7 Habits of Highly Effective People

My pastoral coach recommended that I read this book.  I did (Habit 1) and it has proved to be fruitful.  I look forward to processing more and applying the principles and practices to my life.  Definitely worth reading.

Habit 1 – Be Proactive

Life happens.  When it does we must respond.  We tend to respond from the script by which we live our lives.  How we respond to the small stuff is basically how we respond to big stuff, but only bigger.  This “life” is called stimulus.  Between the stimulus and response there is space and it is this space in which we (can re-)script our lives.  In this space we have the capacity to be self-aware, creative, listen to conscience, and exercise our independent will.  If we don’t write the script for our lives someone else will.  This is the essence of Habit 1.

We can be proactive and unfruitful if we do not recognize that we live life within two spheres: a sphere of concern and a sphere of influence.  There are things within our control and things outside of our control.  As we address our sphere of concern we must do so from within our sphere of influence.  I can only directly control myself.  I can indirectly control others through influence.  Things outside of my control are simply outside of my control.

Essentially, I can choose to live rightly inside these spheres.  As life happens I can choose to respond appropriately.

As life happens (stimulus) I bring it to the Lord in prayer, search the scriptures’ counsel on the matter, examine my life to see if I have any past experience with the matter, and employ all of my reasoning skills in order to know the proper response.  At any point (and possible at all points) I bring my relationships into the equation to pray-study-examine-reason for/with me as I develop a response.

Habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind

I don’t want to be the greyhound that chased the rabbit for ten years and when he finally caught up to it discovered that it was a fake.  I want my life to be meaningful.  Habit 2 is about living your life from the vantage point of the end.  Management is dealing with the now and leadership is dealing with the now from a future-oriented focus.

To assist in this habit we need (so says Covey) a personal mission statement.  A personal mission statement names what is at the center of our lives.  This center is where we draw our script from to respond to life.  Personally, my center tends to be work.  As with all centers, work tends to be the source of my security, guidance, power and wisdom.  There are of course other centers: spouse, family, economic, possessions, friend/enemy, pleasure, membership, and self-centeredness.  The goal is to live a principle-centered life.  This is where a mission statement can help by articulating, clarifying and identifying actions that spring forth from your center.

I am currently working on my personal mission statement, but I’ll keep you posted.  Check out our Family Mission Statement though.  Lots of fun!

Habit 3 – Put First Things First

This habit is about living in the realm of important, not urgent.  Covey says that there are four quadrants that we can spend time in.

Urgent Not Urgent
Important I








Not Important III

interruptions: phone, email, etc.

some meeting & reports


time wasters that do contribute to the overall health of anything

We must live our life in II if we are going to be effective; even though doing so is almost never efficient.  As we spend more time in II then there will be less of I.  The activities in III and IV can be greatly reduced through delegation and discipline.  Quadrant II living requires discipline and an effective tool for scheduling.  It is best to schedule a week at a time and begin by scheduling the things that are most important.

Emotional Bank Accounts

As you develop Habits 1-3 you will begin making large deposits into people’s emotional bank accounts.  When the account balance is high there is trust and willingness to listen, follow, submit, etc.  When the account is low there is little chance of meaningful communication, almost no sense of safety, and general unfruitfulness.

We can make investments into people’s emotional bank accounts in six major ways.  (1) Understand the individual.  (2) Pay attention to the little things.  (3) Keeping our commitments.  (4) Clarify your expectations and understand others’ expectations.  (5) Demonstrate personal integrity.  (6) Apologize sincerely when you make a withdrawal.

Remember, your greatest investments and withdrawals are made in those embedded deepest in your circle of influence (i.e. spouse, children, etc.)

Habit 4 – Think Win/Win (or No Deal)

One of Dr. Jogoro Kano’s basic principles in founding judo was “mutual welfare and benefit.”  Habit 4 is about mutual welfare and benefit.  There are six possibilities for reaching a solution between two or more parties.  The best of all six is Win/Win or No Deal.  This simply means that everyone wins or the deal won’t be made.

Win/Win decisions are the result of five dimensions.  Character is the foundation of a Win/Win decision.  Integrity, maturity and abundance mentality (which says there is enough – very biblical, by the way) are important ingredients of Win/Win character.  Relationships in which the Emotional Bank Account Balance is high are absolutely necessary.  All agreements must clearly define the roles, goals and expectations.  The systems and process must support a Win/Win outcome.  If anything other than Win/Win is rewarded in any way then Win/Win just won’t win.

Habit 5 – Seek First to Understand and then to be Understood

We spend many years learning how to read, write and speak.  However, at best we learn a few techniques for listening.  In order to move forward we must truly understand the other person.  We must be able to empathize, to see things from their perspective.  This is not the same thing as ignoring, pretending, selective listening or attentive listening.  We must listen empathically.

Empathic listening avoids (or uses at the right time) evaluating, probing, advising and interpreting.  These behaviors do not allow us to understand the other, but are simply used to respond autobiographically, from our own lives.  In the end they validate us not the one to whom we are supposed to be listening.

We can begin developing our empathic listening skills through four stages: mimicking (simply repeating what was said); rephrase (repeating what was said in our own words); reflecting feeling (repeating the emotions we sensed in their words); rephrasing and reflecting feeling (a combination of the two).  When we do the latter we make huge deposits into the person’s emotional bank account and open opportunities for dialogue.

Once we understand the other we can then seek to be understood.  This is best done through employing ethos, pathos and logos and in that order.  Credibility, feeling, then logic.

Habit 6 – Synergize

Synergy is the spontaneous, creative flow of words, concepts, actions and emotions that comes as a result of understanding and being understood.  This is the creative process that has nearly unlimited potential that would not have otherwise been taped into.  (This is perhaps what the Body of Christ should experience whenever they gather, but more on that later.)

To enhance our synergy we must identify our driving forces and promote those.  At the same time we need to identify our restraining forces (the negative things that hold us down) and eliminate those.

Habit 7 – Sharpen the Saw

In order to obtain synergy Habits 4 and 5 must be practiced.  In order for Habits 4 and 5 to be practiced Habits 1-3 must be in place.  Therefore, we must take care of ourselves, which is Habit 7.  We need to care for ourselves physically, spiritually, mentally and socially/emotionally.  The first three can be done alone through Habits 1-3.  The last one needs to be done through Habits 4 and 5.  Of course, if you can enhance relationships and get physically fit at the same time then you just go right ahead.  Just remember, all four areas need to be invested in.

It’s probably worth picking up the book at your local book store and reading through it.  There are lots of great stories, which alone make the book worth the cost.  You won’t regret it … unless you read it, ignore it and keeping on doing things the way you always have.


2 thoughts on “7 Habits of Highly Effective People

  1. I will go just a little farther. Read everything Covey has written. He is one of a handful of writers than whenever they write something new I run (not walk) to the nearest bookstore and buy it. Excellent book on life management.

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