7 Habits of Highly Effective People

7 Habits of Highly Effective People - ToolsHero

This article explains the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, developed by Stephen Covey in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful personal development tool.


In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989), Stephen Covey describes how you can be happier and more effective in life. This book is the result of a long-term study into the principles of success. Until World War I (WW1) success from a fundamental attitude to life could be summarized in terms of for example modesty, integrity, moderation, loyalty, patience, etcetera.

After WWI success was defined by a more pragmatic attitude to life. Success is especially measured by personal performance, skills and status. Stephen Covey argues that lasting success is only possible if you live according to a number of fundamental principles. He summarized these principles of success in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People summary

How do you give direction to your life in a constructive and effective way? The book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989), provides an answer to this central question, based on 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Stephen Covey expresses the ‘action plan‘ in the following structured model of development.

7 Habits of highly effective people summary by Stephen Covey - ToolsHero

1. Be proactive

Pro activity has a lot to do with a person’s “circle of influence”. What you can control, what you can influence and what is out of your reach. Pro activity is strongly related to acknowledging your own responsibility and influence. The first big step that has to be taken is the step from dependence to independence. Here you will begin to determine your own life by using your own agenda. You are aware of the fact that you are the architect of your own life (habit 1 of the seven habits of highly effective people) and with this knowledge you set to work.

2. Begin with the end in Mind

This is the habit of vision, objectives, and mission. Beginning with the end in mind means that when you make decisions today you consistently take into consideration what you stand for ‘in general’. Habit 2 has to do with the principles and guidelines you choose to live by. You determine what you find important in life, what you stand for, what you want to accomplish.

3. Put first things first

This habit has to do with integrity, discipline, sticking to your agreements. What is life about, and how do you wish to shape your own life? Knowing this, you will get to work pro-actively while setting the right priorities. The second big step is that of independence to (self-selected) interdependence.

4. Think win-win

This is the habit of the Paradox. Temptation is strong to think in terms of winning OR losing- or wanting to be right. The trick is to recognize that a paradox provides an opportunity to unite the poles. You will be independent but at the same time you realize that you can accomplish more by cooperating with other people. You know what you are worth, but you also realize that you need the other person and that it is important to give and receive love. You can accomplish this by thinking in terms of win-win. In case of conflicts you will always search for solutions that are fair to all parties and in which there are no losers.

5. Seek first to understand then to be understood

Concentrate first on understanding the other person and then put energy into being understood. This is the habit of listening, one of the basic qualities of a leader or a coach.

6. Synergize

The sixth habit of the seven habits of highly effective people, that is required to achieve interdependence is synergizing. This means that your approach is fundamentally based on respect, cooperation and trust. This is the habit of strengthening. the pitfall is compromise. The objective is to find the third path: how can two paradoxes be combined into something better?

7. Sharpen the saw

The last, seventh habit of the seven habits of highly effective people is maintenance. This is the habit that tells you that are with improving yourself and perseverance. By taking plenty of exercise, rest, meditation, etcetera, you will keep your body, mind, relationships and spirituality in balance.

It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Do you recognize the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and the practical explanation or do you have additions? What are your learning lessons in applying the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. Haimes, Y. Y., & Schneiter, C. (1996). Covey’s seven habits and the systems approach: a comparative analysis. Systems, Man and Cybernetics, Part A: Systems and Humans, IEEE Transactions on, 26(4), 483-487.
  2. Covey, S. (1989). The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. Simon and Schuster.
  3. Covey, S. (1989). The seven habits of highly effective leaders. Business Contact.

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