Volume 69, December 2006: Changing Habits

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2006 ISSN # 1545-8873

“Happiness is a habit – cultivate it.” — Elbert Hubbard

“Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.” — Jules Renard

“It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.” — W. Edwards Deming

“A magician pulls rabbits out of hats. An experimental psychologist pulls habits out of rats.” — Anonymous

“Habit (n.): an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.” — Dictionary.com


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Strong perceived ability to change yourself. Self-efficacy.
  • Cultivation of healthy habits.
  • Support of the organizational community, helping others with positive change.
  • Modeling the way.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

A habit is an activity that is acquired over time, is performed frequently and automatically. Habits can be behaviors or thoughts. Habits can be helpful or the opposite – wasteful, unhealthy, obnoxious, boring or outright dangerous. They are also very resilient to change. The highest correlate to successfully changing personal health habits is “the perceived ability to change.” (See the following research abstract.) Use“visualization” to see yourself in a better light. And realize that change is a process, which takes time and support. Any change in that positive direction is good, and will support continued movement in the same direction. Success breeds feelings of self-efficacy, which will then affect all aspects of your leadership life.

Frequently Asked Questions

“Where to begin? Everything’s a habit.”
Take an inventory of the consequences. What is draining your creative energy and personal health? What is impairing your relationships with others? What is causing you to neglect other things that are important to you? Here are some familiar (destructive) leadership habits:
  • Being a workaholic
  • Neglecting yourself and/or your family
  • Being a “yes” person
  • Spending too much money
  • Being chronically late
  • Computer addictions
  • Negative thinking
  • Blaming others
  • Losing your temper
  • Substance abuse (tobacco, alcohol, food, drugs …)
  • Stressing out

Check off and get to work!

“I’ve already failed at my New Year’s resolutions. Any suggestions?”
Reframe “failure.” Slips are not relapses but opportunities to learn. Four times is the average number of relapses in habit change. Relapse prevention is tied to what you tell yourself when you do slip. We perfectionists are all-or-none thinkers. When we get off the diet, we tell ourselves we failed at dieting, rather than saying “That’s okay. I’ll trim back next time.” Don’t try to achieve too much too soon. Realistic goals with small interim steps (and celebration at milestones) is a better strategy.
“What are the best strategies for habit change?”
Become aware of the undesirable aspects of the habit. Own it – no person or circumstance is making you do it.
  • Take action – develop a plan and set a start time.
  • Develop a vision of yourself without that habit and put a healthy one in its place.
  • Declare your intentions – tell others that you intend to work on this.
  • Use dependable support networks.
  • Take up new passions. The missing habit will leave a hole.
  • Avoid triggers – cues that prompt you to revert.
  • Plan small steps in the positive direction, not “cold turkey.”
  • Reward yourself for successes.
  • Redefine failure, as suggested above.
  • Short-circuit “urges."

Be patient. It is said to take 21 days to change a habit, from inception to embedding the new behavior.

“How do you deal with urges or cravings?”
First, know that urges or cravings are short-lived. They don’t last long, and they are not unbearable. Delay. Breathe to the count of 5. And divert your attention. Automatic thoughts are urge-makers. “I’m tense, so I must have a cigarette,” for an example. We have to break the pattern of automatic thinking and behaving. One behavioral technique is “thought-switching.” Change to another mental task, e.g., plan the perfect vacation. Or find a refreshing mental image, like the beach, and focus on it. Or put a more realistic thought in its place (e.g., 40% of smokers will die from that habit).


To Change a Habit, You have to Change a Bit of Yourself.

Change Habits and Unhealthy Life Patterns.

Key Associates offers coaching and facilitation in change management for organizations and individuals.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

Awareness, acceptance, and action to change habits: Consider This When Adjusting Your Habits.

A refresher for CEO’s on impulse control: Got Impulse Control? (requires login).

Keyzines on related topics: Change, Personal Change, and When Enough is Not Enough.



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