Most of the books I have been reviewing as of late have been about economics or history. How to Be a Friend might be the only exception. While interesting, it’s hard to apply them to daily life to make you a better person in any tangible way. So, for this week I decided to review The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.
Much like How to Win Friends and Influence People, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is about how to use broadly applicable rules and strategies to improve your effectiveness in dealing with people. It’s incredibly useful and easy to follow advice that anyone focused on self-advancement should read. It will make you a better person and friend, and help you successfully advance through your career and life.
Summary and Analysis of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
As you can probably predict from reading the title, Covey breaks his advice down to 7 main “habits” that are really just general rules than actual habits. Each one builds on the previous rules while also adding additional information and advice, making the chapters incredibly helpful. I finished reading it a week ago and I feel like I’m already implementing some of Covey’s ideas into my life. They can be hard to live out, beneficial habits usually are, but at the end of the day, they’re easy to understand rules that anyone with willpower can implement into their lives.
So, without further ado, here are my summaries and bits of analysis for the 7 habits of highly effective people:
1. Be Proactive
I think that there is no better advice than to be proactive. If you care about a cause, then advocate for it (as I do on this website). If you don’t want to rely on government handouts once you’re elderly, then learn the importance of saving and investing now so you can avoid the coming retirement crisis. And, in an example that relates more to the content of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, if you want more fulfillment out of your life, be proactive and go out to build real friendships and start to influence people.
Those are my examples, but you’re probably here because you want Covey’s advice, not mine. Luckily for me, he says basically the same thing. He says to “take responsibility for how you respond to situations,” “take the initiative and respond positively to a situation,” and “work to constantly expand your circle of influence.”
He gives more specific advice on how to do those things, of course, but it boils down to just being proactive. It’s amazing how much can be accomplished if you take Covey’s advice, or Marcus Aurelius’s, and get out of bed ready to build something. And as Thomas Jefferson said, there’s always enough time in the day if you spend it wisely. Spend it wisely by being proactive.
2. Begin with the End in Mind
I think that this one explains itself. If you want to accomplish something, then you need to know what you want to accomplish before you start. Otherwise, you will just be wasting time and energy.
As a quick example, I think President Donald Trump is a good example of that. In both his presidency and private life as a real estate developer, he went in knowing what he wanted to accomplish. And he has been able to do an incredible amount. Especially in his presidency.
3. Put First Things First
Too many of us spending time working on things that we just don’t need to do. Either we’re running around spending time inefficiently trying to respond to crises, or we just spend time on non-essential things like watching TV. Covey breaks it down into the below matrix:
He says leaders should avoid time in Quadrant III as much as possible, everyone should try to stay out of Quadrant IV, and it’s generally better to be in Quadrant II than Quadrant I. Focus on the important things in life and plan ahead.
4. Think Win-Win
Too much of life is dominated by Win-Lose thinking, and that mode of thinking is incredibly destructive. Just read The Great War for Civilization. Basically the whole modern history of the Middle East is a tale of fighting because of a Win-Lose mindset; they’re unwilling to get along and work to advance everything.
That thinking dominated the West until capitalism became popular, as Adam Smith describes in The Wealth of Nations when he describes how much better free trade is than mercantilism. Capitalism is a Win-Win paradigm; a rising tide lifts all boats. Mercantilism and socialism are Win-Lose paradigms; you can only get ahead if the other side falls behind. While that’s not how Covey frames his argument for Win-Win, I think it is a helpful way of starting to conceptualize it.
Covey stays away from that political way of thinking about Win-Win. He mainly describes it in terms of business and relationships. It’s always better if both sides can win, but often we’re too stuck in the “Win-Lose” mentality to find avenues for Win-Win. Covey gives lots of helpful advice in this chapter of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People about how to build up a Win-Win mentality.
5. Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood
One big problem for humanity is that too many people think about what they will say next rather than what the other side is saying. It is a big factor behind political segregation on college campuses and the phenomenon of politicians not being able to say they were wrong. Rather than being able to have a frank discussion focused on universal betterment, everyone would rather just spew their own talking points.
While my experience with that is mainly in the classroom and political world, Covey’s is with it in boardrooms and home life. Too many people are unwilling to listen to their spouse, coworker, or consultant because they would rather just make their own points. In saying to seek first to understand, then be understood, Covey uses his brilliant examples and easy to follow rules to help break down that mode of thinking so that people start to listen to each other.
Covey’s next rule in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to synergize. don’t just rely on your own strength and wit; work with those around you to collaborate your way to a better outcome than anyone could have created individually.
I loved this law because to complete it requires an understanding of every law in the book before it. That requirement means that you have to use all of those laws to work your way to a true understanding of this law. And in doing that you learned to synergize. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but if Covey’s intention was to teach you how to synergize through having the laws in his book synergize, then that’s brilliant.
As an example of another way to think about synergy, just look at the F-35 fighter. In no one way (other than ease of flying) is it better than past fighters. The F-16s and F-15s are more maneuverable and can carry more weapons. The F-22 is stealthier.
Yet the truth about the F-35 is that it is far, far better than any of those planes when it is integrated into the military as a whole. Why? Because it can synergize with other weapon systems, from planes to ballistic missile defenses to artillery systems, to destroy the enemy far more effectively than a legacy fighter jet could. That shows the power of synergy.
7. Sharpen the Saw
All of the habits in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People are useful and helpful. But this one resonated the most with me. Covey makes it the final law, which I suppose makes sense because it is so general and difficult. But I think it’s the most crucial one.
People, especially modern Americans, spend far too little time working on their own betterment and “sharpening the saw.” But they need to if they want to live a fulfilling life. Get out and exercise; you’ll feel better and live longer. Read a book instead of sitting around and watching TV; you’ll learn more. Go fly-fishing (or do something else outdoors) rather than sitting around inside. Read philosophy or history rather than fiction; you’ll learn more.
Each one of those is a little thing you can do to “sharpen the saw” and make yourself a better person. They’re difficult but crucial. You won’t be highly effective or fulfilled unless you constantly work on bettering yourself.
Conclusion to my Review of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
Thanks for reading through this long summary and analysis of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People! I’ve been trying to make my articles shorter recently so that they are more readable. But, I think this one needed to be longer. Everyone wants to be highly effective, but few know how to do it. If you buy and read this book, you will know how to do so. And it will make your life better.
By: Gen Z Conservative