The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People — Summary

This is one of the most inspiring and impactful books ever written

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”
~ Albert Einstein

Change comes from the inside out

You can’t take shortcuts for real personal growth. You could master some outside skills like communication and time-management techniques, yet to fundamentally change you have to change your character.

Real change comes from the inside out. Trying to master external techniques without altering your thinking and yourself as a person, will not bring many fruits.

The “Inside-Out” approach means to start improving yourself, which means working on your character and paradigms.
For example:
To create a happier marriage, be the person who creates the positive energy needed to create a happier marriage instead of empowering negative energy.

If you want to have a more cooperative and pleasing teenager, be a more understanding, empathic and loving parent.

If you want people to trust you more, be more trustworthy to people.

The inside-out approach says that it is futile to try to accomplish better relationships (something external) without having changed the internal (your character).

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Proactive people decide how they respond to external circumstances. Reactive people react according to external situations.

Proactive people take responsibility of and control over their fate. They say things like “I will find a solution to this problem.”

Reactive people’s emotions depend on their environment, for example, the weather. They blame external circumstances instead of taking responsibility. They say things like “It’s the government’s responsibility,” or “It wasn’t my fault.”

A proactive person is clear about their long-term goals and aligns everything to accomplish them. Make a list of your goals, write them down. Writing down your goals is like your mission statement, it clarifies your direction.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Be clear about your goals. If you don’t have a clear plan for your life, you’ll probably fall into someone else’s plan. Your daily actions should be aligned with them.

Visualize the outcome of your goals and actions as clearly and accurately as possible before taking action. The more realistic your mental picture of the action is, the better the execution and results will be.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

If you want to accomplish your mission, you have to live by it day by day. Assuring the accomplishment of your mission only can happen if you put it at the highest priority.

Putting first things first means rigorously prioritizing. The important things — the things which bring you closer to your final goals — are taken care of first. The rest, the less important things are dealt with later or delegated.

Daily planning is often too narrow and short-sighted and leaves not enough room for flexibility. Weekly or monthly planning gives a better big-picture perspective of your goals and gives room to adjust the details as necessary and most convenient.

Think preventatively to keep tasks from ever becoming urgent.

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

Most people think have a Scarcity Mentality. That is, thinking that everything is a win-lose, zero-sum game. They see every situation as a competition, in which the winner takes it all, and the looser little or nothing.

The problem with that mentality is that it often ends up to be a “lose-lose” situation. Both parties lose because they are more focused on making sure the other party fails, even if that means that they have to lose themselves.

Lose-lose is also the philosophy of dependent people without inner direction. Such people often prefer that nobody ever wins because then at least, they aren’t the only ones who feel miserable.

In most situations, however, there is no need to be in a competition. There is enough for everyone, and it is much better to work towards a “win-win” situation. Most of life requires cooperation, working together as a team, for mutual benefit.

Change your mindset to the Abundance Mentality. The Abundance Mentality means to think in terms of enough possibilities and options for everyone. A person with the Abundance Mentality has a deep feeling of security and personal worth.

A good way to check if you have an Abundance Mentality is to observe your reaction towards the success of others. Are you happy when others succeed? If the answer is yes, then you probably think in terms of “win-win.”

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be

Communication is one of the most important skills in life. But most people never learned how to listen. Most people try to be understood first. They want to bring their point across so badly that they often ignore completely what the other person has to say or filter out selectively hear only the parts they want to hear, misunderstanding the true meaning. Why does that happen?

Because most people listen with the intention to reply, not to understand.

You can’t come up with a solution before making a diagnose. To understand others (making a diagnose) you have to listen carefully and with empathy first. Then bring up a solution.

If you listen with the intention to reply, you’re doing it wrong. Here is one example if a mom who listens with the intention to reply, that is, with a prescription before making a diagnose.

Mom: “Honey, tell me why you feel bad, I know it’s hard, but I’ll try to understand.”
Daughter: “I’m not sure Mom. You will think it is stupid.”
Mom: “Oh come one, no one cares for you as much as I do, you can tell me.”
Daughter: “Well you know, I don’t really like school anymore.”
Mom: “WHAT?? After all the sacrifices we’ve made for you? We’ve given you everything necessary to succeed, and you just don’t value it! If you’d study as your older sister does, you’d be ok. Change your attitude and try harder!”

In this case, Mom didn’t even get to the WHY of her daughter. She came up with a premature “solution” which will probably not help at all.

As you learn to listen with empathy, you will learn that there are enormous differences in our perception. We see the world through different paradigms. Our paradigms are like lenses. They define how we see the world. We think that our paradigms are the right ones and see them as facts, questioning, blaming, challenging everyone who “can’t see the facts.”

This type of thinking cannot bring us closer to win-win situations. When the other person comes from a different paradigm, it is crucial to transcend our individual perceptions, seeking first to understand. Once we understand at a deeper level, we open the door to creative solutions.

To better understand how a thorough understanding helps in “win-win” negotiations check out “You can Negotiate Anything.”

Habit 6: Synergize.

Synergy means that two heads are better than one. It represents teamwork, open-mindedness, and creativity. Synergy leads to join discoveries which would be much harder to accomplish individually. Each individual gains new and deeper insights into the interaction with others.

The whole is more than the sum of the parts. The interaction and differences between the distinct parts bring exponential growth and results. Shared resources also compensate for individual weaknesses.

Do you value differences among people or do you wish they would all just agree with you? Don’t mistake uniformity for unity and sameness with oneness. Strength can rise out of differences. See differences as the zest of your life.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Sharpen your saw means improving the greatest asset you have, yourself.
Spend some time to improve (sharpen) yourself in the four areas of your life every day.
– Physical: Healthy diet, exercise, and enough rest.
– Spiritual: Read, listen to music, meditate, spend time in Nature, serve.
– Mental: Read, write, organize and make plans, teach.
– Social/emotional: Learn to understand others, serve others, volunteer.

Without working on these main areas of yourself, you will stagnate, your saw will get blunt.

Be proactive, sharpen your saw each day.

I’ve read many books about success. This is definitely my favorite one.

Click here to get it


Also published on Medium.