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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Updated on December 8, 2010

The Seven Habits -- An Overview

This book is not designed to be read once and then put aside. Rather, as you achieve deeper levels of understanding and implementation, the book can be used more like a reference to expand your knowledge, skill, and desire. You should also read as though you are going to teach the material to a friend, spouse, or business associate. This way you will not only help yopu to better remember what you read, but also your perspective will be expanded, your understanding deepened, and your motivation to apply the material increased.

Following, I have outlined and summarized the 7 Habits. All quotes and information comes from the book. This outline/summary is not intended to replace the book ... only to enhance your reading experience by providing a guideline of key points.

Our character is, basically, a composite of our habits.

Sow a thought --> Reap an action; Sow an action --> Reap a habit; Sow a habit --> Reap a character; Sow a character --> Reap a destiny.

Habits Defined - - A habit is the intersection of knowledge, skill and desire. Knowledge is the what to do and why. Skill is the how to do. Desire is the motivation, the want to do.

Happiness is the fruit of the desire and ability to sacrifice what we want now for what we want eventually.


Habit 1 -- Be Proactive

Principles of Personal Vision

Self-awareness enables us to stand apart and examine the way we see ourselves. It is our map of the basic nature of mankind.

Proactivity. As human beings we are responsible for our own lives.

  • Reactive people are driven by feelings, circumstances, conditions, the environment.
  • Proactive people are driven by carefully considered, selected and internalized values.

Where do you focus your time and energy?

  • Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern. (Negative energy reduces the Circle of influence)
  • Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. (Positive energy enlarges the Circle of Influence)

Problems fall in one of three areas:

  1. Direct control: problems involving our own behavior ---> solved by working on our habits
  2. Indirect control: problems involving the behavior of others ---> solved by changing our methods of influence
  3. No control: problems we can do nothing about, e.g., our past ---> genuinely and peacefully accept these problems and learn to live with them

Changing our habits, changing our methods of influence and changing the way we see our no control problems are all within our Circle of Influence.

Proactive people are smart, value driven, they read reality, and know what's needed.

Distinguish between have's and be's.

  • The Circle of Concern is filled with the have's. (if I had .... )
  • The Circle of Influence is filled with the be's. (I will be .... )

Understand consequences and mistakes.

  • Consequences are governed by natural law and are in the Circle of Concern. Our behavior is governed by principles: living in harmony with them brings positive consequences; violating them brings negative consequences.
  • The proactive approach to mistakes is to acknowledge them instantly, correct and learn from them.

The ability to make and keep commitments and promises is at the heart of our Circle of Influence.


Habit 2 -- Begin with the End in Mind

Principles of Personal Leadership

To begin with the end in mind is to begin with the image of the end of your life as the frame of reference by which everything else is measured. We may be busy, we may be efficient, but we will only be effective if we begin with the end in mind.

Habit 2 is based on the principle that all things are created twice:

  • a mental or first creation
  • a physical or second creation

Most endeavors that fail, fail with the first creation.

Habit 2 is based on principles of personal leadership, which means that leadership is the first creation. Management is the second creation. Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things. Often people get into managing with efficiency, setting and achieving goals before they have even clarified values. The most effective way to begin with the end in mind is to develop a personal mission statement or philosophy or creed. It focuses on what you want to be (character) and to do (contributions and achievements) and on the values and principles upon which being and doing are based.

Whatever is at the center of our life will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom, and power.

  • Security -- represents your sense of worth, your identity, your emotional anchorage, your self-esteem, your basic personal strength or lack of it.
  • Guidance -- your source of direction in life.
  • Wisdom -- your perspective on life, your sense of balance, your understanding of how the various parts and principles apply and relate to each other. It embraces judgment, discernment, comprehension. It is a gestalt or oneness, an integrated wholeness.
  • Power -- the faculty or capacity to act, the strength and potency to accomplish something. the vital energy to make choices and decisions. also includes the capacity to overcome deeply embedded habits and to cultivate higher, more effective ones.

Alternative Centers

  • Spouse centeredness -- If sense of emotional worth comes primarily from marriage, then we become highly dependent upon that relationship. We become vulnerable to the moods and feelings, the behavior and treatment of our spouse, or to any external event that may impinge on the relationship.
  • Family centeredness -- People who are family-centered get their sense of security or personal worth from the family tradition and culture or the family reputation. Thus, they become vulnerable to any changes in that tradition or culture and to any influences that would affect that reputation.
  • Money centeredness -- When sense of personal worth comes from net worth, we are vulnerable to anything that will affect that net worth. But work and money, per se, provide no wisdom, no guidance, and only a limited degree of power and security. All it takes to show the limitations of a money center is a crisis in our life or in the life of a loved one.
  • Work centeredness -- Because their identity and sense of self-worth are wrapped up in their work, their security is vulnerable to anything that happens to prevent them from continuing in it. Their guidance is a function of the demands of the work. Their wisdom and power come in the limited areas of their work, rendering them ineffective in other areas of life.
  • Possession centeredness -- If my sense of security lies in my reputation or in the things I have, my life will be in a constant state of threat and jeopardy that these possessions may be lost or stolen or devalued. If I'm in the presence of someone of greater net worth or fame or status, I feel inferior. If I'm in the presence of someone of lesser net worth or fame or status, I feel superior. My sense of self-worth constantly fluctuates. I don't have any sense of constancy or anchorage or persistent selfhood. I am constantly trying to protect and insure my assets, properties, securities, position, or reputation.
  • Pleasure centeredness -- Innocent pleasures in moderation can provide relaxation for the body and mind and can foster family and other relationships. But pleasure, per se, offers no deep, lasting satisfaction or sense of fulfillment. The pleasure-centered person, too soon bored with each succeeding level of "fun," constantly cries for more and more. So the next new pleasure has to be bigger and better, more exciting, with a bigger "high." A person in this state becomes almost entirely narcissistic, interpreting all of life in terms of the pleasure it provides to the self here and now.
  • Friend/enemy centeredness -- The individual who is friend- or enemy-centered has no intrinsic security. Feelings of self-worth are volatile, a function of the emotional state or behavior of other people. Guidance comes from the person's perception of how others will respond, and wisdom is limited by the social lens or by an enemy-centered paranoia. The individual has no power. Other people are pulling the strings.
  • Church centeredness -- In the church-centered life, image or appearance can become a person's dominant consideration, leading to hypocrisy that undermines personal security and intrinsic worth. Guidance comes from a social conscience, and the church-centered person tends to label others artificially in terms of "active," "inactive," "liberal," "orthodox," or "conservative." Church-centered people often tend to live in compartments, acting and thinking and feeling in certain ways on the Sabbath and in totally different ways on weekdays. Such a lack of wholeness or unity or integrity is a further threat to security, creating the need for increased labeling and self-justifying.
  • Self centeredness -- Perhaps the most common center today is the self. The most obvious form is selfishness, which violates the values of most people. But if we look closely at many of the popular approaches to growth and self-fulfillment, we often find self-centering at their core. There is little security, guidance, wisdom, or power in the limited center of self. Like the Dead Sea in Palestine, it accepts but never gives. It becomes stagnant.

Our lives need to be centered on correct principles -- deep, fundamental truths, classic truths, generic common denominators. As a principle centered person, you try stand apart from the emotions of situations and from other factors to evaluate options.


Habit 3 -- Put First Things First

Principles of Personal Management

Habit 3 is the exercise of independent will toward becoming principle centered.

The Power of Independent Will

  • The ability to make decisions and choices and act in accordance with them.
  • The degree to which we have developed our independent will is measured by our personal integrity.
  • Integrity is the value we place on ourselves.
  • Effective management is putting first things first.

  • Urgent matters are usually visible, they insist on action, they are easy and fun to do.
  • Important matters contribute to our mission.
  • Effective people stay out of Quadrants III and IV.
  • Quadrant II is the heart of effective personal management.

A Quadrant II organizer will meet six criteria:

  1. Coherence. Harmony, unity, and integrity between vision and mission, priorities and plans, and desires and discipline.
  2. Balance. Success in the various roles of our life.
  3. Quadrant II Focus. Organize your life on a weekly basis. Schedule your priorities don't prioritize what's on your schedule.
  4. A "People" Dimension. Focus on people not just the schedule.
  5. Flexibility. The planning tool should be tailored to you.
  6. Portability. You should be able to carry your tool with you.

Becoming a Quadrant II Manager

  • Identify roles
  • Select goals
  • Schedule
  • Adapt

Think effectiveness with people and efficiency with things.

Advances of the Fourth Generation

  • Principle centered -- empowers you to see your time in the context of what is really important and effective
  • Conscience directed -- Gives the opportunity to organize your life to the best of your ability in harmony with your deepest values. But it also gives you the freedom to peacefully subordinate your schedule to higher values.
  • Defines your unique mission -- Includes values and long-term goals. This gives direction and purpose to the way you spend each day.
  • Helps balance your life by identifying roles
  • Greater context through weekly organizing


Habit 4 -- Think Win/Win

Principles of Interpersonal Leadership

Six Paradigms of Human Interaction

  1. Win/Win

  • Agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial
  • A belief in the Third Alternative -- a better way


  • Result of encounters between two Win/Lose individuals.
  • Also the philosophy of highly dependent people.


  • Use of position, power, credentials, possessions or personality to get one's way.
  • The win/lose mentality is dysfunctional to interdependence.


  • Win at all costs. Other people don't matter.
  • The most common approach in everyday negotiation.


  • Lose/Win people are quick to please or appease.
  • Capitulation -- giving in or giving up.

NOTE. Many executives, managers and parents oscillate between Win/Lose and Lose/WIN.

Win/Win or No Deal

  • If we can't find a solution that would benefit both parties, we agree to disagree.
  • Most realistic at the beginning of a relationship or enterprise.

Which Option is Best?

  • Most situations are part of an interdependent reality.
  • Win/Win solutions are synergistic.

Five Dimensions of Win/Win

  1. Character. The foundation of Win/Win
  • Integrity. The value we place on ourselves.
  • Maturity. The balance between courage and consideration.
  • Abundance Mentality. There is plenty out there for everybody.

Relationships. Courtesy, respect and appreciation for the other person and his point of view.

Agreements. Cover a wide scope of interdependent action.

  • Desired results
  • Guidelines
  • Resources
  • Accountability
  • Consequences

Supportive Systems. Reward systems must reflect the values of the mission statement.

Processes. The route to Win/Win:

  • See the problem from another point of view.
  • Identify the key issues and concerns involved.
  • Determine what results would constitute a fully acceptable solution.
  • Identify possible new options to achieve those results.


Habit 5 -- Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Principles of Empathic Communication

Communication is the most important skill in life. If you want to interact effectively with me, to influence me, you first need to understand me. You have to build the skills of empathic listening on a base of character that inspires openness and trust.

Most people listen with the intent to reply instead of with the intent to understand..

When another person speaks, we are usually 'listening' at one of four levels:

  1. ignoring - not listening at all
  2. pretending - "yeah; uh-huh right"
  3. selective listening - hearing only certain parts
  4. attentive listening - paying attention and focusing on the words being said.

Very few of us ever practice the highest (fifth level) form of listening -- empathic listening. Only 10 percent of our communication is represented by the words we say, another 30 percent by our sounds, and 60 percent by body language. Listen with your ears; but also with your eyes and heart. Listen for feeling, for meaning, for behavior. Empathic listening is powerful - gives accurate data to work with. Empathic listening is risky - takes great deal of security to go into deep listening experience due to opening up to influence; become vulnerable.

Because we listen autobiographically (from the perspective of our own paradigms), we tend to respond in one of four ways:

  1. We evaluate - either agree or disagree;
  2. We probe - ask questions from our own frame of reference;
  3. We advise - give counsel based on our own experience;
  4. We interpret - try to figure people out. The language of logic is different from the language of sentiment and emotion. As long as responses are logical, we are at liberty to ask questions and give counsel. The moment responses become emotional, empathic listening is necessary.

Empathic listening involves four developmental stages

  1. mimic content - listen to the words coming out of their mouth and repeat them.
  2. rephrase the content - a little more effective; put into your own words.
  3. reflect feeling - paying attention to the way they feel about what they are saying
  4. rephrase the content and reflect the feeling - doing both helps them work through their own thoughts and feelings.

Empathic listening enables us to turn transactional opportunities into transformational opportunities. The key to empathic listening is to genuinely seek the welfare of the individual to whom you are listening. As you learn to listen deeply to other people, you will discover tremendous differences in perception.

Habit 5 is the first step in the process of Win/Win.

Knowing how to be understood is the other half of Habit 5 and is crucial in reaching Win/Win solutions.

The essence of making effective presentations:

  • Ethos -- your personal credibility.
  • Pathos -- the empathic side.
  • Logos -- the logic.

When you can present your own ideas clearly, specifically, visually and in the context of the paradigms of your audience, you significantly increase the credibility of your ideas. Habit 5 is right in the middle of your circle of influence. You can always seek first to understand.


Habit 6 -- Synergize

Principles of Creative Communication

The exercise of all the other habits prepares us for the habit of synergy. Synergy is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Few people experience synergy in their lives because most people have been scripted into defensive or protective communications. Synergy can be unnerving unless one has a high tolerance for ambiguity and gets security from integrity to principles and inner values.

Valuing the differences is the essence of synergy. The mental, the emotional, the psychological differences between people.The truly effective person has the humility and reverence to recognize his own perceptual limitations and to realize the rich resources available through interaction with the hearts and minds of other people. If two people have the same opinion, one person is unnecessary.

  • You don't have to take insults personally.
  • You can sidestep negative energy.
  • You can look for the good in others.
  • You can express ideas, feelings, and experiences in a way that will encourage others to be open also.


Habit 7 -- Sharpen the Saw

Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal

Habit 7 is taking the time to sharpen the saw. This is definitely a Quadrant II activity.

There are four dimensions of renewal:

  1. Physical -- Involves caring effectively for our physical body. Exercise is a Quadrant II, high-leverage activity that most of us don't do consistently because it isn't urgent. Three areas are necessary:
    1. Endurance comes from aerobic exercise;
    2. Flexibility comes through stretching;
    3. Strength comes from muscle resistance exercises.
  2. Spiritual -- The spiritual dimension is your core, your center, your commitment to your value system. Spiritual renewal is a Quadrant II investment of time that we really can't afford to neglect. A personal mission statement enables us to have an understanding of our purpose which we can review frequently.
  3. Mental -- Surveys indicate that the television is on in most homes thirty- five to forty hours per week. Continuing education is vital mental renewal. Reading good literature on a regular basis is a good way to renew your mind. Keeping a journal of our thoughts, experiences, and insights is also beneficial. Organizing and planning represent other forms of mental renewal.
  4. Social -- This area of our lives is primarily developed in our relationships with others. We can help script others as principle-centered, value-based, independent, worthwhile individuals.

The self-renewal process must include balanced renewal in all four dimensions of our lives. This is true for organizations as well as for individuals. Renewal in any dimension increases our ability to live at least one of the Seven Habits. Improvement in one habit synergistically increases our ability to live the rest. The Daily Private Victory is the key to the development of the Seven Habits and it is completely within your Circle of Influence. Renewal is the principle and the process that empowers us to move on an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement. Conscience is the endowment that senses our congruence or disparity with correct principles and lifts us toward them - when it's in shape. Moving along the upward spiral requires us to learn, commit, and do on increasingly higher planes.

Question about the 7 habits


Which habit do you feel will be/is the hardest for you?

See results

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