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Stephen Covey

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is a remarkable book written by an outstanding writer, Stephen Covey. The book is meant for a wide range of readers and covers not only managerial and organizational, but also private aspects. Covey appearing as a guru of the twentieth century management sold more than 20 million copies of this book. The number is not accidental and it explains what attracts readers.

The book is about the qualities necessary for those who want to achieve harmonious self-development, find the meaning of life, and explore reactions to circumstances. Stephen Covey studied many works on leadership and success, analyzed the lives of many great men, and discovered that the basis of the long-term success and true self is adhering to certain fundamental principles and universal truths. In fact, Covey tries to modernize language of communication and interaction and talk about those examples of moral and ethical values that are preached around the world. In this sense, the book seems like an attempt to create a modern 10 Commandments, albeit without the concept of God. Interestingly, Covey said almost the same thing without any references to the Bible.

The basis of Covey's philosophy, as well as the book, is that people are always free to choose their response to a particular situation. Even in the most desperate situation of extreme lack of freedom, such as in prison, a person is always free to act; thus, a person is not a robot or puppet but an active creator of destiny. During ones lifetime, there are occasions when a person thinks that they have no way out, that they are trapped. In such situations, Covey's positive approach can help. The key points of Coreys work are as follows. He defines skill as knowledge (why and what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do). Thus, in order to develop some skill, one must include all three components: a theoretical model to study, its practical application, and motivation for its use. The development of the first three skills is connected with the inner world of a person, the ability to control oneself. These skills are the basis for the character development. Only after gaining the so-called "personal victory", one becomes sufficiently independent to win battles related to teamwork, collaboration, and communication. A seventh skill, a constant and balanced development, connects all the others. Efficiency, according to Covey, is balance between the desired result and spent resources and funds, which he calls "R/RF". Maintaining balance between R and RF allows using physical, temporal, and financial resources most efficiently.

The author states explicit thesis on each habit or skill proving that a person's life can be independent from external circumstances and opinions. A dependent person passively waits for somebody to take care of them. Dependence does not free a person from the responsibility or allows to blame others. An independent person develops a sense of confidence and self-sufficiency finding something useful for their own personal growth. Finally, people with interpersonal dependence understand the impossibility of achieving the goal on their own. Such person seeks a way to cooperate with people. At the same time, they constantly grind their own abilities ("sharpen the saw" as Covey puts it) and get satisfaction from the interpersonal relationships and teamwork.

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The work had an enormous influence on the successful management strategies and general way of perceiving personal principles of individual development. The contribution was acknowledged by a great number of influential personalities, such as politicians, company presidents, authors, and singers. Such impact was possible since Covey presents his ideas in a simple but efficient way using such tools as life examples and personal observations. It seems that the reader is put into the situation, which other people experienced. Such tool vivifies the narration so that the matters discussed become the readers tasks to solve.

Skill 1: Be Proactive

Stephen Covey adheres to the clear and familiar to western society principle of proactivity: one always has the freedom of choice, and they are responsible for their life. Therefore, environment or circumstances do not bear the responsibility. Covey attaches the greatest importance to our reaction to what is happening to us. Many people hope that the important life-changing events will happen naturally without any effort. They expect that someone else will make them happier and more successful. Meanwhile, other people achieve great results on their own. These people solve problems instead of talking about them, they are looking for solutions, not excuses, and they take the initiative and do everything to complete the task. One "for" argument for them is more important than the ninety-nine "against". They prefer to risk than to sit around idly. The author provides a contrast tool to show the difference between the proactive and passive attitude. He also uses exaggeration to highlight the idea.

Covey defines this concept as a successful person's behavior. A proactive approach is about changing from "inside out." It makes no sense to look for the solutions to problems somewhere outside, one has to work only on oneself. Here the author draws the readers attention to the core of any idea or action, the person themselves.

Skill 2: Begin with End in Mind

The life will appear quite different if one truly understands what is the most important for them, then keep that image in their mind, and act in accordance with it every day. If one leans a ladder against the wrong wall, every step will bring them to a place different from what they seek. Therefore, the basis of efficiency is a clear understanding of the ultimate goal. Otherwise, a person will not succeed, no matter how hard they try. Visualization of the wrong situation creates special image in the reader's mind. This is a perfect method to draw interest to what is going to follow the visual presentation.

According to Stephen Covey, everything is created twice. The second (physical) creation is preceded by the first, mental one. Everything defines the intention to change, even if is not initially formed and realized. And we are responsible for making new life scenarios using our imagination and creativity so that our lives would correspond to our values ??and principles. The description of such neurophysiologic process demonstrates a better understanding of the preceding actions.

The most efficient way to see one's ultimate goal is to develop a personal mission or philosophy, credo. Covey suggests that one needs to focus on how they would like to be (character) and on what they would like to devote their life to (contributions and achievements). Having done so, one gets a basis for the development of proactivity. There will be a special vision and set of values ??that will guide the actions. The person will acquire a life "compass" with which they will begin to set their long-term and short-term goals.

Different people put different paradigms in the center of their lives, such as a spouse, a family, or money. Work, possession of something attributed to success, entertainment, friend (enemy), or church can also become the center of our lives. Many people, the youngsters in particular, are focused on themselves. But all of these, according to Covey, are unstable centers. The only solid foundation that allows to make the right decisions and not to deviate from the mission is our principles.

The life with the principles in its center is characterized by wisdom and inner orientation. In this case, people are not subjected to other people or circumstances. Their decisions are effective solely due to the fact that their source is an accurate map with predictable perspective results. Using these maps will provide moral satisfaction. After all, instead of having to live according to the script inherited from the parents, society, genes, people live according to the one written by themselves The author uses visualizations again. He applies this method of explanation to clarify complex issues in simple images. Another tool, which would be in helpful in this situation is to provide statistical data to support theoretical assumptions.

Skill 3: Do What You Need to Do First

Management is adherence to the established order, execution and discipline. However, it is equally important to prioritize the key issues. Stephen Covey offers his followers to decide what their highest priorities are and build up the courage to say "no" to everything else. Many people make the mistake focusing on the most urgent task when they should concentrate on the most important one and maintain balance between the growth of their effectiveness and the development of their resources and tools.

An efficient person thinks rather in terms of opportunities than problems. They think proactively, though they also undergo crises and emergencies requiring immediate attention. These people maintain the R / RF balance focusing on the often neglected affairs of a high order, creating new opportunities. Effectiveness strategies are described as living beings. Such a metaphor helps to treat them as pets that need to be taken care of. Covey demonstrates an amazingly original way to deal with one's habits, as if he wants to focus on their living character and development according to the masters desires.

Skill 4: Think in the Spirit of Win/Win

Win / win is a special attitude of heart and mind aiming at the constant search for mutual benefit in cooperation with others. It is not easy to select the win-win solutions and arrangements that satisfy both parties. However, it is necessary otherwise both parties will lose in the long run.

On the other hand, Solomon solution cannot always be found. In this case, Covey advises to use the position not to deal with, in which a person and his/her counterpart waive previous agreements and remain in harmony with each other. People neither enter any new agreements, nor have any expectations. It is much better to realize this at the outset. Moreover, setting mutually beneficial cooperation is enormous work. To achieve such partnership quality, people are required to persevere in achieving their goals and careful attention to the others interests. Covey advises developing the mentality of sufficiency. Competition is as important for the market as competition in the workplace is for the company. A pointless rivalry can be dangerous and even fatal.

This point is presented in the way, which appeals to the reader by means of rhetorical questions, so that the reader is able to respond to key questions and reflect. Such a strategy gives time for pondering over the issue and making the appropriate decision. This method also appears to be a powerful way of persuasion. The author probably used it especially for the first social oriented principle in order to stress the necessity of its application.

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

Ironically, the one who listens (but not speaks) well can clearly and convincingly present their ideas. Covey advises mastering the skills of empathic listening intending to understand and not express their views. Essentially, people do not have to agree but try to understand their interlocutor both with mind and heart, in other words at both the rational and emotional levels.

Before raising the issue and assessing the situation and drawing conclusions, people should try to see the position of the other party and set themselves on openness and trust. If trains to do this, a person will no longer be a constant member of two monologues. The most comfortable state for him/her will be a dialogue. Then, it will not be difficult to convince the interlocutor in the fruitfulness of the ideas. In dialogue mode, there are immeasurably much more chances to hit the target and get support.

Covey appeals to inner humanistic principles as if he intends make the reader have a better introspective look. Such a tool is often used for convincing, especially when the counterpart is difficult to be persuaded. In this sense, Covey used this special psychological approach to intensify the effect of the principle.

Skill 6: Achieve Synergies

Synergy, according to Covey, is the construction of the team, team work, cohesion and development of creative interaction with other people. In human relations the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. Successfully running synergistic process produces solutions that surpass the individual ones.

The greater synergy manifests when we face the most difficult challenges in our lives and use our resources, "win / win" motivation, and empathic communication skills. The results are akin to a miracle: we create alternatives which did not exist before. A truly effective person has a normal self-esteem, recognizes the limitations of their own perception of the problems, and sees the opportunities in the interactions with the other people. Such person appreciates the differences between people because they enrich their knowledge.

The author encourages the reader to imagine the issue in a figurative way as if he intends to relieve the audience from taking difficult decisions and ease the situation by explaining in simple words and examples. He spurs to make simple but efficient decisions, which are the foundation for this skill.

Skill 7: Sharpen the Saw

To make it easier for the reader to understand the seventh skill, Stephen Covey offers a metaphor. Imagine a man, who has been sawing a tree for five hours, but when a person advises him to stop for a couple of minutes to sharpen the saw, he replies, I do not have time to sharpen the saw! I saw it! Using the metaphor, the author intends to visualize the paradox picture of the situation, which apparently seems to be ridiculous. By means of ultimately sharp comparisons, he encourages the reader to participate in the process of convincing the man sawing a tree to progress. Such a tool invokes emotional involvement and might contribute to the awareness of the issue.

The seventh skill in the ring closing all other skills because it is what makes possible to use them. This skill develops and supports the most valuable resources, a person. It is a constant updating of four dimensions of the nature: physical, spiritual, intellectual and social, and emotional. It is personal resources and funds (RF). Covey provides such generalization of the most essential tools for personal development as a conclusion that is a logical way to recap the discussed principles. In such a way, he reminds of the natural human thirst of knowledge and improvement that are sometimes neglected. Covey emphasizes the everlasting process of evolution.

The process of renewal becomes effective only when it is balanced and covers all four dimensions. Neglecting one of them will have a negative impact on the others. Speaking of correlation between the physical and spiritual resources, Stephen Covey advises allocating at least 30 minutes daily to own body to develop endurance, strength, and flexibility. If people do not have time to think about the meaning of life, they will never become a true leader. For regular feeding of the intellect, Covey advises reading good books. Another great way to sharpen saws intellectually is keeping a diary. By formulating thoughts and discoveries, people will gradually achieve clarity, accuracy, and relevance of thinking.

It is not easy to raise a solid character and live a life filled with love and service, yet it is possible. It all starts with the desire to establish right foundation principles of life, to break the paradigm created by others, and to escape from the deceptive comfort habits. If peopl begin with a personal victory every day and make the inside out efforts, they will definitely have the results. Putting the correct principles in the center of own life and maintaining balance between the ability to act (R / RF balance) and the development of productive activities, people will build a truly effective and happy life.

The book covers a variety of other topics for further discussions, such as achieving personal victories, individual and spiritual development, necessity of the competition evolution, right to oppose the inherited scenarios, and alternative ways and decisions. Thebooks combines well-thought-out construction of theory and practice; moreover, almost nothing is proposed to take for granted: every topic, every thesis is logically argued in detail. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is a system that teaches to set goals and achieve them, which is incredibly important. The book is a great metaphor, It is possible for a long time to climb the ladder of success, to eventually discover that it was leaning against the wrong wall (Corey 46).

Personally, I believe that even after almost twenty-seven years in public, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People remains one of the best motivating and inspiring books about personal development. The complex of skills presented by Covey is timeless and conveys the fundamental principles of human existence and coexistence. Moreover, considering globalization and tough competition, successful business relies more on quality nowadays than ever. Consequently, the quality is also transmitted to the individual development of employees. Nowadays, in the more humanistic and environmentally concerned world, Covey's ideas seem to be as topical as they were when the bestseller was first published. To conclude, true human values are eternal and should contribute both to individual and social development.