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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Couples (Habit 1 – Be Proactive)

In 2012, the world lost one of its most highly effective teachers. Stephen R. Covey died on July 16, 2012, age 79. Covey will be remembered as a transformational thinker on leadership and personal effectiveness.

His book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ is and continues to be an extraordinarily influential book delivering powerful lessons in personal productivity and growth. The seven habits are not a quick and easy formula for success, but together they form a powerful model for personal change.

Adapted for couples, this series of posts is a respectful homage to his most lasting legacy – the 7 habits. The seven habits are a step by step model that empower couples to be intentional, to make decisions and to act, to move towards a known destination rather than reacting to whatever is happening at the time. Emphasising the importance of self awareness before successful engagement with your partner, the model is a process of learning new habits to create personal and interpersonal effectiveness.

The seven habits can be divided into two groups – the first three focus on “private victory” and the second three on “public victory”, with Habit 7 rounding the previous six to work towards refinement, self renewal and continuous improvement. Covey says “Private Victory precedes Public Victory” which means that you must master yourself before enjoying success outside of ourselves and with our partner.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

  • Being proactive is more than just taking action. In this first habit, you have the ability to consciously choose how you respond to your partner rather than responding to the prevailing conditions or instincts or conditioning.
  • As John Gottman says in his book ‘Why Marriages Succeed or Fail and How to Make Yours Last’, you must err from using criticism and contempt with your partner, and alter your usual response.
  • Think about your start up conversation with your partner and stop being a ‘hot reactor’ and start being a cool, responsible chooser. By consciously choosing the way you respond to your partner, you act to achieve growth and mutual benefit in your relationship.
  • As a proactive partner, one who is self-aware, you accept responsibility for your actions and you don’t blame or accuse when things go wrong. You work continuously within your circle of influence, you change and develop yourself first in order to be a better partner.
  • Work to reject past behaviours and ways of reacting and determine your own destiny to become who you want to be for your partner.

By being proactive you take responsibility for your response, often looking for what you can learn from what happened. You are always intentional and proactive in your thoughts, words and actions.

Tune in next week for Habit 2.

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