By Stephen R. Covey
Our effectiveness is a compilation of habits. Our habits are a compilation of knowledge, skill, and desire. This book focuses on how to develop the most effective habits with a character-driven approach as opposed to approaches that are personality-driven and developed from the outside-in. This “inside-out” approach is composed of three stages.
Dependence: Relying on others for our survival and happiness.
Independence: Relying on ourselves and making our own decisions.
Interdependence: Learning to combine independence and dependence to achieve results that aren't possible independently.
The first three habits focus on self-mastery and moving from dependence to independence. The next three habits focus on collaboration, communication, and moving from independence to interdependence. The seventh habit focuses on maintaining a balanced foundation for effectively using the other habits.
Habit 1: Be Proactive
This habit teaches that change begins within and how developing a sense of self-awareness gives us more control. Being proactive means taking responsibility for our choices and minimizing the influence of external forces. It means putting an end to being reactive by choosing our own priorities instead.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Covey uses the analogy of a funeral to emphasize the foundation of this habit. For developing our own principle-centered character and by understanding the traits we desire, we can imagine what things we would like to hear about ourselves at our own funeral. This exercise helps us determine what values are the most important to us, providing a template for the life we want to live.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Using the strategies and tools outlined in the third habit, we can identify the key roles in our life and learn how to focus on the most important ones. This means learning how to maintain a balance while keeping the most important values prioritized, so we don't lose sight of our mission.
Habit 4: Think Win/Win
By focusing on agreements and relationships that benefit each party, we learn to take the “win/win” approach. This habit isn't about compromise. It's about committing to deals that are good for everyone using collaboration and understanding or deciding to make “no deal” and walk away. Whether in business or personal life, the benefit of thinking “win/win” is interdependent relationships with no “losers.”
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Covey considers this habit to be the most important principle for effective interpersonal relationships. This habit teaches us that by listening effectively, without filtering what we hear with our own biases and views, we can understand the other person's view before presenting our own. This understanding creates an atmosphere of empathy and a commitment to resolution.
Habit 6: Synergize
Synergy: When one plus one equals three or more, when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This habit teaches that trust and understanding in relationships can help create solutions that are often better and more beneficial than either person's original solution. It's like an even better version of “win/win” that further develops the habit of interdependence.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
By taking the time to renew ourselves physically, spiritually, mentally, and socially, we create the foundation for learning and living the other habits. From exercise and eating right to keeping our mind sharp and developing deep, meaningful relationships, we take the time to maintain ourselves from the inside-out.