Practice the seven habits of highly successful people

Mar 20 2013 - 7:46pm


One of my heroes passed away last year.

Stephen R. Covey has been a great influence on my life and career, as well as millions of others. He is missed, but his legacy lives on.

He taught that there are basic principles we can internalize as habits to find enduring success.

Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Successful People" defines these powerful principles that all center around the "inside-out" concept that all behavior is learned. Basically, old habits can be replaced with new, more effective and lasting habits. Anytime we think the problem is "out there," that thought in itself is the problem.

When principles -- fundamental values -- like fairness, integrity, accountability and service become daily habits, they empower us to deal more effectively with many different situations. We cannot change all situations, but we can change ourselves -- inside out -- and adapt to, or overcome, our situations.

Here are Covey's seven habits of highly successful people that have changed the way I approach everything.

* Habit 1: Be proactive (Initiative). Being proactive means making the conscious "choice to choose;" being responsible for our own lives, career or business; acting instead of being acted upon; recognizing our responsibility to make things happen. Proactivity empowers us to create our own circumstances.

* Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind (Creativity). All successful endeavors are created twice. There's a mental creation and a physical one. Effective people first envision what they want, see the potential and create with their minds what they cannot see with their eyes.

* Habit 3: Put first things first (Productivity). This habit sparks the second, physical creation that focuses on what, not how, results not methods. It entails the idea of using our four human endowments (self-awareness, imagination, conscience and will) to accomplish the most important things, those things we know we should do but never get around to actually doing.

* Habit 4: Think win/win (Interdependence). Win/win thinking seeks a mutual benefit in all human interactions. It centers on the idea that there is plenty for everyone, that one person's success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of another person. It is about cooperation rather than competition.

* Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood (Empathy). In the communication process, how many times do we prescribe before we diagnose? We have a tendency to rush in with advice without deep understanding. We often listen with the intent to reply. This habit involves empathic listening -- making deposits in the other person's "emotional bank account" by sincere validation and appreciation.

* Habit 6: Synergize (Valuing Differences). Synergy implies that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It is teamwork, team building, the development of unity and creativity with others. Cooperating individuals share insights and open their minds and hearts. Then momentum builds and new alternatives will emerge where there were only roadblocks before.

* Habit 7: Sharpen the saw (Consistency). This habit entails making the time to preserve, renew and enhance the greatest asset you have -- you. It encircles and embodies all the other habits. It enables you to move on an upward spiral of growth by creating a personal program to keep in balance your physical, spiritual, mental and social nature.

Developing the seven habits won't eliminate mistakes from our lives, Covey insists, but it will make us more able people. Habits centered on correct principles can increase our ability to be successful. We can take charge of our own destiny, and we can influence others for the collective good.

Brad Larsen is a life coach and corporate consultant from Northern Utah. He can be reached at

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