7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey Book Review and Key Takeaways

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is one of my all time favourite books in the field of personal development. It was actually one of the first books I read and I remember scribbling all over the book with my notes.

The book sold for over 15 million copies and it’s definitely changed my life for the better. It really goes deep and you do some serious introspection. If you’re into zodiacs, Stephen Covey is a Scorpio hence the deep penetrating nature of the book.

So let’s begin with a few key takeaways from the book.

The Drawing

The book is designed to help you uncover your true purpose and see the world through a completely different lens. In the first chapter of the book, Stephen gives you a picture for you to interpret. In this picture, you may see a drawing of a young lady. However if you look carefully, you can also see a drawing of an old lady.

This is where the story starts. Some people see a young lady, some people immediately see an old lady. I remember when I used to train hundreds of people in a call centre. I would show this drawing to the class and most people would definitely see the young lady, but there would be the few who would see the old lady and just couldn’t see the young lady.

So the moral of the story is that everyone has their own perspectives on life. You can’t change people’s perspectives, you can introduce them to new ideas and they may adopt those ideas but ultimately, everyone sees the world through their own eyes.

Usually people’s beliefs and perspectives are crafted early on in life. It could be their upbringing, their parents, their influences and more. By understanding that people have their own perspectives in life, we can appreciate others and seek first to understand then to be understood.

The 7 Habits

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is broken into the following parts:

1 – Be Proactive

2 – Begin with the End in Mind

3 – Put First Things First

4 – Think Win/Win

5 – Seek First to Understand Then To Be Understood

6 – Synergise

7 – Sharpen the Saw

Obviously the book goes into great detail for each of those sections so I’ll cover 3 main key takeaways and you can read the rest.

Begin with the end in mind

Most people go through life aimlessly. They take on any job, they become complacent and they settle with whatever they have. Unfortunately this is a recipe for disappointment for you’re not fulfilling the life you truly want and simply “live” and go through the motions. Most people end up this way where they never pursue what they truly wanted and they end up in some job they don’t want just to pay the bills.

Stephen Covey gives you a great exercise where you can uncover your true desire. He shares with you a vivid imagination where you are walking down a hall way and you come up to a coffin. Inside that coffin is you! When you read your eulogy, what is it that you want on that piece of paper? This is your true purpose and calling. Whatever is written on that piece of paper is the life you truly want to be living.

By knowing what you want on your eulogy, you can begin to steer the sails of your boat to a course destined towards your ultimate life.

Put First Things First

Stephen Covey gives a great example of a jar. Let’s say you have a big jar and you have different size rocks next to it. Your job is to put all the rocks into that jar. So what most people do is they pour in the sand, put in the small rocks then try to cram in the big rocks at the end. Unfortunately this won’t work.

However if you put in the big rocks first, then you put in the medium size rocks, then the pebbles and then finally the sand, you can successfully fill the entire jar with everything.

In life, we tend to do everything without thinking about it’s importance. The big rocks in life are the relationships we have with our loved ones. It could also be calling back a big client, it could also be working on that big project that means the most to you. Stephen recommends for us to take care of the big rocks first and then work on the other smaller priority ones later. The grains of sand are just the small cares life has and they seem to be so many of them but it will eventually be completed anyway.

Sharpen the saw

Finally another key take away from the book is the Sharpen the Saw. I’m a big fan of Sharpen the saw and have been doing this for many years. What you is on a weekly basis, you want to review your goals and make sure that you are on the right path to achieving them. For the past 7+ years, every Sunday I sit down at a cafe and work on my goals. I review my weekly goals and plan for the week ahead. I also work on other goals and make sure I’m on track to achieving them.

It takes time to practice this but once you do, you feel more in control of your life and know where you are heading. This one principle has really helped me get through life and clean up the mental blocks and frustrations I have in my head. It’s always great to write in your journal for you can get a handle of your challenges and solve them.


Overall, I love this book. If you’re starting out in personal development and looking for your first book, get this book. It will change the way you see the world and improve the quality of your relationships.

Stay Strong and Be Relentless.

Khoa Bui

PS. Contact me for coaching services and I can help you draw out a map to help you achieve your goals.

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Author: Khoa Bui

Khoa Bui is an author, trainer and chief editor of YouBeRelentless. He enjoys reading books on self development, success, productivity, money, relationships and leadership. When he's not writing, he likes to enjoy a glass of red wine with a fine cuban cigar while watching the entire season of Entourage. You can check out Khoa's work at www.khoa-bui.com.

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