The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Summary

In this summary, I am going to be doing a detailed breakdown of The seven habits of highly effective people by Steven Covey and cover everything within the book. 

By the end of this article, you’ll have a super clear understanding of how you can use these seven habits to improve your life.

Not only is it one of my favourite books of all time, but it is also widely considered one of the most outstanding self-help books. 

Before I give a detailed summary of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Let’s start with an introduction, so you understand what this book is all about.


A friend recommended the seven habits of highly effective people to me a few years ago, and I ended up reading it. 

7 Habits of Highly Effective People is one of those books that, as you progress through your life, you will want to return to it again and again.

When you first get into the book, you’ll notice that it starts before it gets into the seven habits, it has a section called paradigms and principles. 

The author explains these concepts. 

So, What is a paradigm? 

A paradigm is how someone perceives reality. The author goes into quite a bit of detail, explaining why it’s so important to understand that everybody has a different paradigm and the way they perceive reality could be very different to your own.

So it’s, it’s essential to understand that difference. 

These paradigms are built around your conditioning, background, environment and how you were brought up, and things like this. 

The author also talks about paradigm shifts. He gives an example of a man sitting on a train. Some children are running around the train being very loud, quite obnoxious, you know, swinging around the poles and whatnot and disturbing everybody on the train.

This man is sitting next to the father of these children and thinking: Is this guy going to do anything, or is he just going to sit there and not do anything about this? 

This guy must be like an irresponsible parent. So anyway, he lets it go, goes on for a few more minutes, finally has enough and says, um, excuse me, sir.

Would you mind looking after your children? They’re disturbing the rest of the train, and at that moment, this other man slowly lifts his head and says, oh, yes, yes. I’m sorry, sir. 

Um, yeah, I guess I’ll do that. I’m very sorry about that. I’ve just come from the hospital; my mother passed away around an hour ago.

So at that moment, this man’s paradigm was completely shifted because, for that 10 minutes, while he was sitting there in his perception of reality, he was thinking, this guy is an irresponsible parent who lacks social skills. 

In that instant, this man completely shifted his paradigm and how he thought about this man was utterly different.

So a paradigm shift is anytime when your thought pattern or the way you perceive reality breaks away from traditional thought. 

The author also says in the book that the quickest way to change someone’s behaviour is to change their paradigm. He then goes on to talk about this concept of principles thinking. 

Throughout this book, you can think of these seven habits as principles, this book is not tactics and tricks that you can use, but it is guiding principles. 

One thing you will notice, and I saw this when I was first going through the book, is that many of these habits just seemed very simple and kind of like common sense, but, as we all know, simple doesn’t always mean easy. 

These habits are simple, but they do take time to implement into your life and embed into your psyche. 

As I mentioned, you can reread this book yearly because the principles never change, whereas tactics do change.

Another common theme throughout the book is the line of maturity. In the book, it refers to it as a maturity continuum. 

So as you can see, there’s like three phases of maturity, and the first phase is the dependent phase.

So this is all about you, and You depend on other people.

Think of it as a child when you’re growing up; you’re entirely dependent on your parents and the people around you. 

The next phase up is independent. So this is about I.

The last phase is ultimately what you want to achieve and what this book preaches, which is this interdependent phase.

So this is all about us. 

So make relationships with people, whether it’s a marriage, family, or the management team at your business, this is about getting good at making synergistic relationships with people, and this line of maturity pops up throughout the book. We’ll return to it a few times.

The last central theme that pops up throughout the book is the concept of emotional bank accounts, and I like this idea from the book. 

So basically, he gets you to imagine that everybody you have a relationship with and everybody you meet has these imaginary, emotional bank accounts, which you can put, deposit into, or withdraw from.

There are many examples in the book but just go through some of the ones I found here. 

So, one way to deposit into someone’s emotional bank account is simple things like small acts of kindness.

Okay. So saying thank you, saying please—small acts of courtesy things like this. A withdrawal would be the opposite, being rude to someone using derogatory language. 

The next one is the golden rule. 

Don’t do unto others what you don’t want to be done to yourself; we all understand this golden rule.

Next, the author says to apologize first, even if you don’t think that you’re in the wrong. 

So this takes courage; people that have an ego or they’re prideful never want to be the one to apologize first. So the author encourages you.

Suppose you want to make deposits into people’s bank accounts, be the one to have the courage to apologize first.

The next point, and I really like this point, was to make sure that you clarify expectations with everybody you meet. 

Whether in business or romantic relationships, clarify those expectations with the other person in the connection from the get-go.

You need to know who owns the role and what’s the goal. So, what are you both hoping to achieve, and who does what? 

The next one here is keeping commitments. 

If you tell someone you’re going to do something, commit to that. That’s making deposits into people’s bank accounts, emotional bank accounts, withdrawals, always cancelling on people saying you’re going to be there.

People expect you to be there, and then you can’t come; that’s withdrawing from their emotional bank accounts. 

The next one was don’t gossip and talk behind the backs of others. I mean, we all probably know people that do this. We may do this ourselves. Most of us are guilty of this. However, we should always have a no gossip policy, 

The last one I found was beneficial and would like to implement the concept of giving effective feedback in my life in the future. 

The author talks about I Messages versus You messages. 

So, for example, an iMessage would be, I’ve been having a problem recently, and I feel somewhat neglected.

Verses a You message. 

You are a selfish person. You have a real problem. Now, can you see the difference? 

They’re both touching on the same topic, the same subject.  

However, you can feel the difference in how they’re delivered.

 When You use, You, messages, your messages are something that labels someone. You’re labelling them, which is something people don’t react to well.

So obviously, this would take practice, but if you can deliver your feedback by using I Messages instead of You messages and not labelling people, that is another way to deposit into those emotional bank accounts.

All right. So let’s jump into the first of the seven habits.


And the first habit is two, be proactive.

And at the beginning of this chapter, it’s, uh, it starts with a quote, which says I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor Henry David through. So I, I love these two last words, conscious endeavor, and that’s basically what we’re gonna go into in more detail here.

The first, the first thing you need to understand is that your, your life is a product of your values and choices and not your feelings and conditions. Well, at least. It can be if you choose to make it that way. So the first thing to take away from this first habit is that you are the creative force of your own life.

So another way to put that is that you are the one in the driver’s seat or in the book. It gives the metaphor of you being the computer programmer that is going to create the program for your life.

And he says that the best way to predict your future is to create it. And. The way in which you do that is by being a proactive person. So the, the opposite of that would be a reactive person and a reactive person is someone that’s really a slave to their impulses, a slave to their feelings and their emotions.

And this is what we don’t want to be someone that lets the conditions of our life control our life. The next insight here is to. Take full responsibility for everything that happens in your life. So you need to separate yourself away from all these external influences on your life and separate yourself from your past everything that’s happened to you.

We all know these people that blame their past conditions, um, why they can’t perform in the present. And it’s not in this book, but I really loved this quote by Tony Robbins. And I thought. Match this be proactive theme, which is don’t let life happen to you, but let life happen for you. Okay. And it really hammers home that be proactive mindset.

So you need to be a hundred percent responsible for where you are at now in your life. And don’t be one of these people that plays the blame game. The next insight is that your greatest power is your power to choose. And. Basically the power to choose is how you respond to any condition that is thrown your.

One of my favorite books of all time. And he also mentions this in, in this book, the seven habits is, uh, man’s search for meaning by Victor E Frankel. And I hope to do a summary of that book in the not too distant future as well, because yeah, as I said, it’s one of my probably is actually my favorite book of all time.

That book really hammers home. This point that your, your power to choose your attitude on a daily basis is a, an amazing thing. Another core concept that it goes into within this first habit of being proactive is this, uh, concept of stimulus and response. So how do you respond to stimulus that is thrown your way.

And he talks about, uh, between stimulus and response is this space where our greatest power lies and that is your freedom to choose. This is what truly makes us uniquely human. If we’re to look at animals, they, they operate completely on just a stimulus and response loop. So it’s all just instinct and training.

Whereas as humans, we have the ability to imagine we have self-awareness, we are aware of our consciousness. So we have this ability, this space in between, and that’s that freedom to choose your attitude. So you really don’t want to go through life as a reactive person, which. It doesn’t take advantage of this, this freedom to choose and manifest reality.

The last insight from this first habit is, um, this concept of the circle of influence and concern. So everyone has external influences and

internal influences.

If you see here on this outer circle, we have this circle of concern, and these are things that are just completely outside of your control. So things like the weather politics, other people’s weaknesses, economics, superior forces, pandemics, et cetera. Now, these things we need to, we need to learn to accept these things as they are, and just get on with our lives.

If we look at this inner circle, this is the circle of influence. And these are things that you can focus on on a daily basis. Okay. You can focus on these things and expand your sphere of influence. These are things like your mood, your personal health, your habits, choice of work. Uh, people you choose to be around, uh, your work-life balance, things like this.

Okay. So this is where you want to focus your energy. So when you wake up in the morning, these are definitely the things that you wanna be focusing on. If you are the kind of person that wakes up, and the first thing you do is, uh, check your Twitter and respond to the latest rant from someone else. And then you check the news and you get angry at what a politician said.

These are things that, uh, You know, in your circle of concern and you, you just want to try and eliminate as much of these influences out of your life so that you can focus on the things that you do have the ability to focus on and change.

All right. So let’s jump into the second habit, which is to begin with the end in mind. So if you remember back to habit one, we spoke about that metaphor of you being the programmer, the computer programmer of your life. Okay. So if that is what habit one is, then habit two is you need to write the program.

And when I was thinking about this in my mind, I kind of said to myself, Don’t live someone else’s program, write your own program. And basically this habit is all about taking personal leadership over your life. And I mean, the opposite of taking personal leadership would be to, you know, have no focus, have no objective.

Just go through life, just going with the flow and letting life happen to you. And the sad thing is that most people just go through life, uh, you know, going with the flow and what’s actually happening is there, they’re living their life by someone else’s program and not their own program. In this chapter.

He had a quote, which I really like, which was, uh, don’t have your ladder leaning against the wrong wall. So one of the first things in this, uh, habit is the kind of walks you through this funeral thought experiment kind of need to imagine that you’ve just died and they’re having a funeral for you and people are coming into the funeral hall.

Your body is laying there in the casket and someone gets up to read your eulogy. And you need to think about what is this person going to say about you? Okay. What type of person were you, what was your character? Uh, what goals did you accomplish throughout your life? What were the principles that you lived your life by?

And I’ve found that when you actually do take a few minutes to go through this thought experiment, it does put things into a different perspective when you need to think about things from a different angle. So from the angle of, after you’re gone. Um, the, the next key insight that I got from this was that all things are created twice.

So you need to remember that even with something like a car or a house it’s always created first in someone’s thoughts. And then created twice in physical reality. So it’s, important to remember just how powerful your thoughts are because everything initially resides in the mind and then it’s recreated in the physical universe.

So don’t underestimate the power of your thoughts. This habit also goes into a lot of detail about writing your own personal mission state. And this is kind of a document for your life, kind of your guiding principles, your values. If we go back, it’s kind of like thinking about a program. What, what are the key principles that this program runs on?

What would you like to be like, what do you want to achieve, and what are your values and principles, and that’s the most important part, your values and your principles. So he also mentions that this is not something that you just sit down and quickly invent. This is something that can take weeks, even months to come up with and perfect, and actually perfect is not the right word because you’ll never perfect.

It, this is something that’s, uh, evolving document. So it’s something that will continue to evolve as you evolve yourself. So the key main take take away from this habit is that you need to write the program. Don’t live someone else’s program, or as he puts it, don’t have your ladder leaning against the wrong wall.

Now habit three, put first things first, this habit starts off with this quote, which says things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things, which matter least by GTA.

Now, if we stick with that metaphor of the computer programmer, uh, like we said, inhabit one, you are the program. Inhabit two, you need to write that program. Then we come to this habit, habit three, which can be thought of as running the program. Okay. So running the program and basically this program is run or organized around everything that you came up with in habit two.

So your values and your principles. Okay. And it is in this habit where you develop your discipline and commitment.

The first thing that I took away from this habit. Was that you need to think about all your roles in life. So you may have many different roles. You might be, you know, uh, a boyfriend, a husband, uh, you might be a father as well. You might also be a manager or an owner of a company. So you need to think.

About every role that relates to yourself. Okay. What are your roles in life? And then from those roles, you want to extrapolate out your goals and then for each goal, for each role, you want to have, uh, plans to meet those goals. Okay. So it’s really kind of systematizing your roles in life so that you achieve each goal for those roles.

Now, throughout this habit, he also presses heavily about this, uh, these four quadrants that he talks about. So. These top two quadrants. Okay. These top two quadrants. This is where you want to be spending most of your life. However, he explains that most people spend their life in these two lower quadrants.

Okay. Just doing things that are not important, not urgent, things that are just not gonna help you get to what you wrote in your personal mission statement up here. Okay.

Again, these things look simple, right. But obviously, then not that easy, you need to work at them. And it’s just good to use this to kind of put you in a frame of mind when you’re thinking about things that should or shouldn’t get done. Okay. So this top left quadrant, this is where, uh, things that are urgent and important, and this is the quadrant that you want to.

Uh, keep this box empty. Okay. Keep this quadrant empty as often as you can, um, up here, things that are important, but not urgent. Okay. So these are things that most people just put on the back burner. Okay. So things like, uh, your relationship goals, uh, improving yourself, your personal development. Okay.

That’s where these things reside. Okay. Um, if we look down here to this fourth quadrant, This is a trap for most people. Okay. This is like Netflix going out to the bar, things that you just need to say no to things that are just really not important. If you really want to achieve your goals in life.

The other key insight that I got from this habit was that you need to be effective with people and be efficient with things, but never try to be efficient with people. Okay. He says, uh, fast is slow and slow is fast with people. Okay. So never try to. Never try to systematize or be efficient with your relationships.

Okay. You can do that with things going on in your life, but not with people and relationships.

So if we come back to our line of maturity here that we spoke about earlier, so we’ve just covered these first three habits. First one being proactive. Begin with the end in mind. And the third habit put first things first. Okay. So these three habits are what he refers to as the private victory. And once you’ve solidified these habits, that’s when you grow out of this dependency phase up into this independent phase.

Okay. Let’s jump into the fourth habit now.

And the fourth habit is to think win, win. And some key insights here. The most important one that I found was that you need to develop this abundance mindset in order to be in the right frame of mind for thinking about win-win situations. You really need to be in this abundance mindset. So the opposite obviously of abundance would be a scarcity mindset.

So if we look at somebody that is. Scarcity minded, you know, they tend to compete, they will hoard information. Uh, they tend to think that people are maybe trying to steal something from them. You know, the pie is getting smaller. They fear change and they avoid risk. Whereas, if we look at someone with an abundance mindset, they tend to be more generous that will collaborate the there’s plenty to go around.

So the pie is always getting bigger. There’s enough for everybody. Uh, they take ownership of change and they embrace risk. So you wanna be a person that is abundance-minded as opposed to scarcity-minded.

The next insight is that. Most people don’t even think that a win-win situation is possible because they tend to think in dichotomies. Okay. So strong verse, we hot verse cold win verse lose.

What you, first of all, need to do is think that yes, a win-win is possible, but second, the most, the more difficult thing is that you need to have, you need to have real discipline with yourself to not settle for anything less than win-win. The other insight was that. You shouldn’t compromise there sh it should be win-win or no deal.

You need to walk away from the table if there is not a win-win situation. And that is much harder to do than a win, lose situation. And finally you, you should always be thinking about these emotional bank accounts that we spoke about earlier. So before you get into any kind of negotiation, if it’s in business or a relationship, you should always be building up that emotional bank account first before jumping into, uh, any negotiation, because that’s gonna make this win-win, uh, much easier.

Habit five seek first to understand then to be understood. So most people do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to reply. They’re either speaking or preparing to speak.

The most important, uh, thing to understand is the sequence of these two expressions. So seek first to understand, and then to be understood. So don’t listen with the intent to reply. You don’t want to force or coerce, you know, manipulate, persuade people into why your opinion is better than theirs. What you wanna be doing is.

Asking the right questions so that you can better enable yourself to put yourself in their shoes and better understand what it is they want and what their paradigm is. You know, we all live in it is a subjective world and we all live in our own little subjective world and every now and then our worlds will collide with one another.

And when we try to interact with each other in these little subjective worlds, uh, what we do is we try to. Interact in a efficient manner. So we’re always just thinking about how we can be understood efficiently and have our point of view. Understood. But if you remember to what we said before, we wanna be effective with people and efficient with things and not the other way around.

So unless you first seek to understand that person’s world, you will, you will not have any influence over that person. And in turn, uh, they will not have any influence over you. So just, if we look at this little diagram here, this is at the top in the red, how most people interact with others. So they listen.

But actually what they’re doing is they’re thinking in their mind of what they’re going to say next. Okay. And then they seek to be understood. So what this book goes into is explaining the, this step of that empathetic listening and understanding, really understanding what, what they’re getting at before you reply.

And then you can seek to be understood. Okay. We’re gonna go into this in a little bit more detail in the next habit, but hopefully that outlined what this means here, seek first to understand, and then to be understood.

And the six habit is synergize.

So how does synergy work? I heard a great story, which highlights this concept of synergy. So I’m gonna go through that story first. And then after that, I’ll get into the insights that I got from this habit. So, so there’s two guys working in an office. This guy always wants the window open and this guy always wants the window closed.

So every day this guy walks in and he opens the windows. And when the other guy walks in, he closes the windows. 10 minutes later, one of the guys stands up and opens the windows. You can see where I’m going with this. So basically this just turns into a big ego trip and both of the men are just trying to get their own way each.

Now, if you’re looking at this from the outside, you’re probably thinking there really are only two options. Either the window is open or the window is closed, and you could also come from a, from a compromised position whereby it’s only open half the time, or it’s only open half.

However, if you recall from habits four and five, we don’t want to make a compromise. A compromise is not what we are looking for. So what can we do next? Well, if we look at habit five, we need to seek first to understand and then to be understood. So what this man can do is use, uh, habit four and think about win-win situations.

So I can see that we’re approaching this situation differently. Why don’t we agree to communicate until we can find a solution we both feel good about, would you be willing to do that now? You know, most people would be willing to do that. Of course you wouldn’t have to word it exactly like this as formal as this, but you get the understanding and then you might go into habit, habit five.

So, all right, let me listen to you first. And this is where you seek to understand them. So in this situation, he, he does that. He comes and asks the guy. The guy says, look, um, you know, I, I feel a bit claustrophobic if, if the window’s not open, if the air is stuffing in here and I just can’t get my work done, I feel claustrophobic in here.

I need to see like the outside world or feel the outside world. Okay. He’s like, oh, okay. And then this person asked the other man, oh, why do you want the window closed all the time? And he says, well, I have a lot of, uh, papers on my desk that need to be all in order. And every time that you, every time that a window is open my papers.

Keep flying everywhere, the breeze is blowing them around. So in this situation, it’s much easier to find these alternative solutions to what they could do. Right. So, you know, maybe, uh, the man could move his desk so that the breeze isn’t affecting him, or they could set it up in a way so that they put up a screen or something where whereby the breeze won’t be disrupting his papers.

And only when they actually understand each other. Are they able to come up with these third, you know, alternative solutions?

This, this habit here is where it really ties together. Habit habits, four, five, and six. These ones really work together with each other. Okay. So it says here for habit six is where you really understand their paradigm. Really understand what it is that they want. And it says here we work together to produce third alternative solutions to our differences that we both recognize are better than the ones either you or I proposed initially.

And when you’re coming up with these third alternative solutions, it’s very important to go back to those emotional bank accounts that we spoke about earlier. If you’ve been, you know, investing into these, uh, emotional bank accounts, making lots of deposits, then these third alternative solutions, these win-win solutions, they’re gonna be much easier to, uh, negotiate.

Okay. Much easier. Okay. And the last insight that I got from this habit was to value the difference.

Effective people, understand their own perceptual limitations and learn how to benefit from diversity. Okay. So I want you to look at this picture. You may have seen it before already, but if you haven’t look at this picture and just think about what you see, what can you see in this picture now? 50% of you or thereabouts will see a young woman.

Okay. Rather pretty, uh, young woman staring off to the side. The other 50% of you will see a old woman. Okay. With a big nose and mouth and chin down the bottom here. Now, if I was to ask you who was right or wrong in this, in this case, would there be a right and wrong? Okay. And the answer is no. So you can both be right.

It’s just, it just comes down to how you perceive the picture. Okay. So think about how you could apply this concept to your life. Think about things that you may be missing. Within your perception of reality. And that’s what it refers to here as your perceptual limitations, you need to learn how to benefit from diversity.

So only when you open up to other people’s perceptions of reality only then are you able to better understand the world and see the things that you are limited by and see the things that you are missing? This is why it’s so important to be developing these synergistic relationships. Anytime that you have a disagreement with someone, try to value the difference, try to understand them and see if there are ways that you can use that difference to come up with better third alternative solutions.

And lastly, these synergistic relationships. Okay. One plus one is not equal two in these synergistic relationships. One plus one is greater than two, could be 5,000 thousand. It could be exponential.

So if we just quickly come back here to our maturity continuum, so we’ve just gone through habit four, five, and six here, and this is what the author refers to as the public victory. Okay. And I. Once you master these three habits, that’s when you are ready for this phase of maturity, which is interdependency.

Now let’s jump into this habit, which is the last habit sharpening the saw.

So habit seven, sharpen, the saw. Um, the material in this book is designed to be a companion in the continual process of change and growth. So this habit is basically all about just making sure that you. Are always continuing to improve upon the habits and improve upon yourself. And he says that there are four main types of renewal.

Okay. You have physical renewal, mental renewal, emotional, and social renewal and spiritual renewal. So. For myself, physical renewal is things like going to the gym on a regular basis. Make making sure that I get exercise. I have the right nutrition. Uh, mental renewal is for myself, things like reading books, um, you know, listening to maybe Ted talks, making sure that I’m always improving and always stimulating my mind.

The next is. Emotional and social. So that’s things like your relationships. Okay. Trying to deepen and grow your relationships on a continual basis. And lastly, for spiritual renewal, there are different things you can do. But for myself, I, I like to meditate in the mornings. I also like to do things like, uh, Tony Robbins priming on the other occasion, which, which I find helpful.

You can think of this last habit as like personal Kaizen. So if you’re familiar with that Japanese, uh, philosophy of Kaizen, which is the continual improvement upon something,

all right, let’s do a super quick summary recap of everything we just went through in the video. To understand this first concept of paradigms, we all have different paradigms. Try to understand. That we all perceive reality differently principles, be a principal’s thinker. Don’t think in tactics, think about principles that will guide your life.

Always be trying to put deposits into people’s emotional bank accounts. Be wary of making too many withdrawals from their bank accounts.

Be a proactive person. Don’t be a reactive person. You are the computer programmer. You need to write the program and don’t live by someone else’s program.

Next you wanna be limiting the things that influence your circle of concern, things outside of your control. What you wanna be focusing on are the things within your circle of influence.

Write yourself a personal mission statement.

This document will outline your values and your principles, and be a guiding document for your life. Don’t put the things that matter most at the mercy of the things, which matter, least you wanna be living in these top two quadrants. Don’t make the mistake of what most people do and live in these bottom.

Two quadrants

know your roles. Know, the goals that you wanna achieve for those roles and plan to hit those goals, reverse engineer your life and systematize these roles. Next, we live in a subjective world. Make sure that you’re seeking to understand first before you are understood

value the difference. Understand that in synergistic relationships, one plus. Is not equal to. And lastly, sharpening the saw, make sure you’re always continually improving your life through physical, mental, social, and spiritual means.

Okay. I hope you guys got some great insights from this book. Uh, I am gonna be making summaries just like this one going forward in the future. So, if you enjoyed this style, please, uh, subscribe to the channel that would really help me out. And if there are any books that you would like me to read and do a summary of, you can reach out to me and let me know.

Tanzeela Farooq

Tanzeela, with a professional degree in Writing and Humanities, is a passionate book reader and writer. She specialises in creating comprehensive book summaries that distil complex narratives into insightful, digestible content. Her writings reflect her deep understanding of literature and are marked by their clarity and engagement. Join her literary journey for concise book summaries and enlightening discourse.

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