The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

  • Stephen R. Covey

Perceptions governs the way we see and how the way we see governs how we behave. Character ethic is the foundation of success. Your attitude determines your altitude. Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve. Our belief was that our’s son’s “socially impressive” accomplishments were more a serendipitous expression of the feelings he had about himself than merely a response to social reward. Search your own heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life. Personality growth, communication skill training, and education in the field of influence strategies and positive thinking.

If one’s character may be flawed, marked by duplicity and insincerity then in the long run, one cannot be successful. If you don’t pay the price day in and day out, you never achieve true mastery of the subjects you study or develop and educated mind. You always reap what you sow; there is no shortcut. What we are communicated far more eloquently than anything we say or do. One of the basic flaws of personality ethic is that to try to change outward attitudes and behaviors, it does very little good in the long run if we fail to examine the basic paradigms from which those attitudes and behaviors flow. If we want to make significant, quantum change, we need to work on our basic paradigms. Paradigms are inseparable from character. Paradigms are powerful because they create the lends through which we see the world. The power of paradigm shift is essential power of quantum change, whether that shift is an instantaneous or a slow and deliberate process.

The degree to which our mental maps accurately describe the territory does not alter its existence. The following principles – fairness, integrity and honesty, human dignity, service, excellence, potential, patience, nurturance and encouragement – are guidelines for human conduct that are proven to have enduring, permanent value. When we value correct principles, we have truth. The more closely our maps or paradigms are aligned with these principles or natural laws, the more accurate and functional they will be. The personality ethic is illusory and deceptive. Admission of ignorance is often the first step in our education.

To relate effectively with a wife, a husband, children, friends or working associates, we must learn to listen. And this requires emotional strength. Borrowing strength builds weakness. Fear replaces cooperation, and both people involved become more arbitrary and defensive. When relationships are strained and the air charged with emotion, an attempt to teach is often perceived as a form of judgement and rejection.  The inside-out approach says that private victories precede public victories, that making and keeping promises to ourselves precedes making and keeping promises to others.


Knowledge is the theoretical paradigm, the what to do and the why. Skill is the how to do. And desire is the motivation, the want to do. Unless I search correct principles of human interaction, I may not even know I need to listen. By working on knowledge, skill and desire, we can break through to new levels of personal and interpersonal effectiveness as we break with old paradigms that may have been a source of pseudo-security for years. Happiness can be defined, in part at least, as the fruit of the desire and ability to sacrifice what we want now for what we want eventually.

True independence of character empowers us to act rather be acted upon. Independent people who do not have the maturity to think and act interdependently may be good individual producers, but they won’t be good leaders or team players. Interdependence is a far more mature, more advanced concept. Private victories precede public victories. As you become truly independent, you have the foundation for effective interdependence. It is the habit of continuous improvement that creates the upward spiral of growth that lifts you to new levels of understanding and living each of the habits as you come around to them on a progressively higher plane.

Effectiveness lies in the balance – what I call the P/PC Balance. P stands for production of desired results, the golden eggs, PC stands for Production Capability, the ability or asset that produces the golden eggs. There are three kinds of assets: physical, financial and human. In our quest for short-term returns, we often ruin a prized physical asset – a car, a computer, a washer or dryer, even our body or our environment. Keeping P and PC in balance makes a tremendous difference in the effective use of physical assets. When two people in a marriage are more concerned about getting the golden eggs, the benefits, than they are in preserving the relationship that makes them possible, they often become insensitive and inconsiderate, neglecting the little kindness and courtesies so important to a deep relationship.

When people fail to respect the P/PC balance in their use of physical assets in organizations, they decrease organizational effectiveness and often leave others with dying geese. The P/PC balance is particularly important as it applies to the human assets of an organization – the customers and the employees. The PC principle is to always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers. To maintain the P/PC balance, the balance between the golden egg (production) and the health and welfare of the goose (production capability) is often a difficult judgement call. The P/PC balance is the very essence of effectiveness.

Read as though you are going to teach it to your spouse, your child, a business associate, or a friend today or tomorrow, while it is still fresh, and notice the difference in your mental and emotional process. Your perspective will be expanded, your understanding deepened, and your motivation to apply the material increased. Those you teach will see you as a changing, growing person, and will be more inclined to be helpful and supportive as you work, perhaps together, to integrate the Seven Habits into your lives. No one can persuade another to change. You will discover and unleash both the desire and the resources to heal and rebuild important relationships that have deteriorated, or even broken. You can replace old patterns of self-defeating behavior with new patterns, new habits of effectiveness, happiness and trust-based relationships.

Be Proactive

We are not our feelings, our moods and not even our thoughts. Until we take how we see ourselves and others into account, we will be unable to understand how others see and feel about themselves and their world. Although Nazi captors could have had more liberty, more options to choose from in their environment, the captives had more freedom, more internal power to exercise their options. Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose. Proactivity means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen. Highly proactive people do not blame circumstances, conditions or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.

Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment. They build their emotional lives around the behavior of others, empowering the weakness of other people to control them. Proactive people are driven by values – carefully thought about, selected and internalized values. It is our willing permission, our consent to what happens to us, that hurts us far more than what happens to us in the first place. I am what I am because of the choices I made yesterday. Our most difficult experiences become the crucibles that forge our character and develop our internal powers, the freedom to handle difficult circumstances in the future and to inspire others to do so as well. Nothing has a greater, longer lasting impression upon another person than the awareness that someone has transcended suffering, has transcended circumstance, and is embodying and expressing a value that inspires and ennobles and lifts life.

Difficult circumstances often create paradigm shifts, whole new frames of reference by which people see the world and themselves and others in it, and what life is asking of them. Taking initiatives does not mean being pushy, obnoxious or aggressive. It does mean recognizing our responsibility to make things happen. People who end up with good jobs are the proactive ones who are solutions to problems, not problems themselves, who seize the initiative to do whatever is necessary, consistent with correct principles, to get the job done. Holding people to the responsible course is not demeaning; it is affirming. The difference between positive thinking (future projections) and proactivity (current circumstance) is the reality that we have power to choose a positive response to circumstances and projections. Not facing reality would have been to accept the idea that what’s happening in our environment had to determine us.

A serious problem with reactive language is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People become reinforced in the paradigm that they are determined, and they produce evidence to support the belief. They blame outside forces. If our feelings control our actions, it is because we have abdicated our responsibility and empowered them to do so. Love is a value that is actualized through loving actions.

Proactive people focus their efforts in the circle of influence. They work on the things they can do something about. Their focus results in blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language and increased feelings of victimization. As long as we are working in our circle of concern, we empower the things within it to control us. By working on ourselves instead of worrying about conditions, we were able to influence the conditions. Direct control problems are solved by working on our habits. Indirect control problems are solved by changing our methods of influence. The reactive minds in the executive corridors shoot their vindictive ammunition at proactive men. Proactive people aren’t pushy, but they’re value driven, they read reality and they know what’s needed. The proactive approach is to change from the inside-out.

Because my criticism is worse than the conduct I want to correct, my criticism is worse than the conduct I want to correct. If I want to improve my situation, I can work on one thing over which I have control which is myself. The most positive way I can influence my situation is to work on myself, on my being. Our behavior is generally governed by principles. Living in harmony with them brings positive consequences; violating them brings negative consequences. The proactive approach to a mistake is to acknowledge it instantly, correct and learn from it. It is not what others do or our own mistakes that hurt us the most; it is our response to those things. The power to make and keep commitments to ourselves is the essence of developing the basic habits of effectiveness. It’s how we make and keep commitments, how we handle a traffic jam, how we respond to an irate customer or a disobedient child. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Work on things you have control over. Work on you. If you start to think the problem is “out there”, stop yourself. That thought is the problem.

Begin with the End in Mind

To begin with an end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that steps you take are always in the right direction. We may be very busy and very efficient, but we will be truly effective only when we begin with the end in mind. You work with your mind until you get a clear image of what you want to build. The carpenter ’s rule is “measure twice, cut once”. The extent to which you begin with the end in min often determines whether or not you are able to create a successful enterprise. Management is doing things right; leadership is doing right things.

The real success is success with self. It’s not having things but having mastery, having victory over self. In developing our own self-awareness many of us discover ineffective scripts, deeply embedded habits that are totally unworthy of us, totally incongruent with the things we really value in life. Concentrate all abilities and efforts on the task at hand, not worrying about the next job or promotion. I will act on situations and opportunities, rather than to be acted upon. Money will be my servant, not my master. I will seek financial independence over time. A personal mission statement based on correct principles becomes the same kind of standard for an individual. When you have a sense of mission, you have the essence of your own proactivity.

Security represents your sense of worth, your identity, your emotional anchorage, your self-esteem, your basic personal strength or lack of it. Guidance means your source of direction in life. These four factors – security, guidance, wisdom and power are interdependent. When they are present together, harmonized and enlivened by each other, they create a noble personality, a balanced character, a beautifully integrated individual. Wisdom and power are lost in the counter-dependent negative interactions. If family-centered parents derive their own security from the family, their need to be popular with their children may override the importance of a long-term investment in their children’s growth and development. If my sense of security lies in my reputation or in my things I have, my life will be in a constant state of threat and jeopardy that these possessions may be lost or stolen or devalued.

Innocent pleasures in moderation can provide relaxation for the body and mind and can foster family and other relationships. Too much undisciplined leisure time in which a person continually takes the course of least resistance gradually wastes a life. It causes person’s capacities to stay dormant, talents remain undeveloped, mind and spirit become lethargic and heart is unfulfilled. An individual who is friend – or enemy -centered has no intrinsic security. Guidance comes from the person’s perception of how others will respond, and wisdom is limited by the social lens or by an enemy-centered paranoia.

There are some people who get so busy in church worship and projects that they become insensitive to the pressing human needs that surround them, contradicting the very precepts they profess to believe deeply. Seeing the church as an end rather than as a means to an end undermines a person’s wisdom and sense of balance. Paying attention to the development of self in the greater perspective of improving one’s ability to serve, to produce, to contribute in meaningful ways, gives context for a dramatic increase in the four life-support factors. Principles are deep, fundamental truths, classic truths, generic common denominators. They are tightly interwoven threads running with exactness, consistency, beauty and strength through the fabric of life. The wisdom and guidance that accompany principle-centered living come from correct maps, from the way things really are, have been and will be.

The personal power that comes from principle-centered living is the power of a self-aware, knowledgeable, proactive individual, unrestricted by the attitudes, behaviors and actions of others or by many of the circumstances and environmental influences that limit other people. By centering our lives on timeless, unchanging principles, we create a fundamental paradigm of effective living. A mission statement is not something you write overnight. It takes deep introspection, careful analysis, thoughtful expression and often many rewrites to produce it in final form. But fundamentally, your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criteria by which you measure everything else in your life. Writing and reviewing a mission statement changes you because it forces you to think through your priorities deeply, carefully and to align your behavior with your beliefs.

Each hemisphere of the brain – left and right – tends to specialize in and preside over different functions, process different kinds of information, and deal with different kinds of problems. The left is time bound and the right is time free. The more we are able to draw upon our right brain capacity, the more fully we will be able to visualize, to synthesize, to transcend time and present circumstances, to project a holistic picture of what we want to do and to be in life.  Ask ourselves some hard questions: “What’s really important? Why am I doing what I’m doing?” Dr. Charles Garfield has done extensive research on peak performers, both in athletics and in business. His research was that almost all of the world-class athletes and other peak performers are visualizers. They see it; they feel it; they experience it before they actually do it. They begin with the end in mind. Your creative right brain is one of your most important assets, both in creating your personal mission statement and in integrating it into your life.

After you identify your various roles, then you can think about the long-term goals you want to accomplish in each of those roles. We’re into the right brain again, using imagination, creativity, conscience and inspiration. These are not someone else’s goals you have absorbed. They are your goals. They reflect your deepest values, your unique talent, your sense of mission. And they grow out of your chosen roles in life. Roles and goals give structure and direction to your personal mission. The core of any family is what is changeless, what is always going to be there – shared vision and values. When individual values are harmonized with those of the family, members work together for common purposes that are deeply felt. The very process of writing and refining a mission statement becomes a keyway to improve the family.

Put First Things First

You can’t become principle-centered without first being aware of your paradigms and understanding how to shift them and align them with principles. Leadership is primarily a high-powered, right brain activity. You have to ask the ultimate questions of life when you’re dealing with personal leadership issues. The ability to manage well doesn’t make much difference if you’re not even in the “right jungle”. Management is the breaking down, the analysis, the sequencing, the specific application, the time-bound left-brain aspect of effective self-government. Manage from left, lead from right. Empowerment comes from learning how to use this great endowment in the decisions we make everyday. The degree to which we developed our independent will in our everyday lives is measured by our personal integrity. Its our ability to make and keep commitments to ourselves, to “walk out talk”.

Effective management is putting first things first. While leadership decides what “first things” are, it is management that puts them first, day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Management is discipline, carrying it out. The common denominator of success that all successful people share isn’t hard work, good luck or astute human relations, though those were all important. The factor has transcended all was putting first things first. The burning ‘yes’ inside makes it possible to say ‘no’ to other things. It requires independent will and power to act with integrity to your proactive first creation. Organize and execute around priorities.

In social development, the agricultural revolution was followed by the revolution, which was followed by the informational revolution. Each succeeding wave created a surge of social and personal progress. In addition, it focuses on setting goals -specific long-, intermediate – and short-term targets toward which time and energy would be directed in harmony with values. “Efficient” scheduling and control of time are often counterproductive. Satisfaction is a function of expectation as well as realization. And expectation and satisfaction lie in our circle of. Rather than focusing on things and time, fourth generation focus on preserving and enhancing relationships and on accomplishing results – in short on maintaining P/PC balance.

Urgent matters are usually visible. They press on us; they insist on action. Some people are literally beaten up by problems all day every day. Quadrant II (Not urgent, but important) is the heart of effective personal management. Effective people are not problem-minded; they’re opportunity minded. What one thing could you do in your personal and professional life that, if you did it on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your life? Quadrant II activities have that kind of impact. Our effectiveness takes quantum leaps when we do them. You have to be proactive to work on Quadrant II because Quadrants I and III work for you. But you have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically – to say “no” to other things.

If you are centered on your spouse, your money, your friends, your pleasure, or any extrinsic factor, you will keep getting thrown back into Quadrants I (Urgent) and III (Not Important) reacting to outside forces your life is centered on. Even if you’re centered on yourself, you’ll end up in I and III reacting to the impulse of the moment. In Quadrant II, we focus on the important as well as the urgent maintaining the balance between increasing both P and PC. Quadrant II organizer should meet six important criteria.

Coherence – Coherence suggests that there is harmony, unity and integrity between your vision and mission, your roles and goals, your priorities and plans, and your desires and discipline.

Balance – Balanced life maintains balance between your health, your family, professional preparation or personal development. The best way to focus on Quadrant II is to organize your life on a weekly basis. The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.

A ‘People’ Dimension – Your tool needs to reflect that value, to facilitate implementation rather than create guilt when a schedule is not followed.

Flexibility – Planning tool should be your servant, never your master which can be tailored to your style, your needs and your particular ways.

Portability – You may want to review your personal mission statement while riding a bus.

Identifying Roles – Give serious thought in identifying roles in your life. These weekly goals would be tied to the longer-term goals you have identified in conjunction with your personal mission statement.

Daily Adapting – With Quadrant II weekly organizing, daily planning becomes more a function of daily adopting, of prioritizing activities and responding to unanticipated events, relationships and experiences in a meaningful way. Trying to prioritize activities before you even know how they relate to your sense of personal mission and how they fit into the balance of your life is not effective. The popularity of reacting to the urgent but unimportant priorities of other people in Quadrant III or pleasure of escaping to Quadrant IV (Not Urgent, Not Important) will threaten to overpower the important Quadrant II activities you have planned.

You simply can’t think efficiency with people. You think effectiveness with people and efficiency with things. Frustration is a function of our expectations, and our expectations are often a reflection of the social mirror rather than out own values and priorities. When a higher value conflicts with what you have planned, it empowers you to use our self-awareness and your conscience to maintain integrity to the principles and purposes own have determined are most important.

The fourth generation of self-management is more advanced than the third in five important ways –

  1. Principle-centered – Really important and effective
  2. Conscience-directed – Organize your life in harmony with your deepest values to peacefully subordinate your schedule to higher values.
  3. Defines your unique mission including values and long-term goals – Direction and purpose
  4. Gives greater context through weekly organizing with daily adaptation
  5. Helps balance your life by identifying roles

If we delegate to time, we think efficiency. If we delegate to other people, we think effectiveness. Effectively delegating to others perhaps the single most powerful high-leverage activity there is. The late J.C. Penney was quoted as saying that the wisest decision he ever made was to “let go” after realizing that he couldn’t do it all by himself any longer.

A producer does whatever is necessary to accomplish desired results, to get the golden eggs. A parent who delegates washing the dishes to a child is a manager. A producer can invest one hour of effort and produce one unit of results, assuming no loss of efficiency.

Gofer delegation – It means ‘Go for this, do this, do that, and tell me when its done’. Most producers have Gofer delegation paradigm which is one-on-one supervision of methods.

Stewardship delegation – is focused on results instead of methods. It takes more time in beginning but it is time well-invested. It involves clear, up-front mutual understanding and commitment regarding expectations in five areas – Desired Results, Guidelines, Resources, Accountability and Consequences.

Trust is the highest form of human motivation, but it takes time and patience. You have to get involved in training and development. It takes time, but how valuable that time is downstream! It saves you so much in long run.

You can’t be successful with other people if you haven’t paid the price of success with yourself. Self-mastery and Self-discipline are the foundation of good relationships with others. Independence is an achievement, but interdependence is a choice only independent people can make. As we become independent – proactive, centered in correct principles, value driven and able to organize and execute around the priorities in our life with integrity – we then can choose to become interdependent – capable of building rich, enduring, highly productive relationships with other people. Building and repairing relationships are long-term investments.

People are very tender, very sensitive inside. Age or experience doesn’t make much difference. Inside, even the most toughened and calloused exteriors, are the tender feelings and emotions or the heart. If you cultivate the habit of always keeping the promises you make, you build bridges of trust that span the gaps of understanding between you and your child. Unclear expectations will lead to misunderstanding, disappointment and withdrawals of trust. Clarifying expectations sometimes takes a great deal of courage. Integrity includes but goes beyond honesty. Honesty is telling the truth – in other words, conforming our words to reality. Integrity is conforming reality to our words – in other words, keeping promises and fulfilling expectations. When you defend those who are absent, you retain the trust of those present. Integrity in an interdependent reality is simply to treat everyone by the same set of principles. Integrity also means avoiding any communication that is deceptive, full of guile or beneath the dignity of people.

Great deposits come in the sincere words – I was wrong, That was unkind of me, I showed you no respect, I gave you no dignity and I’m deeply sorry, I embarrassed you in front of your friends and I had no call to do that. Even though I wanted to make a point, I never should have done it. I apologize. It’s the weak who are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong. Sincere apologies make deposits; repeated apologies interpreted as insincere make withdrawals. When we truly love others without condition, without strings, we help them feel secure and safe and validated and affirmed in their essential worth, identity and integrity. When we attach strings and conditions to that gift, we actually encourage others to violate the primary laws of life. We put them in a reactive, defensive position where they feel they have to prove “I matter as a person, independent of you.” Rebellion is a knot of heart, not the mind.

The son felt that in a sense the father’s desire for him to attend the school outweighed the value he placed on him as a person and as a son, which was terribly threatening. Unconditional love is when parents come a point at which they could say in all honesty that their kid’s decision would not affect their complete feeling of unconditional love toward him. It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses. It would take more nobility of character – more humility, courage and strength to rebuild that one relationship than it would to continue putting in all those hours for all those people and causes. No amount of technical administrative skills in laboring for the masses can make up for lack of nobility of personal character in developing relationships. When parents see their children’s problems as opportunities to build relationship instead of as negative, burdensome irritations, it totally changes the nature of parent-child interaction.

Think Win/Win

Many interactions change from transactional to transformational, and strong bonds of love and trust are created as children sense the value parents give to their problems and to them as individuals. By recognizing that the P/PC balance is necessary to effectiveness in an interdependent reality, we can value our problems as opportunities to increase PC. Effective interdependence can only be achieved by truly independent people. It is impossible to achieve public victory with popular “Win/Win negotiation” techniques or “reflective listening” techniques or “creative problem-solving” techniques that focus on personality and truncate the vital character base. If a manager wants cooperation and wants his people to work together, to share ideas, to all benefit from the effort but is setting up in competition with each other, one manager’s success meant failure for other managers. Working on the attitudes and behaviors would have been hacking at the leaves instead of changing the roots to change the fruits. The focus should be on producing personal and organizational excellence in an entirely different way by developing information and reward systems which reinforced the value of cooperation. The moment one steps from independence into interdependence in any capacity, one steps into a leadership role and into a position of influencing other people. This habit of effective interpersonal leadership is Think Win/Win.

Win/Win sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena. Win/Win is based on the paradigm that there is plenty for everybody, that one person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others. Win/Lose people are prone to use position, power, credentials, possessions or personality to get their way. Whenever love is given on a conditional basis, when someone must earn love, what’s being communicated to them is that they are not intrinsically valuable or lovable. Value does not lie inside them, it lies outside. A child first wants acceptance from his parents and then from his peers, whether they be siblings or friends. People are not graded against their potential or against the full use of their present capacity, but they are graded in relation to other people.

“Winning” is “beating” in the athletic arena. Defensive minds are neither creative nor cooperative. Law is based on an adversarial concept and law at best results in compromise. If both people aren’t winning, both are losing. Lose/Win is worse than Win/Lose because it has no standards – no demands, no expectations, no vision. They seek strength from popularity or acceptance. Lose/Win means being a nice guy, even if “nice guy finish last”. But the problem is Lose/Win people bury a lot of feelings. And unexpressed feelings never die; they’re buried alive and come forth later in uglier ways. Psychosomatic illnesses, particularly of the respiratory, nervous, and circulatory systems, often are the reincarnation of cumulative resentment, deep disappointment and disillusionment repressed by the Lose/Win mentality. Some people become so centered on an enemy, so totally obsessed with the behavior of another person that they become blind to everything except their desire for that person to lose, even if it means losing themselves. Lose/Lose is the philosophy of adversarial conflict, the philosophy of war.

If someone has a real Win/Win attitude, they will stay longer in communication process, listened and then expressed their point of view with more courage. Continued in Win/Win spirit until a solution was reached, they both felt good about. It would be better not to deal than to live with a decision that wasn’t right for both. Its better to say if you are looking for a solution in future, come back and see us. Win/Win or No deal provides a tremendous emotional freedom in the family relationship. Win/Win begins with character and moves toward relationships, out of which flow agreements. If we can’t make and keep commitments to ourselves as well as to others, our commitments become meaningless. There’s no foundation of trust and Win/Win becomes an ineffective superficial technique. Maturity is the balance between courage and consideration. Emotional maturity is the ability to express one’s own feelings and convictions balanced with consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others. Maturity continuum focuses on growth and development process from dependency through independency to interdependency.

Respect for maturity is deeply ingrained in the theory of human interaction, management and leadership. It is a deep embodiment of the P/PC balance. While courage may focus on getting the golden egg, consideration deals with the long-term welfare of the other stakeholders. Win/Win is nice and tough. Its twice as though as Win/Lose. To go for Win/Win, you not only have to be nice, you have to be courageous. To achieve that balance between courage and consideration, is the essence of real maturity and is fundamental to win/win. People with scarcity mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit – even with those who help in the production. It’s difficult for people with a scarcity mentality to be members of a complementary team. Public victory does not mean victory over other people. It means success in effective interaction that brings mutually beneficial results to everyone involved. Without trust, the best we can do is compromise; without trust, we lack the credibility for open, mutual learning and communication and real creativity.

When you are dealing with a person who is coming from a paradigm of Win/Lose, the relationship is still the key. Because Win/Win is a principle people can validate in their own lives, you will be able to bring most people to a realization that they will win more of what they want by going for what you both want. We need to approach Win/Win from a genuine desire to invest in the relationships that make it possible. Win/Win agreements focus on results, releasing tremendous individual human potential and creating greater synergy, building PC in the process instead of focusing exclusively on P. They create an effective way to clarity and manage expectations between people involved in any interdependent endeavor. In Win/Win agreement, following a made very explicit –Desired results, Guidelines, Resources, Accountability and Consequences.

When trust isn’t there, you have to control people. It is much more ennobling to the human spirit to let people judge themselves than to judge them. Win/Win agreements are tremendously liberating. There is no way to maintain them without personal integrity and relationship of trust. Competition has its place in the marketplace or against last year’s performance – perhaps even against another office or individual where there is no interdependence, no need to cooperate. But cooperation in the workplace is as important to free enterprise as competition in the marketplace. Unless people are in a survival mode, psychic compensation is often more motivating than financial compensation.

In families, parents can shift the focus from competition with each other to cooperation. They can keep family score and try to beat a previous one. Win/Win systems create the environment which supports and reinforces the Win/Win performance agreements. Although the words Win/Win are not used, the spirit and underlying philosophy of the book are in harmony with the Win/Win approach. Separate the person from the problem, to focus on interests and not on positions, to invent options for mutual gain, and to insist on objective criteria – some external standard or principle that both parties can buy into. Step-by-step approach to Win/Win –

  1. See the problem from the other point of view. Understand and give expression to needs and concerns
  2. Identify the key issues and concerns
  3. Determine what results make fully acceptable solution
  4. Identify possible new options to achieve those results

So often the problem is in the systems, not the people. You have to water the flowers you want to grow. Executives can align their systems to create teams of highly productive people working together to compete against external standards of performance. Win/Win is not a personality technique but comes from character of integrity, maturity and abundance mentality. It grows out of high-trust relationships.

Seek first to understand, then be understood

We have such a tendency to rush in, to fix things up with good advice. But we often fail to take the time to diagnose, to really, deeply understand the problem first. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Comparatively, few people have had any training in listening at all. And, for the most part, their training has been in the personality ethic of technique, truncated from the character base and the relationship base absolutely vital to authentic understanding of another person. If your life runs hot and cold, if you’re both caustic and kind, and, above all, if your private performance doesn’t square with your public performance, it’s very hard for me to open up with you.

Unless you’re influenced by my uniqueness, I’m not going to be influenced by your advice. You cannot do it with technique alone. You have to build the skills of empathic listening on a base of character that inspires openness and trust. You have to build the Emotional Bank Accounts that create a commerce between hearts. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. We may practice selective listening, hearing only certain parts of the conversation. But very few of us ever practice highest form of listening, empathic listening. You listen with reflective skills, but you listen with intent to reply, to control, to manipulate. When I say empathic listening, I mean listening with intent to understand. Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is a form of agreement, a form of judgement. The essence of empathic listening is not that you agree with someone; it’s that you fully, deeply, understand that person, emotionally as well as intellectually.

10 % communication (words), 30 % (sounds), 60% (body language). You listen not only with your ears but also with your eyes and heart. You listen for feeling, for meaning, for behavior and with both brains.  Empathic listening is so powerful because it gives you accurate data to work with. You’re focused on receiving the deep communication of another human soul. Empathic listening is the key to making deposits in Emotional Bank Accounts, because nothing you do is a deposit unless the other person perceives it as such. Person regards your efforts as manipulative, Self-serving, intimidating or condescending because you don’t understand what really matters to him. Empathic listening is, in and of itself, a tremendous deposit in the Emotional Bank Account. It’s deeply therapeutic and healing because it gives a person “psychological air”. Satisfied needs do not motivate. When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air. And after that vital need is met, you can then focus on influencing or problem solving.

You can’t have interpersonal PC – high Emotional Bank Accounts – if the people you relate with don’t really feel understood. Use this script

Let me see if I really understand what your position is and what your concerns about my recommendations really are. When you feel I understand them, then we’ll see whether my proposal has any relevance or not.

 Empathic listening is risky because it takes 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 order to have influence, you have to be influenced. That means you have to really understand. You wouldn’t have any confidence in a doctor’s prescription unless you had confidence in the diagnosis. An effective salesperson first seeks to understand the needs, the concerns, the situation of the customer. The amateur salesman sells products; the professional sells solutions to needs and problems. And he has to have the integrity to say, “My product or service will not meet that need” if it will not.

He gathers the facts to understand the situation. A good lawyer almost writes the opposing attorney’s case before he writes his own. A good engineer will understand the forces, the stresses at work, before designing the bridge. A good teacher will assess the class before teaching. A good student will understand before he applies. A good parent will understand before evaluating or judging. The key to good judgement is understanding. Seek first to understand is a correct principle evident in all areas of life. It’s autobiographical, it controls, and it invades. Probing is logical, and the language of logic is different from the language of sentiment and emotion. Constant probing is one of the main reasons parents do not get close to their children. Best thing parents can do is practice empathic listening situations and they finally begin to listen to their own typical responses.

Without the character and relationship base, ‘active’ or ‘reflective’ listening is often insulting to people and causes them to close up. Essentially repeating back the content, you’re paying attention to words and second stage of empathic listening is to rephrase the content. In third stage, you reflect feeling. In fourth stage, you authentically seek to understand, as you rephrase content and reflect feeling, you give them psychological air. What a difference real understanding can make! All the well-meaning advice in the world won’t amount to a hill of beans if we’re not even addressing the real problem. By seeking first to understand, a father can turn a transactional opportunity into a transformational opportunity. By setting aside his own autobiography and really seeking to understand, one makes a tremendous deposit in the Emotional Bank Account and empowers other to open, layer upon layer, and to get to the real issue. As long as the response is logical, one can effectively ask questions and give counsel. But the moment the response becomes emotional, one needs to go back to empathic listening.

There are times when transformation requires no outside counsel. The key is to genuinely seek the welfare of individual, to listen with empathy, to let the person get to the problem and the solution at his/her own pace and time. Layer upon layer – it’s like peeling an onion until you get to the soft inner core. Children desperately want to open up, even more to their parents than to their peers. And they will, if they feel their parents will love them unconditionally and will be faithful to them afterwards and not judge or ridicule them. It isn’t even necessary to talk in order to empathize. I have gone through the skills of empathic listening because skill is an important part of any habit. If you’re dealing with people you’re close to, it’s helpful to tell them what you’re doing. Here’s a script –

“I read this book about listening and empathy and I thought about my relationship with you. I realized I haven’t listened to you like I should. But I want to. It’s hard for me. I may blow it at times, but I’m going to work at it. I really care about you and I want to understand. I hope you’ll help me.”

A discerning empathic listener can read what’s happening down deep fast, and can show such acceptance, such understanding, that other people feel safe to open up layer until they get to that soft inner core where the problem really lies. Seek first to understand …then to be understood. Seeking to understand requires consideration; seeking to be understood takes courage. Ethos is personal credibility; Pathos is the empathic side – it’s the feeling. Logos is the logic. Empathize with other person’s head and get into his frame of mind. You’ve got to make your point simply and visually and describe the alternative he is in favor of better than he can himself. Script below –

“Now let me see if I first understand what your objectives are, and what your concerns are about this presentation and my recommendation”. Communication with your partner and seeking to understand each other involves taking time to actually practice empathic listening skills to help us in communicating with our children. We interact back and forth and try to visualize the situation in a very real way so that we can train ourselves to be consistent in modeling and teaching correct principles to our children. The time you invest to deeply understand the people you love brings tremendous dividends in open communication. The communication becomes so open that potential problems can be nipped in the bud. Before you try to present your own ideas – seek to understand. When we really, deeply understand each other, we open the door to creative solutions and third alternatives. Our differences are no longer stumbling blocks to communication and progress.


When properly understood, synergy is the highest activity in all life – the true test and manifestation of all the other habits put together. Synergy is the essence of principle-centered leadership. It is the essence of principle-centered parenting. It catalyzes, unifies and unleashes the greatest powers within people. What is synergy? Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It is not only a part, but the most catalytic, the most empowering, the most unifying, and the most exciting part. It takes an enormous amount of internal security to begin with the spirit of adventure, the spirit of discovery, the spirit of creativity. Without doubt, you have to leave the comfort zone of base camp and confront an entirely new and unknown wilderness. You become a trailblazer, a pathfinder. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. One plus one equals three or more. The essence of synergy is to value differences – to respect them, to build on strengths, to compensate for weaknesses.

When you communicate synergistically, you are simply opening your mind and heart and expressions to new possibilities, new alternatives, new options. Ineffective people live day after day with unused potential. This represents one of the great tragedies and wastes in life, because so much potential remains untapped- completely undeveloped and unused. Most all creative endeavors are somewhat unpredictable. During brainstorming, the spirit of evaluation is subordinated to the spirit of creativity, imagining and intellectual working. The more authentic you become, the more genuine in your expression, particularly regarding personal experiences and even self-doubts, the more people can relate to your expression and the safer it makes them feel to express themselves.

Respectful communication means having respect for each other but want to avoid the possibility of ugly confrontations. Synergy means 1+1 may equal 8, 16 or 1600. The synergistic position of high trust produces solutions better than any originally proposed and all parties know it. Because they listen empathically and seek first to understand, they create within themselves and between them a comprehensive picture of the values and the concerns that need to be taken into account in making a decision. When you synergize, both parties communicate back and forth until they come up with a solution, they both feel good about. Instead of transaction, it’s a transformation. They get what they both really want and build their relationship in the process. 

Sameness is not oneness; uniformity is not unity. Unity, or oneness, is complementariness, not sameness. Sameness is uncreative … and boring. The essence of synergy is to value the differences. The heart of intrapersonal synergy is embodied in the principles in the first three habits, which give the internal security sufficient to handle the risks of being open and vulnerable. When a person has access to both the intuitive, creative and visual right brain, and the analytical, Logical, Verbal left brain, then the whole brain is working. Life is not just logical, but it is also emotional. Manage from left but lead from right. Valuing the differences is the essence of synergy – the mental, the emotional, the psychological differences between people. 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.

Unless we value the differences in our perceptions, unless we value each other and give credence to the possibility that we’re both right, that life is not always a dichotomous either/or, that there are almost always third alternatives, we will never be able to transcend the limits of that conditioning. I value your perception. I want to understand. If two people have the same opinion, one is unnecessary. I don’t want to talk, to communicate, with someone who agrees with me; I want to communicate with you because you see it differently. I value that difference. I don’t want to talk, to communicate, with someone who agrees with me; I want to communicate with you because you see it differently. I value that difference. I take my foot off the brake and release the negative energy you have invested in defending a particular position. I create an environment for synergy.

When you introduce synergy, you use the motive of habit 4, the skills of habit 5 and interaction of habit 6 to work directly on restraining forces. You involve people in the problem, immerse them in it, so that they soak it in and feel it is their problem and they tend to become an important part of the solution. Poor early communication results in misunderstanding and unrealistic expectations. You can be synergistic within yourself even in the midst of a very adversarial environment. You don’t have to take insults personally. When someone disagrees with you, you can say, “Good! You see it differently.” You don’t have to agree with them; you simply affirm them. And you can seek to understand.

Sharpen the Saw

Investment in ourselves is the single most powerful investment we can even make in life. Almost all the benefit of the exercise comes at the very end. When you exercise your patience beyond your past limits, the emotional fiber is broken, nature overcompensates, and next time the fiber is stronger. If you haven’t been exercising, your body will undoubtedly protest this change in its comfortable downhill direction. As you increase your body’s ability to do more demanding things, you’ll find your normal activities much more comfortable and pleasant. As you act based on the value of physical well-being instead of reacting to all the forces that keep you from exercising, your paradigm of yourself, your self-esteem, your self-confidence and your integrity will be profoundly affected.

Spiritual dimension is your core, your center, your commitment to your value system. It’s a very private area of life and supremely important one. It draws upon the sources that inspire and uplift you and tie you to the timeless truths of all humanity. Nature bequeaths its own blessing on those who immerse themselves in it. As long as you feel you are serving others, you do the job well. When you are concerned only with helping yourself, you do it less well – a law as inexorable as gravity. The idea that when we take time to draw on the leadership center of our lives, what life is ultimately all about, it spreads like an umbrella over everything else. It renews us, it refreshes us, particularly if we recommit to it. This is why I believe a personal mission statement is so important. If we have a deep understanding of our center and our purpose, we can review and recommit to it frequently.

Like the body, television is a good servant but a poor master. We need to practice habit 3 and manage ourselves effectively to maximize the use of any resource in accomplishing our missions. There’s no better way to inform and expand your mind on a regular basis than to get into the habit of reading good literature. The person who doesn’t read is no better off than the person who can’t read. Organizing and planning represent other forms of mental renewal associated with habits 2 and 3. Wars are won in the general’s tent. Sharpening the saw in the first three dimensions – physical, spiritual and mental – is a practice called ‘Daily private victory’. Character cannot be made except by a steady, long continued process.

“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?” I listen emphatically in order to deeply, thoroughly understand your paradigm. Based on the commitment to search for a solution that we both feel good about and a deep understanding of each other’s points of view, we move to habit 6. We work together to produce third alternative solutions to our differences that we both recognize are better than the ones either you or I propose initially. A life of integrity is the most fundamental source of personal worth. There is also the intrinsic security that comes as a result of effective interdependent living. There is security that comes when you authentically, creatively and cooperatively interact with other people and really experience these interdependent habits.

Victor Frankl focused on the need for meaning and purpose in our lives, something that transcends our own lives and taps the best energies within us. The late Dr. Hans Selye, in his monumental research on stress, basically says that a long, healthy and happy life is the result of making contributions, of having meaningful projects that are personally exciting and contribute to and bless the lives of others. His ethic was ‘earn thy neighbor’s love’. When people are being directed by the social mirror to take the lower path, you inspire them toward a higher path because you believe in them. You listen to them and empathize with them. You don’t absolve them of responsibility; you encourage them to be proactive.

The more we can see people in terms of their unseen potential, the more we can use our imagination rather than our memory, with our spouse, our children, our co-workers or employees. To neglect any one area, negatively impacts the rest. The mental or psychological dimension deals with recognition, development and use of talent. The social/emotional dimension deals with human relations with how people are treated and spiritual dimension deals with finding meaning through purpose or contribution and through organizational hierarchy. Organizational as well as individual effectiveness requires development and renewal of all four dimensions in a wise and balanced way. Organizations and individuals that give recognition to each of these four dimensions in their mission statement provide a powerful framework for balanced renewal.

Your physical health affects your mental health; your spiritual strength affects your social/emotional strength. As you improve in one dimension, you increase your ability in other dimensions as well. The more proactive you are (habit 1), the more effectively you can exercise personal leadership (habit 2) and management (habit 3) in your life. The more effectively you manage your life (habit 3), the more Quadrant II renewing activities you can do (habit 7). The more you seek to first understand (habit 5), the more effectively you can go for synergistic Win/Win solutions (habits 4 and 6). The more you improve in any of the habits that lead to independence (habits 1, 2 and 3), the more effective you will be in interdependent situations (habits 4, 5 and 6). And renewal (habit 7) is the process of renewing all the habits.

The voice of conscience is so delicate that it is easy to stifle it: but it is also so clear that it is impossible to mistake it. Training and educating the conscience, however, requires even greater concentration, more balanced discipline, more consistently honest living. Once we are self-aware, we must choose purposes and principles to live by; otherwise the vacuum will be filled, and we will lose our self-awareness and become like groveling animals who live primarily for survival and propagation. An increasingly educated conscience will propel us along the path of personal freedom, security, wisdom and power. To keep progressing, we must learn, commit and do – learn, commit and do – and learn, commit and do.

There is a gap between stimulus and response, and that the key to both our growth and happiness is how we use that space. An exciting adventure into our inner worlds found it to be more exciting, more fascinating, more absorbing, more compelling, more filled with discovery and insight than anything we’d ever known in the outside world. I had never been so critical as to rupture the relationship, but when you’re trying to cultivate a beautiful unified relationship, any divisive issue is important. Even seemingly trivial things often have roots in deep emotional experiences. To deal only with the superficial trivia without seeing the deeper, more tender issues is to trample on the sacred ground of another’s heart. The key to staying in love is to talk particularly about feelings. Try to communicate with your partner several times every day, even when you are traveling. When you begin to work from inside out, we were able to build relationship of trust and openness and to resolve dysfunctional differences in a deep and lasting way that never could have come by working from the outside in. Quadrant II activity is communicating deeply with each other. Understanding the power of scripting, we felt a renewed desire to do everything we could to make certain that what we passed on to future generations, by both precept and example, was based correct principles.

There is a transcendent power in a strong intergenerational family. There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children – one is roots, the other wings. He who cannot change the very fabric of this thought will never be able to change reality, and will never, therefore, make any progress. Achieving unity -oneness – with ourselves, with our loved ones, with our friends and working associates, is the highest and best and most delicious fruit of the seven habits. We know how precious and fragile unity is. As we plant the seed and patiently weed and nourish it, we begin to feel the excitement of real growth and eventually taste the incomparably delicious fruits of a congruent, effective life. Values govern people’s behavior but principles govern the consequences of those behaviors.

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