Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a landmark book first published in 1989. The self-help book, which has sold more than 25 million copies since its original publication, has had a tremendous effect on countless readers and practitioners of Covey’s goal-attaining philosophy. It gives the reader “powerful lessons in personal change” by helping them to align themselves to “universal and timeless” principles.

The principles enumerated by Covey are not exclusive to the workplace; the author states that they can allow people to grow, change, and become more effective in virtually any other aspect of human responsibility. They served to shape an important shift in management and leadership away from the more authority-driven ideologies of the past. This is a short summary of the late author and businessman’s principles.

Be proactive

We are in charge of our own lives, and we should use this self-awareness to take responsibility for our own choices. You should strive to control your environment, rather than have it control you. Being proactive is essential to your effectiveness. Don’t take a passive stance; focus on the things that you can change.

Begin with the end in mind

It is important to identify your aims, and to lead yourself towards them. You must have a destination in mind, a vision of what you want to become, in order to make sure that you’re going in the right direction.

Put first things first

You must prioritize your day-to-day actions based on what is most important, and not what is most urgent. The order of priorities established by Covey is the following: 1) Important and urgent. 2) Important and non-urgent. 3) Not important and urgent. 4) Not important and not urgent. Covey calls this the habit of personal management.

Think win-win

You have to commit to creating mutually beneficial and satisfying situations (Win-Win) for both parties in order to establish effective interdependent relationships. This step is extremely important, because achievements are hugely dependent on cooperative efforts with others. To achieve Win-Win situations, you must be both nice and courageous.

Seek first to understand, and then to be understood

Before you can offer advice or even effectively interact with another person, you should seek to understand their perspective through empathetic listening. If you don’t make an effort to see things through the person’s point of view, you are prescribing a solution before diagnosing the problem.


This is the principle of creative cooperation: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. By synergizing, you will allow yourself to create new alternatives and open new possibilities. Make a consistent effort to see the value in the other person’s contribution.

Sharpen the saw

To be effective, you must engage in constant self-renewal. This manifests itself physically, spiritually, mentally, and socially. This principle surrounds all others and allows you to enhance your greatest asset: yourself.

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