Stephen R. Covey was one of the most respectable entrepreneurs and management experts. He has written several books, and among them, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is the most popular.
When it comes to leadership and management consulting, Stephen Covey’s name is almost always on the list. And in 1996, Time magazine named him one of the 25 most influential people.
You can read more about his biography here.
One of the most profound principles of success I learned from the late Stephen Covey is a paradigm shift, which is a major change in the worldview, concepts, and practices of how something works or is accomplished.
Once you experience a paradigm shift, your life or the way you live will change 180 degrees.
For example, let’s say you don’t know how to ride a bicycle, but you want to learn how to do it. So, you sit on the bike, put your legs on the pedal and try to balance it.
In the beginning, you keep falling. But after a while, you seem to be able o balance yourself on the bike and you just ride the bike away.
Now, once you learned how to ride a bike, you will never go back to before – where you don’t know how to ride it. And that’s a paradigm shift.
I suggest you read the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People if you want to learn more about achieving greater results in life and also about the concept of paradigm shift.
As for this article, we will talk about the 13 best Stephen Covey quotes on success and productivity that will greatly impact your life.
These 13 quotes are chosen by me personally. I love these quotes and they provide great insights into living a better and more successful life. I hope you will love them. Check out these quotes from Stephen Covey below…
1. “Start with the end in mind.”
Yes, no matter what it is you want to do or achieve, whether it is at work or in life, you must always begin with the end in mind.
Just like the famous story, Alice in Wonderland…
Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.
And like what Stephen Covey suggested, you have to begin with the end (destination) in your mind. You have to know where you want to get to before you begin the journey.
Too many of us going through life like lost sheep because we don’t decide where we want to get to in life.
We don’t have a vision, we don’t have a plan, and we certainly don’t have a goal. And when you have no idea what it is that you want out of life, you will be influenced by the general masses, doing what everyone else is doing.
So, heed the golden advice. Start with the end in mind. And always find out your ‘destination’ before you begin the journey so that you can make a better plan and become more effective.
I strongly suggest you set a goal. How do you do that? Check out this post: Ultimate Goal Setting Guide: How to Set Goals and Achieve Them
2. “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”
Yes, no matter how fast you run, if you are running in the wrong direction, you will only get to the wrong place faster.
You have to understand that it is not always about your speed. Instead, it is about your direction.
The first thing you need to do is to get your direction right, and only then do you sprint as fast as possible to get to the goal.
The problem with most people is that they thought that hard work is the ONLY key to success. Hard work is indeed crucial, but if you are not working on the right thing, your hard work will never come to fruition.
Thus, make sure your ladder is leaning against the right wall before you climb it. You don’t want to use all your energy, work 24 hours, spend years without leisure, and living through hell, only to discover that you are working on the wrong thing.
Suggested reading: How to Review Your Life: 4 Great Methods to Evaluate Yourself
3. “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
This is another one of my favorite quotes from Stephen Covey. Too often, we tend to prioritize our schedules and not schedule our priorities.
What you want to do is to schedule your priorities so that your life revolves around them.
Most people tend to work on activities and tasks that are less impactful than on things that will give them the most results.
And to make sure you work on your priorities every day, you must schedule your priorities.
What you want to do is to schedule your priorities first, and then only arrange the rest. This way, your life will work around your priorities (your goals) rather than the other way round.
Again, if you want to learn more about being productive and get more important things done, get yourself a copy of Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
4. “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
That’s right, keep the main thing the main thing. Stop multitasking, and stop being distracted by the less important things.
This has a lot to do with the Pareto’s Principle or the 80/20 Rule. You want to focus your time and energy on doing the 20% work that will give you 80% results.
In other words, work on the most result-yielding tasks, not just any task.
The problem with most people is that they thought that being productive is about doing more work and spending more time on the work, but this is not true.
You don’t want to spend 10 hours of your time and at the end of the day, realize that you are not accomplishing much.
Instead, you want to spend most of your time working on the work that will give you the most results.
Keep the main thing the main thing, and you will always be productive and effective.
5. “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”
This is another great saying from Stephen Covey. You are not the product of your circumstances, but a product of your own decisions.
You see, 2 persons can go through the same situation, but one came out successful, and another one ended up living in mediocrity.
It is true that your environment plays an important role in shaping your destiny, but you must be the one who shapes your environment, rather than letting your environment shapes you.
Regardless of the hardships, tough times, and problems you are facing in life right now, stop letting your circumstances decide who you will become. Instead, take charge and take full control of your life. Make the decisions that you are the one who will shape your environment.
I suggest you read this article: How to Change Your Environment to Create Better Success in Life
6. “If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting.”
That is absolutely right. If you keep doing what you are doing, you will keep getting what you always got.
Until you change something you do, don’t expect to get a different result.
In short, if want to change your life to get better, do something different. You need to change what you do to get a different result.
If you don’t like where you are, change, you are not a tree.
7. “The way we see the problem is the problem.”
You have to learn how to reframe your problems. Rather than seeing the problem as a problem, learn to see it as an opportunity for growth.
Napoleon Hill once said:
“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
And to treat failure as feedback, you must reframe how you look at it. Once you look at problems from a different perspective, things will be very much different.
The problem is not the problem, the problem is your attitude about the problem. Remember that.
If you want to discover how to turn your failures into success, read this post here.
8. “Live out of your imagination, not your history.”
Always focus on your vision and the future you want to create, not your history or your past.
Most people fail to create the life of their dreams because they can’t let go of their past. Have you heard this before?
“If you want to fly, you have to give up the things that weigh you down.”
You can’t step into the future if you keep reliving in your past. Until you stop doing that, you will be stuck in your past.
Your past or history is only good as an experience, but to truly live a great life, you must focus on the future.
Always choose to think about the future you want to create, make plans, and then work on your goals to get there.
If you want to learn how to create a successful life, attend this free workshop from John Assaraf.
9. “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.”
As a Malaysian, I lived in a multi-racial country. And I have to admit that I have a weak belief about that. I used to believe that one of the factors Malaysia can’t do well is because we are a multi-racial country.
And this prevented us from moving forward as a country. But boy, I was wrong.
One day, I listened to an interview with Tony Fernandes, the CEO of AirAsia, and I had a paradigm shift.
Tony is a successful entrepreneur in Malaysia. He is known for bringing AirAsia, a low-cost carrier, to the eye of the world. AirAsia has been named as the world’s best low-cost carrier for 11 years by Skytrax in a row in international travel and airline awards.
In the interview, Tan Sri Tony said that as a Malaysian, he believed that one of the strengths is because the country is a multi-racial country. And that belief was totally opposite from mine.
And from that moment on, I started to change my belief. I begin to see that being different is a strength, not a weakness anymore.
You see, if you are running a business, you hire for talents, right? And you don’t hire people with the same talents as you or your team, you hire someone with a different talent, isn’t it?
The same goes with every other company or organization, our differences make us stronger together, not weaker.
What do you think?
10. “If you want small changes in your life, work on your attitude. But if you want big and primary changes, work on your paradigm.”
From the beginning of this article, I keep talking about the paradigm shift. Let me share an interesting experience Stephen Covey wrote in his book…
“I was riding a subway on Sunday morning in New York. People were sitting quietly, reading papers, or resting with eyes closed. It was a peaceful scene. Then a man and his children entered the subway car. The man sat next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to his children, who were yelling, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers.
I couldn’t believe he could be so insensitive. Eventually, with what I felt was unusual patience, I turned and said, “Sir, your children are disturbing people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”
The man lifted his gaze as if he saw the situation for the first time. “Oh, you’re right,” he said softly, “I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”
Suddenly, I saw things differently. And because I saw differently, I felt differently. I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior. My heart filled with compassion. “Your wife just died? Oh, I’m so sorry. Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?” Everything changed in an instant.”
And that is the power of a paradigm shift.
Some people call it an epiphany, an “a-ha” moment, a wake-up call, an eye-opening experience, or a breakthrough.
The point is, once you experience a paradigm shift, everything changes. You start to see things differently and your world will change.
Therefore, if you want to experience big changes or breakthroughs in your life, you must work on changing your paradigm. Read the book to learn how – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
11. “Stop setting goals. Goals are pure fantasy unless you have a specific plan to achieve them.”
Goal setting is powerful, and I strongly encourage everyone to set goals. But, like what Stephen Covey said, setting goals won’t work if you don’t have a plan to achieve what you want.
Thus, set goals, and then create a plan to accomplish them.
Too many people get it wrong by setting a goal, but they don’t have an action plan to achieve the goal.
They thought that all they need to do is to just set the goal, and then things will magically happen.
No, it doesn’t work this way. Success is not going to happen by accident. Success happens by design.
That means you have to create an actionable plan, execute and take action, and then review and adjust your strategies to get the results you desire.
And that is how you achieve your goals. If you want to learn more about goal setting, check out my ultimate guide: How to Set Goals and Achieve Them.
12. “Reactive people… are often affected by their physical environment. They find external sources to blame for their behavior.”
This is another great quote from Stephen Covey. Stop playing the blame game and don’t point your fingers at others.
Most importantly, don’t make lousy excuses because that will not help you grow.
If you want to achieve extraordinary success in life, you must learn to become proactive, not reactive. You must choose to make things happen rather than waiting for things to happen.
Don’t wait for things to come to you, instead, go and make things happen.
And to be proactive, you must have a clear and specific goal, an action plan, and the commitment to follow through.
If you want to learn to become proactive, check out this article from Inc.com: 7 Ways to Adopt a Proactive Mindset.
13. “To learn something but not to do is really not to learn. To know something but not to do is really not to know.”
Do you learn but you don’t apply? That is the same as not learning.
Whatever you have learned, you must apply, because if you don’t, it is as good as not learning.
You have to understand that knowledge is just a form of potential power. The true power is in the application of your knowledge.
When you take action, you will get results. And that’s the essence of learning and improving.
Too many of us are not living a successful life because we don’t take enough action. We have great ideas and great dreams, but we lack execution.
Hence, from now on, follow the Rule of Five. No matter what it is that you want to achieve in life, you can get it, if you take enough action.
So, now that you have gone through all these inspiring quotes from Stephen Covey, what do you need to do next?
The answer is simple – take action.
But, how? Here’s an idea. Write down 3 to 5 things that you have learned and how you can implement the newfound knowledge into your life.
And then get busy working on those actionable tasks. That’s how you truly learn.
Love these quotes from Stephen Covey? Then you should get his best-selling book – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People…
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