Applying the 7 Habits to Relationships

Applying the 7 Habits to Relationships A landmark self-help book by renown BYU professor Stephen Covey is the classic work: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Regularly touted as one of the top 20 self-help books of all time, this remarkable work loosely and informally translates several useful and traditionally LDS principles into a user-friendly self-help form to promote what makes for healthy, happy, effective people. These principles relate to both the business world, relationships, and life in general. In today’s dating and relationship world as single members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, how can these principles and values translate to you? How can they help your dating and relationship life? This brief article will examine some possible applications for each of these 7 classic principles.

The 7 “Habits”:
(summaries from:

1) Be Proactive:

We're in charge. We choose the scripts by which to live our lives. Use this self-awareness to be proactive and take responsibility for your choices. The first habit that Covey discusses is being proactive. What distinguishes us as humans from all other animals is our inherent ability to examine our own character, to decide how to view ourselves and our situations, and to control our own effectiveness. Put simply, in order to be effective one must be proactive. Reactive people take a passive stance -- they believe the world is happening to them. They say things like:

"There's nothing I can do."
"That's just the way I am."
They think the problem is "out there" -- but that thought is the problem.

Reactivity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and reactive people feel increasingly victimized and out of control. Proactive people, however, recognize they have responsibility -- or "response-ability," which Covey defines as the ability to choose how you will respond to a given stimulus or situation.

In order to be proactive, we must focus on the Circle of Influence that lies within our Circle of Concern-- in other words, we must work on the things we can do something about. The positive energy we exert will cause our Circle of Influence to expand. Reactive people, on the other hand, focus on things that are in their Circle of Concern but not in their Circle of Influence, which leads to blaming external factors, emanating negative energy, and causing their Circle of Influence to shrink.

Application to the Dating World: don’t wait to be approached—or for anything to happen in general. Figure out what is (and is not) within your power and control to effectively improve your dating and relationship life and work regularly to improve things. Remember the old saying: if it is to be, it’s up to me. Have faith for spiritual help and support, but act like it is all up to you. Being proactive is a key to the formula for success.

2) Begin with the End in Mind:

Start with a clear destination in mind. Covey says we can use our imagination to develop a vision of what we want to become and use our conscience to decide what values will guide us. Most of us find it rather easy to busy ourselves. We work hard to achieve victories -- promotions, higher income, more recognition. But we don't often stop to evaluate the meaning behind this busyness, behind these victories -- we don't ask ourselves if these things that we focus on so intently are what really matter to us.

Habit 2 suggests that, in everything we do, we should begin with the end in mind. Start with a clear destination. That way, we can make sure the steps we're taking are in the right direction. Covey emphasizes that our self-awareness empowers us to shape our own lives, instead of living our lives by default or based on the standards or preferences of others.

Before we as individuals or organizations can start setting and achieving goals, we must be able to identify our values. This process may involve some rescripting to be able to assert our own personal values. Rescripting, Covey explains, is recognizing ineffective scripts that have been written for you, and changing those scripts by proactively writing new ones that are built of your own values.

It is also important to identify our center. Whatever is at the center of our life will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom, and power. Our centers affect us fundamentally -- they determine our daily decisions, actions, and motivations, as well as our interpretation of events. However, Covey notes that none of these centers are optimal and that instead, we should strive to be principle-centered. We should identify the timeless, unchanging principles by which we must live our lives. This will give us the guidance that we need to align our behaviors with our beliefs and values.

Application to the Dating World: visualize the healthy, happy relationship you want and need in the future. See what he or she will be like, as well as how you will be acting (and not acting) to support this health or happiness. Consider the healthy, Godly principles of love, kindness, consideration, and mutual respect in such an ideal relationship. Identifying and focusing on these kinds of healthy relationship principles will help guide yourself towards a future pick of a relationship and how both of you will both ideally treat each other.

3) Put First Things First:

In order to manage ourselves effectively, we must put first things first. We must have the discipline to prioritize our day-to-day actions based on what is most important, not what is most urgent. In Habit 2, we discussed the importance of determining our values and understanding what it is we are setting out to achieve. Habit 3 is about actually going after these goals, and executing on our priorities on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis.

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. All activities can be categorized based on two factors: Urgent and important. Take a look at this time management matrix:

We react to urgent matters. We spend our time doing things that are not important. That means that we neglect Quadrant II, which is the actually most crucial of them all. If we focus on Quadrant I and spend our time managing crises and problems, it keeps getting bigger and bigger until it consumes us. This leads to stress, burnout, and constantly putting out fires.

If we focus on Quadrant III, we spend most of our time reacting to matters that seem urgent, when the reality is their perceived urgency is based on the priorities and expectations of others. This leads to short-term focus, feeling out of control, and shallow or broken relationships. If we focus on Quadrant IV, we are basically leading an irresponsible life. This often leads to getting fired from jobs and being highly dependent on others.

Quadrant II is at the heart of effective personal management. It deals with things like building relationships, long-term planning, exercising, preparation -- all things we know we need to do but somehow seldom get around to actually doing because they don't feel urgent. In order to focus our time in Quadrant II, we have to learn how to say "no" to other activities, sometimes ones that seem urgent. We also need to be able to delegate effectively. Plus, when we focus on Quadrant II, it means we're thinking ahead, working on the roots, and preventing crises from happening in the first place! This helps us implement the Pareto Principle -- 80% of your results come from 20% of your time. We should always maintain a primary focus on relationships and results, and a secondary focus on time. "Think effectiveness with people and efficiency with things." -Stephen Covey

Application to the Dating World: Be familiar the 4 quadrants with every daily choice you are making and prioritize/strategize your time accordingly. Spend time with regular “quadrant 2” activities each day to effectively and efficiently find and cultivate a relationship with a healthy significant other. Conversely, those activities that are a waste of time towards that end that do not help you socially (or in another important aspect of your life) should be minimized or eliminated out of your life.

4) Think Win-Win:

In order to establish effective interdependent relationships, we must commit to creating Win-Win situations that are mutually beneficial and satisfying to each party.

Covey explains that there are six paradigms of human interaction:

1. Win-Win: Both people win. Agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying to both parties.

2. Win-Lose: "If I win, you lose." Win-Lose people are prone to use position, power, credentials, and personality to get their way.

3. Lose-Win: "I lose, you win." Lose-Win people are quick to please and appease, and seek strength from popularity or acceptance.

4. Lose-Lose: Both people lose. When two Win-Lose people get together -- that is, when two, determined, stubborn, ego-invested individuals interact -- the result will be Lose-Lose.

5. Win: People with the Win mentality don't necessarily want someone else to lose -- that's irrelevant. What matters is that they get what they want.

6. Win-Win or No Deal: If you can't reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial, there is no deal.

The best option is to create Win-Win situations. With Win-Lose, or Lose-Win, one person appears to get what he wants for the moment, but the results will negatively impact the relationship between those two people going forward. The Win-Win or No Deal option is important to use as a backup. When we have No Deal as an option in our mind, it liberates us from needing to manipulate people and push our own agenda. We can be open and really try to understand the underlying issues.
To achieve Win-Win, keep the focus on results, not methods; on problems, not people. Lastly, the spirit of Win-Win can't survive in an environment of competition. As an organization, we need to align our reward system with our goals and values and have the systems in place to support Win-Win.

Application to the Dating World: Simply put, always keep in mind when looking for a new dating partner and even more so when beginning a relationship with another whether or not this is a “win-win” relationship. Ask yourself what you are gaining and how you are benefitting from this relationship. Also ask yourself what the other person will be/is gaining from a relationship with you. Are both sides standing to gain notably by being involved with each other? Is it roughly balanced? If yes and yes, proceed with the relationship, keeping it win-win. If not, either make adjustments to try to create as much of a win-win scenario as possible, or move on to another healthier win-win relationship where both sides notably have a lot to offer each other.

5) Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood:

Before we can offer advice, suggest solutions, or effectively interact with another person in any way, we must seek to deeply understand them and their perspective through empathic listening. Unfortunately, we often jump to prescribing a solution to the other problem before we diagnose the problem. We don't seek to deeply understand the problem first.

Habit 5 says that we must seek first to understand, then to be understood. In order to seek to understand, we must learn to listen. We can't simply use one technique to understand someone. In fact, if a person senses that we're manipulating her, she will question our motives and will no longer feel safe opening up to us.

To listen empathically requires a fundamental paradigm shift. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. At any given moment, they're either speaking or preparing to speak. If we replace these types of response with empathic listening, we see dramatic results in improved communication. It takes time to make this shift, but it doesn't take nearly as long to practice empathic listening as it does to back up and correct misunderstandings, or to live with unexpressed and unresolved problems only to have them surface later on.

The second part of Habit 5 is " ... then to be understood." This is equally critical in achieving Win-Win solutions. When we're able to present our ideas clearly, and in the context of a deep understanding of the other person's needs and concerns, we significantly increase the credibility of your ideas.

Application to the Dating World:

Simply put, this involves becoming a much better listener to your significantly other. “First see to understand, then seek to be understood”. That is the principle and the rule of thumb. When we listen well to our partner without offering unsolicited advice, this helps the other person better work through their feelings on an issue and that we truly care about them as a person. It also helps the other see we are not always out to change or fix them, which traditionally causes much strife, resentment, and division in relationships. For more information on good listening skills, see:

6) Synergize:

By understanding and valuing the differences in another person's perspective, we have the opportunity to create synergy, which allows us to uncover new possibilities through openness and creativity. The combination of all the other habits prepares us for Habit 6, which is the habit of synergy or "When one plus one equals three or more and the whole is great than the sum of its parts."

Synergy allows us to create new alternatives and open new possibilities. It allows us as a group to collectively agree to ditch the old scripts and write new ones. So how can we introduce synergy to a given situation or environment? Start with habits 4 and 5 -- you must think Win-Win and seek first to understand.

Once you have these in mind, you can pool your desires with those of the other person or group. And then you're not on opposite sides of the problem -- you're together on one side, looking at the problem, understanding all the needs, and working to create a third alternative that will meet them. What we end up with is not a transaction, but a transformation. Both sides get what they want, and they build their relationship in the process.

By putting forth a spirit of trust and safety, we will prompt others to become extremely open and feed on each other's insights and ideas, creating synergy. The real essence of synergy is valuing the differences -- the mental, emotional, and psychological differences between people. After all, if two people have the same opinion, one is unnecessary. When we become aware of someone's different perspective, we can say, "Good! You see it differently! Help me see what you see." We seek first to understand, and then we find strength and utility in those different perspectives in order to create new possibilities and Win-Win results.

Synergy allows you to:

*Value the differences in other people as a way to expand your perspective.
*Sidestep negative energy and look for the good in others.
*Exercise courage in interdependent situations to be open and encourage others to be open.
*Catalyze creativity and find a solution that will be better for everyone by looking for a third alternative.

Application to the Dating World: Remember always that ideally, you and your relationship partner are on the same side and the same team, basically working towards the same outcomes of health, happiness, love, connection, and commitment. Seek to understand and blend the unique perspectives and resources you both have to offer together. Utilize both of your perspectives and resources, don’t fight and resist each other. Collaborate, compromise, and negotiate. Bring out and utilize the best in each other. Work towards the same goals but in your own ways. You are not enemies. You are a team with different things to offer, and a team works best when they work together, seeking to maximize and support each other along the way. Always keep these ideas in mind.

7) Sharpen the Saw:

To be effective, we must devote the time to renewing ourselves physically, spiritually, mentally, and socially. Continuous renewal allows us to synergistically increase our ability to practice each habit. Habit 7 is focused around renewal, or taking time to "sharpen the saw." It surrounds all of the other habits and makes each one possible by preserving and enhancing your greatest asset -- yourself.

There are four dimensions of our nature, and each must be exercised regularly, and in balanced ways:

Physical Dimension: The goal of continuous physical improvement is to exercise our body in a way that will enhance our capacity to work, adapt, and enjoy.To renew ourselves physically, we must:

Eat well
Get sufficient rest and relaxation
Exercise on a regular basis to build endurance, flexibility, and strength
Focusing on the physical dimension helps develop Habit 1 muscles of proactivity. We act based on the value of well-being instead of reacting to the forces that keep us from fitness.

Spiritual Dimension: The goal of renewing our spiritual self is to provide leadership to our life and reinforce your commitment to our value system.

To renew yourself spiritually, you can:

Practice daily meditation
Communicate with nature
Immerse yourself in great literature or music
A focus on our spiritual dimension helps us practice Habit 2, as we continuously revise and commit ourselves to our values, so we can begin with the end in mind.

Mental Dimension: The goal of renewing our mental health is to continue expanding our mind.

To renew yourself mentally, you can:

Read good literature
Keep a journal of your thoughts, experiences, and insights
Limit television watching to only those programs that enrich your life and mind
Focusing on our mental dimension helps us practice Habit 3 by managing ourselves effectively to maximize the use of our time and resources.

Social/Emotional Dimension: The goal of renewing ourselves socially is to develop meaningful relationships.

To renew yourself emotionally, you can:

Seek to deeply understand other people
Make contributions to meaningful projects that improve the lives of others
Maintain an Abundance Mentality, and seek to help others find success
Renewing our social and emotional dimension helps us practice Habits 4, 5, and 6 by recognizing that Win-Win solutions do exist, seeking to understand others, and finding mutually beneficial third alternatives through synergy.

As we focus on renewing ourselves along these four dimensions, we must also seek to be a positive scripter for other people. We must look to inspire others to a higher path by showing them we believe in them, by listening to them empathically, by encouraging them to be proactive. The real beauty of the 7 Habits is that improvement in one habit synergistically increases our ability to improve the rest. Renewal is the process that empowers us to move along an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement.

Application to the Dating World: the better you take care of yourself, the more you have to offer the other person. YOU matter too. You are not to be an endless working and giving machine to the other person (or to work, school or church). You need to maintain yourself too every day to stay strong and sharp and be the best version of yourself as possible. Regularly addressing your own personal needs beyond your dating life physically, spiritually, mentally, and socially/emotionally each day will allow you to have so much more to offer another person, and will keep you interesting to the other as well.

Final Thoughts:

This article is notably longer than the usual 800 word article I usually write. This synopsis of the 7 habits + their application to relationships has been given by request and I can see the wisdom and usefulness in this offering. Dr. Stephen Covey was a wise man both as a professor and as a lifelong member of the church. Applying these classic 7 habits to your personal, business, and dating/relationship life will help you to become the best version of yourself. It will also give you the best chance to meet and nurture a healthy, happy, eternal relationship. You can do these things each day. It is worth it both personally and relationally. And remember, “…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 11:11.

Dr. G
P.S. If you can questions, comments, or a future article request for me, feel free to contact me at

2020-08-17 Randy Gilchrist Dating, Communication

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About the author

Hello, my name is Dr. Randy Gilchrist (aka "Dr. G"). I am a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage & family therapist, and a certified hypnotherapist in private practice in Roseville, CA (, practicing since 1997. Also, I am happily married in the temple (Manti) since 1996 and have 4 sons. I am a volunteer writer and contributor to LDS Dimension. I use my training, education, and experience to share insights with LDS Dimension on all things of interest to the LDS dating community. Please read my articles and columns on this site to assist you in your online dating journey. Also, to be considered for an answer in a future Q and A column, please email me your dating/relationship oriented questions to Finally, I also offer a powerful, effective worldwide custom hypnosis recording service just for LDS Dimension members for weight loss, pornography, and many other issues of concern to those in the LDS dating community (please learn more now at; email me questions to