‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, a must read book

  • About the book

The book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ is a bestseller, written by Dr. Stephen Covey. It is its first and most influential book and it was published in 1989.  The book is a description of the tremendous ideas that became foundations for his another bestseller Principle-Centered Leadership and gave a large range of resources for the empowerment of individuals, organizations, businesses, and entrepreneurship.

The book is a treasure of promising habits for improving personal and professional management and forming productive relationships at the workplace and around.

The author believes that the integration of 7 habits in a defined order will help improve the development of a person by moving from stage to stage. This bestseller is divided into four parts, which are:

1.     Paradigms and Principles gives a brief overview of the different habits and sets the stage for the subsequent debate on the proposed seven habits.

2.     Private Victory, the part in which the author explains the first three habits that define three sets of principles; and this principle are related to personal vision, personal leadership, and personal management. The author assures that, a good use of these habits can move a person from dependence to independence.

3.     The third part which is under the title of Public Victory and Renewal groups three habits and explains habits 4 to 6, put an emphasis on paradigms of interdependence that Covey centered along principles of interpersonal leadership, emphatic communication, and principles of creative cooperation.

4.     In the fourth part, Covey gives an explanation on the seventh habit, that gives a description of principles of balanced self-renewal.

  • Synopsis

Paradigms & Principles

In this part, Covey describes paradigms, principles and some concepts, people need to understand in order to grasp the success in a most effective way. The Paradigm could be defined as a lens through which people see the happenings around, perceive, understand and interpret according to our perceptions. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the paradigm as “a theory or a group of ideas about how something should be done, made, or thought about.” However, Covey made the observation that the most important problems people face cannot be resolved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. Thus, the new thinking that is created is called a paradigm shift.  A paradigm shift corresponds to the abandon of an incorrect paradigm for a correct one. Therefore, the central element leading to effectiveness is locating and maintaining correct paradigm by keeping eyes, ears, and mind open with the belief that there is always more to the picture we see.

Principles are natural laws that are self-evident and part of human consciousness.  After many research, Covey concluded that success is related to ethics.  Ethics are the important Principles that control human effectiveness and serve as a foundation for true success. In this part of the book, then some of the principles listed are fairness, integrity, honesty, patience, courage, encouragement, human quality.

The most important key concept that Covey deliberates upon is “inside-out”, which also the title of the first chapter.  As for the ‘in-side’ approach, it conveys that in order to change the situation; we first had to change ourselves.

The Maturity Continuum is the other concept explained in this part of the book. It states that the effective application of the seven habits moves a person progressively on a continuum from dependence to independence to interdependence.  The first three habits allow a person to move from the state of dependence to the independence state, and next three habits help him to move an independent person to interdependence with another independent person in a synergy.

Private Victory:

Private Victory explains the three steps that compose conscious growth which is mastering commitment, learning and doing and it is made possible through the habits 1 to 3. These habits are in order: Being Proactive, Begin with the end in mind; Put first things first.

Habit 1: Be Proactive-Principle of Personal Vision:  Being proactive means thinking and acting by anticipating future events. Proactive individuals tend to make choices based on their self-awareness, creativity and independent will.  Covey advocates that being proactive deals with taking responsibility for your life and proactive individuals are “response-able” and do not blame circumstances or others for their behavior.      

Habit- 2: Begin with the End in Mind:   

An individual who begins with the ends in minds is the one who has a clear image of his destination and goals.  Convey bases the second habit on that all things are created in the mind and after physically. According to the second habit, we have to begin any task with a clear idea of our goals and target.

Habit 3: Put First Things First:          

     The Habit 3 deals with life management.  In this habit, Covey advocates that we must manage our life according to our needs and priorities. By doing so, we must focus on our actions that are aligned with our personal mission. Its classifies our daily tasks into four quadrants according to their and importance.

Public Victories:

In this part of the book, Covey develops the paradigms of interdependence. For the author, public victory comes after private victory; and that good interdependence can exist only if a solid independence exists. Public victory. Convey asserts that public victory leads to harmony and symbiosis in human relationships, and it can be accomplished through the following habits:  Habit 4 (Think win/win), Habit 5 (Seek first to understand … Then to be understood), Habit 6 (Synergize).

 Habit 4: Think Win/Win-Principles of Interpersonal Leadership:

According to Covey, having a Win-Win attitude means to consider life as cooperation between people, rather than being a competition between them. Therefore, we should work together in order to have mutual benefits. The Win-Win paradigms could be attained by making use of Integrity (rely on one’s true feelings and values), Maturity (take into account the feelings of others), Abundance Mentality (acknowledge that there are enough resources for everyone).

Habit 5:  Seek first to understand then to be Understood- Principles of Empathic Communication.

The main cause of communications problems is that most people do not listen with empathy.  The habit of Empathetic listening is considered by Covey as the foremost principle of interpersonal relations. Therefore, Covey urges people to improve their listening skills in order to become good communicators.

Habit 6: Synergize- Principles of Creative Cooperation:            

There is synergy when more than one forces agree to work together in a mutually advantageous conjunction.  There is a veritable benefit in the use of Synergy as it results in something more effective than without any cooperative action. In order to work in Synergy, one must first create mutual trust and understanding.  

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw- Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal:

The seventh and last habit deals with the necessity to work on ourselves to improve our skills, our body. Covey argues that we must invest in four areas in order to “sharpen our saw”:·       Physical (have a good diet, enough rest, exercise) ·       Social/Emotional (maintain a good relationship with others)·       Mental (practice reading, writing, organizing and planning)·       Spiritual (seek good source of inspiration and truth) 

III-            Critical Analysis

It is my second time to come across Covey’s book. The first time I was motivated to read it because it was recommended to me by a friend.  However, at that time, I barely read the book as I was lacking any drive for reading.   This time, I am really happy to have the opportunity to read the book. I even read it twice. I have read a lot of self-development or motivational books and without any hesitation, I could argue that Covey’s “The 7 habits of highly effective people” is one the best I have read. What I appreciate the most in the book is Covey’s conception of combining all the habits explained in the book by using the idea of a “Maturity Continuum from dependence to independence to interdependence” (Covey, 1989, p. 49). Therefore, he forced the reader to be ready to go through all the process of change by embracing all the habits step by step. As a full-time student and full-time worker, one of the most memorable lessons I learned in this book is Covey’s time management matrix. Time management is one most crucial problems I faced and I am still facing. As a result of my poor time management habits, I usually failed to deliver school works on time. I also missed many job advancement opportunities because I was always overwhelmed by less important tasks, that were taking all my attention. In fact, Covey’s management grid far from being a theorist idea is indeed very practical and effective.  As Covey stated, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.” (Covey, 1989).The introduction by Convey of the conception of abundance mentality or abundance mindset is very important. In my experience, I am usually confronted to people who believe that the world does not offer enough resources for everybody; and that because of this scarcity of resources one have to fight other in order to be satisfied.  However, Covey shows clearly that there are enough resources for everyone and we have to share them with the society.  I believe that this new mindset which differs from the scarcity mindset is crucial in building a very strong relationship between people by avoiding conflicts. The real strengths of Covey’s best seller are its concision and the fact that the author demonstrates its philosophy by making use of concrete examples taken in the real world. The presence of tables and illustrations in the book is very helpful for the reader as it helps to explain the ideas in the book. The style of writing is very accessible.                However, some parts of the book would be difficult to understand for a person who does not have a solid command of the English language.  In fact, the book appears too complex in some parts.  The other weaknesses I noticed in the book are the tables and figures are not correctly labeled.

  • Conclusion

               “The 7 habits of highly effective people” gives practical and effective methods to enhance our productivity and leadership.  The lessons in this book are profitable in all professional or personal environment. This book may not be a comprehensive framework for personal effectiveness. However, it gives strategies that well applied could help everyone to be more effective in many aspects of life.  The book does not give practical techniques to allow the human mind to assimilate the habits new habits, and for me, it is a limitation.  However, I will recommend this book to everyone. In addition, I strongly believe that Covey’s ideas conveyed in this book should be introduced in school programs. It will for sure help students to have results and to improve to have a successful career.


Covey, S.R. (1989). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.   

          New York: Simon and Schuster.

Alexandre Koffi

Entrepreneur, space enthusiast, dreamer, cosmic messenger.

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