Another one of the OG self-help books. The 7 Habits is a staple book in the self-help literature and most other self-help books have either imitated it or drawn inspiration from it heavily. It is also one of those books you either hate or love. The people who will love this, are the people who believe that what they do matters in the world and they actually have the ability to change themselves and with them the world. This book is also aimed at them. To use the terminology of the book itself, these are proactive people. The people who will hate this are the people who believe that whatever you do, you can’t go against the dominant structure. Whatever you do is in vain. Believing you have the ability to change things, is a myth. These are reactive people. Choose in which of the two categories you want to be in.
7 Habits starts with the explanation of paradigms, which is easily explained to be a framework. There are numerous paradigms. The term was introduced by Thomas Kuhn, who applied it to science. Whenever the paradigm of the sciences shift, something else becomes important. An example is the linguistic turn, which turned the attention of philosophy to language. The habits are designed to create a paradigm-shift. Covey wants you to look at the world through a different lens. So, what are the habits?
Habit 1: be proactive. All the habits are pretty straightforward. Reading this book will give you the sense that you could have written it as well. Well, be proactive. Instead of being reactive, which means you are being acted upon, be proactive, act upon yourself. Being reactive will make you see the world and yourself as obstacles which are impossible to overcome. Proactivity means taking control of the aspects of your life which you can control to a certain degree, your finances for example.
Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind. Instead of doing things without a plan, try doing them with a plan. Try writing down the aspects in your life in which you want to grow. Then write down goals for those aspects. Then write a plan to try and achieve those goals. Break them down into smaller goals and before you know you have reached your goal. Do things while thinking about the result you want to have. It will give you a pathway to move forward, instead of moving while being blindfolded.
Habit 3: Put first things first. Important things must come first to non-important things. This is a habit against procrastination. We might think it’s logical to do the important things first, but how often do we postpone things? A lot. Doing the important things means doing the things important to you, which means that it is actually fun to do. It shouldn’t be a drag doing them, that’s what happens when the things you have to do are important and urgent. We freeze and then do nothing. Try to do the things most important to you while not having them be urgent.
Habit 4: Think Win/Win. When you have a discussion with someone, try not to win the argument by making the other person lose. Try winning the argument together. This is definitely possible. You could both be wrong and then the win/win solution would be to find the truth, or you could both be right and then the solution would be understanding each other. Life is not a zero-sum game, where it is all or nothing. There is enough for everyone, while it doesn’t necessarily have to decrease.
Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. How are you going to explain something if you don’t understand it fully yourself? When dealing with other people try to understand their point of view first. Most people in conversation are either speaking or preparing to speak, while listening is not in their agenda. Listen to other people and it will enrich you more than anything else.
Habit 6: Synergize. This habit says that when working with people you should not compete with each other but synergize, complement each other. Then the work will be easier, and you’ll get much more done. Instead of competing with everyone it is far better to cooperate with each other in order to increase your production capabilities.
Habit 7: Sharpen the saw. The last habit is simple: always evaluate what you’re doing and correct whenever necessary. Life is a process, not a finished product. You have to polish it and maintain it or else it will fall apart. You should reflect on what you’re doing and see if it still effective. People are sometimes so busy that they don’t see that what they’re doing is ineffective.
If you have read many self-help books, then this book will probably not give you any new information. Nevertheless, it is one of the main self-help books out there and I would recommend this book for a beginner in the genre or to someone who just wants to be inspired into doing the right thing and becoming a fulfilled human being.