The Best Insights From Stephen Covey's '7 Habits of Highly Effective People'

Some of the author and motivation master's most indelible advice

[optional image description]
AP Images, Free Press

In 1989, Stephen R. Covey penned The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (public library), a book that went on to sell millions of copies worldwide and defined a new genre bridging self-improvement, business management, and personal productivity. This week, Covey died at the age of 79. Here's a look back at his legacy with some of the keenest insights from his beloved bestseller.

Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).
Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.*
People can't live with change if there's not a changeless core inside them.
Until a person can say deeply and honestly, 'I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,' that person cannot say, 'I choose otherwise.'
To learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know.
It is one thing to make a mistake, and quite another thing not to admit it. People will forgive mistakes, because mistakes are usually of the mind, mistakes of judgment. But people will not easily forgive the mistakes of the heart, the ill intention, the bad motives, the prideful justifying cover-up of the first mistake.
Admission of ignorance is often the first step in our education.
Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.
The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person.
How you treat the one reveals how you regard the many, because everyone is ultimately a one.
There's no better way to inform and expand you mind on a regular basis than to get into the habit of reading good literature.

And, of course, the meat of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

Habit 1: Be Proactive
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Habit 4: Think Win/Win
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Habit 6: Synergize
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

* Covey is, of course, paraphrasing Gandhi.

brainpickingslogo.jpg

This post also appears on Brain Pickings, an Atlantic partner site.

Presented by

Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings. She writes for Wired UK and GOOD, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Entertainment

Just In