In his epic book, Atomic Habits, James Clear states, “Behind every system of actions are a system of beliefs.”
Here’s a personal anecdote to illustrate this.
Almost every day I leave the office later than planned. Even though I daily tell myself THIS is the day I am leaving on time and getting home at a decent hour, it rarely happens.
Here’s the difficulty: as I wrap up each day I review everything still open on my computer and determine one or two items that can be accomplished quickly before I shut things down.
“It will be quick,” I tell myself. My husband can tell you it rarely is.
I continually leave late thinking that today it will be different and it truly will be quick, but my behavior does not change therefore my leave time doesn’t change.
I have created habits at the end of my day that need to change.
Correction: I have beliefs about the end of my day that need to change so my actions will change.
What beliefs do you need to seek out and challenge to update your actions?
We all want to change something about ourselves or the world around us; unless we change personal beliefs first, change is impossible. It is imperative to know personal beliefs, especially for those of us who desire to influence others as leaders.
Here are three reasons why authentic leaders seek to know their beliefs:
Beliefs inform behaviors. Leaders are in the business of guiding and shaping behavior. Changing behavior is not simply asking for different actions, which may last for a few days, but a systemic overhaul. To make a permanent change, beliefs need to change so behaviors can follow.
Beliefs are built over time. Every day small habits, decisions, and thoughts are creating neuronal pathways in your brain. This can happen without conscience effort. To be blunt, it’s often the negative behaviors that take hold the quickest. Over time, the once-in-a-while behavior becomes a daily habit. This makes understanding personal beliefs imperative, as they will drive the little things that matter in the long run.
Change starts with beliefs. This COVID-19 world we live in demands change at breakneck speed. Knowledge of our beliefs - and frankly our willingness to challenge those beliefs - is the crux of leadership success. Too much is happening too quickly, and the leader who does not understand their beliefs in order to update or solidify them will simply spin their wheels, grow in frustration, and likely fizzle out in depths of despair.