The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Can you consider yourself a highly effective person? To be highly effective you must be able to turn ideas into reality quickly and with minimal waste or mistakes. To be efficient is to set a goal and achieve the desired results, no matter how difficult.

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey shows how anyone can have this high degree of effectiveness.

To do this, you must follow seven principles that are organized in a sequential structure:

1. Be proactive

2. Begin with the end in mind

3. First things first

4. Think win / win

5. Seek first to understand and then to be understood.

6. Create synergy

7. Sharpen the saw

In this Arata Academy Summary, you will find out how to incorporate the seven habits and understand the importance of each of them to becoming a more effective person. You will know how to produce the results you want for your own life.

And to understand the seven habits, let’s first understand the paradigms and principles behind them.

Effective people have effective paradigms and principles.

A paradigm is an example, a reference model. How you understand the world depends on the paradigms in your head.

Our actions and results come directly from the way we see the world.

Becoming a highly effective person requires a paradigm shift. This change can only happen from the inside out. You begin changing your principles and values ​so this ends up changing your behaviour.

Most personal development books focus on superficial transformations by forcing behavioral changes through specific techniques or life hacks. For example, the technique of repeating the name of the person you talk to pretend to be interested in what they are saying. It would be so much better to have a genuine interest than to pretend with this technique.

Instead of changing how you behave, change who you are. Focus on improving your integrity, humility, faithfulness, persistence, courage, justice, patience, diligence, modesty, and the golden rule, not doing to others what you do not want others to do to you.

The more your actions reflect these values, the better your chances of success for meaningful and lasting change.

Obviously, such a profound transformation is not done overnight. It requires consistency.

Therefore, these principles must be internalized as habits, as actions that we do repeatedly and so often that they become part of who we are.

For this, the habits were divided into three groups:

Group 1. Private Victory: These are the habits that allow you to have independence, that is, to have mastery over yourself. Here are the first three habits you do on your own, without depending on anyone: being proactive; start with the goal in mind; and make the most important things first.

Group 2. Public Victory: These are the habits of interdependence that you practice when you are in contact with other people. They are useful for teamwork. You need to: think win / win; seek first to understand and then to be understood; and create synergy.

Group 3. Renewal: It is the habit of continuous improvement, balanced self-renewal. It is to sharpen the saw.

The seven-habit approach provides a path of gradual development from dependence to independence. And then from independence to interdependence. And this is a cyclical path, a process of continuous improvement, just as we value it here at Arata Academy. Let us then begin to follow this path by analyzing each of the seven habits.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

The first of seven habits is proactivity. Being proactive is a habit easily identified in anyone who can consistently produce results.

Being proactive doesn’t just mean taking the initiative. It means taking responsibility for everything that happens in your life. Being proactive is the opposite of being reactive. 

The more proactive we are, the less likely we are to blame others for what happens to us. We take responsibility for everything that happens in our lives, for better or for worse.

Proactive people don’t waste time worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control. Proactive people spend their time and energy on things they can control.

Our problems, challenges and opportunities can be divided into two areas: circle of concern and circle of influence.

The circle of concern concerns matters we care about but cannot act on. The circle of influence concerns matters with which we can have direct impact, that is, on which we can act.

Proactive people focus their efforts on their circle of influence on the things they can act on. Reactive people, on the other hand, focus their efforts on the circle of concern, things over which they have little or no control.

This is what you need to do: identify areas where you spend time and energy. This is an excellent practical exercise as a first step to becoming a proactive person.

It is important to invest our time in things we can do and not waste time on problems we can do nothing about.

To feel more confident and increase your circle of influence, invest your time in things you can change. Focus your efforts on yourself, your family and your career and you will never feel like you are wasting time and energy.

Habit 2: Begin with the goal in mind

The second habit of highly effective people is to always start a task with the ultimate goal in mind. Starting with the goal in mind means starting by knowing what the desired outcome is. It means knowing where you are going.

Start with a vision of how you would like to see the end of your life. How would you like to be remembered? What would you like people to say about you? What legacy do you want to leave to the world?

This visualization exercise lets you find your deepest personal values. All the results of your life are created first in your mind before they become concrete.

That’s why you should have the habit of first imagining what you want for your life, visualizing what you want for your future, and then starting to act with that ultimate goal in mind. This second habit is based on imagination, the ability to foresee in your mind what you still cannot see with your eyes.

Don’t expect just making this visualization enough to attract or manifest the desired outcome. Visualization is one of the strategic planning steps. Visualization serves to give you clarity of the ultimate goal and thus to act effectively toward the desired outcome.

More specifically, this habit requires that before you start a task, you have clarity about the end result you want to achieve with your actions.

The habit of starting with the goal in mind allows your actions to be directed to the true meaning of your life, to your true personal mission.

In setting this mission, you must think carefully about your highest values. It is important to have clear values ​​so that when problems or unforeseen issues arise, you can act on what you value most.

Focus on what you want to be, your character, and what you want to do, your contributions and achievements. That will be your plan for success.

Habit 3: First things first

Do you know what is most important? Think for example what is most important to you: your well-being or spending time on social media? It is very simple to identify what is most important. What is lacking is awareness of our choices.

To raise your awareness, question your choices. For example, consider what is the first thing you usually do when you wake up: do you take care of your well-being or pick up your phone to check what happened on social media while you slept? Try to increase the consistency between your choices and what you consider important.

Putting first things first is about prioritising the most valuable things in life. When you learn to do the important things first, you avoid falling into contradictions.

There is a difference between what we say and what we do. Most of us say we prioritize personal or family wellbeing, but we actually spend more time and attention to what we say is less of a priority, such as checking social networks.

If in Habit 2 you have figured out how to visualize what you want for your life, in Habit 3 you will learn how to prioritize your actions to turn that visualization into real results in an efficient manner.

The first step in this is to learn to differentiate what is urgent from what is important in order to be able to make decisions and act on them. Doing this over and over again increases your personal integrity so you can trust yourself more and more.

To do so, you can act according to priority, and you need to sort your tasks into urgent and important. Urgent affairs put pressure on us and require quick action. If your kitchen sink is leaking water, this is an urgent matter. Urgent tasks need to be resolved as soon as possible.

This does not mean that this is an important task. Important tasks are those that bring us closer to our great life goals we envisioned in Habit 2.

A task like fixing the kitchen sink is urgent but not important. Others may be important but not urgent. Urgent tasks put us in reactive mode, while important tasks require more initiative, more proactivity.

Eisenhower Matrix

This classification between urgent or non-urgent and important or unimportant leads us to the concept of the four priority quadrants known as the Eisenhower Matrix, as it was elaborated by Dwight Eisenhower, former President of the United States.

The Eisenhower Matrix divides tasks into four quadrants:

Quadrant 1 – Urgent and Important: Here are the important tasks that, because they were not dealt properly, also became urgent. Crisis situations, scheduled projects, and unexpected problems fit into this first quadrant.

Quadrant 2 – Non-Urgent and Important: Here are the tasks that were identified as important when you practiced Habit 2 and visualized what actions are needed to achieve the desired end result. This quadrant deals with tasks such as improving relationships, writing a personal mission, doing long-term planning, doing preventative maintenance, exercising and taking care of health. In other words, everything we know that we need to do but rarely prioritize precisely because it’s not urgent.

Quadrant 3 – Urgent and Not Important: In this quadrant are those tasks that are urgent but do not contribute to the achievement of our great goals. These are activities like answering the phone, answering emails, meetings, writing reports, making payments, fixing things. The urgency of these issues, as a rule, is based on other people’s priorities and expectations.

Quadrant 4 – Non-Urgent and Non-Important: Finally, we have the usual activities, which are not important or urgent. Timewasters, small details, sorting mail, checking social networks, doing useless social interactions, and other similar actions are in this fourth quadrant.

Unfortunately, most people are stuck in Quadrant 3, managing crises and reacting to minor events with a short-term focus.

Highly effective people don’t waste time with Quadrants 3 and 4, avoiding dealing with unimportant tasks. They often delegate or simply ignore these tasks, learning how to say no to what doesn’t matter.

This allows them to focus on Quadrant 2, which is the center of effective personal management. By focusing on this second quadrant, effective people can have long-term vision, balance and discipline.

The result is that few important tasks become urgent, which naturally empties Quadrant 1.

Personal Development class Arata Academy

Prioritizing your tasks is a lifelong skill

By knowing how to prioritize tasks according to the Eisenhower Matrix, effective people live by opportunities, not problems.

The habit of doing the most important thing first closes the triad of habits that make up the Private Victory group. These three habits are up to you and are already capable of raising your productivity to a new level.

However, to further accomplish and involve others in this positive flow of productivity, you will need to discover the habits that make up the Public Victory group, particularly habits 4, 5 and 6.

Habit 4: Think Win / Win

The fourth habit is part of Public Victory, that is, the habits that need other people to be executed, in a relationship of interdependence.

Effective interdependence can only be built on real independence. In other words, you will necessarily have to first master habits 1, 2 and 3, which are Private Victory habits.

If you are proactive, starting with the goal in mind and knowing how to prioritize your most important tasks, now you are ready to improve your relationships with co-workers, friends and family. This is because self-control and personal discipline form the basis of a good relationship with others.

From this base, you can start feeding a kind of Emotional Bank Account. This is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust built up in a relationship.

Your balance on this type of account grows when you take positive actions, such as understanding each other, paying attention to details, honoring commitments, clarifying expectations, demonstrating personal integrity, and sincerely apologizing when you make a mistake.

With the Emotional Bank Account paradigm in mind, you can start working on the habits that make up the Public Victory group. And the first of these is the habit of thinking win / win.

Win / Win is a philosophy of life, a way of thinking about relationships so that everyone always wins.

This habit of effective interpersonal leadership includes the study of six human interaction paradigms:

1. Win / Win: Both people win.

2. Win / Lose: If I win, you lose.

3. Lose / Win: If I lose, you win.

4. Loses / Loses: Both people lose. This is what happens when two stubborn people interact.

5. Win: I win. Other people do not matter.

6. Win / Win or No Deal: Either both people win or no deal.

Each of these paradigms is a model of human relationships that involves certain goals and achievements.

Work thinking of benefiting everyone

The Win / Win interaction is the most effective because it benefits all parties involved. This is why it is critical to success in all our interactions. This type of interaction comes from a character of integrity and maturity that grows out of relationships of high trust.

Most people are trained from childhood on a scarcity mentality, whereby for one person to gain something, another has to lose. The Win / Win mentality, on the other hand, adopts an abundance paradigm, which views life as a collaborative place rather than a place of competition. In this collaborative place, the success of one is not achieved by the sacrifice or exclusion of another.

Overall, the Win / Win solution is ideal for carrying out projects involving co-workers, family or friends. Thinking in this way shows others that you have principles of high value, such as character, integrity, maturity, and an abundance mentality.

A good way to come up with this solution is Win / Win or No Deal. When you add No Deal as an option, it is common for parties to try harder to come up with a Win / Win solution for the simple fear of leaving empty handed.

Another strategy is to base your negotiations on principles, not positions. I already talked about that in the Arata Academy videos about negotiation.

There are four steps you must take to get you to this type of solution:

1. See the problem from the other person’s point of view: empathically, try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and understand from their point of view what the real needs are.

2. Identify key issues and concerns: Instead of being busy defending your position, try to understand which key points are preventing a Win / Win agreement and the concerns of the parties involved.

3. Find an acceptable solution: Identify with others what results would be acceptable to all parties, even if no immediate agreement can be reached.

4. Identify new options: Use group creativity to come up with new options to achieve the acceptable results determined in the previous step.

Habits 5 and 6 deal directly with two of the elements of this process. Let us then study these habits.

Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood

The fifth habit can be summed up in one word: empathy. When someone comes to talk to you, what they want most is your attention. They want to be heard. He or she wants you to put yourself in their shoes and understand the context from their situation.

Unfortunately, it is very common that when someone else is talking to us, we are not 100% present in the conversation. Sometimes we are thinking of something else, or we are analyzing the person’s appearance, or simply what we are going to say next. Sometimes we are distracted by the cell phone while the other person speaks.

Understanding first then being understood later seems like an easy habit, but the truth is that we need to avoid the mistake of hurrying and responding without first really understanding what the other person needs.

In other words, we need to listen to understand and not to think about what we are going to answer. To do this we have to master the principles of empathic communication, the highest on a five-level communication scale:

1. Listening that Ignores: When we are simply not even listening to what the other person has to say.

2. The Listening That Pretends: When we pretend to be listening, but in fact we are just nodding to try to end the conversation.

3. Selective Listening: When we listen only to what we want, ignoring everything else.

4. Listening: When we are really paying attention to what the other person says but interpreting what we hear from our point of view.

5. Empathetic Listening: When we are not only paying attention to what is said, we are also putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes to understand the context from their point of view. It is the most complex but most rewarding of all forms of listening.

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Understanding each other helps you think win / win

To arrive at a win / win solution it is necessary to see the problem from the point of view of the other person.

For someone else to trust you, they must know that you really understand them. If we learn to listen and analyze things from the point of view of what the person is going through, we can help much more effectively.

Empathy is the basis for good communication. Listening empathetically takes time and practice. We have spent years learning to speak, read and write. But relatively no time learning to listen.

Communication is the most important skill of the human species. Therefore, whatever the investment of time required to learn to listen empathetically, this habit will bring much greater returns to your personal relationships.

The first step in this learning is, once again, a change of mindset. We need to abandon the paradigm of wanting to be understood first. And we need to know how to listen not with the intention of answering, but with the aim of really understanding the other.

This understanding passes not only through the words being spoken, but also through the sounds and body language. Some argue that the words spoken represent only 10% of our communication.

In empathic listening, more than just listening through the ears, it is necessary to listen with the eyes and the heart.

This is the opposite of listening without attention just to give answers such as evaluation, research, advice or interpretation. Let me explain.

Evaluation is when, instead of truly listening, we are simply approving or disapproving what has been said according to our opinions. 

The investigation is already a little better listening, because we are a little curious and ask some questions, but from our point of view. 

Counseling happens when instead of listening we are already starting to make suggestions from our perspective. 

And interpretation is a genuine effort to try to understand the situation, but within the limits of our view.

There is a superior form of listening: empathic listening. Empathic listening is a skill that very few people in the world master. If you can perform empathetic listening, even on a small scale, you will stand out in the crowd and produce team results that few people can.

This listening, however, is only half of the fifth habit: seek first to understand and then to be understood. The second half of the habit is related to your ability to make yourself understood, which requires not only speaking and writing skills, but also courage to reveal to others what you really want.

Courage is necessary for you to say the truth. If you open up and are sincere, even exposing your flaws and fears, the confidence in the conversation will rise exponentially.

To do so, instead of going straight to the objective and logical ends of your speech, go through aspects of your character and your relationship.

Make clear what principles you value personally and on what basis you want to maintain your relationship with the person you are talking to. Only then try to explain the validity of your logic.

When you listen well and also make yourself understood, you will have taken the first step not only to come up with a win / win solution, but also to create synergy with others. And that is the theme of the next habit.

Habit 6: Synergize!

Synergy is more than cooperation, simultaneous effort or teamwork. Synergy is what happens when the result obtained by the work of two or more people is greater than the sum of the results that each party would have obtained separately.

The sixth habit of highly effective people is the habit of creative cooperation. It is the practical result of the three habits that generate Public Victory. For synergy to happen, it is necessary for everyone involved to understand each other and to act with a solution that will bring gain to everyone.

When this kind of synergy is created, we can achieve impressive results that would not be possible through individual work. Synergy opens your mind to new possibilities, new alternatives, new options.

This only happens if two elements of team communication are at the highest level: trust and cooperation. First you need to trust the people you are working with. And then you need to cooperate to get each of them to do their job the best way.

Many team members often have to give up certain positions in order to find a viable alternative, a middle way that allows everyone to have more confidence and cooperate more. This kind of attitude represents the abandonment of the “or me or you” mentality. In a deeper degree, it represents a respect and even an appreciation of differences between team members.

So if you can create synergy with your coworkers, friends, and family, you can move faster and more effectively toward the goals you have set for each of these groups.

The habit of creating synergy completes not only the group of three Public Victory habits, but also the list of habits proper for you to become a highly effective person. This is because the seventh and final habit on the list, in fact, is something that encompasses all the previous ones, creating a process of continuous improvement.

Habit 7: Sharpen the saw

The last of the seven habits covers all the others, focusing on the process of continuous improvement. This is so important that Arata Academy’s motto is “Your continued improvement.”

Sharpening the saw encompasses the principles of balanced self-renewal, including physical, mental, socio-emotional, and spiritual improvement. Although the book mentions saw as the tool, I prefer to refer to it as “shapen the axe”.

[This habit can be explained by the story of a young lumberjack who challenges a more experienced and skilled lumberjack to see who cuts more trees in a day.

The young lumberjack starts the challenge with all his might, stopping every now and then to take a look at the old lumberjack. The young lumberjack saw the old lumberjack sitting on his back, apparently resting, and thought: he will never beat me.

By day the old lumberjack had cut down many more trees than the young man.

The young man wondered how this could have happened if he himself had seen his rival seated resting. To which the other answered: I was not resting, I was sharpening my axe…]

This story shows that instead of wanting to act anyway, we should always take time to sharpen our axe so that we can better achieve our goals. 

This habit involves others because it is the habit that makes everyone else possible by caring for your most precious possession: yourself. To execute this habit, you need to be careful to constantly renew four dimensions of your nature:

1. Physical Stress: Exercise, eat well and monitor your stress.

2. Spiritual Dimension: Be clear about your personal values ​​and get seriously involved with them by studying and meditating on each one.

3. Mental Dimension: read, write, plan, visualize. Exercise your mind the same way you do what your body does.

4. Social / Emotional Dimension: Live by your values, develop meaningful relationships. Help others empathically and synergistically by increasing their self-confidence.

For your self-renewal to be balanced, you cannot leave any of the four dimensions behind.

By taking proper care of them in a sequence of learning, dedication and action, your life will go into an upward spiral that will make you capable of achieving any outcome.

Use the seven habits to improve your life.

We would all like to be able to consistently turn our big dreams into reality without unnecessary effort, stress, or personal sacrifice.

In this Arata Academy Summary, you discovered how to become a highly effective person. However, knowing what to do is different from doing what you know. It is no use knowing what are the principles that govern the lives of effective people if you do not incorporate these principles as habits in your life yourself.

This process requires a major transformation that can only be done from the inside out. We just showed you the way, but only you can go the way. To do this, make a consistent effort to practice each of the seven habits as often as possible:

1. Be proactive: Take the initiative and take responsibility for 100% of what happens in your life without blaming anything or anyone for your mistakes and successes.

2. Begin with the end in mind: Be clear about what you want to achieve in your life, in your projects, and in every task you are going to accomplish.

3. First things first: learn to prioritize tasks and always focus on the ones that matter, not just the urgent ones. Learn how to delegate or simply ignore unimportant tasks.

4. Think win / win: When working with others, have the mindset to look for solutions where all parties win.

5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood: develop empathic listening, listening carefully and trying to understand the other person from their perspective. Then have clarity and integrity in your communication to make yourself understood.

6. Synergise: Try to have an environment of creative cooperation with others so that the end result is greater than what could be achieved with the parties working individually.

7. Sharpen the saw: Focus on a process of continuous improvement, working daily to improve your body, mind, spirituality, and social relationships.

Also, try to find your inner voice and inspire the people around you to find theirs. That way you will move from effectiveness to greatness.

There is also an eighth habit, which is a gift for you and is available at this link. 

Our habits define us, so we must be careful to be defined by good habits. Following these habits and making use of them in your daily life will make you change your paradigms and consequently achieve greater achievements.

The path is complex because it requires patience and total sincerity to yourself, but the answers you will find may surprise you. Do not expect to change overnight. Instead, focus on making steady progress, on improving a little each day.

What we insist on doing turns out to be easy, not because the challenge itself has changed, but because we grow and become bigger than it.

If you are interested in having this kind of personal growth in a easy to understand and well structured way, we invite you to visit the Personal Development course by visiting this link – and I have something new for those who are already students of the course. Just log in to the members area and you will find a bonus material, which are the activities for you to practice the seven habits.