As a young man, Saint Augustine said, “Oh, Lord, help me to be pure, but not yet.”
I think that’s how many of us often feel about self-improvement. We want to be a better person, a better leader, a more critical thinker. We intend to plan more, read more and save more. We want to be thinner, smarter, healthier, wealthier, etc. But often, the changes we need to make to achieve these things become the very stumbling blocks to being good (and getting better) in various areas of our lives.
Change is hard. In fact, it can be real hard and that’s why so many people resist it. I have a favorite old t-shirt with the cartoon character Dilbert saying, “Change is good—you go first.”
But what better time to take a chance on change than the New Year, which is so full of promise and promises? It’s really the only time when we get an official and authentic “do over.” The rest of the year, it’s “game on,” and our lives (in and out of the office) are so incredibly busy that we don’t have the opportunity—or we don’t make the opportunity—for a “do over.”
With the prospect of a fresh start right now (and the certainty that you’ll only get busier), I’d like to offer the first of three keys to success in 2018. Embrace these strategies, and I guarantee you will do what you do better.
The Power of Good Habits
The first key to success involves focusing on your habits, especially those good habits that lead to accomplishments. Your habits—good or bad—determine your degree of success in anything you do. Think of habits as a kind of behavioral autopilot. Be authentic with yourself and consider this: Are your habits steering you toward what you want to achieve? Or are they turning you in the opposite direction?
I believe that one of the most important habits you can develop is the good habit of believing in yourself. Let’s turn to football to discuss:
Consider two football teams that find themselves in very different circumstances heading into their last games of the season. One team is 9 – 1, while the other is 1 – 9. The more successful team is in the habit of winning, while the other team is in the unfortunate habit of losing. What would happen if either of these teams started the third quarter down 20 points? The numbers and situation might be the same, but they’ll have very different beliefs in their ability to come from behind and win. Team 1, with a habit of winning and a history of success, would have more confidence that they, ultimately, can win, no matter what the circumstances. On the other hand, Team 2, with a habit of failing, likely would have very little confidence in coming out ahead. Chances are, they won’t.
In business, you’ll see the same thing. If you find yourself coming into this year dogged by bad habits and dwelling on thoughts of a losing (or less than stellar) last year, you’ll begin at a disadvantage.
You also need to get in the good habit of forgetting the past, because there is no future in last year! If you are not where you want to be, you gotta do something different. Even if you are at the top of your game, you still have to have (and maintain) a winning strategy going forward.
This isn’t always easy, so I suggest you adopt the good habit of accountability. Look for an accountability partner and/or mentor to help you stay on track, boost your confidence when necessary, and develop (and keep) good habits that steer you toward success.
Then, start the New Year off right.
Here’s a simple step for doing that: Get in the good habit of looking for early wins in whatever you are trying to do. Financial guru Dave Ramsey talks about getting out of debt using his “Debt Snowball Plan.” He says to ignore the logic of paying off the highest-interest-rate debts first; instead, he says, you should go ahead and pay off the smallest debts to give yourself some momentum. Long-term success often is about finding short-term, small successes along the way. Get in the good habit of celebrating even small wins.
Figure out which bad habits you want to drop and which good habits you need to cultivate. Then get in the good habit of doing what you do better.
What do you want to do more of, less of or stop doing altogether?