The Success Chain

Yesterday I attended an excellent session with Dan Sedor of Leadership Resources as part of the AIM IT Leadership Academy. The theme of the day was self-management–techniques for continually improving our leadership skills. The Success Chain was one technique we covered for building new habits. In the success chain, each step builds upon the previous. In order, they are:

1. Spaced repetition
2. Conditioning/Experience
3. Attitudes (Habits of Thought)
4. Actions/Behaviors
5. Results/Outcomes
6. Success

Studies have shown that people need to hear an idea 6-8 times before they internalize it as their own–inception, if you will. This applies to communicating goals to your team, as well as repeating thoughts or affirmations to yourself as part of a habit building exercise.

Each time a goal, thought, or action is repeated, it becomes a stronger experience in memory. Eventually, you will condition your thoughts to treat this goal or affirmation as your own attitude–and this is key. Once something becomes part of your attitude it will naturally influence your behavior.

By using a system of setting goals and evaluating the results, over time you can use the success chain to develop behaviors and habits that have a positive outcome for you and your organization. Only through determination will you reach the success step.

During our discussion I volunteered an example of how a similar system has been working for me. Six weeks ago I set a goal to start going to the gym four days a week. I have been a CrossFit member for over a year now, but sometimes I find it difficult to keep going. The workouts are intense and when I’m still sore from the previous workout I want to skip one. Sometimes this compounds into missing weeks at a time. In order to change this I did two things: I shared my goal with other members and then I adopted the micro-goal strategy from Maneesh Sethi’s Hack The System blog. The micro-goal system is a way of setting trivially small goals that contribute to a larger goal. In my case, the reason I was missing workouts was soreness. To rectify this, I set a goal of going to CrossFit 15 minutes early four days a week in order to use their foam rollers and stretch. This helps an incredible amount. As a side-effect, now I am at the gym and stretched out just before class starts. Other people are arriving for class and when I comment that I’m too exhausted they always talk me into joining them. There has been a positive outcome for me as well. About a month after regularly attending workouts I started to notice a significant strength improvement. I discovered I had not been pushing myself to my limit. Now I have the confidence to push each workout a little bit harder and increase the weight more than I would have before. For me, I would call that success.