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What habits do highly effective people have?
The book opens with an explanation of how many individuals who have achieved a high degree of outward success still find themselves struggling with an inner need for developing personal effectiveness and growing healthy relationships with other people.
Covey believes the way we see the world is entirely based on our own perceptions. In order to change a given situation, we must change ourselves, and in order to change ourselves, we must be able to change our perceptions.
In studying over 200 years of literature on the concept of “success,” Covey identified a very important change in the way that humans have defined success over time.
In earlier times, the foundation of success rested upon character ethic (things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden Rule). But starting around the 1920s, the way people viewed success shifted to what Covey calls “personality ethic” (where success is a function of personality, public image, attitudes, and behaviors).
These days, people look for quick fixes. They see a successful person, team, or organization and ask, “How do you do it? Teach me your techniques!” But these “shortcuts” that we look for, hoping to save time and effort and still achieve the desired result, are simply band-aids that will yield short-term solutions. They don’t address the underlying condition.
“The way we see the problem is the problem,” Covey writes. We must allow ourselves to undergo paradigm shifts — to change ourselves fundamentally and not just alter our attitudes and behaviors on the surface level — in order to achieve true change.
That’s where the seven habits of highly effective people come in:
- Habits 1, 2, and 3 are focused on self-mastery and moving from dependence to independence.
- Habits 4, 5, and 6 are focused on developing teamwork, collaboration, and communication skills, and moving from independence to interdependence.
- Habit 7 is focused on continuous growth and improvement and embodies all the other habits.
1. Be Proactive
The first habit that Covey discusses is being proactive. What distinguishes us as humans from all other animals is our inherent ability to examine our own character, to decide how to view ourselves and our situations, and to control our own effectiveness.
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