Bookcover - 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

7 Habits of Highly Effective People

by Stephen R. Covey

Rating: 10/10


Seven Habits is one of the most influential books I have read in my whole life. I think it's the best self-help book out there and if internalized and incorporated into your life, the principles from this book have the potential to change your life drastically.

The core idea of the book is that there are 7 habits, that work together and are central to living a good, productive life. The 7 habits are deduced from timeless, re-occurring ideas and involve heavy character building. They are NO shortcuts. Steven Covey organizes the book into 2 main parts:

  • Part 1 is about habits 1-3, dealing with personal development.
  • Part 2 is about habits 4-6, dealing with interpersonal development.

The 7th habit is the glue tying the other habits together. Essentially the 7th habit is about the continual practice and application of the other 6.

Habits 1 to 3 are:

  • Proactivity
  • Beginning with the end in mind
  • Putting first things first

Habits 4 to 6 are:

  • Seeking First to Understand, then to be understood
  • Thinking Win/Win
  • Synergizing

Habit 7 is:

  • Sharpening the Saw

The first 3 have to be mastered before one can move on. They are personal victories, without which it is impossible to have fulfilling and successful interpersonal relationships. Because the core of well-earned self-respect is missing.

At a first glance, these habits might not seem like much, but wherever I look, every other piece of advice, found in any other book can be derived from them. They are the principles, that everything else follows and that's what makes this book so powerful. So without further ado, here are the detailed notes:


We must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as at the world we see, and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.

Focus on shaping the character you have, instead of fixing short-term symptoms. Longer, harder, more arduous road, but more fulfilling and worthwhile in the end. Steven Covey calls it the character ethic.

  • integrity
  • modesty
  • simplicity
  • industry
  • patience
  • justice
  • courage
  • temperance
  • fidelity
  • humility

In contrast, there is the personality ethic, where people only focus on techniques to cure symptoms of the problems. Problems they, themselves, create due to their inadequate characters.

Perhaps, in utilizing our human capacity to build on the foundation of generations before us, we have inadvertently become so focused on our building that we have forgotten the foundation that holds it up; or in reaping for so long where we have not sown, perhaps we have forgotten the need to sow.

Character is that foundation we have forgotten. If the character is not there to match the actions we want to do, no amount of techniques is going to cover that flaw. The problems will remain, and no amount of help will ever be truly successful. Without a good foundation, every house crumbles eventually, no matter the great building techniques used.

Paradigms are maps we make of how the world works. If one has the wrong map, it is very hard to get to the right place. Even if one works on attitude or behavior, that will not solve the problem of getting one where one wants to go. The accuracy of the map is the most important thing.

This reminds me of Principles by Ray Dalio a lot. There is a section where he says:

  1. Figure out what is true and
  2. then figure out what you want and then
  3. find out how to get 2. within the constraints set up by 1.

And also of WaitButWhys career map arrow, and spending time figuring out which way the arrow should point. Updating your map and getting a true description of how reality works, is the most important thing – if you want to become effective in getting where you want to go.

We interpret everything we experience through these mental maps. We seldom question their accuracy; we're usually even unaware that we have them. We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they are or the way they should be.

Conditioning, from early childhood onwards, shapes our paradigms and therefore the way we interpret and act in the world. Past experiences rewire our brains to act and perceive, differently, in the future. That is called learning and happens involuntarily and almost all the time. We are the product of our whole lifetime's worth of experience.

In the book there is a short 10 seconds example of conditioning on the old/young lady optical illusion, to illustrate the point. Two people could argue for a long long time about what they see, even though they get the same visual input. They see different things and therefore will have a different model of reality, directly shaped by their past perceptions. Updating these models to be accurate then, in other words seeing the world for what it is, irrespective of what we think and have experienced is the goal of getting a clear map. To do that we need to induce a paradigm shift. Or multiple shifts, continually.

Each person's interpretation of the facts represents prior experiences, and the facts have no meaning whatsoever apart from the interpretation.

Big changes require paradigm shifts. And when paradigm shifts happen, that usually means that the character changes, permanently.

Being is seeing in the human dimension. And what we see is highly interrelated to what we are. We can't go very far to change our seeing without simultaneously changing our being, and vice versa.

There are fundamental paradigms in life, that are stable across time. They exist independent of persons and characters but are a product of the environment as a whole. In a way, the principles are evolutionarily stable strategies (an idea nicely presented in Richard Dawkins' Selfish Gene) in the human realm. Certain types of behaviors that in the long run outcompete all other strategies. And he claims those are character ethics.

Integrity and honest create the foundation of trust which is essential to cooperation and long-term personal and interpersonal growth.

No step can be skipped.

Admission of ignorance is often the first step in our education.

Acting on a lower level, while pretending to be on a higher level leads to disaster. Borrowing strength to do things from the outside world makes the person borrowing it weaker in the long run. They focus on technique and the easy, but long-term bad way instead of the good and hard one.

Trying to solve problems in this short-term way, in itself is the problem. Because bad short-term focused solutions breed worse outcomes in the future making more of those bad short-term focused solutions necessary until one is miserable enough to understand that the problem that is underlying it, the problem of the character has to be fixed first and foremost. A new level of thinking about the problems is necessary.

This new level of thinking is what The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is about. It's a principle-centered, character-based, "inside-out" approach to personal and interpersonal effectiveness.

Inside out means, that one has to start within oneself to get lasting beneficial changes, not only somewhere within oneself but in the deepest layer, the one of our character. Building a character has to come first. And it is not a quick fix. Inside-Out is a paradigm shift.

We must not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time.

— T.S. Eliot

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

— Aristotle In a way, habits are what a character is. And a character is who we are, a bundle of neural networks reacting in particular ways to outside stimuli. Then changing those ways is what we call changing our habits, making it more or less likely to do certain things under certain circumstances. And the more we follow these input -> output mappings the stronger they get until they become automatic and our character has changed. We become different persons because our minds change forever in the way they are wired.

Breaking and making habits is a lot of effort for us. Until something has become automatic we need to put our attention and awareness and willpower into it and those brain parts need energy and get exhausted. So change is slow and very hard initially.

"Lift off" takes a tremendous effort, but once we break out of the gravity pull our freedom takes on a whole new dimension.

A habit is the intersection of knowledge, skill and desire. Knowledge is the theoretical paradigm, the what to do and the why to do it. Skill is the how to do. And Desire is the motivation, the want to do it.

Maturity moves from dependence to independence to interdependence (cooperation). First, you have to do it for me, then I can do it, then we can do even better if working together. The highest reaches of effectiveness are only available when people cooperate successfully. But to do that, each of them has to be independent first. Again - no step can be skipped.

The dependence problem is a personal maturity issue that has little to do with circumstances. Even with better circumstances, immaturity and dependence often persist.

Private Victories preceed Public Victories. You can't invest that process any more than you can harvest a crop before you plant it. It's inside-out.

Habit 1 - Be proactive

P/PC balance The idea of the product and the production capability. Again long-term and short-term are at odds. We want to maximize the long-term amount of product so we need to live with lower short-term returns so that our production capacity can stay constant or even increase. If we take all the products we can every day, soon there will be no more product to gain at all. The whole idea is embodied by the farmer who cut open his goose that laid golden eggs to get them all in one go and thereby killed the goose, destroying his ability to gain more product in the future for a short-term boost.

Just like the character vs. personality ethic short-term fixes usually cause long-term harm and long-term thinking, needs to be what drives decisions and ultimately behavior to be effective.

Our most important financial asset is our capacity to earn. If we don't continually invest in improving our PC, we severely limit our options. We're locked into our present situationnning scared of our corporation or our boss's opinion of us, economically dependent and defensive.

Trust once destroyed is very hard to gain back. Building relationships takes time and effort and maintaining them is almost as hard. In a way, one has to invest time and resources into relationships the same way one invests in monetary assets. Carefully, deliberately and over long time frames. Treating others justly and rightly, the way you want to be treated is the way to go, just like the Golden Rule states

Importantly P/PC is about balance. Focusing on either one too much is going to create bad effects.

You are not your habits. You can replace old patterns of self-defeating behavior with new patterns, new habits of effectiveness, happiness, and trust-based relationships.

We are not our feelings. We are not our moods. We are not even our thoughts.

But what then are we?

Unaware, we will project our intentions on other people's behavior and call ourselves objective.

Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.

The big question here is: What does that mean? Where does the decision come from if it does not arise in the brain as electrical patterns of neurons fire? Do we have free will? And if not, how does it change the idea of changing yourself to become a "better" person?

Look at the word responsibility - "response-ability" - the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility.

Proactive people follow their thought about values. They are not dependent on the outside circumstances, they can choose their response to stimuli according to their values. Reactive people on the other hand are highly dependent on the environment they are in. If something doesn't fit them, they can not choose. They will feel miserable. Being able to choose your response to the environment and being content from within is what proactivity is about. Freedom lies in that choice. And the harder the environment forces us the greater the personal growth that happens when we nonetheless resist being miserable.

It's not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.

All of this is essentially stoic and Buddhist wisdom. A paradigm shift to look at suffering through a different lens and condition yourself into a different model of responding. Recognizing that the brain's way of suffering is not necessary and one can choose to feel differently if practiced enough. Especially in moments of disease where one is close to dying the response we choose can make all the difference in the world.

What matters most is how we respond to what we experience in life.

If you wait to be acted upon, you will be acted upon.

Language can reveal if we are proactive or reactive people. Phrases like, "I have to do it", "If only they were...", "That's me", and "I can't do that" reveal the determined nature of a person. They are using them to push responsibility away from them to outside circumstances. It's not their fault, but somebody else's. So there never was anything they could have done better. And that type of Reactive language becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Kant: People like to not think for themselves but put the hard labor of thinking onto others so they don't have to do it for themselves. It's the same idea wrapped in a different package. Again. In other words, proactivity is leveraging higher-order control circuitry, like the prefrontal cortex in the brain to control emotional circuitry, like the limbic system, to achieve certain mental states, namely those where we can choose our actions with reason instead of emotion. Rationality trumps emotionality. In a way it reminds me a bit of Jonathan Haidt, asking the question of whether or not that is possible at all or if it is like trying to wag a dog by its tail...

Circle of Concern vs. Circle of Influence. Proactive people focus on things they can do. In their circle of Influence, reactive people on the other hand focus on their circle of concern. They spend a lot of energy complaining and worrying about things they can not change. This reminds me of a video - If you can change it - why worry? And if you can't change it - why worry? Proactive people working on their circle of Influence, over time increase the size of that circle until it outgrows the circle of concern. You can affect more things than what you care to influence. And all the things you care about you can change.

Reactive people tend to dislike proactive people because it reminds them of what they could be. They sometimes try to shoot them down to see them burn, just to show that somebody wasn't as good. Using this failure of a proactive person they helped to bring forth an excuse to not become proactive themselves. It's the epitome of envy.

Proactive people aren't pushy. They're smart, they're value driven. They read reality and they know what's needed.

Anytime we think the problem is "out there", that thought is the problem. We empower what's out there to control us. The change paradigm is "outside-in" - what's out there has to change before we can change.

Choices have consequences. When we choose we have to think about our values and the consequences and how they evaluate in light of our values. If we choose wrongly and dislike the consequences of our decision, that's what we call mistakes. Mistakes need to be instantly acknowledged and corrected. That's where we learn to avoid them in the future. Covering up mistakes is another mistake. We lie and break our characters, even more, trying to self-deceive us and rationalize our behavior to make us look good. Our response to our mistakes is what can hurt us.

Chasing after the poisonous snake that bites is will only drive the poison through our entire system. It is far better to take measures immediately to get the poison out.

Making and keeping promises to ourselves is a good way to build character. Being able to introspect and reflect and derive a better version of ourselves and work towards that version consistently is what proactivity is all about.

Work only in your circle of influence. Make small commitments and keep them. Be a light, not a judge. Be a model not a critic. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Don't make excuses for your mistakes and weaknesses. When you make a mistake admit it, correct it, and learn from it - immediately. Don't get into a blaming, accusing mode. Work on things you have control over. Work on you.

Habit 2 - Begin with the end in mind

Short exercise - envision your funeral and imagine what you would want other people to say. What kind of person would you like to have been? This exercise reveals what we hold as our innermost values and what we should focus our lives around. Time should be spent on things that further this goal. We should begin with the end in mind.

To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination.

It's incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, the busyness of life, to work harder and harder ant climbing the ladder of success only to discover it's leaning against the wrong wall. It is possible to be busy - very busy - without being very effective.

Spending time figuring out what you want is time wisely spent. Similar to the saying, if I have 8 hours to cut down a tree with an ax I'll spend the first 7 sharpening the ax. It also reminds me of WaitButWhy's idea of drawing a career direction arrow. Figuring out where you want to go, is more important than going. It's a paradigm shift, exchanging the map, to have an accurate representation of reality and therefore know where we want to go.

Principle of Two Creations

Things are created twice, first in the mind and then in reality. We plan before we execute and if we don't, the results are usually worse. One counterexample is evolution and agile processes. In a way, minimal planning with a good measure of something being good or bad over many iterations can provide far better solutions than planning could. In a way, planning is such an evolutionary process only done in the mind, going unconsciously through different versions and testing them in our imagination to see what might work best, before we build it.

Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership is determining whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.

The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells: "Wrong jungle!"

But how do the busy, efficient producers and managers often respond? "Shut up! We're making progress."

— Steven Covey

To begin with, the end in mind means writing our script. Usually, families and common sense have handed us scripts that we live by without asking why. It's not our values, we are cooks and not chefs as WaitButWhy would say. If we were to sit down and think about what we want to do in life and sit down to write our script, we would do the first creation, by imagining the life we want to be living. The rest then is implementation. But at least once writing the script is done, we have a sense of direction, a place where we are heading that we know is right.

In developing our self-awarenes many of us discover ineffective scripts, deey embedded habits that are unworthy of us, incongruent with the things we value in life. Habit 2 says we don't have to live with those scripts. We are respons-able to use our imagination and creativity to write new ones that are more effective, more congruent with our deepest values and with the correct principles that give our values meaning.

Reminds me of an article advising you to write down the things you value in life like this: First write: "I believe in:" at the top, then the 5 things you value. After that, write down the top 5 things you spend your day-to-day life with. Then exchange the two lists.

One way to build the end in mind is to write down a personal constitution. In other words, develop a philosophy or creed and jot down the values that are most important and self-evident. This can serve as a compass in difficult times and as a metric for making decisions then. It's the framework that guides the behavior. Yet another way to describe this end in mind is to find out what your unique meaning in life is - what do I want to do and why? Yet another is the WaitButWhy metaphor of the golden bowl on the top of the shelf and the organization of the shelf as a whole - which needs, of the yearning octopus, have to be fulfilled? What are my values?

To many vacations that last too long, too many movies, too much TV, too much video game playing - too much undisciplined leisure time in which a person continually takes the course of least resistance gradually wastes a life.

Principles don't react to anything. They don't get mad and treat us differently. They won't divorce us or run away with our best friend. They aren't out to get us. They can't pave our way with shortcuts or quick fixes. They don't depend on the behavior of others, the environment, or the current dad for their validity. Principles don't die. They aren't here one day and gone the next. They can't be destroyed by fire, earthquake or theft. Principles are deep fundamental truths.

People center their lives and decisions around different things. Examples of centers are Money, Status, Spouse, Family, Friends, Pleasure, Work... Choosing the right center is of most importance. All centers outside of oneself are bad since they shift the locus of control over how one is feeling and the sense of self-worth to something beyond our control. Furthermore, all centers that can change their values are also wrong. Giving up control of who we are and how we react is against the 7 Habits. The only logical center worth it is one built around solid self-evident principles and accurate maps of effectiveness. They don't change hence we can build on them as the center and foundation of our lives. Principle-centeredness in a way is being centered around all centers equally, taking into account all factors that contribute to making a decision and then coming up with creative solutions to resolve the constraints put upon us.

Habit 1 - Be the programmer

Habit 2 - Write the program

Principals and values of an effective person -> the end in mind should be put down in writing to be better remembered and as a point of reference. Memories can change and deceive, a written statement can not. Similar to a written constitution it is something that shows who we are and how we want to decide. It communicates to ourselves what person we want to be.

It helps to visualize how life like this would look. Thinking about what one wants to have been when one is dead is not enough, visualizing it can tap into the power of imagination and thereby show us our values much more clearly. Also writing the mission statement is an ongoing process. Revising and looking it over should be a routine, that's part of habit 7.

Visualization can also be used as a tool to put into perspective what it would mean to act in light of one's values. Specific situations might trigger certain scripts on autopilot that are still old unwanted behavior. Imagining those situations in detail, but with a positive outcome and reasoning can help to produce the desired behavior more often. In a way, it is practicing the behavior in the imagination and thereby pre-strengthening the synaptic connections necessary to perform the right motor outputs when the stimulus comes in.

Writing is a mind if psycho-neural muscular activity which helps bridge and integrate the conscious and subconscious minds. Writing distills, crystallizes, and clarifies thought and helps break the whole into parts.

Organizations with written mission statements can be very effective. The key is that all the people in the organization have to be a part of the mission statement. Without involvement, the effectiveness of the statement is 0. Furthermore, the statement has to be in alignment with the reward system. Rewarding people for the right things is key and figuring out what the right things are together is what involvement cries for.

Habit 3 - Put first things first

Two questions:

What I've thing could you do (something your aren't doing now) that, if you did it on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life?

What one thing in your business or professional life would bring similar results?

Habit 3 is about putting the mental creation of Habit 2 into reality. It is about implementing the person we want to be. So to quickly summarize, know that you can change, decide what you want to change into, then change. Self-awareness, imagination, conscience and independent will are the four human endowments necessary for living habits 1-3.

Empowerment comes from learning how to use our independent will in the decisions we make every day.

This type of will, that persists against the odds is what grit is about. In a way, once we know our direction, we should work toward it relentlessly. Habits 1 and 2 are figuring out the direction. Habit 3 is figuring out the day-to-day decisions. Habit 3 is walking the talk.

Integrity is the value we place on ourselves.

Doing the things that hurt but which are necessary is what is needed for success. The people able to get themselves to do it are successful, the others aren't. If you can do something that hurts others a lot but doesn't hurt you and is beneficial for the view of your values and principles you can create great things.

"Time management" is a misnomer - the challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.

I question how this idea of time management, even if it means managing ourselves This insight deeply relates to the story of Momo. Why is all that talk about effectiveness necessary for a good life?

The matrix of time management - the Eisenhower Matrix - Urgent/Important and the 4 quadrants.

Quadrant I is urgent and important, crises and immediate problems fall here. However an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so the most effective actions lie in quadrant II. Nonurgent but important activities. These are the activities that can prevent fires. People who are very busy yet don't get things done tend to spend a lot of time in Quadrant III, urgent but not important matters. They have lots to do, like the Red Queen having to keep running at full speed just to stay still in the world.

Knowing how to place activities into different quadrants is of utmost importance. That's what prioritization is about. In a way, the whole idea of those quadrants expresses the idea of long-term/short-term consequence trade-offs in a very succinct way. Quadrant II activities are at the sweet spot of high-impact long-term decisions that don't have immediate consequences and therefore tend to get postponed. There could be an idea added on top of that, quadrant II activities are so abundant that one needs to sort them by priority even more. Some things in quadrant two are simply more important than others.

Or in yet other words quadrant II activities are the ones most likely to be procrastinated. They don't offer immediate gratification of solving a real problem, the consequences of acting on things in this quadrant are not directly visible and they are still very hard problems. It's like the deck of cards is stacked against humans and their natural biases here. Quadrant II is something we haven't adapted to live with because it is a quite modern invention. Hence we need to tune our brains ourselves to get ourselves to do these things.

To get time for quadrant II we need to learn to say no. In a way quadrant II has to be cleaned. We need to put a lot less in quadrants III and IV by working more on our definition of values. That is what habit 2 is about. Knowing what exactly is to be put in the top bowl on the shelf means knowing what is to be put into quadrant II at all. It is to know which things are important at all. Now if one has set this straight everything, not in quadrant 2 should get a straight and forward - No.

Like Derek Sievers's idea of hell yeah or no or his idea of keeping only one pet and giving it all the love, or the ideas of essentialism or minimalism... This is what all of them are about. Get to know what you want, pick only the top 1-3 and let the rest go to hell.

The enemy of the "best" is often the "good".

If you want to get something done, give it to a busy man.

Being able to do Quadrant II activities only is the hard part. Steven Covey thinks it is about getting habit 2 straight. If you have the strength of conviction, if you truly have the end in mind, then the sacrifices will not feel like sacrifices anymore. Like a priest entering the celibate, the sacrifice will be worth it if we get to the goal. Therefore getting the center right - having the goal in mind strong enough is the first step.

Your independent will alone cannot effectively discipline you against your center. Form follows function. Management follows Leadership.

The above quote reminds me a lot of a section from John Bogle's Enough.

Sacrificing things from quadrant III and IV to quadrant II is the thing that all habits (1,2 and 3) want you to do. That's what effectiveness is all about in the end. Foregoing short-term pleasures to pursue long-term goals that are thought out and rationalized. That is what Naval Ravikant points out too. All self-help can be boiled down to this insight.

Now the question is - why doesn't that work for most people? Why is there a personality ethic in the first place?

The problem is, that change like Steven Covey describes it is just goddamn hard to pull off. There is no secret, that everybody knows that this would be the better way to live, yet most lose the dogfight with their mind in the day-to-day and end up fat, lazy and unhappy with their lives.

Because fundamentally our brains are not at all wired for quadrant II activities and getting them to that place is still a mystery, even after reading 7 Habits. He has no good strategy to offer the poor soul, who can not fight his inner demons and develop this strong sense of self-direction and end in mind that is enough to propel him towards good actions. People can read 7 Habits and yet don't change at all. Because people don't want to change. They want to stick with unhealthy eating habits, unhealthy relationships and so on. Because they can not bear the hardness of the good life in the short term because their neural networks are acting against those interests influencing what they do day in and day out.

Only when you have the self awareness to examine your program - and the imagination, and conscience to create a new, unique, principle-centered program to which you can say "yes" - only then we you have sufficient independent will power to say "no", with a genuine smile, to the unimportant.

This sums it up succinctly. Furthermore, it has some more detail inherent in it - namely you know which things to say yes and no to for the first time only after completing habits 1 and 2.

Time management generations 1-3 (todo-lists, calendar, daily and biweekly priority planning) are problematic in their ways. Even though they improve upon each other majorly. Generation 3 is essentially the modern version of agile planning and he succinctly saw its problems decades before it became as popular as it is nowadays. Here he summarizes it:

It lacks realism, creating the tendency to over-schedulr the day, resulting in frustration and the desire to occasionally throw away the plan and escape to Quadrant IV. And its efficiency, time management focus tends to strain relationships rather than build them.

Essentially - people get annoyed with meeting culture because they can not get any work done anymore and do the important stuff during hackathons and side projects and during "work" time start procrastinating, leading to deadline slips and more planning overhead. Destroying trust and relationships and majorly decreasing efficiency.

We accomplish all that we do through delegation - either to time or to other people.

Two ways of delegation: gofer and stewardship. Essentially micromanaging the other person vs. setting up rewards and incentives in such a way that a person can work on themselves. Only the latter can increase efficiency substantially. It takes more time to set up initially but that investment pays off later. To do it correctly one needs to be clear on 5 points.

  • desired results
  • guidelines
  • resources
  • accountability
  • consequences

Management is essentially moving the fulcrum over, and the key to effective management is delegation.

Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people. But it takes time and patience, and it doesn't preclude the necessity to train and develop people so that their competency can rise to the level of that trust.

The trick to effective management is to pick the 5 points from above to the correct level of skill and trust of the person being managed. All of the things should increase in scale slowly as a person becomes better able to boss themselves around and become an independent contributor to the greater good of the organization that you are managing. And that is hard but rewarding work to set up correctly.

Part Three - Public Victory

The idea of the emotional bank account as a measure of trust in a relationship. Like money in a bank, you can add to it by hard work, and deplete it, even very fast, by bad choices and mistakes. Building and maintaining a high emotional bank account is the key to successful relationships with other humans. Deposits are courtesy, honesty, kindness, and keeping commitments. Deductions are discourtesy, disrespect, cutting one off, overreacting, ignorance, betrayal, threats, and playing tin god. When the trust account is overdrawn, flexibility in the relationships gets smaller. Actions become harder.

A relationship may end up in a cold wat at home, sustained only by children, sex, social pressure, or image protection. Or it may end up in open warfare in the courts, where bitter ego-destroying legal battles can be carried out for years as people endlessly confess the sins of the former spouse.

6 ways of making deposits:

  1. Truly understanding is the most important relationship-building activity one can have. Everything else builds on it because to understand what is taxing or building trust with a person you need to know the person well. You have to make what is important to the other person, as important to you as the other person is to you.

Our tendency is to project out of our autobiographies what we think other people want or need.

2. Attend to details

In relationships the little things are the big things.

Inside, even with the most toughened and calloused exteriors, are the tender feelings and emotions of the heart.

3. Keep Commitments

Promises are assurances of trust and breaking them is the surest way to lose it quickly. Therefore if committing to something, don't let others down and be wary and careful about what to commit to.

4. Clarifying Expectations

Unclear expectations in the are of goals also undermine communication and trust.

In a way, this is a rehash of the first idea: understanding others. If you misunderstood, that means you should pay more attention the next time and ask more about things that might be unclear. But also make your expectations clear. Make them easy to understand.

5. Showing Personal Integrity

Integrity means to live up to our words. To keep promises and live up to clear expectations set. Defending those who are absent is important. Don't talk about others badly in a way that you wouldn't do if they were there. Similarly don't talk secrets of others, because that removes trust.

Integrity is simply this: Treat everyone by the same set of principles.

After a mistake that damages a relationship apologize immediately and genuinely.

It is the weak who are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong.

— Leo Roskin

6. Showing love

Loving a person unconditionally is important for the relationship. Conditional love is a deduction and the opposite of what is needed. Taking away responsibility from the loved person, we imprison them, which leads to a deteriorating relationship. Also repairing and caring for an important single relationship is sometimes harder and "nobler" than caring for hundreds of less meaningful ones "out there".

Problems create growth opportunities. In resolving problems of production we can increase production capability lastingly. This is a paradigm shift from a reactive to a proactive mindset when it comes to problems.

Habit 4 - Think Win/Win

Win/Win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions.

Win/Win is playing a positive sum game. Increasing the pie, finding a better way that doesn't need compromises. A way that favors cooperation above the competition.

Win/Lose is the default way we are scripted though. Society is built mostly around win/lose. Academics, Education, Law, Athletics etc. all have only one winner. Even the games children play have the same principle at their heart. The problem is, that the natural world is organized into hierarchies and adversarial games which are of course zero-sum games. Thinking win/win means breaking out of this cycle of "I win, you lose" and seeing the bigger picture, namely that we can change reality and both win more than we alone ever could.

Lose/Lose is the philosophy of adversarial conflict, the philosophy of war.

People can become blind to what they could have and just want to see others ruined, hurting themselves, just to see the other hurt as well. The husband sells things for ridiculous prices just so the wife doesn't get any money from him in the divorce.

Win - is the strategy of prime egoism. It's - I do my thing and you yours and each looks after their end. It is hostile towards cooperation, just like the others.

Which strategy is best, depends on the reality, one is in. Some situations are good for Win/Lose, others for Lose/Win etc.

But in most realities, where long-term consequences of second and third orders and lasting relationships are a thing and can confer benefits and disadvantages, the only viable tactic becomes win/win.

If you can't reach a true Win/Win, you're very often better off to go for No Deal.

Win/Win has requirements on the parties involved: Character - namely 3 Traits

  • Integrity - if either party doesn't have it they can not know and communicate what is a win for them, hence win/win is impossible
  • Maturity

The ability to express one's own feelings and convictions balanced with consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others.

The basic task of leadership is to increase the standard of living and the quality of life for all stakeholders.

Maturity is balancing the right amounts of courage and consideration which is necessary to create a win for both parties in a relationship.

  • Abundance Mentality

Most people are deeply scripted in the Scarcity Mentality. The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-zum paradigm of life. To win simply means to beat.

Often people with a Scarcity Mentality harbor secret hopes that others might suffer misfortune - not terrible misfortune, but acceptable misfortune, that would keep them "in their place". They're always comparing. Always competing. They give their energies to possessing things or other people in order to increase their sense of worth.

— Steven Covey

I have a strong feeling of suspicion that I am scripted in the Scarcity Mentality as well. Sometimes I want to see other people lose, just to feel better myself, and observing that fact about me is a bit creepy and something that I have to change. Maybe ask yourself if you are similar.

If sharing flows from the abundance mentality it is critical to draw clear lines and boundaries. To not be taken advantage of by others trying to push on their Win/Lose scarcity mentality. But in doing so one has to be extremely careful, to not fool oneself into the scarcity mentality again, finding rationalizations that make it seem okay. The balance between courage and consideration - i.e. maturity is the key here.

A character rich in integrity, maturity, and the Abundance Mentality has a genuineness that goes far beyond technique, or lack of it, in human interaction.

This description makes me think of:

The second thing necessary for Win/Win thinking are relationships. Character builds those relationships and they in turn build trust.

Trust is the essence of Win/Win. Without it, the best we can do is compromise; without trust we lack the credibility for open, mutual learning and communication and real creativity.

The third ingredient to Win/Win thinking is coming to an agreement. This is made possible by solid relationships. Again the five things need to be clear.

  • Desired Results (expectations)
  • Guidelines
  • Available Resources
  • Accountability
  • Consequences

When they are set up correctly, Win/Win agreements enable each party to manage themselves and thereby achieve true cooperation. Trust is necessary so that people hold and honor the agreement.

It is much more ennobling to the human spirit to let people judge themselves than to judge them.

Win/Win management and agreements are about results, not methods. That's a paradigm shift. To stewardship, delegating is the real benefit of Win/Win. It creates production capability and therefore makes the pie bigger. Creating the positive sum necessary so that both parties can win.

In Win/Win agreements there are 4 kinds of consequences - financial, psychological, opportunity, and responsibility.

Systems of competition and contest harm Win/Win agreements within organizations. Everything then becomes a race to the bottom, sure, some people will be overachieving winners, but the overall productivity of the mean masses will be down because people aren't motivated enough to be the best. But if they were producing for their goals, their production capacity could increase by a lot and that is what Win/Winand Stewardship management is about. Systems should be built around that mentality within a company. But setting up incentive systems that make that happen is hard.

So often the problem is in the system, not in the people. If you put good people in bad systems, you get bad results. You have to water the flowers you want to grow.

Win/Win is not a personality technique. It's a tot paradigm of human interaction. It comes from a character or integrity, maturity and the Abundance Mentality. It grows out of high trust relationships. It is embodied I. Agreements that effectively clarify and manage expectations as well as accomplishment. It thrives in supportive systems.

Habit 5 - Seek first to understand, then to be understood

The optometrist who gives you his glasses and then tells you done more grateful for his help even though his glasses didn't help. Prescription has to follow diagnosis. And not only at optometrists but at effective communication as well.

Reading, writing, speaking and listening are the four fundamental forms of communication.

The ability to do them well is absolutely critical to your effectiveness.

Communication is the most important skill there is in an interdependent reality. Yet we have not spent a considerable amount of time learning it. How to do it well, especially in the realm of listening and understanding other people properly. And the problem is that people in the realm of communication sense duplicity and manipulation. Quick fixes can not cut it and effective communication has to start with a solid character.

Unless you're influenced by my uniqueness, I'm not going to be influenced by your advice.

To be able to listen well we need to know what comes first. And it's not our ego that we are centered on, but principles. Therefore we have to subdue our ego when listening and stop projecting our autobiography onto the circumstances of others. Our presentation of ourselves in communication matters less than the health of the relationship. And so listening is an act of giving up our representation.

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; theyjdgen with the intent to reply. They're either speaking or preparing to speak. They're filtering everything through their paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people's lives.

I think the skill necessary to do this is humility, which is a form of ego dissolution. Giving up oneself, to emulate what the other person thinks and feels is to truly understand.

Question to myself: Did I ever listen empathetically? What must it feel like, to truly understand another person, not just think you understand them, but do?

Empathic listening is so powerful because it gives you accurate data to work with. Instead if projecting your autobiography and assuming thoughts, feelings, motives and interpretations, you're dealing with the reality inside another person's head and heart. You're listening to understand. You're focused on receiving the deep communication of another human soul.

How can you do that in group contexts? Where does communication have other purposes, like quipping and peer signaling and such zero-sum game stuff?

Satisfied needs don't motivate. Its only the unsatisfied need that motivated. Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival - to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.

What happens if two seven habit-style listeners encounter each other? In other words - when to switch roles from empathic listening to empathic storytelling, to advice-giving, go counseling, lecturing etc. When to broadcast? Or how do you know that you listened enough and should respond?

Also, how do you know that you have the character that makes you perceived as a trustworthy and empathic listener? When does it go towards being considered manipulative even if it is genuine? In other words, when the idea is to get golden eggs from this idea, it should never work, I guess?

Empathic listening is also risky. It takes a great deal of security to go into a deep listening experience because you open yourself up to be influenced. You become vulnerable. It's a paradox, in a sense, because in other to have influence, you have to be influenced. That means that you have to understand.

Again the question is how to amalgamate that deep understanding with advice - if you influence, that means that you see things as the other person sees them + something more from your experience, that can help to solve the problem. How then can you truly understand and then snap out of that understanding, pushing in just enough of yourself to solve the problem of the other person by providing them a paradigm shift?

The key to good judgement is understanding. By judging first, a person will never fully understand.

Four stages of empathic listening

Parroting, parroting but rephrasing content, extracting feeling, extracting feeling and parroting content and putting them into relation. The last is the most effective. It's not autobiographical. Neither interpreting, nor advising, nor probing, nor evaluating.

taking the time to learn how to listen empathically and then to listen and understand is valuable. It might be harder and take longer in the beginning but it's an ongoing investment with compounding interest in your relationships.

People want to be understood. And whatever investment of time it takes to do that will bring much greater returns of time as you work from an accurate understanding of the problems and issues and from the high Emotional Bank Account that results when a person feel deeply understood.

People are very different and can see the world through their lenses very different yet both be right. Empathic listening and habit 5 are a way of countering that strong bias, to always believe what we think and perceive is right.

Our perceptions can be vastly different. And yet we both have lived with our paradigms for years, thinking they are "facts", and questioning the character or the mental competence or anyone who can't "see the facts."

The second half of habit 5 - seeking to be understood - maturity is the balance between courage and consideration. Understanding others is an act of consideration. Seeking to be understood is courage. Greeks already had that figured out - ethos, pathos, logos. Integrity and trust, are followed by empathy and relationships and then logical reasoning to also get what you want.

Who do they send back to school when the salesman doesn't sell - the buyer?

If you can present your ideas clearly, specifically, visually and most important, contextually - in the context of a deep understanding of other people's paradigms and concerns - you significantly increase the credibility of your ideas.

And watch what happens to you. The more deeply you understand other people, the more you will appreciate them, the more reverent you will feel about them. To touch the soul of another human being is to walk on holy ground.

Practicing empathic listening is important. It's a skill that has to be built. In the beginning maybe even tell people why you are doing it, so it doesn't seem manipulative but genuine, which it is. Have one on ones, where you listen and understand your important roles in life, in family, friends and business.

Set up human resource accounting or stakeholder information systems in your business to get honesty accurate feedback at every level: from customers, suppliers, and employees. Make the human element as important as the financial or the technical element.

Habit 6 - Synergize

What is synergy? Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It means that the relationship which the parts have to each other is a part in an of itself. It is not only a part, but the most catalytic, the most empowering the most unifying, and the most exciting part.

Synergy is everywhere in nature, it means adventure and not knowing where you are heading, trailblazing, adventuring. It can build more than the sum of the parts. And it is still to start with the end in mind even if one doesn't know where one is going. Because the end in mind is the highest reach of human effectiveness. It is also leaving room for the unexpected, the creative. That's why people need the first five habits to be able to properly synergize. The character core and strong interdepend relationships have to be there first, to have the security to explore what's creatively possible.

Synergy is almost as if a group collectively agrees to subordinate old scripts and to write a new one.

Once people have experienced real synergy, they are never quite the same again. They know the possibility of having other such mind-expanding adventures in the future.

Synergy is about seeking the higher, middle way. The one that is a better solution for everybody involved. It's not about finding a compromise but about producing a novel creative win/win situation, one in which the pie got bigger.

Unity, or oneness is complementariness, not sameness. Sameness is uncreative... And boring. The essence of synergy is to value the differences.

The person who is truly effective has the humility and reverence to recognize his own perceptual limitations and to appreciate the rich resources available through interaction with the hearts and minds of other human beings. That person values the differences because those differences add to his knowledge, to his understanding of reality. When were left to our experiences, we constantly suffer from a shortage of data.

Trust and understanding underlie synergy. Once those are there, even broken relationships can be mended and creative solutions found, which is truly "win/win" thinking.

Differences in opinion should be used as opportunities. Different lenses and paradigms mean that there can be a different understanding of the same facts. Two opinions can be right at the same time and if there are only two and yours is the "right" one you should stop and try to understand the other one. Because that's when you will learn and understand and become able to find the third and higher path. The key idea is that differences should be valued because that's where synergy can come from. If the relationship allows for it, the difference can enhance and complement each other to synergize and produce a whole greater than the parts.

Habit 7 - Sharpen the Saw - Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal

Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things... I am tempted to think... That there are no little things.

— Bruce Barton

There are four aspects of a good life - or philosophy of life. They are: physical, social, mental and spiritual. Habit 7 is about expressing all of them over and over again throughout life, regularly putting in work into the biggest and only asset one has - oneself.

The physical dimension is about taking care of the body. Exercise, healthy foods and rest are what we need to have enough of to fulfill that aspect.

Spiritual renewal is about our inner peace. Sitting and reading good literature or listening to nice music can be renewal. Meditation, prayer or simply being in nature could be that renewal. It's also about reflecting on core values. Of taking the time to think and internalize what is important - what our centers and principles are. Mental renewal is about continuing education and learning throughout life. In a way, it can be summarized as Warren Buffet's idea of - going to bed a little wiser than when you woke up. But it is also about looking inward.

It is extremely valuable to train the mind to stand apart and examine its own program. That, to me, is the definition of a liberal education - the ability to examine the programs of life against larger questions and purposes and other paradigms.

Proactive people can figure out many, many ways to educate themselves.

Reading is one of the most effective ways of doing this. Because one can learn from the best of the last centuries and pick apart and contrast their paradigms with one's own and those of others, teasing out what is good and true. Other ways to mentally renew are writing, keeping a clear, concise flow of thoughts, as well as planning and organizing ones life.

Spending an hour renewing every one of those 4 aspects a day is what builds a strong character over time.

The social renewal is about Habits 4,5 and 6.

The social and the emotional dimensions of our lives are tied together because our emotional life is primarily, but not exclusively, developed out of and manifested in our relationships with others.

Peace of mind comes when your life is in harmony with true principles and values and in no other way.

We can script other people to become principle-centered as well and he would see that as a good thing. As a service to them. Truly seeing the best what another can be and then showing it to them and believing they can achieve that dream, their potential, is rescripting them to believe in themselves and what they can become. In a way, they are self-fulfilling prophecies.

Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.

— Goethe

Effective renewal is about balancing the four aspects of it.

We can't effectively thrive without making money, but that's not sufficient reason for organizational existence. We can't live without eating, but we don't live to eat.

Your economic security does not lie in your job; it lies in your power to produce - to think, to learn, to create to adapt. That's true financial independence. It's not having wealth; it's having the power to produce wealth. It's intrinsic.

There is an upward spiral of the 7 Habits. They synergize with each other and are guided by the voice of conscience. That's what makes us different from animals and is what empowers us to do the good and correct thing, what helps us to learn right from wrong and then consistently act out the good, making our lives centered on principles and accurate maps of reality. People who don't use this human endowment behave like animals, because, in a way they are, they don't take the responsibility to rescript their reaction to stimuli, they, in other words, don't listen to their conscience. They are "being lived" by the world around them.

To become divine is the aim of life. Then only can truth be said to be ours beyond the possibility of loss. It is no longer outside us, not in a sense even in us, but we are it, and it is we.

This idea in a way is reflected in different philosophies under different names, the Buddhists call it awakening or enlightenment, but the same idea exists in the Greek Eudaimonia or the philosopher's king, or even as the Stoic Sage. That is to say that different religions and philosophies have discovered the same underlying principles of effectiveness, independent fr each other, and interpreted them in their different value systems. But the principles are the same.

There is an internal sense of the principle of justice or win/win. There is an internal moral sense of the principles of responsibility, of the principle of purpose, of integrity, of respect, of cooperation, of communication, of renewal. These are universal. But practices are not. They are situationally specific. Every culture interprets universal principles in unique ways.

Words are boxes of abstractions put around complex ideas. It makes those ideas usable in a shorthand form, similar to abstractions of an API layer interface. One can drill down into the details of those words, but usually, that's not necessary. Seven Habits is about creating those words around effectiveness. Win/Win, Proactivity, End in Mind, Understand First, Synergize, First Things First, Sharpen the Saw... All of them are just boxes to make the concepts easier to communicate and stick in mind. That's what makes them so powerful because a complex thing can become better integrated into behavior that way.

High tech without high touch does not work.

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