The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Book Review

Posted on March 4, 2016 at 7:07 am

2016 has been quite an interesting and eventful year for me already and it feels like it will be one of the most productive and educational as well. As a part of making this happen I made a commitment to start reading again, consistently, at least 1 book a month. Since I also made a commitment to write via this blog, it only made sense to read more. I thought it would also be fun to review the books I’m reading as I’m about to do with the first.

The first book I read this year was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.

I started to read this book about 10 years ago, but never finished it. I’m glad I finally did. Seriously, this book should be required reading in high school. If I would have read this book then, I could have saved myself from so many mistakes and bad habits over the years. So do yourself a favor and read this book if you haven’t already. I know I’m kind of late to the party in that there have already been millions who have read it, but that means there are still billions who haven’t!

Although the ideas and concepts presented in this book are not necessarily rocket science, and some may consider them “common sense”, the best of us can all too often forget some of the most basic principles about life and relationships. It’s good to have a reminder presented in such a clear and concise way.

Going into reading this book I was expecting to learn about how to adopt better habits and be more effective with my time and be more productive in my day-to-day routine. Although I did get this from the book, the real value in this book lies within what it taught me and/or reminded me about relationships and people.

Below are a few of the highlights and key points that I took away from this book. If you’ve read the book (or read it after reading my review) please share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Covey explains the concept of the “Maturity Continuum” and how we must climb the ladder from initially being dependent to independent, to interdependent. Covey explains why interdependence is the ultimate goal and I totally agree. Principles are the laws that govern our lives and we need to understand them. We must align our habits and actions with our principles. Paradigms are assumptions that create our reality and perception. If you change your attitude you will change your behavior.

I thought the mention of Aesop’s Fable with The Goose and The Golden Egg was interesting. This applies to relationships and hints at why you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Once you break trust with someone, it can be very difficult and sometimes impossible to repair that trust, even when you fix the thing that caused it (Clam Chowder story).

The Emotional Bank Account – Trust and social capital with people happens by making deposits into their emotional bank accounts. Things you can do to drain someone’s EBA include disrespect, discourtesy, unkindness, over reacting, ignoring, threatening, betraying, and not fulfilling commitments. You must constantly make deposits to the EBA with kindness, sincerity, trust, and respect. This sounds like common sense, but it is easy to let external factors. stress, and various personal issues cause you to lose sight of these principles. I admit, it’s certainly happened to me before.

Giving and receiving feedback is important too. The best way to communicate effectively is to start with ME or I, not YOU! Covey gave the example of a guy and how he approaches to his son. It’s all about how you say what you say, be patient and use a good approach. Patience and persuasion are needed to make emotional deposits! Sympathy, empathy and the ability to apologize and with sincerity is key. Learn to forgive (very powerful deposit).

Ok, so that was the intro. Now let’s get into the actual 7 habits. Here, I’m just going to share with you some bullet points from my notes because this is already becoming a long review.

Habit #1 – Be Proactive

  • Your life is a product of your values not your feelings.
  • Take responsibility for your actions and create your future.
  • Don’t let things you have no control over affect your behavior. Focus only on things you have control over and you’ll be much more effective and productive.
  • Freedom is not an external thing we strive for, freedom comes from within. Our beliefs create our reality.
  • Love is a verb (Hollywood teaches love as a feeling) love the feeling is the fruit.

Habit #2 – Begin With The End In Mind

  • You decide your value system. You are the leader of your life.
  • Have a vision for your final outcomes and develop a personal mission statement.
  • Apply this to all roles you play in your life.
  • This is a changeless core. Your mission statement doesn’t change, but your goals and strategies may.
  • Goals and strategies deal with ends and means.
  • We all deal with 4 needs: to live, learn, love, and leave a legacy.

Habit #3 – Put First Things First

  • This is the test of our integrity. This is the habit of discipline and focus (which is something I was already working hard to get better at before reading this book).
  • Execution and follow-through. Time management and priorities.
  • Compass THEN a Clock – Figure out where you’re going before you spend the time going there.
  • People first then process – You can be EFFICIENT with things, but only EFFECTIVE with people.
  • What are your priorities? What are my “5 Things” – After thinking about this one for a while I defined my 5 most important priorities as the following:
    1. Health (Body) – The body is a temple!
    2. Mind (Brain) – Intellectual, Emotional, and Spiritual
    3. Finances (Bank Account) – Financial Stability, Self-Sufficiency
    4. Relationships – Family, Friends, Professional Connections, Community
    5. Experiences – Travel, Adventure, Art, Fun
  • Just say No! We must say no to things that aren’t important. Sometimes we try to please everyone, but then end up pleasing nobody, including ourselves. Don’t be afraid to say no to things.
  • 6 Step Process
    1. Connect to your vision
    2. Study and identify the roles you have in your life (mostly relationships)
    3. Set goals around roles
    4. Organize weekly (not daily)
    5. Exercise integrity and adapt on a moment by moment basis. Stay focused and disciplined.
    6. Evaluate where to adjust

Habit #4 – Think Win-Win

  • Principle of Abundance – There’s abundance in this world so don’t ear the competition.
  • The mindset of scarcity perpetuates fear and win-lose behavior.
  • Think Synergistically – The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
  • You can always say no deal if it’s not a win-win situation.
  • The 5 elements of a win-win or Stewardship Agreement.
  • Teach people the guidelines even what NOT to do. Identify the failure paths and provide resources, but don’t tell them specifically how to do something.
  • Identity how we’ll hold each other accountable. Accountability agreement based on desired results.
  • Define the consequences (good and bad) for desired results.

Habit #5 – Seek First To Understand Then To Be Understood


  • This habit really hit home for me on a personal level. It had direct meaning and immediate utility for me.
  • To feel understood is to be loved and to love someone is to understand them.
  • The key to influence is to understand people. Genuinely.
  • Everyone has their own subjective realities and perspectives of the world and we must respect them first before trying to explain our own.
  • Until someone else knows you understand them you have no influence on them and you can’t be understood yourself.
  • Shakespeare shared this awareness in Henry IV with the line…

“It is the disease of not listening, the malady of not marking, that I am troubled withal.”

  • Carl Rodgers Quote: Being empathic means…

“To be with another in this way means that for the time being you lay aside the views and values you hold for yourself in order to enter another’s world without prejudice.”

  • Listening and understanding is hard to do because we have a lot of preconceived notions based on our own experiences and knowledge.
  • Again, this is why you can’t be efficient with people, only effective, and starts with empathic listening.
  • This requires emotional strength and patience and it takes time and practice.

Habit #6 – Synergize

  • Habit 6 is the fruit of habit 4 and 5.
  • Synergy is when the sum is more than the equal of the parts.
  • 1 + 1 should equal 3 or 5 or 10.
  • Negative synergy is less than 1 (counterproductive).
  • People often go for compromises which is a 1 + 1 = 1.5 situation (win-lose).
  • The spirit of empathy and collaboration and working towards win-win situations satisfies mutual needs.
  • Appreciate other people’s differences, celebrate their differences and seek to understand, first!
  • Realize that we all see the world subjectively. People see things differently and you need to genuinely respect that in order to find synergy.

Habit #7 – Sharpen The Saw

  • You must keep renewing yourself
  • Constant personal development is important
  • Learning and proactively getting better in all areas of your life. Living a balanced life.
  • Not sharpening the saw leads to imbalance.
  • The 4 areas of life (which ironically matched up perfectly with my top 5 priorities)
    1. Body
    2. Mind
    3. Spirit
    4. Relationships
  • Physical exercise helps with self-esteem and having control of your life and spills over into other areas.
  • The best way to manage stress is to have meaning and purpose in your life.
  • Get back to reading. Get back to writing (both require thinking).
  • Author says “Learning how to express your thoughts and deepest feelings through writing is one of great arts of life.”
  • Get inspiration from reading and read the biographies of people you identify with.
  • Get into nature and renew your spirit. Get inspiration from nature.
  • Social/Emotional Dimension – One of the most powerful action steps you can do after finishing this book is to begin the process of repairing a broken relationship. Reach out to the one that tested you the most!
  • Quote

“It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.” – Dag Hammarskjold

  • Negative energy is like cancer, don’t let it linger.
  • Jumpstart your mind on a continual basis.
  • Don’t ever neglect sharpening the saw.

In conclusion, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People certainly lived up to its best-selling reputation. I recommend reading this book and believe the concepts and principals will have a positive impact on my life going forward and I believe they can do the same for you!