In our work with clients, we talk a lot about developing better habits. In fact, when people ask me to tell them more about what SOS Leadership does, I often reply, “We’re in the habit change business.” We feel that habit change is inherently connected to leadership development.
The most basic definition of leadership is influence. As a leader, the way you influence others, and ultimately lead them, is your personal choice. With that choice comes great responsibility.
In our Seeds of Success program, we define the responsibilities of leadership. The first responsibility is one that can bring a certain amount of pressure and anxiety when we consider it in light of our weaknesses and bad habits:
People become like their leader.
When I think about this, at times it makes me feel sick to my stomach. Yes, there are many positive traits that I wouldn’t mind others learning from me, but there are just as many negative characteristics that I don’t want to pass on to anyone, especially those who consider me to be a leader in their lives.
But what can I do to develop better habits? How can I overcome habits that have developed over many years?
First and foremost, I have to name them. Yes, I have to say out loud what habits I need to change and why. As Nathaniel Branden once said, “The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” Reflecting on Nathaniel’s words, I know that this is easier said than done. For the most part, we are all aware of our shortcomings, but we don’t necessarily accept them. I agree that we have to understand and accept that we are the way we are today; however, beginning right now we can commit to becoming a better version of ourselves.
SOS co-founder Bill Moyer reminds our clients often that the past does not equal the future, but the past does equal the present. We need to understand where we’ve been in order to fully commit to changing the future.
Once we are aware of the habits we want to change and have accepted that change is desired and necessary, then we have to make a commitment to developing better habits. This includes developing a written goal, complete with an action plan, for each habit we want to develop. The plan should identify the benefits to be gained by developing this particular habit, as well as the losses to be avoided if we do not change. Beyond that, the plan needs to spell out each obstacle and how to overcome it, as well as how we will track our progress and who we will ask to hold us accountable.
Don’t underestimate the power of tracking and accountability. These are vitally important components of your plan and will help you to always be aware of your progress and challenged when you get off track.
So what habits will you commit to developing (or changing)? In the words of Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” A new year is the perfect time to make a change. Go for it! Become more excellent!