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Resiliency Habit #1: Building Commitment to Ourselves

Posted Oct 12th, 2018

9 Habits of Resilience for Highly Effective Leaders:

  1. Building Commitment to Ourselves
  2. Physical Fitness
  3. Brain Fitness: Stilling the mind, developing patience
  4. Brain Fitness: Focusing the mind
  5. Knowing Our Purpose
  6. Integrative thinking
  7. Daily Reflection
  8. Personal Operating Principles
  9. Building and Maintaining Networks | Coming Soon!

Habit #1: Building Commitment to Ourselves

“Externally we are driven by competition and rewards. Internally we are driven by our desire to control outcomes and avoid personal failure. Think about it; how does this serve us?” - Richard Hallstein

Establishing a new, positive habit is always a challenge; albeit a very worthwhile one. Let’s say you make a commitment to your health. Think about the number of times you may have decided that you want to get back to the gym, or you want to start eating healthier meals. Gyms are full of eager initiates in January and then attendance drops off dramatically. Eating simple, balanced, healthy meals sounds smart and simple. But “just for today”, since you’re pressed for time, you pick up some fast food to eat at your desk. You do not meet your commitment. Such commitments may be simple but they are not easy to master.

Fact#1: New habits are simple, but never easy.

Why? Because the hardest part of establishing a new habit is unlearning the old one and the cues that trigger it. Most of these cues are internal beliefs which we have formed unconsciously, and live according to as if they were true. For example, we may believe that if we do not complete every task assigned to us to an equally high degree of excellence, we will not be seen as competent, or we will meet with disapproval.

Or we may believe that if we do not exceed expectations, we will be exposed for the imposter that we believe ourselves to be. Or perhaps our belief is that first we should work and when all the work is done, we can play (and of course that time never comes).

Any of these beliefs could sabotage the commitment we have made to ourselves to improve our health and wellbeing. Without uncovering the belief that drives us to put our head down at the beginning of the day and not come up for air, and without challenging this belief to logically determine if it is working for us, we will  predictably fall back into the old habit no matter how strong our intention to create the new one. This is human nature, not personal failure.

Let’s look at an example of this in action. How are you living your commitments to yourself? Maybe you have set a goal of working out at the gym 3 times a week at lunch time. And your body remembers how good you feel when you leave: strong and energized. And your mind recognizes that your afternoon is more productive because of it. However, you are working to a deadline all week, meeting your commitments to several deliverables set by yourself, your boss, or corporate, and on Friday night when you take stock, you realize you never got to the gym once.Why not?

Fact #2: It is much more compelling to meet an external commitment than an internal one.

Think of an example where this has been true for you.  What was the commitment you made to yourself? What “pulled you off purpose”? ie  What was the external commitment?    And what internal belief lies behind the choice you made? What would you have to stop thinking/doing in order to start doing the new behaviour?

How could you challenge both that belief and the habitual behaviour you have reinforced for so long? Obviously you are not going to neglect the deliverable. But can you look at your method of singular focus on your outcomes, and challenge that? Are you even practicing optimal productivity by having your engine in overdrive all the time?

Let’s look at some recent brain research. Tony Schwartz in his book “Manage Your Energy Not Your Time” cites findings in which it is clear that our waking hours, like our hours of sleep, run in cycles or rhythms and this ultradian rhythm allows us to give focused attention to any activity for a maximum of 90 minutes only. To balance our mind-body and improve focus and output we then need to engage in a short ( 5 to 20 minutes) oppositional activity such as walking around the area and chatting with people, calling a family member, running up and down stairs, or listening to a single piece of music on your ipod.

This research could motivate you to transform your original belief ( that of the need to plow  through work until it is completed), to one that reflects and strengthens your intention to take breaks in order to  increase your capacity and creativity, as well as improve your health. For example, your new belief could be something like “I am more productive and mentally focused when I take systematic breaks during the day.”

The next step will be to test your belief and the behaviour that expresses it. Do you actually feel more energetic after regular, short breaks or a work-out? Do you get more focused work done in less time? Is the quality of your work measurably better? If so, the new belief is validated and will likely strengthen your commitment to yourself to change a lifestyle habit in a sustainable way.

Please experiment with establishing this Resilience Habit #1. Build commitment to yourself and let me know how it goes.


“Managing Oneself” Peter Drucker

“Do Your Commitments Match Your Convictions?” HBR, January 2005

“The Making of a Corporate Athlete” Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz, Harvard Business Review on Developing Leader

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