The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

 Are you intentional about improving your life? Want to create a better life by making better choices? One of the best strategies to help you achieve this is to develop good, sustainable habits. Simple habits like waking up early, listening with intent, or learning to act fast can be the key differentiating factor between failure and success. When you develop effective habits, you evolve into a dependable individual who is prone to deliver impressive results. This is why in this article, we’ll be introducing you to the seven habits of highly effective people as broken down by Stephen R. Covey in his book.

  1. Be Proactive

How do you handle the situations life throws at you? The thing is, your approach to handling life circumstances is a key factor that determines your life’s turnout. Perpetually, there are two types of people: The one that sits back and waits for things to unfold and the one that acts in a pre-empting manner and often gets ahead of situations before they happen. The first one who waits for disaster to hit then finds a way out is the reactive one, while the one who focuses on preventing disaster is proactive.

According to Stephen R. Covey, the first step towards becoming highly effective is to develop a proactive habit. Proactive people have a futuristic approach to life, which prompts them to act fast and evade negative situations. The benefits of assuming a proactive nature extend to all aspects of our lives. For instance, instead of waiting for your body to break down as a result of fatigue, a proactive individual will set up a suitable exercise/rest regimen to prevent their bodies from giving way to unhealthy habits.

 Unlike the proactive lot, reactive individuals wait for situations to play out so that they can devise ways to over-turn the outcomes. The only problem is that, more often than not, these outcomes turn out to be negative and destructive.  While both of these traits can be helpful, those who are proactive often end up with a good bargain. Why? For one, a proactive nature helps you avoid problems before they cause damage. This goes in hand in hand with the popular saying that says prevention is better than cure. Whether it’s avoiding long-term health problems, business loss, or broken relationships, a proactive nature is akin to having a second eye. It saves you the time and costs you would otherwise spend on damage control.

  1. Begin With the End in Mind

Do you have a long-term vision? Can you foresee a future where you tick all your life’s boxes? If not, then you need to pick up a new life approach. The thing is, beginning anything with the end in mind is a fundamental ingredient for achieving success. Not only does it instill focus, but it also enables you to persevere through the tough times. But, let’s not discount the fact that focusing on the end goal can be difficult. Especially when things don’t go the way you envisioned, it can be tempting to give up on your dreams. If you ever reach this point, here are a few tips that will help you harness determination and willpower:

  • Have a plan/vision board
  • Start with the difficult tasks so that you can ward off the stress of having them on your list.
  • Set up reminders that bring your end goal into the vicinity.
  • Build a strong foundation by investing more time in the initial stages of the project.
  • Prioritize, and speaking of which, brings us to the next habit of highly effective people.
  1. Put first things first

Now, let’s face it: despite having free will, our lives are constantly ridden by all kinds of distractions that make it hard to utilize our will perfectly. Every time you sit down to do something important, it’s highly likely that your mind will wander off to other things.  You will watch a show instead of completing an assignment, face time your friend at the expense of running crucial errands, or let your mind transport you ten years back to that embarrassing moment in high school instead of catching some sleep.  Even staring at a wall suddenly becomes an insanely interesting affair when you have important deadlines to beat.

Yet, you can never forge ahead if you’re not willing to make compromises. In this case, you will have to sacrifice your golden hours and utilize them to build yourself, whether personally or professionally. While it’s not as easy as it sounds, sticking to your commitments is something you can learn and master.

According to Covey’s best-selling books, having your priorities in the right order is the most compelling strategy for delivering results. As long you don’t compromise on the things that come first on your priority list, you will find it easy saying No to things that go against your primary concerns. This could mean turning down a friend’s hang out to do a course or rejecting overtime work so you can spend more time with your family. Whatever it is that turns up your dials to ten, put it first.

  1. Think win-win

On thinking win-win, Covey reinforces the importance of building an interpersonal leadership mindset. A win-win mindset thrives on the basic idea of symbiotic relationships. Instead of viewing life as a cutthroat competition, start viewing it as a collaborative affair where we all need each other. Because the truth is, no one can go it alone. As much as we hate to admit, bringing like-minded people on board takes us farther in life than embarking on solo trips.

For instance, you could be the smartest person on earth and still require someone with great presentation skills to voice your ideas. Or maybe, you might have a world-class innovative idea and still need an executive team to transform it into a buyable product or service. But as a leader, the first step you should take if you want your team to trust you is to build your character. When your leadership is hinged on admirable values like mutual respect, integrity, hard work, and empathy, you’ll find that people will start believing in your philosophies.

  1. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

It’s impossible to navigate life without communicating with other people. Every day, there’s a need to exchange information with friends, workmates, and even strangers. Whether it’s something as simple as a greeting, or a more complex idea like a work presentation, understanding other people should always eclipse your need to be understood. More so, as a leader, there’s no shortcut for creating a win-win paradigm without making room to accommodate other people’s ideas or suggestions.

In that regard, the first step towards understanding other people is to familiarize yourself with the different modes of communication. The four basic modes of communication include reading, writing, speaking, and listening. And while the first three are second nature, the last one often baffles most individuals. Yet, it’s only by listening intently that you can soak up other people’s perspectives and learn from them. In his book, Covey emphasizes the importance of empathetic listening. This form of attentive listening involves blocking every possible obstruction in order to draw in as much information as you can. Why is this important? Well, when people feel heard, they feel appreciated, hence making them easy to influence.

  1. Learn to Synergize

If you’re unfamiliar with the word synergy, allow me to use the simplest example I can think of. Synergy is simple the fusion of energies or agents to birth something more complex and refined. For instance, for good music to hit your airwaves, there has to be a strong collaboration between the artist and the label that records the music. Although the final product may not reflect the merging efforts between the two, it’s evident that these parties would not exist without each other. In the same way, you need to learn synergy to fabricate refined ideas and products. Clearly, you can see the strong interdependence between this habit and the previous two habits. Thinking win-win instills a healthy collaborative atmosphere where empathetic listening and a win-win mindset can thrive. When these two co-exist, it becomes easier to synergize. And when there’s synergy, trust, focus, diversity, and creativity thrive as well. Eventually, it becomes easy to implement new ideas, find solutions to problems, and focus on long-term goals.

  1. Sharpen the Saw

 Lastly, you need to invest in yourself. Covey mentions a saw in reference to your physical and mental capabilities. Look at it this way: as a saw cuts continuously, it’s bound to become blunt, hence reducing its cutting abilities. Yet when you sharpen it at specific intervals of usage, you’ll prevent it from going blunt and becoming obsolete.

In the same vein, when you fail to nourish yourself, you’ll run out of the energy and motivation to keep pushing. Or, you’ll slowly become irrelevant and dispensable to the people who currently need you. This applies to the physical, social, and professional aspects of your life.

Physically, you can sharpen the saw by eating healthy meals, doing physical exercises, and getting enough rest. When your body is well taken care of, it functions optimally and helps you achieve your set goals. Also, the benefits of a trimmed physique will spill into other aspects of your life. How you ask? Well, you learn and perform better when you’re in a good physical state. You relate with other people more fruitfully, and you acquire renewed energy to become the best version of yourself. If these are benefits you’d like to reap, then you should start shedding off the bad habits that steal your happiness and develop ones.

So get a gym membership and start your fitness journey. Enroll in therapy and heal from your past traumas. Take up a leadership course to increase your chances of securing a promotion. Attend that networking event so that you can expand your professional circle and build your confidence. Just sharpen that saw!


Remember, the goal is not just to start these habits. Your aim should be to develop a system to track them and let them guide your everyday decisions. We highly recommend that you watch our video series of this article and grab your copy of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey!

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