Change Your Mind, Change Your Habits

As we leave January behind, you’re probably a few weeks into your New Year’s Resolutions. How many have you been able to keep so far? It isn’t too difficult to change behaviors and actions for a short period of time, but as the days and weeks wear on, sustained change is difficult to achieve.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it is only actions which determine your success. It actually comes from adjusting your mindset about the actions themselves. More than “I will change X or start doing Y,” mindset is the underlying beliefs you have about activities.

A key aspect of mindset is understanding the intention behind the activity. As Steven R. Covey said, “start with the end in mind.” Starting with the end allows us to shift our mindset from not only what we are doing but why we are doing it.

The value and importance of mindset not only applies to New Year’s Resolutions, it is just as relevant to the everyday actions we take as leaders. Yes, we need to spend time developing our toolbox of leadership skills because you need the tools. So we read books about leadership, decision making, etc. Regardless of how many shiny new tools you have in your arsenal, if your mindset isn’t aligned around People First, you won’t see the results the author promised, making you less likely to stick with the new actions you resolved to take.

For example, you might have heard of “leadership by walking around” and resolved to do it daily. Yes, the action is walking around, saying hello to everyone on the team. If your belief is that this action takes too much time, then your emotions might be annoyance for this obligation. Now walking around will simply be points on your step counter. And, you’ll eventually find other things that are “more important” than the daily laps.

Let’s consider a different belief: walking around as a way to connect with the team, and an opportunity to see what is happening in real time. With this belief, you have a different emotional response to the idea of your daily walk- it is no longer an obligation. This translates to behaving differently as you are walking around and ultimately a different response from your team. Now you have a cycle of success that encourages you to continue with your resolution of leadership by walking around.

One of my clients went through training focused on conflict resolution, decision making, and feedback. She learned from the training but at the end of the day, her mindset was that the customer comes first – she didn’t have the mindset of a People First leader. Because of this, she viewed giving feedback to team members not as a gift to the team member, but as a way to get them to do what was best for the customer. She perceived that her team was blocking her path to customers, so she bulldozed over them even though she was using all the right words and actions that she had just learned. This caused the team to feel she didn’t care about them and that she didn’t put her people first. Ultimately, they were right.

So how to make those resolutions stick? Start not with the actions to succeed, but with the right mindset. Here is a quick four-step process that I would recommend you try:

  1. Get real. Take an honest look at your current mindset for different activities. What are your beliefs about your ability to change, your beliefs about the people you work with, etc. Once you are honest about what you believe, you can then examine what emotions come from those beliefs.
  2. Ask yourself a question- Are these beliefs serving you? Are they helping you get where you want to be? If not, reframe them.
  3. Reframe your beliefs. Connect with the good feelings of the activities. Read books that address mindset. When talking with people who are succeeding, ask less about the actions they are taking and more about their mindset for the actions.
  4. Focus on the beliefs, not just the actions. State your intentions before you take action. Create that bond between mindset, feelings and the actions.

As you saw in my video, my intention and mindset for 2022 is “YES, AND”. It is my word (or phrase) of the year. These words create the mindset of expansion, taking something that is already a yes and adding more will drive the decisions I make, actions I take, and the way I engage with people. Words of years past include “gratitude”, “prosperity,” and “intentional.” I was not able to live these words perfectly every day; instead, they helped me when I got off the path and they helped me find my way back to that path. 2021 was a huge year for me and most importantly it was the year I truly embraced gratitude. Gratitude for the good times, the times of mistakes that led to lessons learned, and everything in between. What is your word for 2022?

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About Amy Lafko

As a Physical Therapist, Amy spent years in school learning best practices for patient care and how to put the patient first. Like so many technically skilled clinicians, she advanced to a leadership role. Spending 20+ years in operational leadership, she had an epiphany: Putting the customer first isn’t the path to success or fulfillment. Rather, the most successful organizations and practices put their people first – and exceptional customer care, profitability, and effectiveness naturally followed.