May 09, 2011, 4:51 PM — Top-performing employees worldwide do three things well and consistently that set them apart and that can be emulated by anyone else who wants to succeed in their careers, according to a recently published book, "Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success." And willpower -- often held to be central to whatever changes we seek to make in our lives and careers -- is not part of the equation.
Top employees put effort into the technical aspects of their jobs, contribute to work that is critical to their company's success and are known for being helpful. But what keep it from being quite that simple are the outside influences that can reinforce bad habits at work and at home.
"[You have to] step back, acknowledge that willpower isn't going to do it and look for the influences that are in power today" in your life, said David Maxfield, who along with Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler co-wrote the book, published by Business Plus. The strategies they present in the book are based on psychological and medical research as well as a study involving more than 5,000 people conducted at the Change Anything Labs in Utah, which is a division of the consultancy and training firm VitalSmarts.
Their research shows that individuals do not have as much control over their own behavior as they might think they do, that many of us fall into "the willpower trap" of thinking that if we don't break bad habits we simply lack the motivation to do so. What we need instead are new skills and a new approach to achieve success. The same methods can be applied to career advancement, weight loss, relationship issues, breaking addictions and getting out of debt and staying that way, according to the authors.
The first step is to figure out the "crucial moments" in which you fall into bad habits. Those could involve certain times, places, people or, for instance, when you're feeling stressed out or tired. The next step is to establish rules to follow when such challenging moments arise. For instance, if you have a hard time completing the work tasks you need to get done because you are unable to say "no" when asked to take on less-important duties then you have to learn new skills. That could involve assertiveness training or enlisting the help of your boss or colleagues for support.