“You are here for yourself. If you don’t think you want to be here, please leave this room and go do something else.” My professor said these words calmly to a class with fellow students who mainly wanted to get it over with to get their degree. Up until that point, my classes were about programming and software architecture, we built a couple of useless applications and some other subjects I’ve forgotten. But this one was different, from the first minute. It was about personal leadership. We had to purchase this book with a clickbait title: Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

The professor was not mad, this was just the beginning of him teaching us one of the most important topics in the book: pro-actively taking responsibility for things you can influence. This class and book changed my life. If you aren’t convinced to give the book a try, maybe my list of biggest things I’ve learned might do the trick:

  • The importance of living pro-actively. Recognizing what you can and cannot change. An example: it is impossible to change the weather. Getting angry or frustrated won’t help us, you and I just have to deal with it. Covey calls this concept the circle of influence. Know which things fall into this circle to be really effective.
  • Habit number 5 is titled: understand before being understood. If I’m in a tough spot with someone, this really helps. Basically: most people, including myself, are prone to repeat our message if we feel the other party is not on the same page. You can make a huge difference and diffuse a heated argument by asking: “Help me to understand you better. What exactly do you mean?”
  • Sharpen the Saw: the final habit. I’m reviewing this chapter every so often, because it is such a good and complete overview of life and what is important. It gives guidance on all kinds of important things: to maintain your health, to read more and to take time to review your life. As I’m writing this and reading the chapter again, I’m excited to work on these things and to take responsibility for it.

Can’t recommend this book enough. If you read just one book this year, I’d give this one a try.