Executive Summary for 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

16 Jul

Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

In his #1 bestseller, Stephen R. Covey presented a framework for personal effectiveness. The following is a summary of the first part of his book, concluding with a list of the seven habits.

Inside-Out: The Change Starts from Within

While working on his doctorate in the 1970’s, Stephen R. Covey reviewed 200 years of literature on success. He noticed that since the 1920’s, success writings have focused on solutions to specific problems. In some cases such tactical advice may have been effective, but only for immediate issues and not for the long-term, underlying ones. The success literature of the last half of the 20th century largely attributed success to personality traits, skills, techniques, maintaining a positive attitude, etc. This philosophy can be referred to as the Personality Ethic.

However, during the 150 years or so that preceded that period, the literature on success was more character oriented. It emphasized the deeper principles and foundations of success. This philosophy is known as the Character Ethic, under which success is attributed more to underlying characteristics such as integrity, courage, justice, patience, etc.

The elements of the Character Ethic are primary traits while those of the Personality Ethic are secondary. While secondary traits may help one to play the game to succeed in some specific circumstances, for long-term success both are necessary. One’s character is what is most visible in long-term relationships. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.”


  • Habit 1: Be Proactive
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First
  • Habit 4: Think Win-Win
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood
  • Habit 6: Synergize
  • Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Synopsis: Take initiative in life by realizing that your decisions (and how they align with life’s principles) are the primary determining factor for effectiveness in your life. Take responsibility for your choices and the subsequent consequences that follow.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Synopsis: Self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals. Envision the ideal characteristics for each of your various roles and relationships in life.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Synopsis: Planning, prioritizing, and executing your week’s tasks based on importance rather than urgency. Evaluating if your efforts exemplify your desired character values, propel you towards goals, and enrich the roles and relationships elaborated in Habit 2.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win

Synopsis: Genuinely striving for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships. Valuing and respecting people by understanding a “win” for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten their way.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood

Synopsis: Using empathetic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening, take an open mind to being influenced by you, which creates an atmosphere of caring, respect, and positive problem solving.

Habit 6: Synergize

Synopsis: Combining the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals no one person could have done alone. How to yield the most prolific performance out of a group of people through encouraging meaningful contribution, and modeling inspirational and supportive leadership.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Synopsis: The balancing and renewal of your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable long-term effective lifestyle.


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