Stephen Covey's Seven Habits

by Cynthia Tucker
One of Covey's seven habits involves listening to understand.

One of Covey's seven habits involves listening to understand.

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Stephen Covey's "seven habits" originate from his book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." It illustrates seven habits that will help people be more effective interacting with people in business, family and other personal relationships. According to Covey, these habits are based on principles that promote happiness and success.

Be Proactive

Humans are responsible for their own lives and should base their behavior on decisions, not on conditions. You have the ability to choose your response. Proactive people consider alternatives rather than giving up. They control their own feelings rather than giving that power to others. When you choose your response to circumstances, you can powerfully affect those circumstances.

Begin With The End in Mind

Beginning with the end in mind means you understand your destination, and you examine your current behavior and actions based on where you want to end up. Many people have habits that are not in harmony with their values. Covey suggests developing a personal mission statement that focuses on what you want to do, who you want to be and the values you want to embrace.

Put First Things First

Effective time and life management begins with the ability to prioritize. You must then be able to organize around those priorities. Finally, you must have the discipline to execute based on those priorities. Many people who think they lack discipline really lack the ability to prioritize and act on those things that are truly most important to them.

Think Win-Win

The "win-win" mentality seeks mutual benefit and mutual satisfaction in interactions with others. This involves seeing a problem from someone else's point of view, identifying major issues and concerns, determining an acceptable solution, and evaluating options to achieve that solution. In a win-win situation, all parties involved feel good about the decision and are committed to carrying it out.

Seek First To Understand

"Seek first to understand" means you try to understand the other person before trying to be understood. Most people don't listen to understand, they listen to form their reply. Empathic listening is an important component of communication. It does not imply agreement, just understanding. It means you try to see the world the way the other person sees it, and try to understand how they feel.


Synergy means the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It is the manifestation of all the other habits put together. Synergy is apparent in nature. Two plants planted close to each other result in improvement in the soil's quality. Each plant will grow better than if they were separated. Synergy encourages unity with others and values their differences. You don't have to see only two points of view -- yours and the wrong one -- you can look for a synergistic third alternative.

Sharpen the Saw

Sharpening the saw means preserving your greatest asset -- you. Preserve your physical dimension by eating right and exercising. Preserve your spiritual dimension by drawing on sources that uplift and inspire you. Some people meditate, pray or read the Bible. Others listen to good music, read great literature or commune with nature. Preserve your mind by constantly learning and limiting unproductive television viewing. Preserve the social/emotional dimension by interacting with others and seeking to genuinely understand them.

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