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One of the most popular and enduring works of personal-growth literature, international bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People offers life-changing insights. More than a book about business management, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People takes readers through a tiered process of change that begins from the inside and moves outward.
Stephen Covey inspires readers to reexamine their core values, discover their personal mission, and interact in more meaningful ways. Covey provides strategies for personal effectiveness that have helped millions of people around the world live more effective, fulfilling lives.
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Summary and Analysis of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
Based on the Book by Stephen R. Covey
By Worth Books
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2017 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Part One: Paradigms and Principles
In his many years of working in leadership training, Covey has encountered numerous types of personal and professional problems: family and career balance; trouble meeting personal and life goals; difficulty relating to people interpersonally; and parenting and marriage troubles. Advice literature, which mostly gives tips for how to change behavior, is ultimately ineffective, Covey believes, because it does not strike at the root of the problem. In order to change how they act, people need to change how they think.
Covey uses an example from his own life as an illustration. At one point, his school-age son was struggling socially, academically, and athletically. Covey and his wife were desperate to help, and tried several methods, including positive reinforcement — when he struck out in a baseball game, they assured him, "With hard work, you'll do better next time!" But their efforts were fruitless, and, when he did not improve, his self-esteem suffered even more. Covey realized that the problem lay not in his son's performance, but in his and his wife's perception of their son as somehow "inadequate." If they wanted things to change, they had to change their perceptions. This meant valuing their son for who he was, rather than comparing him to other children or measuring him according to the expectations of others. This constituted a paradigm shift.
The Power of a Paradigm
A paradigm is a way to see the world, a model or framework for interpreting our experiences. A paradigm is a tool, a map for how to navigate circumstances. We each have two types of mental maps: one for the way things are (reality), and one for the way things should be (values). We rarely question these maps, but it is important to examine our paradigms and be open to changing them. Although we can focus on changing behaviors, without changing our paradigms, real, significant change will never happen.
The Personality and Character Ethics
Much recent self-help literature offers superficial ways to make simple changes. In contrast, older "success literature" focused on strong moral character. These two different approaches can be divided by the two "ethics."
The Personality Ethic is mainly concerned with public image, status, and superficial interactions. It relies on simple, manipulative techniques to get people to like you, or intimidate people into respecting you.
The Character Ethic is based on principles such as integrity, humility, courage, justice, and patience. It focuses on fundamental values that drive behavior. This ethic is not concerned with social status, but with living according to universal principles of humane existence. When you base your paradigm on the Character Ethic, you learn to set goals according to these fundamental principles, and, as a result, to find a new level of thinking.
A New Level of Thinking
People who work according to an outside-in paradigm view themselves as the victims — victims of other people's flaws, or of less-than-optimal circumstances. This paradigm operates according to the Personality Ethic. It allows people to be fooled into thinking that there are easy fixes to fundamental problems. By shifting to the paradigm of inside-out thinking, we can begin to view ourselves as responsible for our own circumstances. The inside-out approach uses core values and principles to guide all changes. In other words, all change begins with the self, and then moves outward.
Need to Know: In order to change, it's not enough to alter our daily activities. Instead, we must shift how we view the world in general, and our own situation in particular. Inside-out thinking allows us to remake our paradigm so that decisions and actions align with core values and goals.
The Seven Habits — An Overview
Covey offers his definition of a habit as "the intersection of knowledge, skill, and desire." To create a habit, you need the knowledge of what to do and why, the skill to be able to do it, and the desire or motivation to implement it. It can be difficult or painful to change, but the process itself can lead to happiness.
The Seven Habits function in harmony — you cannot pick and choose which habit works. They also exist on a continuum of maturity. At the low end is the paradigm of dependence, which insists, "You are responsible for what happens to me." The more mature individual functions within the paradigm of independence, and says, "I am self-reliant and can choose to exert control over what happens to me." Society deeply values independence, but the peak form of maturity is interdependence. Being interdependent means that you are self-reliant and have control, but that you choose to be emotionally and intellectually connected, to accept love and ideas from other people.
The Seven Habits are concerned with effectiveness. Effectiveness requires maintaining a balance between production ("P") and production capability ("PC"). For example, in the parable of the goose that lays the golden egg, the golden egg is the "P," or the thing that is produced. The goose is the "PC," the asset that has the capacity to produce. If you are too focused on P and not PC, or, if you do not invest in PC, P will suffer. For example, if you run a machine too intensely, or push your workers too hard, with the intent of producing more, you will eventually find that the product is not as good: the machine will wear out or the employees will perform at substandard levels due to fatigue. P/PC balance means investing in all levels of the production process. The Seven Habits allow for optimal P/PC balance.
The habits are also sequential: one leads to the next. The first three habits establish a firm inside-out, principle-centered paradigm and create self-mastery. Habits 4 through 6 lead to strong relationship-building. The seventh habit renews the first six. All of the habits, when taken together, allow you to be both independent and interdependent.
Part Two: Private Victory
Habit 1: Be Proactive
Principles of Personal Vision
Being proactive means taking responsibility for one's own life. Proactive people are "response-able," because they view themselves as in control of how they respond to circumstances. Proactivity is contrasted with a view of oneself based on the theory of determinism, which can be broken down into three subcategories: genetic determinism, which explains that you are who you are because of your DNA; psychic determinism, which says your experiences in childhood have permanently established your character structure; and environmental determinism, which says your environment determines your situation in life. People who allow their own lives to be governed by such forces are "reactive."
Between Stimulus and Response
As human beings, we have several unique qualities: self-awareness, imagination, conscience, and independent will, or the ability to act on the first three qualities. As a result, we are free to choose how to view our circumstances. An example of a proactive person is Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist forced into a Nazi death camp in WWII. Although he endured the worst forms of physical and mental torture imaginable, Frankl relied on his self-awareness, imagination, and conscience to exercise the only freedom available to him: to choose how he would respond his circumstances. He realized that there could be a space between the stimulus and the response, where the individual chooses how to react to a given stimulus. Frankl relied on imagination and memory to find meaning in his suffering. As a result, he became an inspiration to others, and exemplified the first habit.
Act or Be Acted Upon
Proactive people focus their time and energy on their Circle of Influence, which includes only those things that they can exert control over. Conversely, reactive people focus their efforts on things over which they have no control, including other people's behaviors and unavoidable circumstances. They tend to belabor the flaws of other people and spend time thinking about how their lives would be better if only they had something they wanted, e.g., a better job or a different boss. This reactive approach looks from the outside-in, rather than inside-out. Reactive language focuses on "having" rather than "being." Oftentimes, language that emphasizes what is going wrong in one's life can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Although we can choose our actions, we cannot choose the consequences, which are beyond our sphere of control. When things go wrong, or when we experience setbacks or make mistakes, undesired consequences operate outside of our Circle of Influence. The proactive approach requires acknowledging and learning from a mistake, but not allowing it to change the resolve to move forward. Instead of dwelling on what cannot be changed, a proactive person focuses on what they can do, which includes making and keeping commitments.
Need to Know: Becoming proactive means changing how you perceive and talk about your problems, and shifting where you focus your energies. Proactive people do not immediately react to stimuli, but instead use the human faculties of imagination, self-awareness, and conscience to choose how to respond. A proactive person doesn't waste energy trying to control things beyond the Circle of Influence, but instead tries to change from within.
1. Throughout the day, listen to how many times you employ reactive phrases such as "I can't" or "If I only had ..."
2. Choose a problem you are having at work or in your personal life. Identify the first step you could take in solving that problem by focusing on your Circle of Influence, or on what is within your power to control. Can you shift your response to this problem? Can you choose to react differently?
3. The 30-Day Test: Attempt to follow the guidelines of being proactive for 30 days, and then assess how successful you have been at making changes in your Circle of Influence.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Principles of Personal Leadership
Imagine you are at your own funeral. Visualize the speakers — what would you want them to say about you? How would they describe your character and your achievements? This exercise is the first step toward beginning with the end in mind, as it will reveal some of your fundamental values. When you consider what you would want said of you at the end of your life, you can use this as a framework for how to examine everything else. By imagining your ultimate goals, you establish a basis on which to evaluate your daily activities.
Many people get caught up trying to climb the ladder of success, without stopping to contemplate what their true goals are. Some people work hard to earn a higher income or gain recognition in their field without stopping to consider what truly matters to them. They are very busy but not very effective, and their victories are usually empty ones. It is only when we identify what is deeply important to us that we can be truly effective.
Leadership and Management — The Two Creations
Habit 2 is based on the concept that "all things are created twice." First, there is a mental creation, such as a blueprint for a building, followed by a physical creation, such as the construction of that building. In creating a business, one must first define the business goals, and then organize all elements of the business around that objective. This also applies to other aspects of life, such as parenting. Parents who wish to raise responsible children with good self-esteem must keep these goals in mind every day, and treat their children in ways that do not undermine these values.
Habit 2 is also based on the principle of personal leadership. Leadership is the first (mental) creation, and management is the second (physical) creation. In other words, leadership is the vision, or blueprint, whereas management is the construction. A personal mission statement is essential for personal leadership. A mission statement should reflect:
1. Character: Who you want to be
2. Contribution: What you want to do
3. Achievements: The values and principles upon which actions will be based
A personal mission statement gives you a solid foundation to be the leader of your own life, so that you will no longer function according to other people's scripts.
At the Center
Each of us has a center of our lives that serves as a core paradigm. Different centers include family, money, work, pleasure, or religion. We can even allow an enemy to become the center of our lives, to consume our thoughts and influence our decisions. People often have several centers, or shift between centers. The ideal is to create one clear center, which is based on correct principles. Principles are "deep, fundamental truths," and as such will not change based on external circumstances.
Writing and Using a Personal Mission Statement
Writing a personal mission statement requires deep introspection and cannot happen overnight. It requires that you tap into both sides of the brain, and expand your perspective. It also requires visualizing what you want to accomplish, and affirming your belief that you can accomplish those goals. It helps to identify what roles you already occupy that are meaningful to you, and what goals you have for each of those roles.
Need to Know: Habit 1 tells you that you are in control of your life, and Habit 2 allows you to write your own script. To begin with the end in mind, start each day by visualizing your life goals. This means projecting not merely what you want to do, but who you want to be, and what principles you want to guide your life. Writing a personal mission statement allows you to identify what these character goals are, which will help you organize your life to meet those goals.
1. Visualize your funeral, and imagine what you would want said of you at the end of your life. Write down what impressions you have.
2. Set aside time to begin working on your mission statement. Make notes regarding your values.
3. Identify an upcoming project and apply the principle of mental creation by sketching out your desired outcomes. Organize this project before you begin by outlining steps that will lead to those results.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Principles of Personal Management
Habit 1 empowered you to be the creator, and Habit 2 allowed for the first, mental creation. Habit 3 is the "second creation," the physical creation that follows from the development of principles and a principlecentered vision. The most important of the human qualities, after self-awareness, imagination, and conscience, is independent will. To develop this will requires integrity, which allows us to keep our commitments.
Habit 3 requires time-management skills, but it is important to emphasize self-management over time management. There are four basic types of activities, which Covey divides into four quadrants of time management:
Quadrant I: Important and Urgent
Quadrant II: Important but Not Urgent
Quadrant III: Urgent but Not Important
Quadrant IV: Not Urgent and Not Important
Not Important Quadrant III
The goal of effective self-management is to maximize the amount of time spent on Quadrant II. Spending more time on this quadrant reduces the likelihood that things will crop up for Quadrant I. In order to make more time for Quadrant II tasks, we must learn to say no to activities from Quadrant III and IV.
Moving into Quadrant II
Quadrant II contains the "first things" that should be put first. When organizing time, we should set priorities that are based on principles and personal mission. The best way to achieve this is to organize your life on a weekly basis, rather than a daily basis. A weekly planner will allow you more balance than a daily one. Time organization that emphasizes Quadrant II involves four key activities:
1. Identifying Roles: Write down the various roles you have to play throughout your life in the week ahead.
2. Selecting Goals: Think of one or two goals you can meet in each role during the next week.
3. Scheduling: Schedule time to achieve each goal. 4. Daily Adapting: Plan out your daily activities.
Delegation: Increasing P and PC
Effective management also requires delegation. There are two types of delegation. Gofer delegation involves directing every move. Stewardship delegation means trusting those who have been delegated tasks enough to let them take responsibility for themselves. This latter type of delegation initially requires more time on communication, but allows for better results in the end. Early on, the manager should communicate desired results, guidelines, resources, accountability, and consequences.
Excerpted from Summary and Analysis of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Worth Books. Copyright © 2017 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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