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First published in the 1990's, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People became the de facto standard to becoming more effective in your life, across the world. In 7 seemingly easy habits, Stephen Covey describes the life-building and character-improving strategies for attainment. In this article, we look at some key takeaways. Firstly, let's start with listing out the 7 habits from the book. >Habit 1: Be Proactive >Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind >Habit 3: Put First Things First >Habit 4: Think Win/Win >Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood >Habit 6: Synergize >Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw > — Stephen R. Covey

Your focus should be on developing character, not personality. Attempting to portray a personality that is inconsistent with your character is camouflaging, deceptive, and not productive. Habits are what you do consistently, and character is one of the habits that will ensure effectiveness in the long run. This is one of the reasons, Road to Character quickly rose up the bestsellers charts when it came out.

You cannot expect to be effective unless you take action. And action cannot happen unless you take initiative. Before someone else decides what you should do, you should be proactive in figuring out your own course of action. You cannot control your circumstances, but you can decide how to use them to the best of your advantage. You need to see what you can do, and do it.

Focus on the right goals. Power, fame, and money may seem lucrative goals to strive for, but may not mean much in the end. What would you like people to think about when they talk about you at your funeral?

Get your priorities right. Do not confuse the important with the urgent. Do not let the most important things in your life be at the mercy of the least important. Give importance to planning, avoiding pitfalls, developing relationships, cultivating opportunities and getting adequate recreation. Everything else, even the seemingly urgent stuff should come later.

You can only win when others win. A win/lose relationships creates a victor and leaves someone injured and that is going to bite you in the long run. Practice interpersonal leadership to make sure everyone involved wins. Any other transaction creates hostility, animosity, defeat and ultimately enemies. It is better to focus on win/win transactions, so that everyone collaborates and is better off in the end.

A crucial part of communicating better is to understand what others want. What will make them win or happy? Do not object, argue or oppose something before you carefully think about it, from their perspective. The best lawyers always write the case from the opposing parties' perspective and only then do they construct the arguments from their client's point of view. Therefore, always understand what the other party wants and needs and then design your own arguments that respond with the others'.

Cooperate at every opportunity. An arch can support the weight more than the sum of weights that each of the pillars can support. Synergy means bringing together the whole that is greater than the sum of parts. If you communicate better, and if you think win/win, synergizing becomes easier.

Reflect on your shortcomings and attempt to repair them. If you do not constantly renew and upgrade yourself, your effectiveness will be like that of a dull worn out saw: tedious, slow, and unproductive.

Many people incorrectly believe that their genetic makeup and the failures of their parents have set them up for failures. But that is wrong. Only you can decide who you wish to be.

Implement personal leadership by first drafting out your personal mission statement that outlines your goals and describes the kind of person you want to be.

Unless you identify who you are, you cannot implement positive change. Are you self-centered, greedy, workaholic? If you wish to change any of these characteristics, make a commitment in your personal mission statement to make that upgrade.

Every one of us is a mix of roles and responsibilities: spouse, parent, manager, employee, friend and a member of the community. Think of all of these roles in your life, and make sure you allocate some time on your schedule to all the important aspects of your life.

Effective people constantly train their bodies to enhance their endurance, flexibility, and strength. This commitment to personal fitness is sure to make you effective in other walks of life.

Avoid passive activities such as watching television, and instead take on challenging activities such as solving puzzles, reading, and doing math. You can also immerse yourself into something creative such as drawing, coloring, or generating music.

Choose your habits carefully, because they define you. They determine what you will be and what you will achieve. Make a list of all the bad habits that currently infect you and diligently work towards getting rid of them. List all the good habits that you would like to embrace and make a lifelong commitment to make them part of your life.

Once you define your principles and values, it becomes easier to stand by what matters to you. Choose principles such as integrity, dignity, quality, service, patience, perseverance, caring and courage. If you live by these principles, you are sure to have a happy and effective life.

Do what you can to build trust in your relationships, at work, at home and as part of the society. Unless people trust you, you cannot expect to be effective in your endeavours.

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