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“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Dr. Stephen R. Covey, is about personal leadership, and one of many powerful books I have read to enhance my own personal development.

Covey’s work on the seven habits began with a review of “success” literature going back over 200 years. He identified a shift over the last 50 years away from a concentration on character and core values, what he calls the Character Ethic, toward a concentration on behavior and actions, what he calls the Personality Ethic.

Covey’s research led him to propose an approach to successful management called Principle-Centered Leadership and to a successful life called Principle-Centered Living. His belief is that we cannot become more successful or better people just by changing our outward behavior or attitudes.

We first have to address our philosophy — the way we see things in the world around us, and our perceptions of others. We can then start behaving toward others in a way that is consistent with those principles.

It is Covey’s observation that the principles we should adopt are timeless principles that are the foundation for all civilizations, communities, religions and ethical systems. He lists principles such as fairness, integrity, honesty, human dignity, service, quality, excellence, potential, growth, patience, nurturance and encouragement.

Covey’s seven habits describe a way of thinking, living and doing that is consistent with these principles. It takes considerable commitment to develop the habits. We first have to break old habits and adopt new ones. Covey suggests we work on the seven habits in a specific order because they follow what he calls the maturity continuum, dealing first with dependence, then independence and finally interdependence.

The seven habits:

1. Be proactive. Decide how you will act and react with goals to move forward.

2. Begin with the end in mind. The second of the seven habits is about having clear goals, based upon principles and what we want to be.

3. Put first things first. This habit is about having clear priorities, and spending our time and resources in a manner consistent with those priorities.

4. Think win-win. The fourth habit in Covey’s list of seven habits is about cooperation rather than competition.

5. Seek first to understand … then to be understood. This habit is about the quality of the communication process between two parties. Become an “Active listener.”

6. Synergize. This habit is about valuing and building on differences for ultimate benefit of all. Synergy means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

7. Sharpen the saw. The last of the seven habits is about taking time for our own growth. In Covey’s terms, this seventh habit is about making the others possible.

I highly recommend this book to everyone developing leadership skills.

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Randy Martinsen is the president/CEO of BudgetWorks Inc., a marketing and business consulting firm, and brand partner for Nerium International. He can be reached at 707-206-6443 or randym@budgetworks.net.

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