Most success books published in the last century make more or less the same argument – you need to revamp your personality to achieve success. On the other hand, Stephen Covey in his bestselling book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ says that it is not your personality ethic but your character ethic that is going to take you a long way. His super-practical ‘Inside-Out’ approach has rewarded readers all over the world.

But what is this ‘Inside-Out’ approach? Imagine an iceberg. The personality ethics are above water while the character is below the water. The character forms the foundation. It is where the greatest impact over the long term is. It’s where you sow the seeds. The problem is that people don’t focus on the foundation, they focus on their appearance. They are looking for shortcuts and quick fixes, but for Covey, there are no shortcuts. This is not a quick fix program. But if you endure and apply the following habits, you will absolutely achieve your goals and it will help you develop better relationships.

Be Proactive

The first and most fundamental habit of an effective person is to be proactive. More than just taking the initiative, being proactive means taking responsibility for your life. Consequently, you don’t blame your behavior on external factors such as circumstances but own it as part of a conscious choice based on your values. Where reactive people are driven by feelings, proactive people are driven by values

Begin With the End in Mind

You must start creating your reality. Beginning with the end in mind means being clear about who you want to be and where you want to go. And then travel that path. The mental creation of your reality comes first, and the physical creation follows the mental one. Covey recommends that as much as you think about your life goals, you also think about who you want to be. 

Put First Things First

Ask yourself the following questions:
A. What one thing could you do regularly, that you aren’t currently doing, that would improve your personal life?
B. Similarly, what one thing could you do to improve your business or professional life?

So, habit three is the implementation of the first two habits. It focuses on the practice of effective self-management through an independent will. By asking yourself the above questions, you become aware that you have the power to significantly change your life in the present.

Think Win / Win

There are 6 types of personal and business relationships. Lose-win and win-lose. This is the typical mentality of most. There is also the lose-lose relationship, which of course is no good for anybody. Next, there is a win. This is not really a relationship at all. This is you just getting what you want and not providing value to anyone else. It’s pretty much selfish. Then there is no deal. If you can’t come to a deal where you both benefit, then there is no deal.

And lastly, there’s what Covey says is the best one – win-win. We want to look for win-win relationships. We want to search for mutual benefit and have the mindset that there is plenty out there. There is abundance. We can share knowledge, gain, and profit.

We don’t need to crush each other – we can work together instead. Life isn’t a zero-sum game, so, look at every situation with a win-win mentality.


Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Communication is one of the most important skills in life. But most people never learned how to listen. They try to be understood first. They want to bring their point across so badly that they often ignore completely what the other person has to say or filter out selectively to hear only the parts they want to hear. Why does that happen? Because most people listen with the intention to reply, not to understand.
If you want to interact effectively with people and influence them, you must first understand them. It may be common sense, but it stands in direct contrast to most people’s modus operandi, which is to be first concerned with being understood.


For Covey, synergy means that two heads are better than one. It represents teamwork, open-mindedness, and creativity. Synergy leads to joint discoveries which would be much harder to accomplish individually. Each individual gains new and deeper insights through interaction with others. The whole is more than the sum of the parts. The interaction and differences between the distinct parts bring exponential growth and results. And oftentimes, shared resources also compensate for individual weaknesses.

Sharpen the Saw

Remember, these are all intended to be habits, which means they have to be practiced repeatedly. To be able to practice these things, you need to take the time to renew yourself. Covey recommends you carve out the time to do things to renew what he classifies as the four dimensions of human nature:
1. Mental (reading, visualizing, planning, writing)
2. Physical (exercise, nutrition, stress management)
3. Emotional (service, empathy, synergy, intrinsic security)
4. Spiritual (value clarification & commitment, study & meditation)

Make these 7 habits a part of your life. Don’t just attempt to understand them intellectually, try to live them.

Read insights from 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey



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