7 Habits of Highly Effective Med Students | Volume 6

The following post is part of a series highlighting Stephen Covey’s best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and how it can apply to students in medical school. The series will stretch out over seven weeks, giving each habit the spotlight for one individual post.

Habit #6: Synergize

“Synergy is everywhere in nature. If you plant two plants close together, the roots comingle and improve the quality of the soil so that both plants will grow better than if they were separated. If you put two pieces of wood together, they will hold much more than the total weight held by each separately. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. One plus one equals three or more.”

“One plus one equals three or more.” That might be hard for some people to really grasp. Why would one plus one be anything other than two? The answer, as you might have guessed, is synergy. In essence, synergy is all about believing the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; that two heads are better than one. In simple terms, it’s about living a lifestyle that promotes creative cooperation and open-mindedness.


In order for this habit to work, you must have already adopted the previous habits – specifically habit #4: think win-win, and habit #5: seeking first to understand, then to be understood. In a sense, synergy is a combination of all the previous habits. It allows you to genuinely interact in a positive manner. Amazing things happen when you accept the fact that you are working together towards a common goal that both sides can benefit from, and you are truly willing to listen to others and accept their influence.


7 Habits of Highly Effective Med Students: Synergize | eMedCert


The driving force behind synergy is having the wisdom to value differences. People are different – mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. They can view the same thing, and see it differently. Once you’re able to accept this as a blessing rather than a curse, you can create endless possibilities. Unfortunately, many people would rather everyone just agree with their point of view and move on, only eventually they will get stuck. Synergy is about not only understanding that differences are present, but seeing those differences as strengths, rather than weaknesses. It promotes the type of creativity and cooperation that allows you to push past boundaries that would otherwise hold you back if you went at it alone.


Synergy can certainly help ease your journey through medical school, but it will become an indispensable part of your medical career. Selfless teamwork and open-minded cooperation is the backbone of any hospital. Being able to work together and embrace different perspectives is what allows you to solve a case that you might not have been able to solve individually – to save a life that you might not have been able to save individually.


One plus one equals three or more.