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The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People

The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, published in 1990, is a book written by Stephen Covey. It details a list of seven habits that allegedly help a person align him or herself to what Covey calls "true north," or universal principles that he believes all people can agree on, as opposed to personal values.

The book was enormously popular, and catapulted Covey into lucrative public-speaking appearances and workshops. He has also written a number of sequels and spinoffs, such Power of the Seven Habits; Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families; and Beyond the Seven Habits.

The seven habits are:

  1. Be Proactive, or do everything in your power in each situation so that things will come out well.
  2. Begin with the End in Mind, or use your creativity to imagine how things could and should be. Think about values, end goals, and be proactive instead of being caught in the instant and only reacting to events. The first step is to write a "personal mission statement" that describes your values, your principles, what is important to you above all. It is for you what the constitution is for a country. It defines the mission you want to accomplish during your life. Visualization is a device to begin with the end in mind. It is commonly used by top-performing athletes and business people. Organizational mission statements are like personal mission statements, but at an organization of company level: it defines what the organization stands for, what its values are. For instance for IBM, those values are: "the dignity of individual, excellence, and service." Organizational mission statements can only be effective if by all the people in the organization, instead of just a few high ranking executives.
  3. Put First Things First, or prioritize the things in your life, setting aside time first for the most important things, or those things that relate to long-term growth and success, and let the more pressing, immediate, but less important things get what's left.
    This habit is about personal management, often expressed in schedules and prioritized task lists. But in the long run, plans and schedules will only be followed if they were established based on values and principles; thus the capital importance of habit 1 and 2 to support habit 3.
    Delegation is an important part of time management. Instead of focusing on how to perform the task, successful delegation works by concentrating on what the results should be, what the implication of getting the result or not getting it will be, and how the work will be judged.
  4. Think Win-Win, as opposed to win-lose, looking for creative solutions that get to the roots of problems.
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood, or listening to those around you before you try to teach them, as a person won't listen to you if he thinks that you don't understand him and/or don't care about him.
  6. Synergize, a word that Covey uses to mean work together in new, unexpected ways.
  7. Sharpen the saw, or do things for personal growth, self renewal, and continually improving in the areas outlined by the other six habits.

The first three habits are designed to take a person from dependence to independence, or the ability of a person do do things for himself. Mastering the second three relate to interdependence, or the ability of a person to align his own needs and desires to those around him. The last habit encompasses all of the others.