Book Review - The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

book courses & learning resources Oct 01, 2021

READ: 1 min
REVIEWER: Robert Craven
AUTHOR: Stephen Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has sold more than 25 million copies in 40 languages worldwide. The audio version has sold 1.5 million copies and remains one of the best selling nonfiction business books in history.

I have read this book several times. I draw from it (or my memory of its messages) quite heavily, so I thought I should revisit it.

In a nutshell, its principles are awesome. They are universal. However, it was written quite a while ago and doesn’t have the zing more modern business books now have. It is wordy and Covey’s view of religion, women and children is very conservative.

I believe you need to find a way to look at the key content, the key principles of the book. After that, you can return to read the book (and his subsequent books) more carefully.


The 7 Habits – key ideas in brief

Abundance – an abundance mentality is a healthy way to see and approach life. Covey coined the ‘Abundance Mentality’ phrase.

Paradigm shift - different perspectives exist.

Maturity Continuum - there are three successive stages of increasing maturity: 

  1. Dependence,
  2. Independence, and

Each of the first three habits is intended to help achieve independence.  

The next three habits are intended to help achieve interdependence.

The final, seventh habit is intended to help maintain these achievements.


The first three habits surround moving from dependence to independence – these are principles about yourself:

1 - Be proactive – take control

Take responsibility for your reaction to your experiences. Recognise your Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern. Focus your responses and focus on the centre of your influence.

2 - Begin with the end in mind

Imagine what you want in the future so you can work and plan towards it. To be effective you need to act based on principles and constantly review your mission statements. How do you want to be remembered (what do you want them to say about you at your funeral?)?

3 - First things first - prioritise

Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1998)


The Eisenhower Matrix of importance vs urgency

Priority should be given in the following order:

  • Quadrant I. Urgent and important (Do) – important deadlines and crises
  • Quadrant II. Not urgent but important (Plan) – long-term development
  • Quadrant III. Urgent but not important (Delegate) – distractions with deadlines
  • Quadrant IV. Not urgent and not important (Eliminate) – frivolous distractions



The next three habits talk about interdependence (e.g. working with others):

4 - Think win-win (or no deal)

Thinking win-win isn't about being nice, nor is it a quick-fix technique. It is the only way forward as no-one wants a win-lose or a lose-win situation.

5 - Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Shut up and listen. Let the other party explain their situation and you should only respond when you can demonstrate that you understand their point of view.

6 - Synergize

Working together creates more than working in isolation.

Continual improvement

The final habit is that of continuous improvement in both the personal and interpersonal spheres of influence.

7 - Sharpen the Saw; Growth

Balance and renew your resources:

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Emotional, and


Every time I look at this material, I see additional layers or additional ways that it can apply. It applies to your personal life and to your business life. And to your business itself. Anyone who has heard me speak will hear Covey running through the way I think as I say or paraphrase him. In no particular order:

  • Start with the end in mind.
  • First things first.
  • The Funeral Speech.
  • Be proactive.
  • Is it urgent or important?
  • Think win-win-win or no deal (yes, three lots of win!).
  • Seek first to understand and then to be understood.
  • Sharpen the saw.

The Seven Habits is a must-know book. I think it is a tough read but the principles will affect how you see things and how you make decisions. Check out the numerous summaries that are available as your starting point!