Craig Groeschel - 3 Keys to Starting New Habits That Stick
In this episode I wanna talk about how to start the leadership habits that will increase your leadership impact. We're gonna learn how to start the leadership habits that will increase your leadership impact. Now, in the last episode, we acknowledged that most leaders have similar goals. They wanna win. We wanna grow. We wanna be profitable. We wanna increase in influence. We wanna make a difference. Most leaders have similar goals, but we have very, very different results. It was James Clear who said this, "Goals don't determine success, but your systems or your habits determine success". He said in his book, Atomic Habits, "You don't rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems".
Now this is so important in our leadership, and here's the challenge. The challenge is this, most of what you normally do isn't a result of conscious choices, but a result of daily habits. In your leadership and in your everyday life, most of what you do is not even something you choose to do, but it's a result of daily habits, it's a result of your systems or your lack of systems. In fact, according to a study done by Duke University in 2006, are you ready for this? Over 40% of the actions that you do every single day, they are not a result of decision-making. They're a result of your habits. I want you to think about this, 40%. Over 40% of what you do, you didn't even decide to do it. It's just in your rhythm. It's your system, it's your habit. And the same is true in your leadership.
Think about it. As a leader, most of what you do is what you've previously done. You just do the same things over and over and over. So in your leadership, if you wanna change your impact, you're gonna wanna change your habits. And what we're gonna do is talk about starting the right habits or the systems that produce the results that you desire. Why? Because the fastest way to do big things is to consistently do the small, right things. The fastest way to do the things that matter is consistently do the small right things. And we've said it before, I'm gonna say it all the time. What do successful people do? Successful people do consistently what others do occasionally.
So in the last episode we talked about starting with who goals instead of do goals. Not just what do you wanna do in your leadership, but instead, who do you wanna become as a leader? And at the end of the episode, I asked you the question based on who you want to become, what one habit do you need to start? Based on who you want to be as a leader, what one habit do you need to start? Now hopefully you created some leadership 'I am' statements. I am a leader with integrity, or I am a leader who loves people, whatever it might be. And as you know who you want to become, it should be clear what habit need to start. And before we dive into real specific content, what I wanna do is I wanna just get you to drill down and name the one habit that you wanna start. And I wanna encourage you, don't let another year pass without adding that specific habit that you need to add.
I'm guessing for some of you there's been like year over year, "This year I wanna do this, this year I'm gonna do it," and you haven't done it. You probably know what you need to do. You probably know where you wanna change. You've probably tried before, and you probably haven't succeeded. So let's name it, and let's drill down to the how, and let's add that habit that will increase your leadership impact. The three secrets to starting habits that last. The first thought, what are you gonna do? To start a habit that lasts I wanna encourage you, number one, make it small. Make it small. In the last episode we talked about a lot of younger leaders or newer leaders, they tend to think that success is a result of the big, elusive super habits, and nothing is further from the truth. In fact, I'd go as far to say is way, way, way, way, way better if your new habit is a small new habit. Make it small.
Why does this matter? Well, Newton's law of motion tells us this, an object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion. When you're at rest, a big habit seems intimidating, and so you typically stay at rest. But a small habit that's easy to achieve is something that you might actually start. And once you get into motion, guess what? An object in motion tends to stay in motion. And so what is your goal? What you wanna do as a leader is you wanna create movement toward the desired result. And I wanna just encourage you, just start small. What might that look like for you? Maybe if you wanna be a leader who cares. I am a leader who cares, then you'll write one note of appreciation every day. Some of you may say, what is a note? There's a piece of paper, a pen. You can actually write on it. It used to be a thing, it still can be a thing, or you can actually send a text. Hey, you might surprise somebody. You send a note of appreciation. There's power in a handwritten note.
If you wanna be someone who cares, you're gonna show one form of appreciation a day. That's your habit. One simple thing. Or you might say, I wanna be a leader who's disciplined. Your one small habit might be that you don't hit snooze in the morning. When that alarm goes off, you get up. And what you're doing is you're creating movement that tells you I'm a disciplined leader. Maybe you say, I wanna be a leader that's focused. I'm all over the place. I have a hard time being productive during the day. Your habit might be this. Start your day with a list of three priorities. I come in with a little yellow post-it note, and I write the top three things down every day. This is what I'm gonna get done, and that's your one habit. Maybe you'd say I wanna be a person who's healthy. And your small habit might be I wanna walk for 10 minutes, three times a week. And that's it. Really, really, really small. Why does this matter? By creating any small movement, you're likely to create more and bigger movement.
If you just get action going, you're likely to add more action. And the great news is that small wise habits, they compound. In fact, if you look at any part of my life that you would say is successful, if you look at health or leadership or marriage or parenting or finances or anything, what I can promise you is it's a result of many small and helpful habits. So here's some behind the scenes. I am 54 years of age now. And for over two decades I've added one habit a year, really small habits, embarrassingly small habits for over two decades. So if you add that up, that's over 20 some odd really small habits, and most of them would be completely unnoticeable. I'll tell you some of the smaller ones that are kind of embarrassing that you wouldn't care about. Years and years ago, I eliminated all soft drinks. It's been well over a decade since I've had a soft drink, and I just drink water and it's helping me be healthy.
Years ago I started pre-planning all my lunches instead of waiting to have whatever's available or going out to eat. I just would order things in and they were prepared exactly as I want it. For my spiritual life, years ago I decided to pray with Amy every day, very short prayers right before we go to work, but just pray with Amy. Years ago I decided to have at least one meeting per month with a mentor. Here's a little secret. A lot of times they don't even know they're a mentor, but I have at least one leadership development conversation with someone that I look up to a month. Stupid little habit, people make fun of this. And I joke about it all the time. One year I decided to floss, and I joke and say flossing changed my life. And it's really no joke because I hate flossing. I hate when the dental hygienists tell me you got to floss every time. So when I floss, when I started doing that years ago, I started to tell myself in my mind I'm a disciplined person because I do the right things even if I don't wanna do them. And how does this play together?
Well, Duhigg in his book, The Power of Habit, he calls certain habits keystone habits. And Duhigg defines a keystone habit as small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives. They're small changes. They're small habits. Not hitting snooze, showing gratitude, encouraging people. They're small changes that cascade unintentionally into other areas of their lives. And so because I floss, I'm a discipline person. Because I pray with Amy, I'm a spiritual person. Because I'm talking to my mentor, I'm a growing leader. And no one habit changed anything big in my life at all, nothing noticeable. But over time, the cumulation of small habits, they change who I am as a husband to Amy, as a dad to my kids, as a pastor to Live Church, and as a leader of leaders, small changes.
And think about this, just one a year, very small, these small changes changed my identity. It's my system, it's my daily habits. And these daily habits, they reinforce who I am becoming, which ultimately drives the do. And so here's what I want you to do, is I want you based on your leadership 'I am' statement, based on who you wanna become, what one new habit do you need to start? And I wanna encourage you, think big, but start small. Number one, make it small. The second thing for habits that lasts will be this, number two, make it obvious, make it obvious. And this is so important. If you wanna change what you do, change what you see. If you wanna change how you lead, change what you see. A simple example in your life would be this, if you wanna change what you do, change what you see. Maybe like one of my 20 things is I started taking my vitamins and supplements, okay? Again, small. I would always forget.
So what I did is this. I made it obvious. Instead of leaving it in the drawer and getting in the morning, taking all my different little supplements out, instead I bought a daily little thing and I put them all out the night before by my toothbrush, so when I wake up in the morning, they're right there. Then I take them and I take my evening ones out and I put them by my toothbrush again. And what am I doing? I'm making it stupid obvious. Maybe you say I wanna grow in my leadership so I'm gonna read two pages of a leadership book before I go to bed. Don't leave your book in a drawer on the shelf. In the morning, put the book on the pillow. And then when you go to bed at night, you're gonna see it there and you're gonna read two pages. Maybe again if you wanna write a note daily, some of the best leaders I know are note writers. What you're gonna do is when you leave the office at the end of the day, put a card on your desk. So when you wake in the morning, there it is. You write the first thing out. You write, "I am a leader who appreciates and values people". And what you're gonna do is you're just gonna start small and then you're gonna make it obvious.
And what you're doing is you're creating your own habit loop. Instead of reacting to the cues that trigger you to do what you don't wanna do, what you're doing is you're creating the cues that trigger you to do what you wanna do. And I wanna say this again, I want you to understand what we're doing. Instead of the cues that trigger you like eat ice cream now, or yell at your coworkers or whatever, we're not reacting to those cues, we're creating our own. We're making it obvious. We're creating the positive cues that trigger the behavior that you want. And here's a promise to you. What I want you to know is making your desired action obvious, it will be the difference between good intentions and great results. Let me say it again. If you make it obvious, this is what I do, it's very easy, making it obvious will be the difference between good intentions and great results. In other words, if you want to eat right, get rid of the wrong temptations and stock your kitchen or stock your office with what you do wanna eat. Make it obvious.
If you wanna grow in your leadership, and you're always scrolling on Instagram, hide the Instagram app on your phone and make your podcast app visible and listen to one leadership podcast instead of wasting time on social media. Here's the goal. Our goal is to make it harder to do what we don't wanna do, and we wanna make it easier to do what we want to do. So to grow in your leadership, we're gonna create the right one habit that helps create the desired identity. Make it small, number one. Make it obvious, number two. And number three, make it automatic. Make it automatic. Here's where the magic happens. If you've never thought about it, your life in so many different ways, it's on autopilot. It's almost scary.
For example, when you woke up on the last work day, what did you do? The last workday? And the answer probably is similar to what you did the day before. For example, my mornings, they're almost exactly the same. When I get up every day on a workday, I get up, I make my oatmeal. I put my berries in it. I do my devotion. I pray with Amy. I get my bags that were packed the night before. I drive too work the same exact way. And when I get to the office I realize I don't even remember driving to work because I was on autopilot all the way there. What do you typically do? You do something very similar to what you did before, and here's the problem. Without intentionality, what's automatic is rarely what's most productive. Why? Because we don't drift toward what is healthy. We drift toward what is easy. What we wanna do is we don't wanna drift toward what is easy. We're gonna create the systems. We're gonna make it automatic, that move toward what is healthy, because excellence is never an accident. Excellence is always a result of intentional and consistent habits.
So let's make it automatic. We're gonna review. You've named the habit that you wanna start, whatever it is. This year I'm gonna start, and you know what it is. Based on the type of leader you wanna become, this is what you're going to do. You're gonna start small. You're gonna make it easy, and you're gonna make it automatic. How do you make it automatic? You're not just gonna decide what you want to do to grow in your leadership, but you're gonna define exactly when you are going to do it. And here's the key. You're gonna create a statement, and you're gonna live up to this statement that goes something like this. After I, blank, I will do, blank. After I do this one thing, then I'm going to do my new leadership habit. After I do this, then I'm gonna do this. And you're gonna make it automatic. So you wanna read one Bible verse a day. That's your small habit. So you say, after I make coffee, then I read one Bible verse. Or you may say this, after I finish a meeting at the office, I'm gonna define one action step after that meeting.
So there's always an action step. You don't just waste your time in a meeting, there's production on the other side. Or you may say, after I arrive in the office, I'm writing my three priorities down. That's what I'm gonna do. The moment after I get to my desk, I sit down and I write my three priorities for the day. Or you may say, after I put the kids to bed, I do a 30-second plank. Kids go down, 30-second plank. After I brush my teeth, I journal one sentence. I'm gonna journal something. And again, you're going, why are we starting so small? Remember, your habits determine who you become as a leader. And I love what James Clear teaches. He teaches that each action is a vote towards your identity. I want you to think about this. Each time you do anything at all, you're voting toward the type of person that you're going to become. In other words, like if you hit snooze on the alarm, you're voting I'm an undisciplined person. But if you get up when the alarm sounds, you're voting, hey, I'm a disciplined person.
Any positive action is a positive vote towards you becoming the leader that you want to become. So if you wanna journal daily, when you write one sentence, what you're doing is you're voting that you're someone who journals. Then the good news is an object in motion tends to stay in motion. If you write one sentence every day, it won't be long before you're writing two sentences and then a paragraph, and then a page. You've been voting towards your identity. If you exercise for two minutes, what you're doing is you're voting I'm a healthy person. If you exercise for two minutes, it won't be long before you're exercising for 20 minutes. And guess what? Oh my gosh, you may have just found a keystone habit that unintentionally brings other positive benefits. Since you're a person that works out for 20 minutes, maybe you start eating better. Why? Because you've been voting that you're a person that takes care of your body.
Here's what I wanna tell you, never underestimate how you can start something big through one small habit. One small habit. It's the small things that no one sees that brings the big results everyone wants. And what I wanna say to you is this, there's more in you. As a leader, what I promise you is there is way more in you than you can even imagine. And this year, if you change that one thing that's holding you back, you can start the pendulum moving toward the identity that you wanna become, and to the actions that you wanna do, and having the leadership impact that you want to make. And here's what's really really fun, is this, I promise you you're gonna be successful way earlier than you think. What most people think is, okay, I've got to start this habit and I'm gonna be successful like in three years, whenever I get everything just where I want to. And that's not our mindset.
As leaders, we have a totally different mindset. And I wanna say it this way, you're not successful when you hit your goal in the future. You're successful when you're faithful today. You're not successful when you get the outcome that you want. You're successful when you have the right habits, the right systems moving you in the right direction. So start today, start small. Make it obvious, make it automatic. And if you can handle a Bible verse, because I'm also a preacher in my daytime job, Zechariah 4:10 says this, "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin". What can happen if you start one right leadership habit, and then another, and then another? Small consistent habits compounding over time, you can become the leader that you always knew you can become, and you can have an impact greater than you could ever imagine.
Now, in the next episode we're gonna talk about the opposite. Today we're talking about starting the right habits. In the next episode we're gonna talk about breaking bad leadership habits. And this can be a game changer in stopping the habits that stop your impact. I wanna tell you thank you again for sharing on social media. If this is helpful, invite others to be a part. I'll check with you on the first Thursday of next month for a new episode. Keep investing in your leadership. It matters so much to you, to the people around you, because we know that everyone wins when the leader gets better.