My ideal client contacts me with an acute pain something very specific they are eager to change. This is indeed because there’s no gain without pain. To truly change habits we need to have a sense of urgency for change.
When people know that something is wrong without being able to point to the specific behavior we often work with personality tests such as Profile XT or 360 evaluations which consists in asking 10 people close to client about things they would improve to make them more effective. You would be surprised how the personal and professional contacts would have similar answers. This is because we tend to act the same way in all our life areas.
This is also why it is not so important what we change because a habit change will regularly lead to alignment of other behaviors. What’s important is to have an urgent need to improve.
Common answers from clients when approached in the legal field about the one thing they would need to change to be the lawyer or leader they always dreamt are: ‘I want to be less arrogant’ ‘I want to delegate better’ ‘I want to have more time for my family’ ‘I want to dedicate time to writing’, etc…
However these behaviors are not specific enough as to allow us to work on them, they are too vague. For example, what’s being arrogant? How do we measure that someone stops being arrogant? Arrogant behaviors may be eye-rolling, arms crossing, don’t letting people talk, speaking aggressively, hardly smiling, etc.
We will need to pick one from the list, one that can be measured and counted. Behavioral change is about data. The most classical example of behavioral change is weight loss. The first thing you need to do is keep track of what you eat and your weight, usually once a day. Behaviors and results.
Same thing when we want to start smiling more or letting people talk. Keeping a journal is hence a great tool to create the new habit.
Other tools (even if you do not have to use all of them and much less at once) can be:
– Having a support network aware of the change you wish to make and letting you know when losing the goal (for example if you are to smile a work trusted colleague could let you know when you are serious)
– Feedback chkeups and event score counting with selected people. A good mix from people at work and at home will be a good variety able to give a fair vision of developments.
– Vision: keeping a strong vision of how life and work will be once you are able to make the habit stick. If you intend to delegate more, thinking how relaxed and productive your days will be being surrounded by productive colleagues that make life easier. If your goal is to be fitter (for some lawyers this is key in the confidence), how will you feel when you reach your dream body shape?
– Rewards: how will you reward yourself? Ensure that the reward is aligned with your goal. An example of un-aligned goal is to wish to eat a chocolate cake when you lose a number of kilos. This contravenes your goal and hence would not be a recommended reward.
– Self-talk – how are you going to talk to you? Be nice, your best buddy and always talk to you in present tense. Do you know that the sub conscience only understands this tense? It does not follow you in past or future!
– Written notes – leave yourself notes to remind you of the desired habit!
– Affirmations – have ready an affirmation (‘I enjoy the adrenaline of the change’ or whatever works for you) to remind you of your goal!
Last but not least (on the list as there are a number of tools that can be used subject to needs and personality of the behavioral changer) is to ensure that you have a plan to relief stress. Changes stick better in the absence of stress. Ensure that change flows into your life in an easy way and that you make time and energy to do things that you love and enjoy.