The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by author Stephen Covey: An Honest Review of Stephen Covey’s Self-Help Classic


Stephen Covey’s bestselling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has become a modern day classic in the self-help genre since its original publication in 1989. Over 30 years later, its principles and ideas still resonate with readers looking to improve their personal and professional lives.

As someone who loves personal development books, I was eager to finally sit down and read Covey’s seminal work for myself. I wanted to see if the hype was justified and if the so-called “7 Habits” could truly be life-changing. After finishing the book, I can say that it absolutely lives up to its reputation as one of the most influential self-help books of all time.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by author Stephen Covey

You can find The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by author Stephen Covey on your favorite bookstore, including and Amazon UK.

If you have loved The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we would also recommend a few favorites of ours:

About author Stephen Covey

Author Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey was an influential American author and motivational speaker best known for his 1989 book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Born in 1932 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Covey studied business administration at the University of Utah before earning his MBA from Harvard Business School.

After a successful career as a professor and organizational consultant, Covey published his groundbreaking self-help book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in 1989. The book quickly became a massive bestseller, selling over 25 million copies worldwide. It remains one of the best selling nonfiction books in history.

In addition to The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey also wrote several other influential books including First Things First, Principle-Centered Leadership, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, and The Leader In Me: How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness.

Covey’s teachings on leadership, effectiveness and ethics made him an in-demand speaker and consultant. He founded the Covey Leadership Center which provided training for individuals and organizations based on his principles. He also managed to to get into the Time magazine’s 25 Most Influential Americans chart!

Stephen Covey passed away in 2012 at the age of 79, but his books and teachings remain popular worldwide. He is considered one of the most impactful authors in the self-help and personal development genres. Covey’s emphasis on character, integrity and principle-based leadership helped redefine how a generation thought about personal growth and effectiveness. His 7 Habits and other seminal works will continue providing wisdom to readers and shaping lives for years to come.

What are The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People?

Covey’s central concept is that truly effective people have integrated certain key habits into their lives. These habits empower them to fulfill their potential and create success on their own terms.

The habits build on each other in a step-by-step progression, moving from fundamental principles to more advanced behaviors:

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Taking initiative and responsibility for your life instead of blaming others.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Defining your personal mission and values to guide your decisions.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Prioritizing and spending time on what matters most.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win

Seeking mutual benefit in relationships and social interactions.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Listening sincerely to connect with people.

Habit 6: Synergize

Collaborating and combining strengths to accomplish more together.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Renewing yourself regularly to avoid burnout.

Covey uses plenty of engaging anecdotes and examples to illustrate how to apply the habits in real-life scenarios. While the principles seem simple on the surface, he dives into the deeper mindsets and character traits required to truly adopt them.

My Overall Impressions of the Book

To offer my candid thoughts, here were my main takeaways from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

  • It more than lives up to the hype. I can see why this book has sold over 25 million copies. Covey packs timeless wisdom into 300 pages using a simple and highly actionable framework. I gained new perspectives and felt motivated to improve myself.
  • The principles are truly profound. Even though the habits seem straightforward initially, Covey’s analysis of them is nuanced and deeply insightful. He gets to the core of behaviors that can transform your interpersonal skills, productivity, integrity, and satisfaction.
  • The habits build on each other logically. Covey explains how each habit prepares you for the next one in a progressive sequence. They culminate in the advanced mindsets of collaboration and continuous improvement.
  • It requires an open, growth mindset. To get the most value, you need to reflect sincerely on your strengths, weaknesses, and assumptions. This book holds up a mirror that demands humility and self-awareness.
  • The writing style is engaging. Covey mixes research, theories, interviews, and personal stories for a book that is informative and enjoyable to read cover to cover. It stays conversational while covering profound ideas.

Overall, I found The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to be an inspiring book that lives up to its enduring hype. It’s no wonder why Covey’s principles continue to resonate decades later.

My Favorite Habits and Takeaways

While I gained insights from each of Covey’s 7 Habits, a few resonated with me the most. Here are the top lessons that stuck with me after finishing the book:

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Of all the habits, the first one lays the foundation for every other principle in the book. Being proactive means taking responsibility and initiative rather than blaming others or making excuses. It’s so simple yet so transformative.

Covey argues persuasively that we each have an independent will and the power to choose our response to stimuli. This was eye-opening for me, as I’m naturally inclined to get bogged down in problems outside of my control. I realized I need to direct my energy toward the things I can influence rather than complaining or dwelling on external factors.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

In today’s distraction-filled world, habit 3 resonated strongly in helping me prioritize what matters. Covey talks about organizing your schedule based on 4 quadrants:

  • Urgent and Important (Critical activities)
  • Not Urgent but Important (Prevention and planning)
  • Urgent but Not Important (Deceptive activities)
  • Not Urgent and Not Important (Wasting time)

I appreciated this clear system for identifying the meaningful activities I should spend more time on, often in quadrant 2. I also was reminded how urgent does not automatically mean important when it comes to my daily priorities.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

As someone prone to burnout, Covey’s final habit encouraged me to adopt a better mindset around self-care and renewal. He uses the metaphor of sharpening the saw when a saw becomes dull before trying to cut down a tree. Similarly, we need to regularly “sharpen” our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being to sustain peak performance.

This habit inspired me to take care of myself with strategic rest, exercise, learning, and reflection so I can bring my best self to serving others. I don’t want to end up feeling “dull” just to maintain constant productivity.

How I Plan to Apply the 7 Habits

More than just a passive read, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People motivated me to make positive changes. Here are some specific applications based on the insights I gained:

  • Set aside time for weekly planning based on my priorities, not just reacting to urgent demands. Schedule important quadrant 2 activities.
  • Start my day by proactively envisioning how I want it to go and what I want to accomplish.
  • Improve my listening skills during conversations before reacting and advocating my own viewpoint.
  • Work on adopting a win-win mindset rather than seeing interactions as purely transactional.
  • Take better care of myself to sharpen the saw with more sleep, exercise, healthy eating, reading, and quality time with loved ones.
  • Write down my core values and mission statement to create a personal constitution.
  • Be more patient and seek first to understand when communicating with family members who have different perspectives.

I believe these shifts can help me become a more effective person who takes initiative, balances priorities, collaborates with others, and continuously grows.

Key Quotes I Loved

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book that really encapsulated core ideas:

“We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain key things, we can accomplish those goals we most desire.”

“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are—or, as we are conditioned to see it.”

“The 7 Habits are habits of effectiveness because they are based on principles that work.”

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

“Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people.”

“No one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside.”

“Taking the time to draw out peoples’ internal maps of reality ultimately saves time.”

Who Would Benefit from This Book?

I think anyone would gain value from this classic, but I believe it’s especially beneficial for:

  • Leaders looking to develop their influence, empathy, and integrity
  • Parents wanting to set a positive example for their children
  • Employees seeking to maximize their value and advance their careers
  • Students preparing for academic and professional success
  • Entrepreneurs who want to build ethical, collaborative teams
  • Couples hoping to enrich their relationships and communication
  • Teachers aiming to connect with and inspire their students
  • Coaches helping clients reach their potential
  • Managers striving to get the most from their team members
  • Salespeople wanting to build trust and provide win-win value
  • Really anyone seeking to become a better version of themselves!

While the principles are universal, the book does have a perspective shaped by Covey’s Mormon faith and American cultural lens. But its insights translate across backgrounds, fields, and ambitions.

Final Thoughts

Thirty years after its original publication, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People remains a transformative read that lives up to its reputation. Stephen Covey delivered a self-help classic that combines an insightful framework, profound wisdom, actionable advice, and engaging storytelling.

If you’re looking to level up your character, relationships, productivity, integrity, and fulfillment, I can’t recommend this book enough. It provides timeless principles and tools for becoming your best self on your own terms. The habits build on each other in a sequential progression that makes implementing them intuitive.

Of course, simply reading the book is not enough – you have to put Covey’s insights into consistent daily practice. But the clarity of his teachings makes it easier to turn insight into action. Implementing even small shifts based on a few core habits can compound to create transformational change.

I’m grateful this classic lived up to my high expectations. The timeless wisdom in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has already started to positively influence my mindsets, communication, priorities, and self-care. I know I will revisit this book many times in the future whenever I need inspiration for continuing growth and improvement. Covey has motivated me to live more effectively by taking initiative, keeping my saw sharpened, and creating win-win opportunities.


What exactly are the 7 Habits that Stephen Covey outlines in his book?

Stephen Covey shares a sequential framework of 7 key Habits that build on each other to help people become highly effective. The habits start with fundamental principles and progress to more advanced mindsets. The 7 Habits are: Be Proactive (take initiative), Begin with the End in Mind (define your values), Put First Things First (prioritize important activities), Think Win-Win (seek mutual benefit), Seek First to Understand (listen sincerely), Synergize (collaborate), and Sharpen the Saw (renew yourself to avoid burnout). Covey uses anecdotes and insights to dive deeper into each habit.

What practical strategies does Stephen Covey recommend for implementing the 7 Habits?

Covey provides actionable suggestions for adopting each habit, such as writing a personal mission statement, using a time management quadrant system, and doing role plays to practice empathic listening. Some key strategies include planning weekly based on priorities, envisioning your ideal day proactively, improving your self-care routine, developing a win-win collaborative mindset, and seeking first to understand in conversations. Covey mixes principles with real-world tactics readers can apply.

How can the 7 Habits help improve your productivity and time management?

Several of the habits directly influence productivity and time management. Habit 1 (Be Proactive) encourages taking initiative instead of being passive. Habit 2 (Begin with the End in Mind) involves defining your values to guide priorities. And Habit 3 (Put First Things First) provides a quadrant system to focus your schedule on important (rather than just urgent) activities. Together these habits empower you to take responsibility for structuring your time proactively based on personal priorities.

What benefits does Covey claim readers can gain from adopting the 7 Habits?

Covey argues the 7 Habits can transform your self-image, integrity, interpersonal abilities, character, influence, balance, satisfaction, and overall effectiveness. Benefits include increased productivity, better communication, strengthened relationships, ethical business conduct, continuous growth, and fulfillment on your own terms. Covey believes the habits empower effectiveness across all areas of life.

Why does Stephen Covey argue Habit 1 (Be Proactive) is foundational for the other habits?

Covey sees Habit 1 as the most fundamental because you must be proactive rather than passive or reactive to implement the other principles. Being proactive means taking responsibility and initiative in life instead of blaming external factors. Covey argues we have the independent will to choose our response to stimuli. Developing this mindset lays the foundation for then beginning with the end in mind, properly prioritizing, collaborating effectively, and continuously improving.

What communication advice does Covey share in Habit 5 (Seek First to Understand)?

Habit 5 focuses on deep listening skills. Covey advises avoiding reactive responses before fully understanding another person’s perspective and instead listening sincerely with empathy. He shares tips like restating someone’s viewpoint to clarify understanding. This habit can improve personal and professional communication by prioritizing understanding over immediate replying.

Why does Stephen Covey advise scheduling self-renewal activities in Habit 7 (Sharpen the Saw)?

Covey uses the metaphor that you must regularly sharpen a saw to keep it functioning at its best. Similarly, you need to renew yourself in body, mind, heart and spirit to sustain peak performance, creativity, and problem-solving without burning out. Habit 7 involves strategically resting, exercising, learning, and reflecting to “sharpen the saw” of your whole being.

What is Stephen Covey’s writing style like in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People?

Covey mixes research and theories with accessible storytelling and relatable examples. He writes in a conversational, engaging way even when covering deep concepts. The book combines anecdotes, interviews, business cases, and personal stories to bring the habits to life. Covey’s principles are simple to grasp but his analysis also contains nuance.

Who can benefit most from reading and applying The 7 Habits?

Covey designed the habits to be universally helpful, but they may provide particular value to leaders, parents, students, entrepreneurs, managers, salespeople, coaches, teachers, couples, and anyone seeking self-improvement. The principles facilitate professional excellence and interpersonal growth. With an open, growth mindset, almost anyone can find takeaways to become more effective.

How does The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People still resonate decades after publication?

Despite being published in 1989, Covey’s insights remain relevant because they focus on timeless principles and human character development. The 7 Habits provide a sequential framework for fulfillment and effectiveness that still offers profound wisdom today. Generation after generation continues to find inspiration in Covey’s guide to taking initiative, deep listening, win-win thinking, integrity, and lifelong growth.

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