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Book:  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Author:  Stephan Covey

Purchase:  Print | eBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Covey, S. & Collins, J. (2013). The 7 habits of highly effective people : powerful lessons in personal change. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Three Big Takeaways:
  1. Keeping a commitment or a promise is a major deposit; breaking one is a major withdrawal. In fact, there’s probably not a more massive withdrawal than to make a promise that’s important to someone and then not to come through. (pg. 203)

  2. The cause of almost all relationship difficulties is rooted in conflicting or ambiguous expectations around roles and goals...That’s why it’s so important whenever you come into a new situation to get all the expectations out on the table.  This takes a real investment of time and effort up front, but it saves great amounts of time and effort down the room. (pg. 204)

  3. There’s no better way to inform and expand your mind on a regular basis than to get into the habit of reading good literature - you can get into the best minds that are now or have ever been in the world. (pg. 308)​


Other Key Ideas:​​

Blaming everyone for our problems and challenges may be the norm and may provide temporary relief, but it also chains us to those problems.  Show me someone who is humble enough to take responsibility for his or her circumstances and take initiative to creatively work around those challenges, and I’ll show you the supreme power of choice.  (pg. 17)​​​

Highly proactive people do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior.  Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, rather than a product of their conditions.  Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment (if the weather is good they feel good) while proactive people “carry their own weather with them." (pg. 78)​

Our most difficult experiences become the crucibles that forge our character and develop the internal powers, the freedom to handle difficult circumstances in the future and to inspire others to do so as well. (pg. 81)

The proactive approach to a mistake is to acknowledge it instantly, correct and learn from it. This literally turns failure into a success. But to acknowledge a mistake, not to correct it and learn from it, is a mistake of a different order.  (pg. 98)

I have frequently told people who wanted better jobs to show more initiative - to study the industry, study the specific problems of organizations they are interested in - and then develop an effective presentation showing how their abilities can help solve the organization’s problem.  The response is usually agreement - most people can see how powerfully such an approach would affect their opportunities for employment. But many of them lack the initiative to make it happen. (pg. 83)​

The difference between people who exercise initiative and those who don’t is literally the difference between night and day.  I’m not talking about 25-50 percent difference in effectiveness - I’m talking about a 5000-plus difference. (pg. 84)​​​​

If I really want to improve my situation, I can work on the one thing over which I have control - myself.  Sometimes the most proactive thing we can do is to be happy, just to genuinely smile. We can be happy and accept those things that at present we can’t control, while we focus on our efforts on the things we can. (pg. 97​​)​

Many people refuse to delegate to other people because they feel it takes too much time and effort and they could do the job better themselves.  But effectively delegating to others is perhaps the single most powerful high-leverage activity there is. Transferring responsibility to other skilled and trained people enables you to give your energies to other high-leverage activities. (pg. 180)

An emotional bank account is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship.  If I make deposits through courtesy, kindness, honesty, keeping commitments… I build up a reserve.  Your trust towards me becomes higher, and I can call upon that trust if I need to.  But if I show discourtesy, disrespect, betraying your trust...eventually my emotional bank account is overdrawn.  The trust level gets very low. Now I’m walking on mine fields. I have to be very careful of everything I say - its tension city. (pg. 198)


One of the most important ways to manifest integrity is to be loyal to those who are not present.  In doing so, we build the trust of those who are present. When you defend those who are absent, you retain the trust of those present.  While you might think you are making a deposit, you are actually making a withdrawal because you communicate your own lack of integrity. (pg. 206)

Any time a customer (kid or parent) comes into the store with a problem, no matter how small, the clerks immediately see it as an opportunity to build the relationship with the customer.  They respond with a cheerful, positive desire to solve the problem in a way that will make the customer happy. (pg. 213)

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.  They’re either speaking or preparing to speak. (pg. 251)​

Often when people are really given the chance to open up, they unravel their own problems and the solutions become clear to them in the process.  When people are really hurting and you really listen with a desire to understand, you’ll be amazed how fast they will open up. (pg. 263 )

There are people who protest that empathic listening takes too much time. It may time more time initially, but it saves so much time downstream.  People want to be understood. And whatever investment of time it takes to do that will bring much greater returns of time as you work from an accurate understanding of the problems and issues and from the high emotional bank account that results when a person feels deeply understood. (pg. 265)

Set up one-on-one time with your employees.  Listen to them, understand them. (pg. 271)

The single most powerful investment we can ever make in live - investment in ourselves - the only way with which we can deal with life and to contribute.  To be effective, we need to recognize the importance of taking time to “sharpen the saw.” The simple practice of spending one hour a day every day doing it - on hour a day for the rest of your life. (pg. 309)

Exercise is a high-leverage activity that most of us don’t do because it isn’t urgent. And because we don’t do it, sooner or later we find ourselves dealing with health problems and crises.  Most of us think we don’t have enough time to exercise. We don’t have time NOT to. (pg. 301)

As soon as we leave school, many of us let our minds atrophy.  We don’t do any more serious reading, we don’t explore new subjects in any real depth outside our action fields, we don’t think analytically, we don’t write.  Instead, we spend our time watching TV.  Education - continuing education, continually honing and expanding the mind - is vital mental renewal. (pg. 307)