The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

May 26, 2008

Currently I am reading this book by Stephen Covey . The basic overview is that there are a several principles for which people ought to live by. The habits he overviews is

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first
  4. Think win/ win
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the saw

Main theme throughout the book is to be Proactive. It is quite obvious in the beginning of this book that Mr. Covey desires to be in control of his emotions. He states many times throughout this section that he does not want to be reactive to outside stimuli. He gives an example “Chasing after the poisonous snake that bite us will only drive the poison through our entire system” (91). This is a neat analogy, often times I realize that in an attempt to fix the problem, I just do what I think is the best course of action at that moment, letting my emotions drive my actions. Upon later reflection, I realize that if I had just waited 10-15 seconds before taking action, my mind would have been much clearer and I probably would have chosen a much more logical course of action.

Another idea that he touches upon is that a person should not blame their problems on their environment, genes, family relations etc. He says be Proactive, not reactive. There is a period between a stimulus and a response, and it that in that time is the crucial decision to “Act or be acted upon” (76). He stresses the importance of recognizing what we believe “We have to do, must do, only do” and what we truly have the choice in doing. Too many people live their lives feeling stuck doing things they have no control over, when in reality, they do have control over these situations. Mr. Covey points out that often time, people are influenced by “Social weather”, meaning that “if people treat them well, they feel well.” Everyone is still influenced by outside stimuli, but what separates them is Proactive people “are driven by carefully thought about, selected and internalized values”, rather than being “driven by feelings, circumstances, and conditions” (72).

I really like the Illustration Steve Pavlina has on his blog about being a Reactive person VS a Proactive person. “If a reactive person were to captain a ship, the ship would flow with the currents”, and “If a proactive person were to captain a ship, however, the ship would go wherever the captain wanted it to go.” You should go check out his post about it, as his analogy goes much deeper and paints a great mental picture of what Mr. Covey is trying to get across in his book.

The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person.

-Stephen Covey