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Sandra Wiley
Sandra Wiley

Nine steps toward positive change

Many people would like to break bad habits or pick up good ones in and out of the workplace. These steps will help get you going.

March 21, 2013
By Sandra Wiley

Smoking, eating too much, being sedentary, working until all hours, not getting started on work earlier, not getting enough sleep, or not connecting with your team in a deep and meaningful way—they’re all habits that many people would like to break and replace with positive habits. 
So pick the habit that you would like to work on and think about it as you follow these steps toward positive change: 

Step 1:  Pick one habit at a time. Many in our profession are driven to do multiple tasks and projects at one time, and we are proud of ourselves for being able to juggle all of those things. I encourage you to step outside of this natural tendency and pick only one habit that you really have an appetite to change. Common sense would tell you that if your focus is on one thing your chances for success increase.

Step 2:  Develop the written plan. Putting thoughts to paper will help you make a stronger personal commitment. Consider starting a journal or a blog where you will begin by documenting the habit that you want to change and then consistently update your progress. Journaling is positive in your journey, but starting a blog will help in building a community that will support you on your journey. The community will help create a sense of accountability that is essential to your success.

Step 3:  Go all in. The important thing to remember when you are establishing a habit is that you have to go all in if you really want to make a long-term change. That means that the stronger your internal commitment is to the habit change, the more likely you will be to win.

Step 4:  Connect with a friend. Peer interaction, in which you have others who will hold you up, encourage you, and help when you are struggling, is terribly important. Establishing a new habit is no different. Find a friend or two to help you as you make the change. Again, this kind of accountability is another important strategy to your ongoing change. 

Step 5:  Determine your “why.” The clearer you are on the reasons you want to make a change, the more motivated you will be to stay on the path to change. If, let’s say, the goal is to be on time to work every day, the “why” could be to show your loyalty to the firm or show your commitment to your team. If your goal is to stop smoking, the “why” most likely is to live longer or set a good example for your children and grandchildren.

Step 6:  Face your obstacles eye to eye. The more realistic you are about what the obstacles are and how you can navigate them, the more positive your journey will be. Someone who is trying to break the habit of eating too many fatty foods may have an obstacle in dining out with clients.  Understanding the obstacle and identifying a strategy—reading the menu ahead of time and identifying the lowest-fat option, for example—for overcoming it are essential.

Step 7:  Educate yourself. Absorbing information about the habit you are establishing is a strong mental incentive to your overall commitment. Along with increasing your wisdom in the area you are working on improving, you keep your eye on the commitment you made and motivation will remain at a high level. Read and attend webinars or support groups. The wisdom is there; it is up to you to tap into it. 

Step 8:  Aim to reach the 90-days mark. A bad habit did not develop overnight, and a good habit will not take hold in a few days. Practicing the new habit for 90 days consistently is important. If you miss a day, start over again. After 90 days you will have to keep up the good work, but the amount of mental energy you put into “work” will be far less. You will find that after the 90 days the habit will just be a part of your life.

Step 9: Never quit. Habit changing is not easy. Start the process with one overriding rule: never quit. We are human and we all slip, but those who have that deep commitment to make a change will simply recommit and keep going.

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Sandra Wiley is COO of Boomer Consulting in Manhattan, Kan., and often speaks on topics such as team building, talent development, and performance improvement.