The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People



I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.      HENRY DAVID THOREAU 

As you read this book, try to stand apart from yourself. Try to project your consciousness upward into a corner of the room and see yourself, in your mind’s eye, reading. Can you look at yourself almost as though you were someone else? 

Now try something else. Think about the mood you are now in. Can you identify it? What are you feeling? How would you describe your present mental state? 

Now think for a minute about how your mind is working. Is it quick and alert? Do you sense that you are torn between doing this mental exercise and evaluating the point to be made out of it? 

Your ability to do what you just did is uniquely human. Animals do not possess this ability. We call it “self-awareness” or the ability to think about your very thought process. This is the reason why man has dominion over all things in the world and why he can make significant advances from generation to generation. 

This is why we can evaluate and learn from others’ experiences as well as our own. This is also why we can make and break our habits. 

If the only vision we have of ourselves comes from the social mirror—from the current social paradigm and from the opinions, perceptions, and paradigms of the people around us—our view of ourselves is like the reflection in the crazy mirror room at the carnival. 

“You’re never on time.” 

“Why can’t you ever keep things in order?” 

“You must be an artist!”

 “You eat like a horse!” 

“I can’t believe you won!” 

“This is so simple. Why can’t you understand?” 

These visions are disjointed and out of proportion. They are often more projections than reflections, projecting the concerns and character weaknesses of people giving the input rather than accurately reflecting what we are. 


What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.        OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES 

Please find a place to read these next few pages where you can be alone and uninterrupted. Clear your mind of everything except what you will read and what I will invite you to do. Don’t worry about your schedule, your business, your family, or your friends. Just focus with me and really open your mind. 

In your mind’s eye, see yourself going to the funeral of a loved one. Picture yourself driving to the funeral parlor or chapel, parking the car, and getting out. As you walk inside the building, you notice the flowers, the soft organ music. You see the faces of friends and family you pass along the way. You feel the shared sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of the people there. 

As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself. This is your funeral, three years from today. All these people have come to honor you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life. 

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.          GOETHE 

Will you take just a moment and write down a short answer to the following two questions? Your answers will be important to you as you begin work on Habit 3.  

Question 1: What one thing could you do (something you aren’t doing now) that, if you did it on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life? 

Question 2: What one thing in your business or professional life would bring similar results? 

Habit 3 is the personal fruit, the practical fulfillment of Habits 1 and 2. 

In addition to self-awareness, imagination, and conscience, it is the fourth human endowment—independent will—that really makes effective self- management possible. It is the ability to make decisions and choices and to act in accordance with them. It is the ability to act rather than to be acted upon, to proactively carry out the program we have developed through the other three endowments. 

The human will is an amazing thing. Time after time, it has triumphed against unbelievable odds. The Helen Kellers of this world give dramatic evidence of the value, the power of the independent will. 

But as we examine this endowment in the context of effective self- management, we realize it’s usually not the dramatic, the visible, the once-in-a- life-time, up-by-the-bootstraps effort that brings enduring success. Empowerment comes from learning how to use this great endowment in the decisions we make every day. 

We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; let us now commit it to life.  EDWIN MARKHAM 

One time I was asked to work with a company whose president was very concerned about the lack of cooperation among his people. 

“Our basic problem, Stephen, is that they’re selfish,” he said. “They just won’t cooperate. I know if they would cooperate, we could produce so much more. Can you help us develop a human relations program that will solve the problem?” 

“Is your problem the people or the paradigm?” I asked. “Look for yourself,” he replied. 

So I did. And I found that there was a real selfishness, an unwillingness to cooperate, a resistance to authority, defensive communication. I could see that overdrawn Emotional Bank Accounts had created a culture of low trust. But I pressed the question. 

“Let’s look at it deeper,” I suggested. “Why don’t your people cooperate? What is the reward for not cooperating?” 

“There’s no reward for not cooperating,” he assured me. “The rewards are much greater if they do cooperate.” 

The heart has its reasons which reason knows not of.  PASCAL 

Suppose you’ve been having trouble with your eyes and you decide to go to an optometrist for help. After briefly listening to your complaint, he takes off his glasses and hands them to you. 

“Put these on,” he says. “I’ve worn this pair of glasses for ten years now and they’ve really helped me. I have an extra pair at home; you can wear these.” So you put them on, but it only makes the problem worse. 

“This is terrible!” you exclaim. “I can’t see a thing!” 

“Well, what’s wrong?” he asks. “They work great for me. Try harder.” 

“I am trying,” you insist. “Everything is a blur.”

 “Well, what’s the matter with you? Think positively.” 

“Okay. I positively can’t see a thing.” 

“Boy, are you ungrateful!” he chides. “And after all I’ve done to help you!” 

What are the chances you’d go back to that optometrist the next time you needed help? Not very good, I would imagine. You don’t have much confidence in someone who doesn’t diagnose before he or she prescribes. But how often do we diagnose before we prescribe in communication? 

“Come on, honey, tell me how you feel. I know it’s hard, but I’ll try to under- stand.” “Oh, I don’t know, Mom. You’d think it was stupid.” 

“Of course I wouldn’t! You can tell me. Honey, no one cares for you as much as I do. I’m only interested in your welfare. What’s making you so unhappy?” 

“Oh, I don’t know.” 

“Come on, honey. What is it?” 

“Well, to tell you the truth, I just don’t like school anymore.” 

“What?” you respond incredulously. “What do you mean you don’t like school? And after all the sacrifices we’ve made for your education! Education is the foundation of your future. If you’d apply yourself like your older sister does, you’d do better and then you’d like school. Time and time again, we’ve told you to settle down. You’ve got the ability, but you just don’t apply yourself. Try harder. Get a positive attitude about it.” Pause. 

“Now go ahead. Tell me how you feel.” 


I take as my guide the hope of a saint: in crucial things, unity—in important things, diversity—in all things, generosity.          INAUGURAL ADDRESS OF PRESIDENT GEORGE H. W. BUSH 

When Sir Winston Churchill was called to head up the war effort for Great Britain, he remarked that all his life had prepared him for this hour. In a similar sense, the exercise of all of the other habits prepares us for the habit of synergy. 

When properly understood, synergy is the highest activity in all life—the true test and manifestation of all of the other habits put together. 

The highest forms of synergy focus the four unique human endowments, the motive of Win/Win, and the skills of empathic communication on the toughest challenges we face in life. What results is almost miraculous. We create new alternatives—something that wasn’t there before. 

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. All the habits we have covered prepare us to create the miracle of synergy. 

What is synergy? Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It means that the relationship which the parts have to each other is a part in and of itself. It is not only a part, but the most catalytic, the most empowering, the most unifying, and the most exciting part. 

Ecology is a word which basically describes the synergism in nature— everything is related to everything else. It’s in the relationship that creative powers are maximized, just as the real power in these Seven Habits is in their relationship to each other, not just in the individual habits themselves. 

The relationship of the parts is also the power in creating a synergistic culture inside a family or an organization. The more genuine the involvement, the more sincere and sustained the participation in analyzing and solving problems, the greater the release of everyone’s creativity, and of their commitment to what they create. This, I’m convinced, is the essence of the power in the Japanese approach to business, which has changed the world marketplace. 

Synergy works; it’s a correct principle. It is the crowning achievement of all the previous habits. It is effectiveness in an interdependent reality—it is team- work, team building, the development of unity and creativity with other human beings. 


Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things… I am tempted to think… there are no little things.  BRUCE BARTON 

Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree. 

“What are you doing?” you ask. 

“Can’t you see?” comes the impatient reply. “I’m sawing down this tree.”

 “You look exhausted!” you exclaim. “How long have you been at it?” 

“Over five hours,” he returns, “and I’m beat! This is hard work.” 

“Well, why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?” you inquire. “I’m sure it would go a lot faster.” 

“I don’t have time to sharpen the saw,” the man says emphatically. “I’m too busy sawing!” 

Habit 7 is taking time to sharpen the saw. It surrounds the other habits on the Seven Habits paradigm because it is the habit that makes all the others possible. 





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