The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People teaches you both personal and professional effectiveness by changing your view of how the world works and giving you 7 habits, which, if adopted well, will lead you to immense success.

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If you haven’t at least heard about this book, I’d be shocked. It has sold over 25 million copies. That’s as if the entire population of Venezuela had gotten a copy.

I’m not sure if Stephen R. Covey had any clue about what a success this book would be when he published it in 1990, but even 4 years after his death it’s still the bible of leadership and modern management.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Do the funeral test.
  2. Learn how to say no.
  3. Practice active listening.

Let’s go!

Lesson 1: Do the funeral test.

This is the habit that Covey calls “Begin with the end in mind”. He issues a warning that plowing away and getting a massive amount of tasks done in a preferably short time (i.e. being efficient) is only useful when you’re plowing in the right direction.

The classic analogy here is the ladder you’re climbing furiously, only to find out it’s leaned against the wrong wall when reaching the top.

Only if you’re clear about your major, long-term goals can you align each and every single one of your decisions with them.

The by far best way to become VERY clear about those goals is to do the funeral test. I learned about this from Tai Lopez, and assume he’s gotten it from the book.

Ask yourself:

  1. What do I want people to say about me at my funeral?
  2. As what sort of person do I want to be remembered?
  3. For what do I want to be remembered?

Depending on your number of relationships (family, friends, clients, partners, customers), you can also ask yourself how many people will be there to mourn your death.

As Steve Jobs said: all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

Truthfully answering those questions will make you realize you might not want that out-of-the-suitcase, business class lifestyle, or that really all you ever wanted to do was dance.

So be bold and ask them.

Lesson 2: Learn how to say no.

Knowing exactly where you want to go makes it easy to find out what’s important to you, and what not. When you know your final goal, you’ll at least have an inclination for each to-do on how important it actually is.

You’ll often find that the important things aren’t urgent and vice versa. That means some things don’t deserve to be done at all.

Note: A great tool to learn more about the difference between urgent and important is the Eisenhower Matrix.

That means you’re gonna have to learn how to say no. It’s not easy, especially if money’s involved.

Sometimes tempting rewards will be dangled right in front of you, which is when it’s time to pull out the funeral test again to see whether those rewards deserve to be chased.

I’ve tried to learn from Derek Sivers in this regard, who says it’s either a hell yeah, or a no. He’s incredibly focused on a few things, but those things create all the meaning he needs in his life.

Note: I’m using this approach to create my to-do list, and Lifehacker liked it 🙂

Lesson 3: Practice active listening.

The good thing about saying no to doing a lot of things is being able to spend a lot more time actually listening to others.

Active listening is part of our “Coaching 101” on, and it is a 3-pronged approach to communication:

  1. You’re listening to understand the person you’re listening to, not primarily to give advice or respond.
  2. You make sure you understand by repeating back to them what they said and mirroring their emotions.
  3. You help them structure their own thought process.

This was one of the major lessons I learned during my first 6 months as a coach: A good coach is determined much more by the quality of his questions, than by the quality of his answers.

Covey calls this “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” and it is a call to practice active listening and empathy.

Just like you get suspicious of your doctor when he prescribes you hefty antibiotics after hearing you cough just once, we don’t tend to trust people, who we think don’t really understand us.

So make an effort to listen to understand, instead of listening to respond. A good way to start this practice is by simply talking less.

My personal take-aways

When I went through the summary to pull out 3 things, I counted 8 I wanted to share. The best lessons in these blinks are not necessarily the 7 habits themselves (which you can find in tons of videos and infographics around the web), but the little sentences at the end of the paragraph here and there, which show you how to implement them.

This isn’t a how-to book and the lessons will take you a while to implement, since they are general principles. Therefore, they’re all the more helpful once you get them right.

Covey could have been Tim Ferriss’s grandfather, the message is conveyed differently, but remains the same. Whatever you do, be effective, not efficient.

What else can you learn from the blinks?

  • How you can truly change your character to become effective, by going through a paradigm shift
  • What “sharpening the saw” means
  • Why being reactive will make you miserable and proactive people determine their own weather
  • The effect visualization can have on your work
  • Which 3-word phrase is all you need to prioritize your entire life
  • Why you have to change from a “win-lose” to a “win-win” mentality
  • What an emotional bank account is and how you can invest in it
  • The thing nature does to create a sum which is greater than its parts, and how you can do the same

Who would I recommend the 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People summary to?

The 18 year old, who’s considering a career she probably won’t like, but that will make her a lot of money, the 53 year old, who wants to make the jump to becoming a coach for the second half of his career, and anyone who struggles with saying no.

Learn more about the author

Read the full book summary on Blinkist

Get the book on Amazon