Stephen Covey (1932-2012) was an American educator, author, businessman, and keynote speaker. His most popular book is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.(1) A student of management and a life-long spiritual seeker, he applied these principles to family life, business enterprises, and society as a whole.
1. Be proactive
Pro activity has a lot to do with a person’s “circle of influence”. What you can control, what you can influence and what is out of your reach. Pro activity is strongly related to acknowledging your own responsibility and influence. The first big step that has to be taken is the step from dependence to independence. Here you will begin to determine your own life by using your own agenda. You are aware of the fact that you are the architect of your own life (habit 1 of the seven habits of highly effective people) and with this knowledge you set to work.
2. Begin with the end in Mind
This is the habit of vision, objectives, and mission. Beginning with the end in mind means that when you make decisions today you consistently take into consideration what you stand for ‘in general’. Habit 2 has to do with the principles and guidelines you choose to live by. You determine what you find important in life, what you stand for, what you want to accomplish.
3. Put first things first
This habit has to do with integrity, discipline, sticking to your agreements. What is life about, and how do you wish to shape your own life? Knowing this, you will get to work pro-actively while setting the right priorities. The second big step is that of independence to (self-selected) interdependence.
4. Think win-win
This is the habit of the Paradox. Temptation is strong to think in terms of winning OR losing- or wanting to be right. The trick is to recognize that a paradox provides an opportunity to unite the poles. You will be independent but at the same time you realize that you can accomplish more by cooperating with other people. You know what you are worth, but you also realize that you need the other person and that it is important to give and receive love. You can accomplish this by thinking in terms of win-win. In case of conflicts you will always search for solutions that are fair to all parties and in which there are no losers.
5. Seek first to understand then to be understood
Concentrate first on understanding the other person and then put energy into being understood. This is the habit of listening, one of the basic qualities of a leader or a coach.
The sixth habit of the seven habits of highly effective people, that is required to achieve interdependence is synergizing. This means that your approach is fundamentally based on respect, cooperation and trust. This is the habit of strengthening. the pitfall is compromise. The objective is to find the third path: how can two paradoxes be combined into something better?
7. Sharpen the saw
The last, seventh habit of the seven habits of highly effective people is maintenance. This is the habit that tells you that are with improving yourself and perseverance. By taking plenty of exercise, rest, meditation, etcetera, you will keep your body, mind, relationships and spirituality in balance.
He later added an 8th Habit. From The 8th Habit Personal Workbook (p. 224):
“The 8th Habit primarily teaches one basic paradigm: people are whole people—body, mind, heart and spirit. As we engage in the sequential 8th Habit process of finding our own voice, then making the choice to expand our influence by inspiring others to find theirs, we increase our freedom and power of choice to solve our greatest challenges and serve human needs…”
In His Own Words
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
“At some time in your life, you probably had someone believe in you when you didn’t believe in yourself”
“Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.”
“Each of us guard a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside.”
“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
“How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most.”
“There are three constants in life… Change, Choice and Principles.”
“Live, love, laugh, leave a legacy.”
“We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.”
A compendium of quotes from Stephen Covey:
- Spiritual Roots of Human Relations (1970)
- The Divine Center (1982)
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989, 2004, 2016)
- Principle Centered Leadership (1989)
- First Things First (1994) (co-authored with Roger and Rebecca Merrill)
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families: Building a Beautiful Family (1997)
- Quest: The Spiritual Path to Success (1997) (with Thomas Moore, Mark Victor Hansen, David Whyte, Bernie Siegel, Gabrielle Roth and Marianne Williamson. Simon & Schuster AudioBook)
- Living the 7 Habits: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (2000)
- Focus, Achieving Your Highest Priorities (2002) (AudioBook)
- Six Events: The Restoration Model for Solving Life’s Problems (2004)
- The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness (2004)
- The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything (2006) (Stephen M. R. Covey, co-authored with Rebecca Merrill; foreword by Stephen R. Covey)
- The Leader in Me: How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child At a Time (2008)
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Network Marketing Professionals (2009)
- The 3rd Alternative: Solving Life’s Most Difficult Problems (2011)