The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Summary and Review

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Summary and Review

Title: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Summary and Review
Book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Author: Stephen R. Covey
Publisher: Free Press

First Published: 1989
Pages: 395 (Paperback)

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a business self-help book written by Stephen R. Covey. It was first published in 1989, and since then, it has impacted the lives of millions. Covey puts 7 valuable habits that everyone should practice to live a fulfilling life.

This book can help you in studies if you are a student; in business, if you are an entrepreneur; in your job, if you are an employee; in parenting, if you are a parent. In general, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a book that would help you in life, no matter what you are.

Before reading this book, I had some deep insecurities, and I was highly dependent on people. I got frustrated with little things. But this book really helped me to be independent to a significant extent. It didn’t just happen after reading it. Instead, it took one year.

Anyway, I found it a heavy book with hundreds of lessons. Each page has something new to offer, which had a significant impact on my life. I even made notes while reading.  And it took me around 45 days to read this book. This was because of two reasons- first, I am slow; second, I didn’t want to finish this book. It’s a masterpiece.

And you see, that’s the beauty of reading. When you read this book, you would find that almost all the lessons Stephen Covey learned in his life are written in it. All the mistakes he made, things he learned, realizations he got, everything. With just a price of 600 rupees, you get lessons which are priceless. Isn’t it amazing!

Anyway, the first three habits of this book will help you be independent from a dependent life, the next three habits will help you be interdependent, and the last habit will help you practice the first six habits. So, following are the 7 habits of highly effective people-

1. Be Proactive

Sundar Pichai, CEO OF Google, delivered a speech in which he told about the cockroach theory. He said…

I was at a restaurant sipping coffee. Everything was quite normal until a cockroach flew from somewhere and landed on a lady in the restaurant. She got panicked and started crying and jumping but couldn’t push the cockroach away. Her friends were also panicked by the cockroach and couldn’t help the lady. After some time, the lady somehow managed to get rid of it. But now, the cockroach landed on another lady in the group. And the drama continued.

Finally, the waiter rushed to them, and when he tried to throw the cockroach away, it landed on the waiter. But the waiter didn’t panic and stood calmly observing the cockroach. When he had gathered enough confidence, he grabbed it and threw it out of the restaurant.

After the drama was over, Sundar Pichai wondered, was it the cockroach responsible for the chaos made by the ladies. If so, then why the waiter was not affected by the same cockroach. It’s certainly not the cockroach but the inability to deal with a cockroach that created the chaos.

Similarly, it’s not the problem that upsets us but our inability to handle the problem. It’s not the traffic jam that frustrates us, but our inability to control our reactions towards the traffic jam.

So, being proactive simply means being responsible for your life and not letting outside influences affect you. In the story, the waiter was proactive because he didn’t get affected by the situation.

Proactive people always focus on the things which they can control and not what they can’t. In contrast, reactive people focus on things that they can’t control. If it’s a traffic jam, they will blame the city, and they would frustrate over their fate and ask god, “why it’s always me?”. But a proactive person would realize that they can’t control the traffic, but what they can control is how they react to it.

So, instead of getting frustrated, they would put on some cool music and enjoy the moment. When you are proactive, you would realize that no matter how worse the situation gets, you can always control how you react to it. So, habit 1 says- be proactive.


2. Begin with the End in Mind

Ask yourself, where do you want to be when you are old, when you have very few days left in this world. Seriously, ask yourself.

I am assuming you have the answer. It can be anything; I want to be a successful entrepreneur and a billionaire, I want to have traveled to 100+ countries, I want to publish more than 20 bestselling books.

Knowing where you ultimately want to go in life and then start working on it is the second habit.

Why is this important? Because, many a time, we work hard in our life. We work smartly. We remain dedicated and devoted and do everything which is needed for achieving a random goal. But when we achieve it, we realize that this is not what we wanted. And so, almost all of our efforts seem to be wasted just because we didn’t decide at first where we want to go.

Effective people always decide where they want to be in the future. It helps them take the right steps in the present, which aligns with their goals, and hence they increase their probability of success.

3. Put First Things First

The first habit says that we are the creator. The second habit tells us to think about what we want to create. The third habit is about creating it in real.

This habit simply tells that you have to prioritize your work and do only those which matters, which aligns with your dream.

This is important because, many a time, we have a dream, but, in the present, we do something which doesn’t align with our dream, which guarantees our failure in the future. If your dream is to be a successful entrepreneur and a billionaire by the time you get old, but right now you are chilling, watching web series, scrolling social media, then I have bad news for you.

If you want to be an author and publish best-selling books in the future, you have to start reading as much as possible. You have to learn about story writing and write short stories. This is what will help you achieve your goal, and you should give it the highest priority. And nothing else should matter. So, the third habit says, put first things first.

4. Think Win/Win

Most people have this mentality that if they win, someone has to lose. These people ensure that only they are benefitted, and the others have a loss. This type of thinking will never allow them to be good at managing relationships.

The fourth habit says that you should always look for win/win opportunities. Win/win means whenever you work, live, or negotiate with someone; you always try to take approaches that benefits everyone involved in the deal.

When I buy a self-help book, I am helping the author who has written it by paying him money. And, the book is helping me to learn what the author has shared in it. This is a simple example of a win/win situation.

I am writing this blog, which is helping you to get an idea about what the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is about; it is helping me improve my writing skills and remember what I have learned; it is also helping the book because it is getting free promotion. It is a win/win situation for everyone.

Similarly, you have to look for win/win opportunities in your relationships and business, which benefits everyone. This was the fourth habit of highly effective people- think win/win.

5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

All our life we have been taught how to speak well, how to communicate our ideas. But what we were never taught is the ability to listen, the ability to understand others. And this causes problems in managing relationships and businesses.

The fifth habit is one of the most effective ways to manage our interpersonal relationships. This says that you have to listen properly and then you should tell them what to do. When you listen properly, you would know exactly what the person means, understand them well, and give the right advice.

Now listening doesn’t mean just focusing on the words. Because Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a behavioral psychologist, found in research that 7% of what we communicate is done through words, 38% through our tone of voice, and the rest 55% through our body language. This is called the 7-38-55 rule, which he wrote in his 1971 book Silent Messages.

Now you see, if you focus only on the words, you would understand only 7% of what they are saying because the rest 93% is communicated non-verbally, through tone of voice and body language. So, remain very attentive, understand what the person in front of you is saying, and then speak your point, and it would improve your interpersonal relationships.

6. Synergize

Synergy is simply defined as the method of working in which two or more people working together produce greater results because of their combined effort than what they could have achieved individually. Algebraic mathematics says that 1+1 is equal to 2. But in synergy, 1+1 can be 3, can be 10, it can be 100. It all depends on the level of synergy.

We might have studied in our school; bee collects its food from the flowers, so flower helps the bees. And, at the same time, the bees help the flowers in fertilization by the process of pollination. This is a natural example of synergy where the bees and the flowers produce more than what they could have individually achieved.

This is the sixth habit that can help you get the maximum out of your relationships and your team. But synergy needs high trust, a win/win mentality, and the ability to listen and understand each other. Once you have all these, you would make 1+1 greater than 2.

7. Sharpen the Saw

Imagine you are cutting a tree with a blunt saw, and you have to cut it within 6 hours. Would you invest time in sharpening the saw, or would you cut the tree with the blunt saw? Most of us don’t consider sharpening the saw because we think it is a waste of time. But in contrast, sharpening the saw is what saves time by helping us cut the tree in the least time.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” This answers everything.

The last habit of highly effective people is to sharpen the saw, which helps you renew yourself and practice the previous six habits. It says that you should take care of your physical, mental, spiritual health.

You can do many things which would help you renew these dimensions. For example, you can exercise and intake healthy food for your physical health. You can read books to take care of your mental health. And you can meditate to strengthen your spiritual health. When you sharpen the saw of your physical, mental and spiritual dimensions, you would be a highly effective person.


This was all about the summary of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I hope you found it valuable. I would recommend you read the book, as it has changed the lives of millions and I am sure it would change yours too. You can subscribe to the YouTube channel of Expords, where I keep posting about self-help and fiction books. And, thanks for reading.

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