Habits are not bad. Bad habits are bad. Having daily huddles with your team is a good habit. Learning your customers’ preferences is a good habit. Smiling when you answer the phone is a good habit. Anyone who is in a leadership role must become proficient at cultivating, encouraging, and sustaining GOOD habits.
Whenever I consult with clients, I always emphasize the importance of the leaders modeling what they want their staff to do. My comments are usually met with vigorously affirmative head-nods and the like. Everyone seems in agreement. Then when I check back a week later…nothing. A month later…nothing. It turns out that many leaders would much rather fast forward through what they have to do, in order to get to the juicy part of what everyone else has to do. “I need you to answer the phone within 3 rings and with a smile”. “I need you to proactively follow up with customers”. As leaders, in the pursuit of expecting good habits in everyone else, we cannot ignore, fast-forward or head-nod our way through the most potent ingredient: Am I doing it? Not just every now-and-then when I am in a good mood; but am I doing it consistently. The same way I expect my staff to do it consistently. Am I walking it? Am I talking it? If not, then I can’t honestly expect my staff to consistently do it either.
When it comes to creating new habits, it is important to have a clearly defined future memory. Or as Stephen Covey wrote, “Begin with the end in mind.” Clearly visualize what success will look like when (not “if”) the habit is successfully ingrained.
This is where it gets interesting. People believe that their future self will be somehow better than their present self. That is not true. Your present self is the same as your future self. If we desire for our future to be different than our present, then we must start today. Habits are built by doing something today. Today…that is always step 1. One is always the first number. Your mind will always perceive tomorrow as day two. If you are serious about making a new habit, then start with the first step…today.
Now, here is the whole point of this article: The choice you make today, will be the choice you make tomorrow. If you do nothing today, chances are you will do nothing tomorrow. If you anticipate someone’s needs today, chances are you will anticipate someone’s needs tomorrow. If you provide constructive feedback today, chances are you will provide constructive feedback tomorrow. Today-THEN- Tomorrow. Always.
It would be nice and clean if you can start fresh today and ignore the bad habits from yesterday (or the bad habits that have been built up over several years). Since ignoring bad habits oftentimes lead to more emboldened bad habits, having a “Burn the Bridge” meeting may be a great solution. This is a meeting where everyone discusses and agrees that past habits and current habits will not become future habits. Conviction and a clear vision forward are two of the best bridge-burners on Earth.
Burn the Bridge
Why are you looking back? The past is the past and it cannot be undone. Yes, you can learn from it. Yes, you can assess areas to build on or improve…but your true success does not live in the past; nor does it live in the future. It lies in what you do today. Today, as in right now. So many of us are afraid to step forward today because we are anchored to what happened yesterday. Burn the bridge.
Bridges don’t have to be bad. Bridges can be beautiful. They can help you get from one place to the next. But now, you’ve crossed that bridge, and there’s nothing to go back to. Burn the bridge. By leaving the bridge intact, you might be tempted to go back. But there is NOTHING for you back there. Burn the bridge. Focus on what you must do now to get to your vision. The vision is ahead of you, and your past is behind you. Back there…in that former place…over the bridge.
You probably thought that you would stay there. You probably thought it was too hard to get out. You probably thought that “people like you” didn’t deserve anything better. You were wrong. If you are reading this, you are here…not back there. If you can feel what I am conveying, you are here…not back there. So…Burn the bridge. Burn it! It’s gone. Up in smoke. Never look back. Just focus on what you need to do now…to get to your next bridge.
So, forget tomorrow and start building your next bridge, one habit at a time.