Rediscovering the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People in 2023

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I was going through some old books the other day when I rediscovered The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen Covey. I realize that a book written back in 1989 might seem archaic to some of my readers, but the book was a smashing success that sold millions of copies and changed many lives in a very short amount of time.

During Covey’s 25-year career working with successful individuals in various fields such as business, academia, and relationships, he made a profound observation. He discovered that many high achievers often experienced a deep sense of emptiness despite their accomplishments.

You may have experienced this emptiness yourself at one time or another.

Seeking to understand this phenomenon, Covey delved into the study of self-improvement, self-help, and popular psychology books spanning over two centuries. In doing so, he identified a significant historical shift in the perception of success.

Prior to the First World War (yes boys and girls, that was over 100 years ago) success was primarily attributed to the ethics of character, which encompassed qualities such as humility, fidelity, integrity, courage, and justice.

Rereading that list – humility, fidelity, integrity, courage, and justice – I realize just how much people have changed in the last century. While I’m sure we all agree those characteristics are important, they’re seldom found in the top ten list of traits people seek to cultivate in themselves. If they now seem old-fashioned and out of date, I have to wonder if we’re headed in the right direction.

Back to the book…

After the war, there was a notable transition towards what Covey coined the “Personality Ethic.” This new paradigm equated success with personality traits, public image, behaviors, and skills. Yet, these achievements were superficial and failed to address the underlying principles necessary for a fulfilling life.

Covey suggests that sustainable success is rooted in cultivating one’s character rather than focusing solely on personality. He emphasizes that who we are as individuals speaks volumes compared to what we say or do.

The foundation of his book is built upon the “Character Ethic,” a set of timeless principles that, when embraced, enable individuals to perceive reality as it truly is.

Rather than merely modifying external behaviors and attitudes, Covey advocates for a transformation of one’s inner core, character, and motives. The seven habits outlined in the book serve as a roadmap to progress from a state of dependence to independence, and ultimately to interdependence. While society often glorifies independence as the pinnacle of achievement, Covey argues that interdependence yields the greatest outcomes.

Interdependence is a mature concept that acknowledges one’s independence while recognizing the power of collaboration and teamwork. To attain interdependence, each of the seven habits must be nurtured and developed. These habits include:

Being proactive: Taking responsibility for one’s life and choices based on personal values, rather than being driven by external circumstances.

For example, it’s not about competing with your neighbors to have the most expensive car, but rather taking care of the car you already have so that you can use your money in more intelligent ways, such as investing in your future or donating to a worthy cause.

Beginning with the end in mind: Having a clear vision of your desired outcomes and aligning daily actions with long-term goals and values.

Forget about buying lottery tickets and instead decide on the life you truly want, make a plan to build that life and then take action each day to reach your goals.

Put first things first: Prioritizing activities that contribute to meaningful results and personal growth, while eliminating distractions that hinder progress.

How much time do you spend in meaningless activities like watching television versus the time you spend with family, building your business, or volunteering to help others?

Think win/win: Adopting a cooperative mindset that seeks mutually beneficial solutions, fostering collaboration and healthy relationships.

If you work with your competitors, then you have no competition. If you make friends with your enemies, then you have no enemies. While it’s true that you can’t control how others react to you, you can certainly control how you relate to them. I had an aunt who believed you should love everyone, and if they don’t love you back, then that’s their problem, not yours.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood: Develop empathic listening skills to comprehend others’ perspectives before expressing one’s own ideas effectively.

In these polarizing days, it seems that everyone is shouting and no one is listening. Imagine how valued you will be if you truly learn to listen to not just the words, but the ideas, fears and hopes of another person.

Synergize: Embracing creative cooperation and valuing diverse opinions to generate innovative solutions that are greater than the sum of their parts.

I can tell you from personal experience that the fastest way to build a profitable business online is to get the help of many people with different ideas and skill sets. Going it alone is an almost sure recipe for mediocrity at best, but building a team means doing far less work while achieving success much, much faster.

Sharpen the saw: Consistently renewing and improving oneself physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally to maintain balance and enhance overall effectiveness.

There have been times when I’ve eaten poorly and haven’t bothered to exercise at all because I thought I didn’t have the time to enjoy good food or workout. Those happen to be the times when I got the least work done.

Exercise, eat well, get lots of sleep, learn something new each day, and always take breaks and you’ll find everything takes less effort while the end results are bigger and better.

Covey emphasizes that by embodying these habits, individuals can experience personal and interpersonal growth while laying the foundation for a life characterized by integrity, purpose, and a genuine sense of fulfillment.

And I have to agree.