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Book Review: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People; Powerful Lessons
in Personal Change

Article · January 2011

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Muhammad Maqsood Khalid Muhammad Ashraf


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www.ajbms.org Asian Journal of Business and Management Sciences
ISSN: 2047-2528 Vol. 1 No. 4 [01-06]

BOOK REVIEW:
THE SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE;
Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Muhammad Maqsood Khalid


Ph-D Scholar
Superior University Raiwind Road
Lahore, Pakistan
E-mail: mqsd_khalid@yahoo.com

Muhammad Ashraf (Corresponding Author)


Student M.Phil Business Administration
Azra Naheed Center for Research & Development
Superior University/College Lahore Pakistan
E-mail: Ashraf.scholar@gmail.com

BOOK INFORMATION
Book Title: The Seven habits of highly effective people
Author: Stephen R. Covey
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Edition: 1st Edition
Year: 1992
Pages: 358 including text, subject index, appendix A & B
ISBN: 0-671-71117-2
Price: £10.99 net

Key Words: Human Conditions, Habits, Principles, Personality, Relationship,


Values, Family, Communication, Effectiveness

The book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” is divided into Parts 1-4. It was
created in the awake of conditions of 90s when America and its citizens needed higher
productivity in business. Author is of the opinion that habits develop as a result of repeated
actions and at certain level of commitment. Habits pass through the maturity continuum to
become permanent part of life. Human habit takes shape based on knowledge learnt (what
to do and why), skill acquired (how to do) and spirit of motivation developed (want to do).

Part-One PARADIGMS AND PRINCIPLES

The book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” begins with debate on paradigm
and principles and inside out. An overview of the 7 habits presented by the author is
thought provoking. The author feels after 25 years of interaction with successful people that
they had an inner hunger and need personal effectiveness and healthy relationships with
others. Author stresses that correct principles should be internalized to build long lasting
happiness and success. Some habits are related to human instinct. Some are
circumstantial. A newly duck baby will rush towards water after birth while a lion‟s cab will
not do so. Almighty has created human being like a plain blank paper. Human being has to
put in struggle to write on this blank paper. This writing leads to human evolution. He
points out seven habits those are not new but he has successfully unveiled these. He feels a
need to undergo a paradigm shift in character and personality ethics before turning to these
seven habits. To him everybody has his own paradigm which is the source of his attitude
and behavior. He says that one should not adopt paradigms straightway without examining
and testing them against reality. Get people perception about these paradigms and prepare
a larger objective picture. Learned author describes the power of a paradigm shift by
quoting Thomas Kuhn word, “break with the rotten traditions, old ways of thinking and old
paradigms and replace them with new creations and innovative interpretations.”

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Inside out

Inside out means check your stance and bring your inner self out. In other words, look at
your personal character, paradigms and object first. This situation develops an
extraordinary spirit within inside. He calls it a „national combination‟. He contrasts this
situation with the outside in, a customized situation. The bounties of inside out and will
produce synergetic results with “deeper understanding and relationship.” He believes that
real change comes from inside out. He does not favor attitude and behavior fixing
mechanism. To find permanent solution to moral ills, one should strike at the root cause
which shapes our character and shapes the lens through which we see the world. Author
seems concerned with value of character and principles.

The author talks about the need of positive paradigm shift from character ethic to
personality ethic in the US society. Our paradigm, according to author, gyrate around our
attitude, and behavior and shape our relationships with others. Human society needs mini
paradigm always for behavior improvement. Here paradigm lies in eyes of the beholder. It
refers to perception to see the world. What we see, we get a print of it in our mind. He cites
many examples of managers /evidences to convey the understanding of phenomenon.

Part Two PRIVATE VICTORY

Private victory refers to personal independence and effectiveness. Author describes three
habits attributed to independent phase.

Habit 1 Pro Active

Life is before you. You need to design it. Your decisions will choose the way of life you
choose for yourself. You can choose success, failure, gratification, gloom, valor or fright.
Every step in life leads you towards a new opportunity. If you want to produce desired
results, do the things differently and be ready well before time to face challenges of life. Life
is a happening. For every happening, it is not fair to blame the older generation and
genetics for their bad habits rather it is the time to take on the responsibility to hold reins
of the time and pave way for future generations. Pro-activism is a kind of initiative that
blocks blame theory. If human initiative and sense of responsibility combine together,
better decision making will result in. Human nature is affected by conditions whereas it
should be impacted by decisions not conditions.

Habit 2 begin with the end in Mind

Begin with the end in mind means to visualize the end from the beginning in principles.
One should keep the end of his life. Visualize your death scene. This is a good exercise to
test imagining power of your mind. It is based on the principle that all things are created
twice. Ist creation occurs in mind and the other becomes visible physically. This principle
can be generalized to family life, work life, worldly needs, joyful moments, peers, religious
thoughts, self esteem and life partner. He guides every body to develop his/her mission
statement on daily basis of life. Author highlights the importance and use of time in terms
of value and results. If you organize and plan at least one hour of your life, it will improve
quality, effectiveness of every other hour of the day. Author regards it “daily private victory”.
By dint of developing this kind of quality, one can face the odds of life undauntedly.
Philosopher Covey says that do not let your mind stray, focus the task, be productive and
accomplish the task. Author quotes Phillips Brooks‟ words about character building. The
author effectively cites practical life examples. We create reports/drafts in our work life
daily, edit, rewrite and get a final draft. Author regards leadership as 1 st creation and
management as 2nd creation. Leadership begins as interpersonal dependencies begin.

Habit 3 put first things first

Habit 1 imparts that you are in the driving seat and enjoy full control of the situation. Being
the best creation of Almighty, you create many of the daily life but not life. By put first

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ISSN: 2047-2528 Vol. 1 No. 4 [01-06]

things first means you have to lead a disciplined and organized life and do not waste your
energy on wasteful productivity. You are to ensure that you deal with the things as these
come before you. Do not disturb the flow and order of things. Do not put your things at
sixes and seven. Say „No‟ when you feel things are getting disturbed and you are going out
of schedule. Select your priorities and stick to these. It is about planning and organizing life
and its daily confronting issues. If you are able to put first things first, you are saving your
time, cost and energy. Habits 1-2 contributed to habit 3. Put first things first does address
personal and time management of human beings. Author opines that as you develop your
habits 1 & 2, you will be utmost proactive to deal with uncertainty of life. A “principle
centered approach” is preferred to lead the life successfully and gracefully. Habits 1,2,&3
are independent and foundational.

Part-Three PUBLIC VICTORY

Public victory does not mean victory over other people. It means effective interaction,
making things happen though sound communication. If you are able to feel comfortable
with the others and others feel the same for you, it is public victory. Another phase of
interdependence begins with habits 4-6.

Paradigm of Interdependence

Interpersonal leadership begins as you move from independent stage towards


interdependence either you are a President or Janitor. In today‟s business world,
information and reward systems are reinforced to seek employees‟ cooperation. Author in
this book is of the opinion that as we tend to improve attitudes and behaviors, we are
working on leaves. If we want to change fruits, we will have to change roots accordingly. It
is not like growing one plant and watering the other. Independent people find it difficult to
adjust in interdependence environment.

Habit 4 Think win/win

It means that we should remain fair and mature towards others in every walk of life. Either
you are in practical life or in play ground, win win does not mean you are to win at any
cost. It is a thought of win, gives you psychological edge and keeps unnecessary complexes
and worries away from your mind. This habit needs foundations of integrity, maturity and
abundance of mentality. By abundance of mentality means an open and wise mentality
which shows real happiness for the success of other people. He compares abundance
mentality with scarcity mentality. People suffer from scarcity mentality do not like to share
recognition and credit power or profit with those who even help in the productivity. A sound
and unflinching character provides base to win good relationships. Relationship provides
credibility which is a key to creativity and trust. Relationships create agreements called
performance agreements. Managers and employees both operate within the said framework
Author presents his mythology about human beings and finds that think win/win is the
habit which relates to interpersonal leadership based on an obliging approach with
prerequisites of vision, proactive initiative, security, guidance, wisdom and power. This
habit he finds, is more close to nature, He describes six principles, like a fresh air to human
thought and enhance their confidence to deal with other humans. He regards these
principles “paradigms”.
- Win/Win - Win/Lose - Lose/Win
- Lose/Lose - Win - Win/Win or No Deal
Human interaction has its own chemistry. It is fraught with different philosophies. Six of
these have been discussed in this book. These are six mentalities and paradigms of human
interaction:

Win/Win

It is a thought free of exploitation. It does not believe in winning success at the cost of the
other. It is a humane thought.

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Win/Lose

This type of mentality believes in, “I win you lose” . To attain this goal, authoritarian
approach, power, position, relationships all are used. Win/win mentality promotes
cooperation. Win/Lose kills it. It is better to lead a life of cooperation not competition at
workplace, family environment, dealing with life partner, children, neighbors and friends.
Intrinsic values ought to be recognized.

Lose/Win

This mentality drops weapons before fight. Such people lack vision. They raise no demands
and expectations. Such people can be overpowered by others. They lack courage to express
themselves and remain at the back and call of others. Lose/win people are liked by
win/lose people for their weaknesses.

Lose/Lose

People suffer from lose/lose paradigm are adamant that their crow is white. What they say
is right! It shows a peculiar stubborn mentality to harp the same old string. Such people
believe, “we won‟t play and won‟t let you play”.

Win

This mentality is fruitful to the other humans. Win people do not find success at the
expense of the others. If they find success, pave way for others‟ success.
It depends upon the situation and its handling that which of the above paradigm is
effective.

Win/Win or No Deal

No deal is altogether a positive and unbiased concept to get win and seek win for others. “I
find success in my way, you find in your way”. You sacrifice the things for others. They will
sacrifice for you. It is a realistic approach. In family matters, no deal may be low but in
organizational level, its rate may be high. The real challenge is to read the reality accurately
and apply your thinking onto a situation. If there is no synergetic solution, the end solution
should be in form of benefit to both. It is much more liberated situation. No deal is
considered better than no win/win.

Habit 5 Seek First to understand, than to be understood

Communication is a natural phenomenon. Choice of words provides substance to human


communication. Human beings learn to speak at the age of two years but he takes many
years to learn how to make choice of correct words. Empathic communication refers to a set
of interaction skills. It is a complete form of communication in which both must understand
each other. It is important for everyone to diagnose first than prescribe a solution. It is hard
to follow but a correct principle. It is a societal weakness that people are careless listeners
and generally prescribe treatment without diagnosis the responsible factors. It is high time
that conditions are understood first then solutions may be suggested. Basic forms of
communication are still valid in 21st century. Humans of present age need to follow these
rules and carefully focus the interpersonal and intrapersonal communication. Success
literature reveals a good listening example from the life experience of business Tycoon Bill
Marriot. He is CEO and Chairman of Chain of Marriots in 151 countries of the world.
Behind his marvelous success, rigorous hard work and wonderful brain capacity won
success for him and played a decisive role. A journalist asked him the secret of his success.
He replied that he used to listen to the people attentively. His father once advised him to
listen to the people carefully first and then issue necessary orders. He acted upon this
advice and found success. In other words, use two ears most and one tongue less.

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ISSN: 2047-2528 Vol. 1 No. 4 [01-06]

Habit 6 Synergize

Universe is variable. It undergoes change in every second. This habit of developing synergy
is in human nature. He likes to remain in groups. Isolation is against his nature. Adam was
developed and synergized with Eve. Almighty has created human brains for learning, and
exploring. Invention of a computer machine is evident. It has been developed on the pattern
of human brain. A computer processor works like our brain and rest of our body parts are
our supporting accessories. A guru said human changes after every second in synergetic
form of catabolism and anabolism. Success of human life can be achieved through habit of
synergy in every walk of life. Synergy refers to as 1 +1 may equal to 8 or 16 or even 1600.
The habit „6‟ Synergy is the highest of all. Covey says, nature is abundant with synergy, it is
found in every nook and corner of nature. Two plants if planted close together, their
simultaneous growth will improve the worth of the earth crest. Similarly family life demands
synergy to get congenial relationships. Do not miss any opportunity to make synergy with
anyone. In the environment in which self-esteem and self-worth of each human is fulfilled,
synergy grows. Author talks about principles of creative cooperation.

Part-Four RENEWAL

Part 4 is about renewal of Habit 7. .In this part of the book, the author desires to renew
what has been learnt from 6 Habits. He demands to adopt median approach to lead a
balanced life. To look for a balanced life is like renewing your potential. Feeling fit is not
enough. Take proper rest, relax after short sessions of work, renew your self, and regain
your lost energy and vigor. Stay close to nature, take exercise, sleep early and rise early.
You will find your mind box full of new and fresh ideas. Every new idea brings new
opportunity. New opportunity recharges you. Results will come out as desired. Author looks
for a balanced renewal in all four dimensions in the physical, spiritual, mental and the
social /emotional. These areas are interlinked. If any of the area is ignored intentionally or
unintentionally, it will impact negatively on rest of the areas. Self renewal is a form of
spiritual improvement which grasps conscious and unconscious decision making of human
mind. Spiritual improvement brings moral truth which is the ultimate destiny of human
life. Life progresses as a result of spiritual and social improvement not as a result of
mechanical processing.

Habit 7` Sharpen the Saw

Sharpen the saw means to develop your brain faculties physically, socially, mentally and
spiritually. To keep watch your physical fitness, social public relationing, acquiring
knowledge, skill and aptitude (KSA), and concentrating „self‟ to improve inner self.
Providence has endowed the humans with numerous colors like a butterfly. He has to
display these colors one by one after a series of hectic efforts to pass through the challenges
of life like a butterfly which struggles to get out of a minor hole in cocoa. During this
attempt, he gains strength in its feeble wings.

Reading quality literature expands our cultural awareness, our thinking paradigms and
sharpens our mental saw. Writing makes a man perfect through sharing of ideas,
knowledge and experiences. Author recommends studying the Great Books, the Harvard
Classics, autobiographies and National Geographic to acquire awareness. A good writing
and reading habit will sharpen the physical, spiritual and mental qualities of your mind.
There is a need to follow principles of balanced self-renewal and improving yourself instead
of criticizing the other. Religious dogmas, quality information, physical fitness and social
environment feed a human being to develop his brain. Author proposes to make a schedule
of activities and select one of the best activities as your goal of the week. These activities
keep you fit and energetic bodily and spiritually to perform better.

Inside Out Again

Inside Out again means behave yourself what you want to be. To become a good father, be
affectionate with the children. The author presents essence of the book in form of a strong

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intergenerational family. He believes in character and principles. That is why he admits that
natural laws are correct principles and Almighty Allah is the source of them and also the
source of our conscious.

CONCLUSION

The 1st edition of this book was published in 1992. This book was selected for review owing
to its immense popularity in Pakistan. Ch. Abdul Rehman Rector Superior University,
Lahore Pakistan motivated to study this book and develop an opinion about it. I found this
book replete with ideas relating to human life, habits, personal vision, principle-centered
approach and individual leadership. 7 habits deliver a range of empowerment to
individuals, families, business and organizations in their respective circle of life. This is
theme of the book.

This book is based on research of Stephen R. Covey on personality and perceptions. It


guides about self improvement, self help and popular psychology for a successful living in
the world. It discusses problems and techniques to tackle different situations and finally
focuses to integrate certain principles and habits into human nature and basic character.
Each word, concept discussed in this book itself demands full book on it. This is of course
an idea generating book. Advice about conducting management development training
program is useful to implement in developing countries to enhance efficacy of training.

The book illustrates common human values such as moral up gradation and gives a
message to be a good and pro active to deal with daily life issues. This book was written for
bringing moral change in western society. This is an interesting book that has clear
objectivity, conciseness and usefulness for the generations to come. Principles discussed by
the author are universal in nature and inspire every one. This book is about human
conditions, their inter-relationship, values, family system, and interpersonal
communication. Despite many qualities, the book has beautifully expressed the presence of
contrasting beliefs, views and thoughts at individual, family, business and organizational
level those inhibit synergy and pollute human relationship environment. After reading this
book, I personally feel that managers and parents should reaffirm their employees and
offspring to explore their potential and capabilities. Emergence of a strong intergenerational
family provides sufficient safeguard to future generations. Encouragement provides roots
and wings to the children. By tools, they recognize their ancestors and by wings, they get
motivation to fly high and become high performers.

The author Stephen R. Covey has been successful in evaluating human conditions. He has
supported good evidences from practical life. The book was written in an informal style. The
present and coming generations are its audience. Table of contents reveal that the book is
well organized. Main idea of this book begins with inside-out and ends with inside-out
again. In between these two, it develops the thought process through private victory, public
victory and renewal. The 7 habits address leadership traits those can make effective people.
The book is a treasure of thoughts based on intuition. The seven habits are still relevant
and address some very important needs of human life including family, business and
organization. As this book arouses to revamp lost morale and vigor in life at home and
work, it is recommended that the study of this book will be beneficial for students of all
disciplines at all levels, people who want to know about human character traits and Human
Resource professionals.

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