Habits Trump Discipline

March 20th, 2013 | Posted in Change, Effectiveness, Leadership Fitness by

All of us, from time to time, are faced with the desire (and sometimes the necessity) of changing some aspect of our lives.

Change is rarely easy, and when we go to work at modifying a behavior, relapsing to our “old way of doing things” is fairly predictable.

Many people point to the need for “discipline” if we are to successfully bring about lasting change. In fact, we often hear that some people are just “so disciplined” they can accomplish anything, while others constantly fail because “they have no discipline”.

Discipline can seem too hard, like an unrelenting taskmaster, often leading some to just give up, concluding they don’t have what it takes to make change stick.

I prefer to think of change as a more gradual replacement of an existing habit with a new and more positive habit that serves us better.

As an example, let’s consider a leader that has an email Inbox with thousands of emails, some read and some unread. The leader knows, intellectually, that having a cluttered Inbox takes additional time to find important messages and/or documents, and often contributes to missed deadlines or missed opportunities when emails are not read or addressed in a timely manner.

Even when this leader knows how to manage his or her email Inbox in a more efficient and effective manner, it can be difficult to apply the simple three-step process we teach in our time management course called The Vanishing To-Do Listâ„¢.

The solution to an out-of-control email Inbox is the development of a daily habit that causes us to apply a proven process that over a short amount of time creates the manageable Inbox we desire.

Rather than trying to become more disciplined (which can be an uphill battle), or simply giving up because “we just don’t have enough discipline”, we can instead decide to spend a set amount of time each day going through a three-step process that can create our desired outcome.

While some may see little difference between developing a new habit, through consistent practice, and forcing ourselves to “be more disciplined”, the results we see with our clients speak for themselves.

Committing to daily habits, and holding ourselves accountable for the small or big changes we seek in our lives, can create more positive momentum without all of the baggage we often associate with past failures around becoming “more disciplined”.

Seen this way, all of us have the ability to make change in our lives, one new habit at a time. Start today!

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