Reading notes - The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

This is my reading notes for The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Inside out

We all have different problems we’re struggling with. From being bored in our careers to having a rebelious child.

Litterature shows that before WWI, success was a question of humility, modesty, simplicity, … (Character ethic). But it shifted to personnality ethic. Public image, attitude, skills, …

This deeply influences how we behave with others, and can cause issues with them. To help someone get better, we need to focus on what they’re good at. Not what we want them to be.

We can use personality ethics as a shortcut to get people’s affections without any integrity. But that will only give us short-term success. Greatness needs to be built on the long run. There are no shortcuts.


A paradigm is like a map. It explains certain aspects of a territory. We all have many maps in our head. Many are realities. Others are values.

Everything we experience is interpreted through those maps. Most of the time, we aren’t even aware they exist.

Whenever we communicate, we describe those maps/paradigms.
When people disagree with us, we think they’re wrong whereas it just means we have different maps.

A paradigm shift will force us to take another angle at a situation. Most scientific discoveries cause a paradigm shift. Before the germ theory, most people at war died of small wounds. The paradigm shift made us able to heal all those.

Maps are not the territory. They are a “subjective reality”, an attempt to describe the territory. The territory is natural principles that govern our growth and happiness. Those principles are such as fairness, integrity, honesty, …

Principles are not:

  • Practices. A practice is an activity. Circumstances change the way we do
  • things, which makes practices situationnally specific. Values. We can share
  • values about bad principles. A value is a map.

Principle of process

We all must go through all the stages of growth and decelopment. Each step is important, and none can be skipped.

As a beginner clarinet player, I cannot force my way into a professionnal concert. There are steps I must go through first. Similarly, a business owner cannot “buy” culture, improved productivity, quality or morale.

The way we see the problem is the problem

A manager who feels their employees aren’t motivated. That if she was sick at home, they wouldn’t do anything all day. This is probably not an issue with the employees themselves, but the way she behaves. Maybe they feel she’s treating them as objects.

When we don’t understand how other people do, we want to get their secret, the technic. What we’re actually asking for is a shortcut to skip a step.

Take another approach

Instead of trying to change others - outside-in -, we need to change ourselves - inside-out -.

If our marriage is in bad shape, we usually blame the other, whereas maybe we should try being a more loving spouse.

The book explores how we can grow to being more an inside-out person.

Habits overview

In order to make something a habit, we must have: * The knowledge. We need to know what to do and why. Skill. We need to know * how to do it. The desire. We need to want to do it.

Life brings us through three steps * Dependance. When we cannot do things alone. Independance. When we can get * what we want through our own effort. Interdependance. When we combine our * efforts with those of others to achieve greater success.

The social paradigm emphasizes independance. We all want to be able to do things by ourselves. If we can become interdependent though, we will be able to work as a team and produce much greater success.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.

We cannot become interdependent if we aren’t independent first though. For that reason, the first habits start by building up on independence. The second half of them builds on interdependence.

Effectiveness, production and capability

The habits are focusing on effectiveness. Effectiveness is not producing and doing more though.

It is a balance of P/PC, where P is “production”, and PC is “production capability”. We shall not try to increase production past our capability, the assets we have, or we will not be able to do anything anymore.

There are 3 kinds of capability assets. * Physical. For example, a computer. We must invest in it’s capabilities. * Repair and renew it, or it will become old, start not working and won’t be * able to produce. Financial. If we cannot earn, we won’t be able to invest in * our physical assets, and they won’t be able to produce. Human. We can choose * to make people do things, yelling at them if necessary. Or we can build * relationships so people understand what they needs to -as it also benefits * them-.

Production capability in organisations means conquering the hearts of employees, so they do things because they want to do them. Not just because they are paid to do it. Treat employees as if they were customers.

Maintaining the P/PC balance is hard. But it balances efforts and their reward. Having only one of them makes things ephemeral.

Using the book

It is a suite of paradigms organised incrementally, which require time to master. Not a book to read once and put on a shelve.

Recommendation to not be a learner, but a teacher. Share and discuss what’s learned within 2 days of learning it.

What to expect

The first 3 habits (independence) will increase self-confidence, and knowledge of ourselves.

The second 3 habits (interdependence) will improve relationships with others.

The last habit is a closing loop on all the previous ones.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

What separates us from animals is our ability to take a step back, and “see” ourselves.

There are three social maps explaining our nature. * Genetic determinism. Psychic determinism. Our past experiences influence our * behavior. Environmental determinism. We can get out of that conditioning though.

Being proactive means we’re responsible for our own lives. Circumstances, conditions or conditioning shouldn’t be blamed for our behavior. Reactive people are the opposite of proactive. They will feel good if there is beautiful weather, when conditions outside their reach are met.

“I am what I am because of the choices I made yesterday”. Not because of my environment.

In difficult times, we can see the difficulty and choose to make our life miserable. Or we can choose to look at the bright side, and take advantage of those difficulties.

There are 3 central values in life. * Experiences. Creativity. Attitude. The highest is attitude. Our response to difficult circumstances.

Taking the initiative

Recognise our responsibility (response-ability) to make things happen. We need to be the solution to our problems. We cannot wait for those problems to resolve themselves.

Act or be acted upon

Everything in life requires us to develop our proactive muscle.

Proactivity is not the same as positive thinking. It faces reality, facts. But decides to act on them, and help the odds in one’s favor.

Listening to our language

Reactive people use language which exonerates them. “I don’t have the time”.

Even love is a verb. Something we choose to do. The sacrifices we make. Only reactive people make it a feeling.

Circle of influence

All of our concerns (health, children, …) form a circle of concerns. Some of those things, we have control of. They are the circle of influence.

Proactive people focus on their circle of influence. Reactive people focus on their circle of concerns. That causes negative energy, and causes their circle of influence to shrink.

Direct, indirect and no control

3 kinds of problems. * Direct. They involve our behavior. Can be solved by working on our habits. * Indirect. They involve other people’s behavior. Solved by changing our * method of influence. Taking another approach. No control. They involve the * past or situational realities. Solved by changing the way we see the * problem.

There are over 30 methods of human influence. Such as empathy, confrontation, persuasion, fight. Most people only use three or four. We can learn more though.

Expending our circle of influence

If we are proactive, people will naturally trust and turn to us. They instill change from the inside-out. By being different. Our circle of influence will naturally grow.

The “have’s” and the “be’s”

The circle of concern is filled with “have’s”. “If only had a better boss”. The circle of influence is filled with “be’s”. “I can be more patient”.

Just by being happy, we can increase our circle of influence.

The other end of the stick

While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free of their consequences. We need to live by our principles.

We can also make mistakes, choosing the wrong action. Those are in the circle of concern though. We can’t recall them.

We can learn from though. And not doing so is another mistake in itself.

Making and keeping commitments

Making promises -and keeping them-, or setting goals -and working to achieve it- allows us to accept the responsibility of our lives.

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind

Imagine your own funeral, where all the people close to you make speeches. What do you want them to say?

Each part of our life can be examined in the context of what matters to us. If we know where we’re going, we can better understand where we are now, and that we always take steps in the right direction.

We may be very busy and efficient, but realize that we’ve missed very important things in being. Beginning with the end in mind helps keep our true goal in mind.

Everything is created twice

We create everything mentally first. Then, we do it physically.

We need to cultivate our self-awarness, so we don’t reactively live scripts given to us by our family, education, …

Leadership is the first creation (management is the second). It asks “what do I want to accomplish?” It will be taking several steps back, and making suretge way we’re cutting is in the right jungle. Too often though, people will answer “we’re too busy working”, making everything useless.

Leadership is giving direction and purpose. Management is control and efficiency.


In self-improvement, we can discover ineffective ideas/actions/scripts, which don’t match our values. We are response-able to rewrite those scripts and make them fit with our values.

Because we are self-aware, we can inspect ourselves and realize when the script we’re living is not in harmony with our values. And we can change.

Personal Mission Statement

A personal mission statement will be like a personal constitution. The basis of our lives. It should rarely change, so it can empower us with the same timeless strength even if everything changes in our lives.

Having that sense of mission gives us the essence of our proactivity. Vision and values to reach to. Directions for our short and long-term goals.

In order to write our mission statement, we must start at the center of our circle of influence. This is where the source of security, guidance, wisdom and power is.

  • Security is our self-esteem Guidance is our source of direction. Standards or
  • principles that guide us. Wisdom is our perspective on life. Our judgement
  • and discernment. Power is is our faculty to act. All those factors harmonized are the recipe for a noble personality, a balanced character.


We are all centered into something though. Those can be spouse, family, money, work, possession, pleasure friend/enemy, church or self centeredness.

All centers have their faults. And we are all at corners of at least a couple ones. The ideal is to create one clear center, and consistently derive security, guidance, wisdom and power from it.

Doing so gives us principles, which don’t change no matter what happens to us in life.

It also ultimately allows us to stand apart, and evaluate options. Should we focus on the work needs, the family or other needs?

Writing and using a personal mission statement

Our life meaning comes from within. We shouldn’t ask what our life meaning is. We should recognise that we are the ones asked that question.

Mission statements take a long time to write, and require review and fineruning over the years. But mostly, it becomes the rock on which our life is built.

Visualization and Affirmation

Using our imagination, we can put ourselves outside of our comfort zone, and put those in touch with our values. By putting us in the perspective that we only have a week left to live for example. That usually brings people closer to a single thing: love.

Our imagination allows us to write our own scripts. Imagine something where we usually poorly react. But change our actual reaction to one of patience and love. If we do this day after day, our behavior will change to use those scripts we’ve imagined.

Roles and goals

We have different roles in our lives (individual, husband, father, teacher, …) A mission statement can be more balanced if we break it down to each role we have.

We can then review those roles regularly to make sure we aren’t absorbed by one over the others.

Once we have those roles, we can think about the long-term goal we want to accomplish in those roles. Effective goals focus on result. Not activity.

Family mission statements

Writing a family mission statement allows everyon to build on solid ground, and have a good reference in life. It needs to be built with all family members, and approved by everyone.

Organisational mission statements

Good organisation statements take a lot of time to build, and need to be written by everybody in the company. Write several statements at various levels if necessary.

Doing so will bring a lot of transparency within the company, and is a start at building an awesome culture.

Habit 3: put first things first

Habit 3 cannot happen without first being proactive, or at least working towards it. It also cannot happen if we don’t begin with the end in mind. It consists of self managing ourselves.

Independent will

Our greatest quality is independent will. But we can only empower it by learning how to use it in the decisions we make every day. How we have developed it is measured by our personal integrity. The value we place on ourselves.

Time management

Time management is organizing and executing around priorities.

Time management has had 3 generationg: * Checklists Calendars Prioritizing Prioritizing can be counterproductive though. So some people have gone back to plain checklists.

There is an emerging thought, that the challenge isn’t to manage time, but ourselves. Focusing on enhancing relationships and accomplishing results.

### Quadrant II

4 factors can define activities * Urgent and important Not urgent but important Urgent but not important Not * urgent and not important.

Urgent means it requires immediate attention. Important means it has results. It contribute to our high priority goals.

We need to practice habit 2 to know if something is urgent, or important.

Effective people stay out of quadrant III and IV because they aren’t important. They also shrink quadrant’s I size.

Quadrant II deals with building relationships, writing a personal mission statement, exercising, …

We can ask what’s on quadrant with the question “what is one thing that if I did on a regular basis would make a tremendous positive difference in my business/personal life?” Then we just have to act on it.

Spending time in quadrant II will build on preparation and prevention, and mean we will spend less time in quadrant I To spend time on quadrant II, we need to say no to things in quadrants III and IV.

Quadrant II focus grows out of a principle center. Being focused on money, friends, spouse, … will keep sending us back to quadrant I and III

in order to focus on quadrant II, we need to meet some criteria. * Coherence. There is harmony, unity and integrity between vision and mission. * Balance. Don’t neglect things such as health, family, … Quadrant II focus. * Encourage and motivate to spend time in QII People. Be people centered, not * schedule centered. Flexibility. The tool should be our servant, not our * master. Portable. We need to carry it with us all the time.

Organizing on a weekly basis provides greater balance than daily planning.

It involves 4 key activities. * Identifying roles. Individual, parent, engineer, … Selecting goals. What * results should I accomplish that week. Scheduling. Plan time to achieve * goals. Daily adapting. Take a few minutes each morning to review the * schedule.

No matter how organized we are in scheduling, we need to keep habit 2 in mind, because things will not go according to plan, and we need the flexibility to change our schedule without guilt.

The fourth generation of time management brings the following: * Principle-centeredness Conscience-directed. Defines a unique mission Life * balance Greater context through weekly organizing

The primary focus is relationships. The second is time.


We delegate everything. Either to time, or to other people. Someone who delegates only with time is a producer. Someone who delegates with other people is a manager.

With one unit of time, a producer can produce one unit of effort. A manager can produce ten, hundreds.

Two types of people. * Gopher delegation. “Go for this, and tell me when it’s done”. Stewardship * delegation. Focus on results instead of methods.

Stewardship delegation is better as it makes people responsible. It requires a clear understanding of expectations in the following areas. * Desired results. Guidelines. There should be as few as possible. But be made * super clear. Resources. Identify who tge person can rely on to accomplish * the result. Accountability. Consequences.

It is much harder to follow too, and it is very easy to go back to gopher. But it is much better on the long run, as it creates responsible people, instead of tools. The steward becomes his own boss. The manager becomes an helper.

It can apply to anyone. With less mature people, we’d just specify fewer results and more guidelines.

Quadrant II Paradigm

Developing our QII paradigm will increase our ability to organize and execute every week of our life around our deepest priorities. Each of the 7 habits is in Quadrant II.

Paradigms of interdependence

We can only become interdependent if we are truly dependent first. It’s a choice that we make.

Emotional relationships are like a bank accoubt. We can make deposits with good faithful actions, and withdraw when we need something. If we can’t withdraw an account which doesn’t have money on it.

There are 6 major deposits * Understanding the individual Making a deposit needs to be for that other * individual, and they need to understand it. What is important to the other * individual must be as important as they are to us. Attending to little * things The smallest attentions are often the most important Keeping * commitments Clarifying expectations We all have a role in a relationship, * even if unsaid. Not fulfilling that role makes a withdrawal. Setting clear * expectations makes it easier to fulfill that role Showing personal integrity * Be loyal to those who are not present The laws of love and the laws of life * Only unconditional acts of love can build trust

Every problem is a chance to build up an emotional bank account.

Habit 4: think win/win

Anyone stepping into interdependence (whether a CEO or a janitor) steps into a leadership role.

There are 6 paradigms of human interaction * Win/win Solutions are mutually beneficial. Everybody feels good about it, and * committed to it. One person’s success is not achieved at the expense or * exclusion of the success of others. Win/lose Competition. “Winning is * beating”. Lose/win Seeking strength from popularity or acceptance. * Capitulation. Buries a lot of feelings People often swing between win/lose * and lose/wing. Between inconsideration and indulgence. Lose/lose Happens * when two win/lose persons get together Philosophy of war. Philosophy of an * highly dependent person who thinks if they don’t win, nobody should Win No * caring for the other side at all. They virtually don’t exist. The only thing * that matters is winning.

Each philosophy can be used at times. If we don’t care about an issue and want to preserve the relationship, lose/win is fine. In a football game, there will always be a loser. Depend on reality. Don’t translate win/win into each situation.

Most situations do apply win/win though. If it isn’t a win for both parties, both ultimately lose.

  • Win/win or no deal If we can’t find a solution that benefits us both, we
  • agree to disagree agreeably. Nothing happens. Removes tge need to manipulate
  • people.

If we can’t reach win/win, we’re often better off with no deal.

There are 5 dimensions to win/win:


  • Integrity We need to know what a win is to achieve it. It needs to be
  • harmonious with our values. Maturity The balance between courage and
  • consideration Express your own feelings and convictions with consideration
  • for those of others Abundance mentality There is plenty out there for
  • everybody


Dealing with people scripted into win/lose is the real challenge. The key is then to make much more deposits into the emotional babk account. Listen a lot more.

Some people are so embedded into win/lose that No Deal will be the only solution. Unless a compromise can be found.


5 elements are made very explicit in a win/win agreement:

  • Desired results Guidelines: parameters within which the results are to be
  • accomplished Resources: human, financial, technical Accountability:
  • performance standards and evaluation time Consequences: good and bad, natural
  • and logical

Don’t be authoritarian. Let people judge themselves instead of judging them. If people can explore their paradigms and focus on win/win, the results will always be much more amazing.

In order to do so, we need to focus on results, not methods.


No win/win mentality can be achieved if the system promotes win/lose. Cooperation is more important than competition.


The essence of principled negociation is to separate the person from the problem.

A four steps process to do so: * See the problem from the other’s point of view. Identify key issues and * concerns involved Determine the results that would constitute an acceptable * solution Identify possible new options to achieve those results

Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Communication is the most important skill in life. We spend years to learn how to read and write. But what about listening?

To properly interact, we need to understand. We can’t use technics for that. People would sense manipulation. Unless we open up and understand other people, they can’t trust us. All they would have is words.

Most of us don’t listen to understand, but to be understood. We listen with the intent to reply.

We need to practice empathic listening. Listen with the intent to understand. Not only with our ears, but also with our eyes and heart. We listen for feeling, meaning, behavior.

Understanding is diagnosing. No doctor would prescribe before diagnosing.

There are four understanding development stages. * Mimicking content. Repeat what the person just said. Shows we’re paying * attention Rephrase the content. Put meaning into the words. Reflect feeling. * Pay attention to what the other person is feeling. Rephrase the content and * reflect the feeling. Use of both stages 3 and 4.

Those needs to come from a sincere desire to understand though. People will detect any attempt to manipulate them. The technic is only the tip of the iceberg.

Seek to be understood

Seeking to understand requires consideration. Seeking to be understood, courage. Maturity is the balance between both.

A good philosophy: ethos (personal credibility). Pathos (empathy), logos (logic). We first need to get credibility, then show empathy to finally express our logic.

When being understood is not in our circle of influence, we need to expend it by understanding the other’s point of view.

Understanding means we become influencable. And that’s the key to influencing others.

Habit 6: Synergize

Synergy means the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

We cannot always begin with the end in mind. A creative process often means we don’t know where it will lead us. Synergy then gives an excitement. We know things will be better than they were before, which becomes the end we have in mind.

Synergestic discussions happen when everyone trusts the other people in that discussion. No trust and what could be synergy will turn to chaos. One person opening up to the others can move from chaos to synergy.

Creating an emotional bank account is the first mandatory step to then create synergy, win/win.

Not full synergy means compromise. 1+1=1.5 Synergy means that 1+1=anything. 8, 1500, …

When two people disagree, they can decide to either go separate ways, find a compromise. Or find a third alternative which satisfies them both. They then create synergy.

People have all different opinions, and everyon can still be right. That’s what makes human interactions interesting. We shouldn’t fight that, but try to better understand the other’s point of view, so we can create synergy together.

By understanding and seeking win/win, and focusing on synergy, we can remove frictions between interactions.

Habit 7: sharpen the saw - principles of balanced self-renewal

Habit 7 circles around all the other ones. It’s renewing the four dimensions of our nature (physical, spiritual and social/emotional).

The 4 dimensions


exercising is a quadrant II activity. Which is why most of us don’t practice it, as it is not urgent. Yet like any quadrant II activities, practicing gives a lot of good results over the long term: more energy, less tiredness, …


The spiritual nature comes in different ways for each of us. It can be through prayer, music, being in the nature, … It allows us to find a peace of mind that we can then keep for the entire rest of the day.


Reading might be the best way to sharpen the mental saw. It expends our horizon, helps us understand others. Writing, a journal for example is also a good way to get mental clarity, exactness and context.

Watching the tv too much isn’t a good one though. It influences us in negative ways.

Practicing those 3 practices can be called “daily private victory”. It needs to be practiced for around one hour every day.

Being strong in tough times requires permanent work. Not only at those said times.


Peace of mind doesn’t come from a mind set, from attitude. It comes when our life is in harmony with true principles and values.

It comes from the security that we can really understand other human beings, that we can achieve true win/win. Or by being at the service of others.

Scripting others

We can inspire others and make them better by believing in them, furthermore if they don’t believe in themselves.

If something is wrong with someone, we need to change our method, as we can’t change that person. Then with the right method, things will get better.


We must self-renew ourselves with all four dimensions, in our own lives as well as in organisations.

There, physical is economics. Mental is recognition. Social is human relations. Spiritual is finding the meaning purpose, contribution and integrity.

All organisations need to recognise all those dimensions to thrive.

As we improve in one dimension, we increase our ability in the others as well.

The upward spiral

To make meaningful progress into an upward spiral, we need consider our conscience. Educating it is vital to be truly proactive, highly effective.

It however requires great concentration and constant commitment. Anything similar to junk food for our conscience will bring an inner darkness which replaces “this is right” with “will I be found out?”