Avoid making these 3 mistakes

Liz Guthridge Posted by Liz Guthridge, Managing Director, Connect Consulting Group.

Liz Guthridge is a coach, consultant and facilitator who helps leaders turn their blue-sky ideas into greener-pasture actions. She uses applied neuroscience, behavior design and mindful communications. 


Avoid making these 3 mistakes

Whether you’re trying to identify good New Year’s Resolutions or wanting to building habits, please avoid making these three common mistakes.

  1. Taking on the “should do’s” not the “want-to-do’s.
  1. Attempting to climb Mt. Everest before you’ve considered going to the top of Old Smoky.
  1. Wanting to master a Blue Moon challenge rather than improve on everyday tasks.

When you aim too big and too high, which is the problem with these lofty wishes, you run the risk of falling flat on your face before you can gain any traction—which I see all the time with my new coaching and consulting clients.

To get and keep momentum with behavior change, you need to take some time upfront to set yourself up for success. That’s one of the most powerful lessons I learned four years ago when I took Tiny Habits® for the first time with innovator and behavior scientist Dr. BJ Fogg.

So how do you set yourself up for success? Try taking these actions, which BJ taught me to incorporate into my life and I now teach others as a Tiny Habits® coach.

Choose a goal that you really want to do, not something you think you should do. This is a particular dicey one. It’s especially appealing this time of year to want to break with the past to make a clean start.

Yet, it’s more helpful to think about what’s important to you and what will help you live your life, not what’s popular or what others may expect from you. When you decide to do something that you want to do, you’re much more inclined to stick with it.

For example, do you really want to eliminate all sugar from your life? Or do you want to make more healthy eating choices, including cutting back on sweets?

Do you really need a zero inbox, or do you want to get more control over sending, receiving and storing email messages?

How necessary is it to give up all electronic devices for a week? Or is it better to put away your cell phone during family dinner and other meals?

Next, consider how you can start small to sustain your change and build on it. Early successes will make you feel better and more successful, which will help you keep going, as I’ve learned in my applied neuroscience program.

For instance, if you want your cell phone to become a mobile device again rather than an appendage to your body, especially during meal times, take a moment to charge your cell phone in your home office or bedroom instead of taking it into the kitchen or dining room before you sit down to dinner.

Later, you can try charging your phone as soon as you get home from work. You can even “graduate” to turning your cell phone off.

Another big help is to adjust your environment to make it easier to follow through on your new goals. You don’t want to just avoid temptations; you want to eliminate temptations.

Continuing this example, you may want to ask your spouse and children too to join you in putting way all cell phones at mealtime. To make it easier to charge your phone, invest in another charger so you don’t have an excuse.

You also can keep paper and pen nearby so you can jot down the burning questions that surface during dinner conversation that you’ll want to Google later.

And don’t succumb to the Apple watch!

Yes, these are types of tricks that you play on yourself. However, they work to make it easier for you to take actions that otherwise may be hard and self-defeating.

Also, think about simple, daily activities that can help you tackle a bigger change. Tiny steps can lead to huge improvements if done carefully.

For instance, one of my coaching clients wanted to improve her public speaking, even though she didn’t enjoy it. She wasn’t getting any offers to speak in front of groups, and she didn’t want to create opportunities for herself.

But she was attending many meetings. As we talked, she realized she wasn’t speaking in many of them, especially when she was the most junior person in the room.

So we discussed how to build her confidence and skills to join the meeting conversations. This included asking questions, agreeing with other people’s comments, and yes, adding her own points of view.

In a couple of months, she was describing herself as an active meeting participant. Even better, the senior people were noticing her more. Soon she started receiving invitations from them that gave her greater visibility and exposure in her large firm.

Six months later, she was promoted to a position that appealed to her. The new role also required her to give talks, which she now relished and felt fine doing, especially after some targeted training.

In less than a year, she had transformed herself at work by starting small and leveraging her environment to help her.

When I enrolled in Tiny Habits® for the first time in December 2011, I never dreamed how life transforming it would be for me and my future clients, as I wrote about last year in 3 tips for building new habits and Be kind to your brain; resolve to build habits.

If you want to learn how to change your behavior, consider joining the more than 38,700 people who have experienced Tiny Habits® over the past four years.

Meanwhile Happy New Year!