Updated: Oct 14, 2021
Steven Covey’s ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People’
After nearly thirty years since publication, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is still very
much current and relevant to all professionals and their business habits. So why after all this time
and after numerous other self help books am I drawn to this particular book?
Steven Covey wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in 1989, this was a contemporary
style of writing, a new genre almost “the self help book” was birthed, I appreciate their have been
many since, all with their own particular spin or direction. Yet Steven Covey’s advice is timeless,
and not just lessons in business but everyday life, at the heart of this book we learn of our everyday
habits which in turn make us who we are. The book challenges our own perceptions and biases,
detailing how by changing our perceptions through certain habits we can change our lives for the
better. In short, if we want to change ourselves, our behaviours, we have to modify our perceptions.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, doesn't simply stipulate that you have to cut out the bad
habits and merely live a perfect live based solely on good habits, that would be naive and
practically impossible. However what it does focus on how you can build up your good habits to
overtake your bad ones, rather than trying to eliminate bad habits in isolation. He also
acknowledges that many good habits do not necessarily come naturally and must be learned. To be
effective, you have to tap into your values. often we are not even aware of our negative habits, they
are just recreations of what we have been shown or surrounded by, it is about not being a product of
your environment. Often business minds all have the answers within they just need a little guidance
to find them. Covey is honest in his approach, this book isn't a quick fix it discusses a process that
has various time constraints depending on the individual and how quickly they can apply them.
Covey shares his seven habits;
Begin with the end in mind
Put first things first
Seek first to understand, then to be understood
Sharpen the saw
Habit 1: Be proactive
This is the ability to control one's environment rather than have it control you, as is so often the
case. Self-determination, choice, and the power to decide how you respond to stimulus, conditions
and circumstances. Do you accept responsibility for your actions?
Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind
Covey calls this the habit of personal leadership – leading oneself towards what you consider your
aims. By developing the habit of concentrating on relevant activities, you will build a platform to
avoid distractions and become more productive and successful. What legacy do you want to leave
Habit 3: Put first things first
Covey calls this the habit of personal management. This is about organising and implementing
activities in line with the aims established in habit 2. Covey says that habit 2 is the first or mental
creation; habit 3 is the second or physical creation. For example, are you spending time with people
that matter? Who is your power of six? What types of people are you surrounding yourself with? I
want to be surrounded by people more successful then myself, people who can guide and coach me,
I want to learn from those who are better at this moment in time, not just in business but in my
personal life too! Great husbands, fathers, coaches. If I am surrounded by positive influences than
in time as long as I learn and apply their habits and actions, I too will be better.
Habit 4: Think win-win
Covey calls this the habit of interpersonal leadership necessary because achievements largely
depend on cooperative efforts with others. He says that win-win is based on the assumption that
there is plenty for everyone. So how do you develop a collaborative approach? I hate the notion that
business needs to be cutthroat, and that you have to be tough to get to the top. I never wanted to lose
my morales in order to be successful and I certainly wouldn't jeopardise my integrity to make
money. True success is seeing your team succeed, being a tiny part of someones personal
development is drive enough.
Habit 5: Seek first to understand and then to be understood
One of the great maxims of the modern age. This is Covey's habit of communication, and it's
extremely powerful. Covey helps to explain this in his simple analogy, 'diagnose before you
prescribe'. It's simple and effective and essential for developing and maintaining positive
relationships in all aspects of life. Are you genuinely listening? often in business we witness hard
coaching; screaming, shouting etc. A scolded child doesn't develop, they simply live in fear, and are
afraid to try in case they fail. This is also true in business, potential can be destroyed through
negative coaching. Yet simply by listening to others struggles, challenges, obstacles, you are able to
prescribe the correct antidote, enabling them to grow.
Habit 6: Synergise
Covey says this is the habit of creative cooperation – the principle that the whole is greater than the
sum of its parts, which implicitly lays down the challenge to see the good and potential in the other
person's contribution. Edification is so important, people want to be appreciated, simply by
acknowledging another’s contribution with the room makes them feel valued.
Habit 7: Sharpen the saw
This is the habit of self-renewal, and it necessarily surrounds all the other habits, enabling and
encouraging them to happen and grow. Covey interprets the self into four parts: the spiritual,
mental, physical and social/emotional, which all need feeding and developing. Often we are so busy
managing all aspects of life that we burn ourselves out. You can not continuously develop others
without nurturing yourself, take support when its given, take time to recharge and sharpen yourself.
A blunt saw isn't good for many things.
I have a relatively large collection of business books, self help and the like, and despite the vast
amount of books written on this particular subject I find myself checking into the simple effective
advice offered from Steven Covey in his book, The 7 habits of Highly Effective People. ~ Boyd Parker