The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People | Study Guide

Stephen Covey

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People | Part 2, Habit 1 : Be Proactive (Private Victory) | Summary


Key Takeaways

  • Self-awareness, or the ability to think about one's thought process, is uniquely human.
  • People are affected by three separate "social maps" that define them as individuals: genetics, experience, and environment.
  • Because they have imagination, conscience, and independent will, humans can choose to change their social maps. Animals, however, respond to stimuli on the basis of instinct or training.
  • The first habit of success is proactivity. Covey defines the term as taking responsibility for one's own life. Proactive people make value-based choices that result in contentment and/or success. They choose to be happy.
  • The opposite of proactivity is reactivity. Reactive people allow their happiness and success to be determined by outside influences.
  • Part of being proactive is taking initiative or taking action without being asked to do so. People who take initiative are less likely to be acted upon by others and therefore less likely to be emotionally reactive to negative situations.
  • Language plays an important role in how people view their ability to handle a situation. Reactive language, such as "There's nothing I can do," turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. People who say this eventually believe they can't do anything to change the situation. On the other hand, proactive people would say, "Let's look at our alternatives."
  • Reactive people are "driven by feelings," thereby abdicating responsibility for their actions. "Proactive people subordinate feelings to values."
  • The things people care about fall within their Circle of Concern. Inside the Circle of Concern is a smaller circle, the Circle of Influence. Proactive people worry only about their Circle of Influence, or the things they can control. Doing this makes their Circle of Influence expand.
  • Reactive people focus on things within their Circle of Concern but outside their Circle of Influence. Concentrating on things one cares about but can't control causes the "Circle of Influence to shrink."
  • Every problem falls within one of three areas: direct control, indirect control, and no control. Direct-control problems, caused by one's own behaviors, can be solved by Habits 1, 2, and 3. Indirect-control problems, caused by other people, "are solved by changing [one's] methods of influence," explained in Habits 4, 5, and 6. Areas of no control, like the past or things that can't be changed in the present, require a change of attitude from distress to acceptance.
  • To determine which circle a concern falls within, look for the "haves" versus the "bes." The Circle of Concern contains "haves"; the Circle of Influence contains "bes," meaning the things a person can do or can be. For example, a person who is having a difficult time at work might say, "If I had a better boss." The person cannot change the boss's personality or character, so they are speaking about something outside their Circle of Influence. A proactive approach to the same problem would be "I can be a leader in my department." This response focuses on things one can control.
  • Even proactive people make mistakes. They acknowledge them, correct them, and learn from them. They do not blame others or rationalize/justify the actions and thoughts that led to the mistake.
  • Proactive people make and keep commitments to themselves and to others.
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