Top 40 Stephen Covey Quotes of All-Time

Stephen Covey passed away in July 2012, leaving behind an incredible legacy with his teachings about leadership, time management, effectiveness, success and even love and family. His seminal work, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People transformed the way people act on their problems with a compelling and well-defined process. His writings have been influential in my development of life. The following are powerful collection of his best wisdom.

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On Choice

“Each of us guards a gate of change that can be opened only from the inside.”

“Every human being has four endowments – self-awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom: The power to choose, to respond, to change.”

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

If I really want to improve my situation, I can work on the one thing over which I have control – myself.

Setbacks are inevitable; misery is a choice.

On Contribution

Be a light, not a judge. Be a model, not a critic.

Deep within each of us is an inner longing to live a life of greatness and contribution – to really matter, to really make a difference. We can consciously decide to leave behind a life of mediocrity and to life a life of greatness – at home, at work, and in the community.

Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.

The key to life is not accumulation. It’s contribution.

On Effectiveness

Highly effective people share 7 Habits. Habit 1 says “You’re the programmer” and Habit 2 says “Write the program,” “Live the program”; then Habit 3 says “Run the program,” “Live the program.” Habit 7 is the paradigm of continuous improvement of the whole person; it stands for education, learning, and recommitment.

Any time we think the problem is “out there,” that very thought is the problem.

Effective people are not problem-minded; they’re opportunity-minded. They feed opportunities and starve problems.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

There’s no better way to inform and expand your mind on a regular basis than to get into the habit of reading good literature.

We live in a shortcut world. Can you imagine a farmer “cramming” in the fall to bring forth the harvest, as students have done, and still do, to pass examinations? Can you imagine a mile runner “pretending” speed and endurance, or a concert pianist “putting on the appearance” of skill and proficiency?

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On Empathy

Being influenceable is the key to influencing others.

Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is a form of agreement. Empathy is not agreeing with someone; it is fully, deeply understanding that person, emotionally as well as intellectually.

I have made it a regular practice to interview my children. The basic ground rule in this “interview” is that I only listen and try to understand. It is not a time for moralizing, preaching, teaching, or disciplining – there are other times for that – this is a time to merely listen and understand and empathize. Sometimes I want terribly to move in and advise, teach, judge, or sympathize, but I have inwardly determined that during these special visits I will only attempt to understand.

If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.

Most arguments are not really disagreements but are rather little ego battles and misunderstandings.

On Leadership

Are leaders born or made? This is a false dichotomy – leaders are neither born nor made. Leaders choose to be leaders.

Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.

I don’t define leadership as becoming the CEO. A CEO is no more likely to be a leader than anyone else. I am talking about leading your own life, being a leader among your friends, being a leader in your own family.

In the Industrial Age, leadership was a position. In the Knowledge Age, leadership is a choice.

Leadership is the highest of the arts, simply because it enables all the other arts and professions to work.

Leadership is a choice that lies in the space between stimulus and response.

You can’t change the fruit without changing the root.

On Learning

Admission of ignorance is often the first step in our education.

Almost every significant breakthrough in the field of scientific endeavor is first a break with tradition, with old ways of thinking, with old paradigms.

Education the heart is the critical complement to educating the mind.

To know and no to do is really not to know.

On Love

If I make deposits into an Emotional Bank Account with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping my commitments to you, I build up a reserve. Your trust in me becomes higher, and I can call upon that trust many times if I need to. I can even make mistakes and that trust level, that emotional reserve will compensate for it. My communication may not be clear, but you’ll get my meaning anyway. You won’t make me “an offender for a word.” When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant and effective.

In relationships, the little things are the big things.

Thomas Wolfe was wrong: You can go home again – if your home is a treasured relationship, a precious companionship.

On Potential

Our most important financial asset is our own capacity to earn.

We are self-aware. This awareness means that we can stand mentally outside of ourselves and evaluate our beliefs and our actions. We can think about what we think.

Imagine the personal and organizational cost of failing to fully engage the passion, talent, and intelligence of the workforce. It is far greater than all taxes, interest charges, and labor costs put together!

Everyone chooses one or two roads in life – the old and the young, the rich and the poor, men and women alike. One is the broad, well-traveled road to mediocrity, the other the road to greatness and meaning.

On Synergy

If two people have the same opinion, one is unnecessary.

Most meetings are a waste of time, because they are so ill-prepared and there’s so little opportunity for true synergy in producing better results.

Most entrepreneurs have a tendency toward independence. They like to do things on their own. But if you go to the Entrepreneur of the Year meetings every year, you’ll see that those who win consistently win as a team.