Anyone who’s tried to break a bad habit knows how hard it is. And the older we get and the longer our habits persist, the harder it gets.
Most of us in leadership have at least one bad professional habit. Maybe you check your messages constantly. Or you might be known for being 10 minutes late to every meeting. Maybe you work through every weekend, hold negative thoughts, or mix too much personal business into the workday. Whatever your bad habit, putting an end to it will greatly improve your life and your leadership.
As an executive coach, I have helped countless leaders eliminate their bad habits. Here’s how we do it:
Identify and prioritize. Decide what habit you want to break. If you have more than one, prioritize them and choose what to tackle first. Once you’ve decided, work to stay aware of your habit. Note when it occurs and how it plays out. Then begin thinking about how it started and why it persists. Ask yourself what needs to change.
Recognize your scripts. Habits come with a cognitive script—our unconscious automatic thoughts in certain situations. Those scripts are rooted in past experiences and become so ingrained that we don’t even think about them. Pay close attention to your scripts and think about alternatives.
Create a plan. Making any serious change requires a plan. Goals, roadmaps, and rewards are all highly motivating. Decide in advance how you’ll maintain the self-discipline to stay on track.
Set an end date. When you set a specific date for your official break, your plan begins to become real, and you can work backward to prepare. Then when the day arrives, you’ll feel motivated, excited, and ready to be successful.
Replace your bad habit with a good habit. Decide on specific behavior and thought patterns that will replace your breaking habit. Be as consistent as you can, especially in the beginning. It takes an average of 66 days for a new habit to become permanent. But that means that you can enjoy the change you made in about two months.
Reward yourself. Remember to reward yourself for every success. As much as you’re comfortable, involve others in your efforts. Other people automatically bring accountability and can help motivate you and keep you on track.
Breaking a habit will never be easy. But if you can learn to recognize what you want to change, analyze its origins, and make a plan for change, you never have to feel limited by your bad habits.
Lead from within: Especially for leaders, good habits are the key to success, and bad habits open the door to problems and challenges.