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Stephen R. Covey's best-selling book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is a self-improvement book that has impacted a significant number of business and real estate professionals. Covey's belief is that we see the world based entirely on our own perceptions. In order to change a given situation, we must change ourselves, and in order to change ourselves, we must be able to change our perceptions.

These 7 Habits are relatively straightforward:
  1. Be Proactive
  2. Begin with the End in Mind
  3. Put First Things First
  4. Think Win-Win
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the Saw

These habits fall into 3 main categories. Habits 1, 2 and 3 focus on moving from dependence to independence and really get at self-mastery. Habits 4, 5 and 6 focus on developing teamwork, collaboration and communication. They help to move from independence to interdependence. Habit 7 is how to continue to get better at all of the habits by continual refinement and growth.

Habit 1 – Be Proactive

Being proactive is the opposite of being reactive. Reactive people are passive in the sense that the world is happening to them. Proactive people expand their influence by taking responsibility. In real estate, being proactive can mean knowing the value of your time. Proactive agents don't blame the market or time of year for their business – they create a market and look for opportunities in all markets. Proactive agents know the properties they are dealing with and anticipate objections or hurdles while preparing answers and solutions.

Habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind

Using the analogy of a flight map, Covey illustrates that air travel is not precise. The pilot knows the destination and the route but the plane will change course slightly due to conditions in the sky. Knowing the destination, the pilot will always adjust and get back on course. Beginning with the end in mind, in real estate, selling homes. Whether representing a buyer or seller, the objective is to sell the property and close the transaction. With that in mind, Agents can give their honest assessments of properties and know what needs to be done in negotiation to ultimately close. Adjusting course during the transaction helps to accomplish the mission.

Habit 3 – Put First Things First

Covey lays out in detail the importance of determining values and knowing what it is that we are setting out to achieve. We must have the discipline to prioritize our day-to-day actions based on what is most important, not what is most urgent. In order to maintain the discipline and the focus to stay on track toward our goals, we need to have the willpower to do something when we don't want to do it. We need to act according to our values rather than our desires or impulses at any given moment. 

Habit 4 – Think Win-Win

A great deal of real estate sales depends on the art of the negotiation. A Win-Win mentality is creating situations that are mutually beneficial and satisfying to each party. Effective agents are problem solvers. They know the pros and cons of the properties. They try to help turn negatives into positives. They realize that in a good negotiation neither party goes away feeling like they are losing. 

Habit 5 – Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood

Before we can offer advice, suggest solutions, or effectively interact with another person, we have to strive to understand them and their perspective through empathic listening. Understanding where people are coming from will help in knowing how to address their needs. Frustration happens when people don't feel heard or understood. Agents will be more effective in being able to communicate their own position when they can demonstrate that they hear and understand what the other side is saying.

Habit 6 – Synergize

Synergy is defined as the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. Synergy allows us to create new alternatives and open new possibilities. Effective agents build teams and work with other agents to close more business than they otherwise would be able to by themselves. They leverage technology, have plans and are humble enough to ask for help when it is needed.

Habit 7 – Sharpen the Saw

Effective agents are life-long learners. They understand that success is a process and they continue to get better at each of the habits as they go along. Effective agents are self-starters. They find mentors, they teach themselves what they can and they learn from experience.

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