5 Bad Habits to Break for a Better New Year

Even good leaders can have bad habits.

There are some scary truths about bad habits that hinder our ability to break them.

  • Scary truth #1: Sometimes we really don’t see the habit. (We need a friend to tell us.)
  • Scary truth #2: Sometimes we justify the habit because of heavy pressure or high productivity.
  • Scary truth #3: Sometimes we kind of like the habit, and we don’t want to stop.
  • Scary truth #4: Sometimes we’ve lived the habit so long, it becomes a lifestyle we adapt to.
  • Scary truth #5: Sometimes those around us let us off the hook when they should call us on it.
  • Scary truth #6: Sometimes we minimize and dismiss it because it’s not a “sin.”

One bad habit of mine is that I often run about 5 minutes late to a meeting, sometimes even 10 or more. It really is a bad habit. Being late doesn’t convey how much I value and care about the person who is waiting. It puts me in a rushed state of mind, and it communicates that maybe it’s OK for others to be late.

My scary truth is #2. I attempt to justify it because of my high productivity. “Hey, I just took an urgent phone call from a staff member.” Or, “I finished that leadership talk that is due in two days.” Or, “We were at a critical decision point in the previous meeting and couldn’t just cut it off.”

It’s dangerous when a leader bends reality into a justification, rather than making a tough decision or exercising more discipline.  

5 Bad Work Habits to Avoid – Any of them yours?

1) Stop letting guilt misdirect your time and energy.

Being sensitive to conviction from the Holy Spirit is good. That merits a heartfelt response and any appropriate action. But far too often it’s not conviction from God, but human guilt that prompts how we lead, make decisions and use our time.

Breaking free from guilt, (or its distant cousin people pleasing), is difficult but necessary.

I’ve seen too many church leaders run in circles and exhaust themselves trying to make everyone happy. It doesn’t work. In fact, it’s impossible. It’s better to know what is important, according to your vision and values, and stick to it.

Three things to know and do in overcoming guilt:

  • Know where you are going, and stay focused.
  • Know that you truly care about people, and show it.
  • Know that you are aligned with God’s plan, and listen to His voice.

2) Stop overlooking key or close relationships.

Good leaders don’t take people close to them for granted, but they can forget to slow down enough to enjoy meaningful conversations.

I’m not talking about idle chit-chat; I mean heartfelt conversations. I’ll let you in on a little-practiced secret. You can have deeply meaningful conversations in surprisingly few minutes with people you know well. (Key/Close relationships.)

When you have a relationship of substance, just jump into the deep end of the moment. You don’t need a finely crafted transition, or to be overly blunt, to be direct and speak from the heart. People can travel fast in conversations when they know and trust you. Remember, they are probably just as busy as you are.

Of course, some conversations require a substantial amount of time. But don’t waste those moments when you can have a brief heart to heart connect that makes a difference.

3) Stop using grace to avoid tough conversations.

One of the big reasons you are in ministry is because you love and care about people. It’s good to be kind, forgiving and lean into grace, but not if it’s a way to escape the necessary tough conversations.

The better way is to have tough conversations with grace. This is not a play on semantics. When grace is used to avoid a tough conversation, that’s an excuse. When you fully engage a tough conversation, seasoned with grace, that is speaking the truth in love.

What is one tough conversation you know you need to have this week? Pray. Settle your resolve. Have the conversation.

4) Stop letting busyness overtake productivity.

Activity does not equal accomplishment. Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you are getting the most important things done. It’s very easy to get tired without making progress!

Email, favorite projects, easy tasks, and the squeaky wheels, etc., are the great thieves of accomplishing your most important responsibilities.

A ruthless focus on the highest priorities and most significant responsibilities is required of all great leaders. You will never be free of the tension of too little time, but as you gain more experience, success, and confidence, it does get better.

Here’s one of the best practical steps you can take. Ask your boss to tell you what your most important/primary responsibility is. It’s a tough question. Have the conversation!

5) Stop comparing and complaining.

Negativity of any kind (mild or major) will eat your lunch as a leader.

If your attitude and perspective go sour because you compare what others have, to what you don’t have, you can’t lead well because that attitude will leak out of you.

Complaining never solves anything and only serves as a wet blanket on what otherwise might be hope and encouragement. Instead, do your best to be solution oriented.

We all have moments where we complain about something. That’s human. Remember, we’re talking about habits. And if complaining is a habit, that is a big bad one that you are wise to break.

Can you add one “big” bad work habit to the list? Leave a comment!

7 thoughts on “5 Bad Habits to Break for a Better New Year”

  1. You always write such insightful articles, Dan, but none more than this. You stepped on my toes, brother – but I needed to hear it. Thank you for your candor, I could totally relate.
    Blessings to you and your readers, may you have a memorable 2018. Be bold, be strong, for the Lord your God is with you. Amen.

  2. Thanks Dan, great post! took a lot from it. Especially about using Grace to avoid the tough conversations. I do usually try to have the Grace conversations, but have been stonewalled by other leaders at times who will say, just have grace and leave that alone. This has sometimes meant that what would have been easy and simple to nip in the bud has escalated and hurt other people.
    Great wisdom, thank for sharing.

  3. Ok Dan, you wrecked me with this one. You have moved me into new territory. I have two guys I meet with once a month and after reading this post I told them, “Look I am way overweight. You guys can speak into my life on anything and please call me on it if I mess up.” So I am into an exercise and diet routine. The biggest issue for me is that this is spiritual. Paul said he wouldn’t be mastered by anything. Food has been my master way too long. Your blog, friendship, counsel has done more for me in the past five years than anything I can remember. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and passion for leaders. You’re the best and a great gift. Thanks for all you do!


    “If you avoid the tough conversations, leadership opportunities will soon avoid you.” <— That line was for me, Dan! Thank you.

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