The title of this post comes from a conversation I had with my wife a couple of years ago. One of those conversations that can only be understood by others who have been in a close relationship with another person for 20+ years.
It was about this time a couple of years ago and I was working on getting in shape. I had bought a couple of books on nutrition, some new running shoes and workout clothes, and I had printed off some recommended exercise routines with space to chart my progress. With every purchase I made, I explained to my wife how this book would help me eat better, how this exercise would impact this certain muscle group, and how this equipment would speed up the process. All through January I studied and read and researched my subject until I knew exactly what I needed to do to get back in shape.
Once I had learned everything, it was time to put all that information into action. I wasn’t quite as gung ho about this part of the process. In February I only went to the gym a couple of times and by March I was going only once a week (if it worked out with my schedule.)
My wife was good natured about all of this until we were visiting my parents toward the end of the month. My dad and I were talking about health and exercise when the topic of yoga came up. I explained to my dad that I was incorporating yoga into my exercise routine. My dad shared that he got great benefit from alternate nostril breathing and practicing the cobra position while watching TV. As my wife watched the two of us drinking beer, eating chips, and talking about the benefits of yoga she had finally had enough. She asked both of us to lift our shirts so she could see the results of all of our yoga training. Considering that we were both about 20 pounds overweight at the time and with most of it settled into generous spare tires around our midsections, we looked at each other sheepishly and politely declined. It was a good reminder that knowing and doing are two different things.
Since then, “Lift up your shirt,” has been a fun reminder in our family to move beyond talking to actually doing something different. Knowing what to do is an important first step, but actually changing your behavior is where you need to get to.
Are you ready to get started on putting your good intentions to work? Here are three tips to help you along the way:
- Decide on what you want. This all about goal setting. Since this is a leadership focused blog, let’s use a leadership skill example. Listening is a skill many executives want to get better at. Find a good model and stick with it. In this case, we can use the EAR model—explore what the other person is saying, acknowledge you heard what they said by paraphrasing, and then respond in your normal fashion.
- Put it into practice. In as many conversations as possible, start to use and practice the new skill you want to develop. At this stage remember to be easy on yourself. Maintain your humor and esteem while learning.
- Emotionalize only the good. You are going to have good days and bad days. The key is to “catch yourself doing things right” as often as possible while you are developing your new skill.
Changing behavior is difficult. But if you focus on a couple of key things, practice them on a regular basis, and are easy on yourself along the way, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.