The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change Book Summary

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change was a groundbreaker when it was first published in 1990, and it continues to be a business bestseller with more than 10 million copies sold. Stephen Covey, an internationally respected leadership authority, realizes that true success encompasses a balance of personal and professional effectiveness, so this book is a manual for performing better in both arenas. His anecdotes are as frequently from family situations as from business challenges.

Before you can adopt the seven habits, you’ll need to accomplish what Covey calls a “paradigm shift”–a change in perception and interpretation of how the world works. Covey takes you through this change, which affects how you perceive and act regarding productivity, time management, positive thinking, developing your “proactive muscles” (acting with initiative rather than reacting), and much more.


Correct Principles: Covey frequently references his Christianity. He says the Habits are based on “Correct Principles” (aka Natural Law) found in Judeo-Christian scriptures and common to major religions.

P/PC Balance: Covey says you must maintain a balance between production (P; your output) and production capability (PC; your ability to produce). You must stay healthy and renew yourself (see Habit 7) or you’ll get burned out and become ineffective. He uses the fable of the Goose and the Golden Egg as a metaphor.

Interdependence: Covey says the Habits lead you from dependence to independence to interdependence (cooperating with others to achieve a common goal; producing things greater than the sum of their parts).

The 7 Habits

Habit 1: Be Proactive

You choose how to respond to what life throws at you. Between stimulus and response lies your freedom to choose. Take responsibility for your actions.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Choose your short-term, daily behavior according to the plan you have for your entire life. Think about the legacy you want to leave. Put things in perspective; what would you want people to say at your funeral?

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Daily planning is too narrow and short-sighted. Weekly planning gives a better big-picture perspective of your goals, and allows for the flexibility to deal with the things that will inevitably come up.

People are more important than things, so plan your time accordingly. Be efficient with things, but effective with people. You can’t be efficient with relationships; they take time. Instead of focusing on things and time, focus on relationships and results.

Only spend time on things that align with your deep values. Don’t waste time on other things, even if it means saying no to requests. Don’t prioritize your schedule; schedule your priorities.

Think of tasks in terms of urgency and importance. Focus on the important, even though they seem less urgent. Think preventatively to keep tasks from ever becoming urgent.

Use stewardship delegation instead of “gofer” delegation; teach a person to be the steward of the task you assign to them, rather than constantly telling them to “go for this” or “go for that”.

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

Most of life requires cooperation, not competition. Work together with co-workers, friends, and family for mutual benefit. Approach everything in terms of “win/win or no deal”; if you can’t reach a deal in which both parties feel they’re winning, don’t make a deal at all.

Create win/win agreements that clearly state expectations, privileges, consequences up front. This prevents you from having to figure those things out when issues arise, and makes the relationship more smooth because it causes each person to manage themselves.

Think in terms of the Abundance Mentality rather than the Scarcity Mentality; The quest for recognition, credit, power, and profit isn’t a zero-sum game. Be happy when others succeed.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Listen with the intent to understand, not to reply. Diagnose before you prescribe. Understand needs, concerns, situation before you give advice.

To understand others, listen with empathy. To be understood, present your views according to:

ethos: personal credibility

pathos: emotional alignment with the other person

logos: logical reasoning

You can’t motivate people by appealing to satisfied needs (money, status, etc.); only unsatisfied needs motivate.

Habit 6: Synergize.

Value the differences in relationships. Oneness is not sameness, it’s complementariness. Unity is not uniformity.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Renew and improve in yourself in the following categories, by spending at least an hour each day.

• Physical: Eat right and exercise.

• Spiritual: Find and carry an inner peace. Meditate, read scripture, or spend time in nature.

• Mental: Read good literature to gain the insights of others. Write, organize, and plan.

• Social/emotional: Understand others. Serve others, at work or through volunteering.


Covey says a summary of the first 3 Habits is “make and keep a promise,” and a summary of the next 3 Habits is “involve others in the problem and work out the solution together.” He says the first 3 Habits are about integrity, and the next 3 are about loyalty.

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