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Pursuing change, one step at a time

Ten years ears ago I was struggling with my fitness. I’d been a sporty, outgoing person growing up but during my twenties and early thirties I’d become too immersed in my career, travel and social life to find time for fitness. 

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New Years’ resolutions about getting fit would come and go until eventually, it started to bother me. 

"I had made the transition from starting a habit to being fit, both in my body and mind.”

That’s when I realised that a big part of the issue was that I lacked a clear and motivating goal. This is when things started to shift.  

I decided to enter into a 10km fun run and to use the opportunity to raise funds for breast cancer research. Truthfully, this was as much about staying on track as it was about supporting a great cause. 

10km seemed like a long distance and three months didn’t strike me as very long to get ready. These feelings proved to be a motivating force and helped me get disciplined in my approach. 

I began by going for a 3-4km jog before work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and built up from there. It became easier to get up, I felt improvement, I progressed to more frequent, longer runs.

The day itself was wonderful. The excitement spurred me on to a personal best time of 57 minutes.  60 minutes had been my goal; and I went on to complete more and longer runs The habit of jogging stuck with me. I had made the transition from starting a habit to being fit, both in my body and mind.

Leadership habits

I believe the mark of great leadership is what you think and do - in the moment, in the meeting, when no one’s watching and under pressure. Habits can shine a light on this. 

It’s easy to get caught up in assumptions about our behaviour and the impact we’re having.  Especially when our intentions are good!

I believe the discipline of building and maintaining good leadership habits – like regularly seeking feedback, starting with why and giving praise – makes it easier for leaders to do the right thing, even when no one’s watching. Deliberate practices universally can help people become the best versions of themselves. 

One only has to look to manufacturing to see positive examples of “safety first” habits on culture and performance.  

According to Charles Duhigg, a reporter for The New York Times and author of The Power of Habit, about 40 to 45 per cent of what we do every day feels like a decision but it’s actually habit.

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Being a person who loves being fit is now core to my identity and I’ve continued to find ways to achieve this. 

For me, proof in the power of habits lies closer to home… Three years ago I helped my step-daughter complete her first 5km fun run. She’d been in a place where set-backs and self-doubt was affecting her life and she decided to give it a go with me.  

After four months of training she cried when she crossed the finishing line, beaming with pride about her achievement.  She’s flourished and grown so much since then.

With a specific goal and motivation, a disciplined plan, support and effort, not only can people transform; they can also achieve outcomes beyond their wildest expectations. There’s power in habits, something we all – particularly leaders – should recognise.

Make it stick

  • Start with a specific goal and tell people who will support you.
  • Start small and build from there.
  • Be prepared. If you wait until ‘you feel like it’ or ‘have time’ you might find yourself waiting forever.
  • As you improve, you’ll naturally want to challenge yourself further. Explore different ways to keep enjoying your habit.
  • Use your support network to get back on track when you have a set-back.
  • It’s hard to change mindsets simply because you want to but we can develop them with purposeful effort. 

Melinda Renowden is a leadership and executive coaching manager at ANZ.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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