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Part 2: Your bad habits are limiting your potential

Here’s what you can do about it.

In the last issue of “Reach Your Peak”, I wrote about how to create goals you can actually stick to.

Your goal is worth pursuing when your motivation to change is able to overcome your resistance to change.

In this month’s issue, I will dive into the hard work of taking your intention into action by developing more effective habits. 

Why habits? 

It’s simple. Our habits are our auto-pilot. We are so accustomed to doing what we have always done that we no longer think about whether it’s the right thing to do at all. In other words, our habits fuel our outcome. They represent a system that either moves us closer to or further away from our desired future. 

Despite what you may read, there is no hack to creating big outcomes. This work takes curiosity, courage and commitment. If you are ready, read on.

Move your plan into action.

Start small and build. In my experience, one of the most effective ways to gain early positive momentum is to pick one small thing you could start or stop immediately that is easy to do and contributes towards your desired outcome. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, states “If you can get 1% better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done.” Now that’s pretty remarkable. 

Exchange an ineffective habit with an effective new habit.  We all have habits that impact our reputation and effectiveness as a leader - both positively and negatively. When we become aware of our undesirable habits, we can begin the work of sanding off the rough edges that keep us from realizing our greater potential. An effective way to do this is to replace an ineffective habit with a new, more effective habit. 

Staying on track.

Design your environment to support your effective habits and minimize your ineffective habits. 

“Who and what we surround ourselves with is who and what we become.”   

- Karen Marie Moning

The vast majority of our actions are informed by cues in our physical and social environment. And these cues trigger our habits. By intentionally designing your environment to support your new habit, you can build cues that can move you towards your desired action.

  • If you want to focus, clear your environment of any distractions.

  • If you want to create more effective meeting behaviours, post ground rules on the walls.

  • If you want to become better at setting agendas, pre-populate your meeting requests with a template for the agenda and the desired outcome.

  • If you want to think more creatively, surround yourself with creative-minded people.

Use rewards.  Our brains are wired to seek out clues that a reward is coming. By associating a behaviour with the anticipation of a reward, the motivation to engage in the behaviour is activated. Pick a reward that is immediate and personally satisfying, even if it is small. For example, you can use a tracker to visualize your effort - move a pebble from one jar to another for each step forward. Or indulge in something meaningful. 

Engage a support team. Chances are that the people we work with will benefit from our effort to become a more effective leader, so why not get them involved? It takes courage and a willingness to park your ego at the door, but it works. Engaging my support team was the single most impactful decision I made to help me increase my effectiveness as a leader. Here’s how it works:

  • Let people know you are working on something and ask them for their support.

  • Ask them to call your attention to when you are engaging in both your ineffective AND effective habits.

  • Ask them for “feed-forward”, a term coined by Marshall Goldsmith to request suggestions for what you could do better going forward. After all, you can’t change the past.

  • Ask them if you can support them in one of their goals.  

Practice daily reflection. Growth requires both learning and unlearning. Reflecting helps us do just that. It allows us to pause and take stock of the actions we took, the mindset we held and the impact we made. It gives us perspective on what worked and what didn’t work and what we might want to try next time. Without taking the time for reflection, we are relegated to repeat our past regardless of how poorly it served us.

So the next time you dream big...

  • Know why your goal is important and who may stand to benefit.

  • Identify the mini-milestones you can reach along the way.

  • Move your plan into action with tiny habits.

  • Have a plan to stay on track.

On my Shelf:

Atomic Habits - James Clear

The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg

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