Book review: "7 Habits"

I began reading 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey during the last couple of weeks of 2016. I only managed to get about 50 or so pages into it by the end of the year. It was intriguing enough for me to pick it back up at the start of the new year, and I was quickly engrossed in this one.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I bought this book. It was very well reviewed on Google Play Books, and I’ve heard lots of buzz about it on podcasts, blog posts, etc. To be honest, I was thinking it was going to be a read about “lifehacks”: quick tips and tricks to improve your life. In reality, that’s the opposite of the argument posed in the book. Instead, Covey lays out a framework for living life. He advocates for what he calls “principle-based living”. His argument is that if you truly know and understand what you value in life, you can always lean on that whenever you face challenges in life.

Here are the seven habits that Covey believes will help you be effective:

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first
  4. Think win-win
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be be misunderstood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the saw

Now I’ll spare the details here. He spends a significant amount of time elaborating on the seven habits. I 1000% recommend to pick up a copy and read them for yourself if you haven’t already. Instead of going habit-by-habit, I’ll go through my takeaways and favorite quotes in my summary.

If I had to synthesize Covey’s point, I’d say that as humans, we first and foremost need to take responsibility for our own actions. It takes great self-awareness to understand what we do and why we do it, but if we can’t get past ourselves we’ll never make anything happen with others. Second, it is extremely important to develop a serious system of values to live by. From there, you immediately know what is really important and are able to prioritize things accordingly. Lastly, we need to really care about the people around us. This includes intently listening and making sure that people know we truly care for them, despite any shortcomings, hard times, or differences.

I plan on revisiting this book on a regular basis - even if its just to skim through. Despite being written almost three decades ago, there are so many good little nuggets of wisdom scattered throughout that still hold true today. Covey inspired me to take inventory of what matters most. I have started to put together my principles, and plan on writing a mission statement of my own.

I’ll leave you with a particular passage that stood out to me:

Once we are self-aware, we must choose purposes and principles to live by; otherwise the vacuum will be filled, and we will lose our self-awareness and become like groveling animals who live primarily for survival and propagation. People who exist on that level aren’t living; they are “being lived.” They are reacting, unaware of the unique endowments that lie dormant and undeveloped within.