The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens

It’s been more than 20 years since the book unveiled…

With more than 3 million copies sold, a 90 percent approval rating from parents and teenagers, thousands of positive reviews and people still today reaping the benefit of Sean Covey’s insightful words of wisdom, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” is one of those go-to parenting books that has serious staying power.

And, it’s easy to see why…

A spin-off of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the book not only provides solid tips for teenagers to improve self-image, build meaningful relationships, resist peer pressure and overcome life’s obstacles so they can achieve their dreams, it also packs in positive, motivational and inspirational quotes and strategies to help teens live up to their full potential.

For parents who want to get their teen on a positive path in life and every teenager who’s looking for a solid roadmap to power through life and be the best they can be, the book’s 20-year-old words still serve as an amazing launchpad.

According to Covey, whether your teen puts into practice all the habits all of the time or just some of the habits some of the time, they stand to gain.

Here are highlights from “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.


The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens

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Be Proactive

Through no fault of their own, teenagers are notorious for gliding through life without any real forethought. They don’t always have the ability (or the desire) to think long-term, to view life as a marathon (instead of a sprint) or focus on the big picture as opposed to the “let’s live in the moment” mentality.

Highly effective teens work hard to shift that mindset. They realize that real dreams don’t come true without a healthy dose of hard work and initiative. They also know that being proactive takes more than simply taking initiative. It’s about recognizing and accepting the fact that they are responsible for their own choices and, with that responsibility, comes the freedom to choose – not based on their mood, peer pressure or a spur of the moment whim – but rather on their principles and long-term vision and goals.

When teens adopt this habit, they also skip the “poor me” mentality, avoid blaming others for their problems, shortcomings and/or poor decisions and strive to take responsibility and ownership of their life.

Begin With the End in Mind

According to Covey, “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination.” What this means is that your teen has to give some serious thought to where they want to go. Even if they don’t have it all figured out just yet, they can still make short-term goals that can serve as a road map guiding their decisions and actions along the way.

Whether it’s a career they’ve set their sights on, a goal to make the football team or the ambition to improve their grades, they first have to identify their goal or dream (better yet, write it down and keep it somewhere where they can see it daily) and work backward, making a step-by-step action plan, to make that goal or dream a reality.

For parents, it’s all about supporting your teen, believing in them and their goal, and arming them with the mental mindset to dream big.

Put First Things First

Let’s face it, most teenagers these days have a lot on their plate. School, an internship or job, sports, clubs, volunteering, friends, family obligations – the list goes on and on. But according to Covey, putting first things first means teens have to take a hard look at their obligations, responsibilities and to-do list and work toward prioritizing their actions while keeping their goal(s) in mind.

If their goal is to shoot for better grades, putting first things first might mean cutting back on extracurricular activities, saying no to that friend gathering on Friday night or cutting back on their hours at work.

By prioritizing their actions, they can take control of their time, manage their time more efficiently and live their life according to what matters the most.

Think Win-Win

According to Covey, there are four different mindsets when it comes to winning and losing. 

Win-Lose: Those who follow this mindset are in it for themselves. They’re highly competitive and will stop at nothing to get ahead – even at the expense of others. Their main focus is getting their way. They have a hard time losing and oftentimes feel envious or jealous when things go well for others.

Lose-Win: Those who have the lose-win mindset always push others ahead of themselves. They don’t feel worthy or good enough to “win” and quite often have low self-esteem.

Lose-Lose: This mindset revolves around the thought that if I can’t win, then no one else will either. If I don’t stand to benefit in some way, then I’ll make sure no one else does either. Lose-lose people will sabotage someone else’s “win” to make themselves feel better.

Win-Win: Those with this mindset strive to help others, they share recognition with others, they’re team players and have the belief that they can accomplish far more together than they ever could alone.

Success in life is largely built on relationships – family, friends, co-workers, etc. When teens adopt the win-win habit and approach every relationship, situation or problem with the notion that everyone can come out a winner, they will win in the process.

Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Ask any parent of teenagers and they’ll likely agree, teenagers aren’t particularly good listeners. But the fact is, listening is an essential building block for communication.

Regardless of whether teens are listening to their parents, teachers, coach or boss, if they’re not actively listening, then they’re not fully understanding. But it doesn’t stop there. When they don’t practice really listening, they won’t hear the other person’s perspective or point of view. And, they won’t make the other person feel valued, special or heard.

According to Covey, this habit might take a bit of practice, especially for teenagers, but active listening is considered one of the top leadership skills that can help your teen in virtually any relationship both now and in the future.


Have you ever heard the phrase, “Two heads are better than one?” Covey’s synergize habit is centered around that premise – collaboration and working together for the better of the whole. “It’s not my way or your way; it’s a better way, a higher way.”

Teenagers who put this habit into action learn the value of working together, accepting varying opinions, ideas and solutions and coming together with others to reach a common goal rather than going it alone.

Whether they put forth their own experience and knowledge into a group project, work together with co-workers to implement a new policy or come together as a team to adopt a new defensive strategy, teens who synergize learn the importance of partnership, team effort and creating alliances.

Sharpen the Saw

In the book, Covey states that there are four key dimensions of life – body, brain, heart and soul. Highly effective teenagers constantly work at sharpening the saw by renewing and strengthening those four key dimensions.

For some teens, it might mean working out regularly to strengthen their body, making a personal goal to learn one new word a week to keep their mind sharp, working to keep their relationships on an even keel to maintain peace in their heart and setting aside time each week for their faith or mindfulness to soothe and nourish their soul.

To enhance each of the first six habits, Covey urges teens to focus on and continue to grow and develop in their mental, spiritual, physical and social self so they can remain centered in their lives and continue to evolve and become the best they can be.

“Even small changes can make a huge difference in your destination.” ~ Sean Covey

Interested in purchasing the book? Click here to purchase on Amazon:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens Workbook

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