breaking bad habits

I am a Myers-Briggs ESTJ personality type. This means that I can be viewed as an outspoken, strong willed and impatient person driven by results. I am a person who wants to get to the bottom line as fast as possible and I tend to be more interested in the results than the process. However, I have managed a number of people in the past and most of them had different personality types than mine.

As a student of Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership, I know that in order to gain the best performance and results from people who reported to me, I needed to adapt my style to align with theirs. It can be a challenge to model my behavior to certain situations. For instance, I was discussing a project with an employee who was more methodical and reserved in his approach than I was. As I kept pushing him to “cut to the chase” I was trampling his ideas and showing him little respect. I am sure he felt frustrated because I was discounting his thoughtful process while I was only interested in getting to the results. As soon as I hung up the phone I realized the error and promptly called him back to apologize for rushing him through his proposal. The incident made me reflect on the process of breaking bad habits. I have developed a simplified summary that captures the typical process we go through when breaking a bad habit. Consider it when you commit to breaking your own bad habit.

1) You must acknowledge the bad habit. I know that my personality type can come off as abrasive. I needed to develop empathy when talking to peers and subordinates and get into their mindset to build trust and maximize performance.

2) Once you have acknowledged the bad habit you will very likely continue to do it. The next step is to recognize after the fact that you still behaved in a way you didn’t want to. I call this the phase of regret. When I hung up the phone with my employee I immediately knew I acted poorly and regretted the behavior.

3) The uncomfortable feeling of regret can evolve into real-time recognition of the bad habit. If I had realized in the moment that I was acting rudely to my employee, I may have been able to recover and show him the respect and attention he deserved.

4) Once you have caught yourself in the moment of engaging your bad habit, you will eventually catch yourself before it even happens and no one will be the wiser.

5) With enough thought and effort, you will overcome the bad habit through repetition and practice. Eventually it will no longer be a part of you.

Even though the method I propose is a bit reactive, I believe it captures the reality of breaking a bad habit. It is neither reasonable nor probable to expect an immediate change in behavior from you or anyone else. Breaking a bad habit requires a great deal of introspection and effort. Don’t be afraid to make small steps as outlined above in order to meet your goals. Once you make the commitment to change; you have made the commitment to improve yourself. Follow through and you will be amazed at the results!

How do you work to break bad habits?

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