You are just three habits away from an entirely new life.

Mike Morrison, Ph.D.

Mike Morrison, Ph.D.

Creating Meaningful Change

June 25, 2022

You are just three habits away from an entirely new life.

I would use that provocative statement in leadership development sessions to get people thinking differently . . . and it worked.  Here’s why:

1)    It was simple.  But not too simple.  Doing three things differently felt like the right amount.  (One would not be enough and five would start to feel like too much!)

2)    It linked to the popularity (and supporting science) of habits.  There are a ton of books, multiple TED talks, and all kinds of blogging about the benefits of forming habits.

3)    Intuitively, it made sense.  Once the three habits were envisioned, it was easy to see how they could shape a new life.

With more supporting research and a ton of experimentation, I made it one of the options of my coaching practice.  Here was the three-part flow:

One:  Meets the “Meaning” Threshold:   In selecting the three habits, they had to be meaningful, creating a sense of purpose that would be personally compelling.  One executive wanted to cultivate a habit of compassion – something that was missing in her life and her leadership style.  She revealed how she grew up in a high-achiever household where both parents relentlessly focused on personal accomplishment at any cost.

Two:  A Commitment to Everyday-ness:   Not only do we start building the habits in small steps, we find a way to do them every day – even small incremental steps.  Through our “everydayness” we send a message to our powerful unconscious that that we are committed.

Three:  A Mindset of “Being”:   Finally, we learn not just to “do” the new habit but to “be” it as well.  That may feel awkward at first but we use a range of exercises where make the new habit (e.g., better listening, morning intention setting, 10,000 daily steps, etc.) part of the belief system that influences how we interact with the world.

It takes a couple of months to build these foundations . . . but for those who hung in there and did the work . . . got to say:

“It feels like I am living a new life.”

The reasons are simple.  Meaningful habits and routines provide a foundation for our daily lives that bring coherence, stability and a sense of purpose that can help us weather the on-going change the world relentlessly throws at us (e.g., new boss, new goals, new virus variant!).

This got me thinking.  How can we apply these lessons learned to the challenges of developing our leadership capabilities?  So, I framed another challenge for leaders:

You and your work group are just three routines away from an entirely new level of performance.

For the same reasons above, it worked.   Simple.  Intuitive.  And with a clear end point:  Just three new routines.  Plus, “three new routines” is broad enough to support a systematic approach to building organizational capabilities.  It could be how we develop strategies, design our work processes or manage our days.  Focusing on one practice area at a time, teams learn to shape their supporting behaviors . . . day-by-day . . . and in-the-moment.

Leaders and their teams also leverage the same flow for personal transformation:

One:  Meets the “meaning” threshold by cultivating a new sense of purpose that pushes them beyond their narrow self-interests.

Two:  Supported by “everyday-ness” – something they always find time to do.

Three:  Sustained by mindset of “this is who we are” – not just something we do.

After just a few months, team members got to say things like: “It feels like we are a different team . . . just look at the results we’re getting.”

Challenge yourself.  Challenge your team.  Your just three simple habits or routines . . .