The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
, first published in 1989
, is a self-help
book written by Stephen R. Covey
. It has sold over 15 million copies in 38 languages since first publication, which was marked by the release of a 15th anniversary edition in 2004
. The book lists seven principles that, if established as habits, are supposed to help a person achieve true interdependent effectiveness. Covey argues this is achieved by aligning oneself to what he calls "true north" principles of a character ethic that he believes to be universal and timeless.
The book was enormously popular, and catapulted Covey into lucrative public-speaking appearances and workshops. He has also written a number of follow-up books, such as The Power Of The 7 Habits: Applications And Insights; Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families; and Beyond the Seven Habits. A sequel to The Seven Habits is The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness published in 2004.
Also, Sean Covey (Stephen's son) has written a version for teens, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens. This version simplifies the 7 Habits for younger readers so they can better understand them. In October 2006, Sean Covey also published The 6 Most Important Decisions You Will Ever Make: A Guide for Teens. This guide highlights key times in the life of a teen and gives advice on how to deal with them. Stephen Covey's oldest son, Stephen M.R. Covey, has written a book titled The Speed of Trust.
A course based on The Seven Habits is offered through FranklinCovey and at many corporations and government agencies, such as the Regional Community Policing Institute-California, (www.rcpi-ca.org), United States Department of Homeland Security's Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
A Principled Approach
Throughout the book, Covey points to principles as the focus. The book presents the principles as an approach rather than a set of behaviors. The book imparts the principles in four sections.
- Paradigms and Principles: Covey lays the basic foundation for the creation of the habits.
- Private Victory: The first three habits are intended to teach a person how to move out of a state of dependence and beyond a state of independence. Covey refers to his ideal state as interdependence, which begins with the creation and manifestation of a highly developed sense of personal values and goals.
- Public Victory: Habits four through six complete the steps that lead to interdependence by showing how to align one's needs and desires with those of other people and create effective relationships.
- Renewal: In the final section, Covey directs the reader to begin a process of self-improvement.
The Seven Habits
The chapters are dedicated to each of the habits, which are represented by the following imperatives:
- Be Proactive. Here, Covey emphasizes the original sense of the term "proactive" as coined by Victor Frankl. You can either be proactive or reactive when it comes to how you respond to certain things. When you are reactive, you blame other people and circumstances for obstacles or problems. Being proactive means taking responsibility for every aspect of your life. Initiative and taking action will then follow. Covey also argues that man is different from other animals in that he has self-consciousness. He has the ability to detach himself and observe his own self; think about his thoughts. He goes on to say how this attribute enables him: It gives him the power not to be affected by his circumstances. Covey talks about stimulus and response. Between stimulus and response, we have the power of free will to choose our response.
- Begin with the End In Mind. This chapter is about setting long-term goals based on "true north" principles. Covey recommends formulating a "personal vision statement" to document one's perception of one's own vision in life. He sees visualization as an important tool to develop this. He also deals with organizational vision statements, which he claims to be more effective if developed and supported by all members of an organization rather than prescribed.
- Put First Things First. Here, Covey describes a framework for prioritizing work that is aimed at short-term goals, at the expense of tasks that appear not to be urgent, but are in fact very important. Delegation is presented as an important part of time management. Successful delegation, according to Covey, focuses on results and benchmarks that are to be agreed upon in advance, rather than prescribed as detailed work plans.
- Think Win/Win describes an attitude whereby mutually beneficial solutions are sought that satisfy the needs of oneself, or, in the case of a conflict, both parties involved.
- Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. Covey warns that giving out advice before having empathetically understood a person and their situation will likely result in rejection of that advice. Thoroughly reading out your own autobiography will decrease the chance of establishing a working communication.
- Synergize describes a way of working in teams. Apply effective problem solving. Apply collaborative decision making. Value differences. Build on divergent strengths. Leverage creative collaboration. Embrace and leverage innovation. It is put forth that when synergy is pursued as a habit, the result of the teamwork will exceed the sum of what each of the members could have achieved on their own. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
- Sharpen the saw focuses on balanced self-satisfaction: Regain what Covey calls "production capability" by engaging in carefully selected recreational activities.