Stephen Covey first published The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People way back in 1989. The said book was Covey’s claim to fame as he revolutionized self-improvement and challenged some of the preconceived notions related to it.
Covey’s book became an instant hit and was even heralded as an international best-seller. His readers were diverse, ranging between students and top-tier executives.
Now, 30 years later, the principles shared by Covey are as important and as practical as they ever were. The book remains as one of the highly-referenced materials in its genre.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People set the tone for Stephen Covey’s 2004 follow-up, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness. Covey’s principles were now expressly applicable not only to the organizational setting but to govern relationships and personal improvement challenges as well. Actually, they always had been.
Covey focused the main discussion of his book around the professional and personal habits of an ordinary, average individual. These very same habits make up one’s character.
Every one of us has a certain set of habits, some good, others bad. Some also impact our daily lives and our future greatly, while others have very little or no significance.
Most of the time, we are not aware of our habits, especially destructive ones, all the more if such a habit is pleasurable. We don’t seem to care if it has adverse effects. It’s akin to overdosing on drugs without worrying about the effects.
Sometimes, we just write these habits off by saying that this is who we are, that this is our personality, that there’s no way to change this.
Then again, as the people around us grow aware of these habits, we start sitting back to spend some time examining it and ourselves. It’s then we often realize the costs of not getting rid of these dangerous habits.
Oddly though, Covey’s book does not focus on getting rid of these bad habits we have. Rather, it encourages us to build new, better, and positive ones.
Some people need to sharpen these habits by practicing them repeatedly before they can become second nature. Others only need to learn them and then replicate them. Either way, both methods of learning require conscious effort and time.
Building positive habits can help us see the world differently, while also improving the way the world sees us. The important lessons and takeaways from the book will help us to:
- Gain more control over our lives
- Make more strategic, better, and smarter life decisions
- Improve our relationships with ourselves, our families, and our friends
- Slowly remove bad habits and make more room for new and positive ones
- Greatly improve our productivity
- Achieve a healthy work-life balance
- Be a better and improved version of yourself.
All of these habits are synergistic and complementary to each other. At first, developing these habits may be challenging, especially for those who fear change. Then again, once you realize that you’re ready to take action, taking a leap of faith becomes easier and more pleasant.
Habits 1, 3, 5, 6, and 7 are related to taking action:
Habit 1: The moment you are committed to taking action, you start a proactive approach to your life and how to live it. You slowly start to take responsibility for your life decisions. You shelve the “I am a victim” mentality and make a conscious mental and physical effort to regain full and total control of your life, your actions, and the outcomes of your decisions.
Habit 3: Here, you start committing to prioritize actions that can further your goal. Also, you commit to taking more decisive actions. The third habit supports the first habit in a sense that while being proactive is important, it’s also equally important to act on things that will bring you to where you want to be.
Habit 5: The fifth habit encourages us to listen actively. Though this may seem like you’re delaying taking actions, it nevertheless proves to be a wise decision to make. Active listening allows us to plan further and act strategically. When we actively listen, we can remove redundancies and give the opinions of the people in our team their proper value. Listening to those around us can make a lot of difference in our decisions and outcomes.
Habit 6: The sixth habit calls us to work on our team’s synergy. Ordinarily, 1 plus 1 is equal to 2, but in a synergetic team, 1 plus 1 can equal 3 or more. This means that with synergy the team can do more and achieve better results. If the team lacks synergy, they can be likened to orchestra members who got the same sheet music sheet but can’t play a harmonious melody together. Synergy is the best tool for greatness.
Habit 7: This habit is mainly about standing up and protecting yourself: self-care, not synergy. Covey encourages us to shift our mindset and consciously choose self-care since it’s the first step to making a conscious effort to care for others. One example would be to choose consciously to stop using fentanyl because of the adverse fentanyl effects. This may be baby steps but it can help achieve bigger better self-care decisions.
Habits 2 and 4 are all about Organized Planning:
Habit 2: Here, we are asked to define our life mission and goals. This is a vital part of the planning stage since we cannot set courses of action if we don’t have a goal or an objective.
Habit 4: This habit teaches us how to plan for numerous possibilities and introduces the concept of win-win. The win-win approach is best in making the team members feel more valued. It can also encourage others to participate in the bigger team or corporate goal.
At the time Covey wrote this book, he didn't know if it would start a leadership and self-improvement revolution in the workplace or at home. After 30 years, his timeless, relatable, and wise nuggets of wisdom remains the book people go back to repeatedly. Like any other self-motivation and self-improvement book, however, Covey's wise words won't help work if we don’t heed its instructions.