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Book Review: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Posted in Book Reviews, Lifehacks, Technology by engtech on May 28, 2006

7 Habits is one of those books that everyone always recommends that you read. While it falls head-on in the category of "general self-help" that should often be avoided, it is still a good read. This gist is that you are in control of your life, and you have the ability to shape who you are in a way that is beneficial to your goals and the goals of the people around you.

Here is a collection of quotes/phrases that I found particularly insightful:

Favorite quotes from the introduction/overview:

Interdependence is a higher value than independence.

We must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as the world we see, and that lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.

If there is little or no trust, there is no foundation for permanent success — it makes no difference how good the rhetoric or intention. Duplicity breeds distrust and everything afterwards will be perceived as manipulation.You always reap what you sow, there is no shortcut.
What we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do.

Basic flaw of Personality Ethic: To try to change outward attitudes and behaviors does very little good in the long run if we fail to examine the basic paradigms from which those attiudes and behaviors flow.

"For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root." – Thoreau

The glitter of the Personality Ethic, the massive appeal, is that there is some quick and easy way to achieve quality of life — personal effectiveness and rich, deep relationships with other people — without going through the natural process of work and growth that makes it possible.

Borrowed strength builds weakness. It builds weakness in the borrower because it reinforces dependence on external factors to get things done. It builds weakness in the person forced to acquiesce, stunting the development of independent reasoing, growth, and internal discipline. And finally, it builds weakness in the relationship.

Knowledge is the theoretical paradigm, the what to do and the why. Skill is the how to do. And desire is the motivation, the want to do. In order to make something a habit in our lives, we have to have all three.

Dependent people need others to get what they want. Independent people can get what they want through their own effort. Interdependent peopolpe combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.

You can buy a person's hand, but you can't buy his heart.

"That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only which gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price on its goods." – Thomas Paine

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.

What matters most is how we respond to what we experience in life.

Love is a verb. Love — the feeling — is a fruit of the verb. So love her. Serve her. Sacrifice. Listen to her. Empathize. Appreciate. Affirm her. Are you willing to do that?

We are free to choose our response in any situation, but in doing so, we choose the attendant consequence. "When we pick up one end of the stick, we pick up the other."

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

It is incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover it's leaning against the wrong wall. It is possible to be busy — very busy — without being very effective.

"Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things." – Peter Drucker & Warren Bennis

Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.

To often parents think of control, efficiency, and rules instead of direction, purpose, and family feeling.

He realized that real success is success with self. It's not in having things, but in having mastery, having victory over self.

Too many vacations that last too long, too many movies, too much TV, too much video game playing — too much undisciplined leisure time in which a person continually takes the course of least resistance gradually wastes a life. It ensures that a person's capacities stay dormant, that talents remain undeveloped, that the mind and the spirit become lethargic and the heart is unfulfilled.

"He that is good with a hammer tends to think everything is a nail." – Abraham Maslow

Habit 3: Put First Things First

"Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least." – Goethe

Integrity is, fundamentally, the value we place on ourselves. It's our ability to make and keep commitments to ourselves, to "walk our talk".

Activities that time should be spent on:
– prevention
– increasing production capacity
– relationship building
– recognizing new opportunities
– planning
– recreation
These are things that are not urgent, but important. Things like building relationships, writing a personal mission statement, long-range planning, exercising, preventive maintenance, preparation — all those things we know we need to do, but somehow seldom get around to doing, because they aren't urgent.

To paraphrase Peter Drucker, effective people are not problem-minded; they're opportunity-minded. They feed opportunities and starve problems.

Saying No: "That sounds like a wonderful project, a really worthy undertaking. I appreciate so much your inviting me to be a part of it. I feel honored by it. For a number of reasons, I won't be participating myself, but I want you to know how much I appreciate your invitation."

Externally imposed disciplines and schedules give people the feeling that they aren't responsible for results.

We accomplish all we do through delegation — either to time or to other people. If we delegate to time, we think efficiency. If we delegate to other people, we think effectiveness.

Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people.

You can't think efficiency with people. You think effectiveness with people and efficiency with things. I've tried to be "efficient" with a disagreeing or disagreeable person and it simply doesn't work. I've tried to give ten minutes of "quality time" to a child or an employee to solve a problem, only to discover such "efficiency" creates new problems and seldom resolves the deeper concern.

Paradigms of Interdepence

Make what is important to the other person as important to you as the other person is to you.

One of the most important ways to manifest integrity is to be loyal to those who are not present. In doing so, we build the trust of those who are present. When you defend those who are absent, you retain the trust of those present.

Integrity also means avoiding any communication that is deceptive, full of guile, or beneath the dignity of people. Whether we communicate with words or behavior, if we have integrity, our intent cannot be to deceive.

"It is the weak who are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong." – Leo Roskin

It is one thing to make a mistake, quite another thing not to admit it. People will forgive mistakes, because mistakes are usually of the mind, mistakes of judgement. But people will not easily forgive the mistakes of the heart, the ill intention, the bad motives, the prideful justifying cover-up of the first mistake.

When we truly love others without condition, without strings, we help them feel secure and safe and validated and affirmed in their essential worth, identity, and integrity.

When we attach strings and conditions to the gift of love we put others in a reactive, defensive position where they feel they have to prove "I matter as a person, independent of you."

"It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses." – Bag Hammarskjold

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

Win/win. It's not your way or my way; it's a better way, a higher way.

Whenever love is given on a conditional basis, when someone has to earn love, what's being communicated to them is that they are not intrinsically valuable or lovable. Value does not lie inside them, it lies outside. It's in comparison with somebody else or against some expectation.

Some people become so centeredon an enemy, so totally obsessed with the behavior of another person that they become blind to everything except their desire for that person to lose, even if it means losing themselves. Lose/Lose is the philospohy of adversarial conflict, the philosophy of war.

No Deal basically means that if we can't find a solution that would benefit us both, we agree to disagree agreeably.

Win/win or No Deal provides tremendous emotional freedom in the family relationship. If family members can't agree on a video that everyone will enjoy, they can simply decide to do somethin else — No Deal — rather than having some enjoy the evening at the expense of others.

Maturity is the balance between courage and consideration. [Maturity is] "the ability to express one's own feelings and convictions balanced with consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others." — Hrand Saxenian

Scarcity Mentality – although they might verbally express happiness for others' success, inwardly they are eating their hearts out. Their sense of worth comes from being compared, and someone else's success, to some degree, means their failure. Only so many people can be "A" students; only one person can be "number one". To "win" simply means to "beat".

A relationship where bank accounts are high and both parties are deeply committed to Win/Win is the ideal springboard for tremendous synergy. That relationship neither makes the issues any less real or important, nor eliminates the differences in perspective. But it does eliminate the negative energy normally focused on differences in personality and position and creates a positive, cooperative energy focused on thoroughly understanding the issues and resolving them in a mutually beneficial way.

The Win/Win agreement makes the following five elements very explicit:
Desired results (not methods) identify what is to be done and when.
Guidelines specify the parameters (principles, policies, etc.) within which results are to be accomplished.
Resources identify the human, financial, technical, or organizational support available to help accomplish the results.
Accountability sets up the standards of performance and the time of evaluation.
Consequences specify — good and bad, natural and logical — what does and will happen as a result of the evaluation.

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

"The heart has its reasons which reason knows not of." — Pascal

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They're either speaking or preparing to speak. They're filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people's lives.

We're filled with our own rightness, our own autobiography. We want to be understood. Our conversations become collective monologues, and we never really understand what's going on inside another human being.

Empathic listening gets inside another person's frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the way they see the world, you understand their paradigm, you understand how they feel.

Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is a form of agreement, a form of judgment. The essence of empathic listening is not that you agree with someone; it's that you fully, deeply, understand that person, emotionally as well as intellectually.

Satisfied needs do not motivate. It's only the unsatisfied need that motivates.

Empathic listening takes time, but it doesn't take anywhere near as much time as it takes to back up and correct misunderstandings when you're already miles down the road, to redo, to live with unexpressed and unsolved problems, to deal with the results of not giving people psychological air.

A discerning empathic listener can read what's happening down deep fast, and can show such acceptance, such understanding, that other people feel safe to open up layer after layer until they get to that soft inner core where the problem really lies.

Habit 6: Synergize

"That which is most personal is most general." — Carl Rogers

The more authentic you become, the more genuine in your expression, particularly regarding personal experiences and even self-doubts, the more people can relate to your expression and the safer is makes them feel to express themselves.

Insecure people think that all reality should be amenable to their paradigms. They don't realize that the very strength of the relationship is in having another point of view. Sameness is not oneness; uniformity is not unity.

Unless we value the differences in our perceptions, unless we value each other and give credence to the possibility that we're both right, that life is not always a dichotomous either/or, that there are almost always third alternatives, we will never be able to transcend the limits of that conditioning [that two people can disgree and only one person is right].

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw, Principales of Balanced Self-Renewal

"Sometimes when I consider what rtremendous consequences come from little things, I am tempted to think there are no little things." — Bruce Barton

Philosopher Herb Shepherd describes the healthy balanced life around four values: pespective (spiritual), autonomy (mental), connectedness (social) and tone (physical).

"Almost all the benefit from physical exercise comes at the very end. I'm trying to build strength. And that doesn't happen until the muscle fiber ruptures and the nerve fiber registers the pain. The nature overcompensates and within 48 hours, the fiber is made stronger." It's the same principle that works with emotional muscles as well, such as patience. When you exercise your patience beyond past limits, the emotional fiber is broken, nature overcompensates, and next time the fiber is stronger.

"The person who doesn't read is no better off than the person who can't read."

"Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be."

"You cannot play with the animal in you without becoming wholly animal, play with falsehood without forfeiting your right to truth, play with cruelty without losing your sensitivity of mind. He who wants to keep his garden tidy doesn't reserve a plot for weeds." — Dag Hammarskjold

Conclusion: Inside-Out Again

There is a gap or a space between stimulus and response, and that the key to both our growth and happiness is how we use that space.

We gradually evolved two unspoken ground rules. The first was "no probing". As soon as we unfolded the inner layers of vulnerability, we were not to question each other, only to empathize. Probing was simply too invasive. It was also too controlling and too logical. We were covering new, difficult terrain that was scary and uncertain, and it stirred up fears and doubts. We wanted to cover more and more of it, but we grew to respect the need to let each other open up in our own time.

The second ground rule was that when it hurt too much, when it was painful, we would simply quit for the day. Then we would either begin the next day where we left off or wait until the person who was sharing felt ready to continue. We carried around the loose ends, knowing that we wanted to deal with them. But because we had the time and the environment conducive to it, and because we were so excited to observe our own involvement and to grow within our marriage, we simply knew that sooner or later we would deal with all those loose ends and bring them to some kind of closure.

"There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children — one is roots, the other wings."

"I found that I faced a highly complex situation, and that I couldn't hope to change it until I had armed myself with the necessary psychological and intellectual capacity. My contemplation of life and human nature in that secluded place had taught me that he who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality, and will never, therefore, make any process." — Anwar Sadat

"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience." — Teilhard de Chardin

7 Responses

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  1. Kola said, on August 14, 2006 at 11:14 am

    It’s a fantastic book. Ionly got to hear about it from a friend yesterday and just a few glance I got very impressed

  2. […] This is a classic case of not following the “7 Habits” and avoiding something that is important (“new glasses before insurance runs out”) for things that are urgent. […]

  3. […] It has to be win/win. […]

  4. Goal Achieving Success said, on September 24, 2006 at 7:23 am

    I was looking for some resources on personal motivation and achieving goals for a resource list I’m putting together for my readers and future blog visitors.
    I’m glad I’m came across this post :-)
    I’m going to be adding this as a good “read” for my visitors and what not.

    Success in life, love and business is something we all have in us – we just need to learn how to bring it out and except it

    To Your Success,
    – RM

  5. […] Because I’d written such a good post about it, it directs traffic to his site. He links to my post from the ScheduleWorld website which now gives me more authority and more traffic. This is synergy and win/win. He even takes it to another level where he stops by the comments section on that post and answers questions, which ups my authoriy. Not only did viral drive business to his site, he rewarded it by getting involved with it, including giving me announcements of updates before anyone else. […]

  6. […] Just say no and be willing to do the bare minimum. Accept imperfections with things that aren’t important — don’t ignore the forest for the sake of one tree. Focus on the important and not the urgent. Feed opportunities and starve problems. […]

  7. […] Stephen R. Covey from 7 Habits: Activities that time should be spent […]

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