How to Stick to Leadership Habit Change Commitments
Our theme as we near the end of 2017 has been “habit change” and how to achieve it. Recent posts have emphasized keeping a positive attitude, running a quarterly personal progress assessment, and how you support others in adopting more productive leadership habits.
In this post, we start to scheme with you around how to use the next six weeks to set yourself up with a solid start on habit change in 2018.
Let’s start with a twist. Generally we don’t recommend taking on too many elements of habit change at one time. You want to set yourself up for success by keeping your goals practical and achievable within the demands of your busy life. But, research from the University of California released last year found that taking on a set of new habits could be as effective as a one-habit-at-a-time approach.
The research focused on personal habit change, but its conclusion was that the brain is capable of handling multiple challenges at once. Our own takeaway is that you can combine multiple goals, as long as they are complementary, and reinforce each other as you work on them.
Here are seven key strategies for attempting habit changes in parallel:
- Define the Commitments in Detail
Sometimes called the “head-heart-hands” approach, define your desired habit change along three dimensions:
- Head: Is this the logical habit to work on now? Are ready for the length of time this will take to achieve?
- Heart: Do you have energy around this challenge? Does it excite you to work on it? Can you sustain that energy once the initial excitement and commitment wear off?
- Hands: How will you approach this? What will you have to do each day to make and track progress? Who will be helping you with this? Are they signed on and enthusiastic?
- Write Your Commitments Down
Everyone starts on commitments in January to make positive habit change. Most start to flag and sag by late February. One way to keep yourself “in the game” is to put your goals to paper, and publish them. Your support team should have a copy, and all of you should review that document monthly. This contract with yourself can get you through the late winter slump! Achieving mastery and competency comes from pushing through the inevitable slumps when progress is harder to achieve.
- Hold onto Your “Inner Clarity”
When you’re taking on new habits, you can feel overwhelmed; the demands of your job can divert your energy, even when you know the habit change can make your job more fun and engaging. Return to the core reasons you chose to change your habits. You can derive renewed energy from the progress you have already seen, and revive your emotional commitment.
- Redefine “Stress”!
Change causes stress, but you can control how you respond to stress. During stressful moments, your heart rate goes up and you feel adrenaline in your system. This could cause you to feel anxious. Remember E + R = O (Event + Response = Outcome.) Retrain your brain to define your stress response as a positive sign that you care, and are excited about the change.
- Track Your Progress, and Celebrate It.
We always recommend detailed tracking, including keeping a private journal of events and impressions. We also ALWAYS recommend celebrating your wins to keep you engaged and motivated. This further wires your brain to connect the stress and release to progress. Your support team should be actively looking for ways you can celebrate progress, too.
- Cut Yourself Some Breaks.
We mean breaks in two ways:
- Give yourself time off from the project to rest your mind and focus on other aspects of your life.
- Give yourself credit for effort, even when occasional backsliding into old habits occur.
This is a journey, not an event, and the path to your goal is not straight. Rest recharges your batteries, renews your ability to be productive and creative, and allows you to consolidate your gains. Schedule regular times weekly to relax and disengage. And get a decent amount of sleep!
- Vary the Routine.
Avoid taking a rote approach to habit change. Mix it up. Shift your emphasis from one desired habit change to another. Don’t go overboard, as change for change’s sake is not the point. But vary your efforts enough to keep your interest and energy level up.
What do you think? Do these seven steps seem a viable framework for achieving the leadership habit changes you are pursuing? What framework or plan have you put together to keep progressing?
Let Brooke or Dave know when you need help making and sticking to your leadership improvement plan!