The book first introduces the concept of paradigm shift and helps the reader understand that different perspectives exist, i.e. that two people can see the same thing and yet differ with each other. On this premise, it introduces the seven habits in a proper order.
Each chapter is dedicated to one of the habits, which are represented by the following imperatives:
- 1 – Be Proactive
- Talks about the concept of Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern. Work from the centre of your influence and constantly work to expand it. Don’t sit and wait in a reactive mode, waiting for problems to happen (Circle of Concern) before taking action.
- 2 – Begin with the End in Mind
- Envision what you want in the future so you can work and plan towards it.
- 3 – Put First Things First
- Talks about difference between Leadership and Management. Leadership in the outside world begins with personal vision and personal leadership. Talks about what is important and what is urgent. Priority should be given in the following order:
- 1) Important and Urgent
- 2) Important and not-urgent
- 3) Not Important and Urgent
- 4) Not important and Not urgent
The next three habits talk about Interdependence (e.g. working with others):
- 4 – Think Win-Win
- Genuine feelings for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships. Value and respect people by understanding a “win” for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten his way.
- 5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
- Use empathic listening to genuinely understand a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, and positive problem solving.
- 6 – Synergize
- Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals that no one could have done alone.
The final habit is that of continuous improvement in both the personal and interpersonal spheres of influence.
- 7 – Sharpen the Saw
- Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle. It primarily emphasizes exercise for physical renewal, good prayer (meditation, yoga, etc.) and good reading for mental renewal. It also mentions service to society for spiritual renewal.
Covey explains the “Upward Spiral” model in the sharpening the saw section. Through our conscience, along with meaningful and consistent progress, the spiral will result in growth, change, and constant improvement. In essence, one is always attempting to integrate and master the principles outlined in The 7 Habits at progressively higher levels at each iteration. Subsequent development on any habit will render a different experience and you will learn the principles with a deeper understanding. The Upward Spiral model consists of three parts: learn, commit, do. According to Covey, one must be increasingly educating the conscience in order to grow and develop on the upward spiral. The idea of renewal by education will propel one along the path of personal freedom, security, wisdom, and power.