Insights from “The 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen R. Covey” – Principles and paradigms

I am as excited as I can be to present you this book. Stephen R. Covey is one of my biggest influencers and also one of my favorite writers on personal development and leadership.

I have already presented one of his books “The 3rd Alternative, Solving life’s most difficult problems” you can check it at

I don’t remember exactly how I got my hand on it. But it always shows on lists of top books for personal development. I have read it two times, until now. The first time was 2 years ago and I always remember how it scripted me and influenced me. While I didn’t master all the material presented, few fragments of the knowledge in this book helped me both in my personal and professional life. Now that I took the time to read it and study it meticulously for the purpose of writing this post. I have already immersed myself in the 7 habits described in this book.

The book is constructed around four major parts. First part deals with principles and paradigms, new insights to be gained before tackling the following chapters. Second part deals with private victories, habits to implement to achieve success and self-mastery. Third part is about public victories, how to engage in healthy and effective relationships. The fourth part is about renewing commitment to the habits of public and private victories

I’ll be splitting this post into 4 parts. One post for each section of the book. There is a lot of material to cover. Therefore, for readablity and post lenght management, I’ll proceed in accordance to the following plan.

Part 1 : Introduction + Principles and Paradigms
Part 2 : Private Victories ( Habit 1, 2 and 3 )
Part 3 : Public Victories ( Habit 4, 5 and 6 )
Part 4 : Renewal (Habit 7) + Conclusion

Principles and paradigms

The book is the result of an extensive research done on around 200 years of success and leadership literature. Stephen R Covey discovered that the last 150 years drew essentially on what he calls Personal ethics, which are the technic and skills used to master and gain control over certain situations both on the professional and personal dimensions. Those technic can be either manipulative or superficial, and they are solely useful to a certain extent as quick fixes. But in the long run, they have little but few effectiveness. They create dissonance and incongruous because they are not anchored in a deeper level of consciousness.

In the other hand, older scriptures drew essentially on more character traits like courage, justice and love.. these technic require more commitment and work over the long run. They are not quick fixes, they are not easy and they require investments first in yourself then in relationships.

The 7 habits are based upon the character ethics but they don’t deny or refute the usefulness of personal ethics in certain situations that require immediate action and fast reaction. But for more deep and important subjects, it especially prone the importance of deep-rooted principles to influence and guide our decisions and behaviors.

A paradigm shift

Stephen R Covey stressed the idea that we need to operate a change on how we see things, this change is somehow a paradigm shift, a new lens through which we can appreciate and evaluate things. In describing this idea, he gave the example of the map of a territory. By definition a map is a representation of a territory with respect to the view of the person that drew it. It is perfectly safe to assume that we can have different maps for the same territory. Due to a different appreciation of the territory or may be because we didn’t use the same lens to visualize it.

In the same way, our perception of reality, events and problems is deeply influenced by the lens through which we look at them, ourselves, our nature, our education, our experiences. If we have different lenses, we can’t draw the same map despite the fact that we visualize the same territory. If we have different paradigms we can’t approach a situation the same way.

Principle Centered

As the lenses may differ from one person to another, realities may differ in the eyes of each person. Stephen R. Covey says that a perfectly safe way to approach things, is to be principal centered. He explained that principles are universal, immutable laws and time-proof. They existed long ago, they still exist and, surely enough, they will exist in the future. He gave the example of the law of the harvest “As you saw so shall you reap”, anything that you saw, water and take care of , will certainly grow to give you its fruits. Since the principles are universal, we all can appreciate them to a certain equal extent, principles like fairness, loyalty, justice are deeply scripted into us and we are all affected by them. If we want to draw a map that represents the territory as it is, we have to draw it through the lens of the principle centered paradigm.

Private victories, Public victories

The 7 habits are a continuum process that starts within ourselves with a principle centered paradigm. It is a character based approach that starts inside, then, to the outside, into relationships. It is a process that will take us from dependence to acquiring independence using the private victories habits 1,2 and 3. Then from Independence to Interdependence thanks to the habits 4, 5 and 6. Finally with the help of habit 7 we will be able to reshape the saw each and every time it is needed.

Conversely to more spread approaches that claim to be rapid ways to become successful, the 7 habits is a slow process that requires patience, investment and time. As Thomas Paine put it “That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only which gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price on its goods.”

This was the first post of 4 I’ll be sharing about the 7 habits of highly effective people.

The next post will be about “Private Victories and how to attain self-mastery”.

 I hope you enjoyed this post. As usual, don’t hesitate to give me your feedback.

Do you have any thoughts on this principles and paradigms ?
If you already have read the book, please share with me your insights.


References :

“The Seven habits of highly effective people” – Stephen R. Covey

I do not own any of this materiel, this is a simple post about the book. All credits for the materiel discussed should go to the owner of the book.



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