wise to keep both sides in balance. Yet when people get busy producing
or “sawing,” they rarely take time to sharpen the saw because
maintenance seldom pays dramatic immediate dividends. The habit of sharpening
the saw regularly means having a balanced, systematic program for self-renewal
in the four areas of our lives: physical, mental, emotional-social,
Without this discipline, the body becomes weak, the
mind mechanical, the emotions raw, the spirit insensitive and the person
selfish. It’s the law of the harvest; we reap as we sow. We will
enjoy a successful harvest if we cultivate these seven habits of effectiveness
and live in accordance with the underlying principles. <><