Trick Yourself into Breaking a Bad Habit

Let’s face it — we all have a career-limiting habit. Whether it’s weak interpersonal skills, a tendency to procrastinate, or good-but-not-great technical prowess, one of the biggest impediments to our upward mobility is a habit we struggle to change.

A few years back, my colleagues and I studied 5,000 people who had attempted to change a stubborn career-limiting habit. Fewer than 10% succeeded at creating deep and lasting change.

As we reviewed what separated the successful few from the rest, we found a quirky distinction: The successful people talked about themselves the way an experimental psychologist might refer to a cherished lab rat. For example, a shy manager with executive aspirations talked about how he took himself to the employee cafeteria three times a week to eat lunch with a complete stranger. Tickling with anxiety, he stripped himself of his smart phone before exiting his office — knowing that if it was with him, he would retreat to it. He knew that if he simply ensconced himself in these circumstances, he would connect with new people — a habit and skill he wanted to cultivate.

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