By Joni Lindquist

It’s the season of resolutions!  As a career and executive coach, I get a lot of requests about how to change our habits.  And I often site Benjamin Franklin.  In an article in Forbes by Pat Brans detailing Benjamin Franklin’s approach to changing his habits, I learned that Franklin wrote down a list of 13 virtues he wanted to acquire.  Then he then spent a week working on each virtue, one at a time, through a 13-week cycle. At the start of each day, he would think about how he would reinforce a new habit that day. He would note daily his successes and failures. Of course he had lapses, but he also saw progress. Franklin continued this for an entire year, cycling through thirteen weeks four times!

Here are the top 5 tips to breaking bad habits I’ve learned from Franklin’s system:

  1. Focus on only one behavior at a time. Don’t multi-task here!  Changing too much at one time diffuses your focus and can make you feel overwhelmed, increasing the chances that you will slip back into your old habits.  Wake up every morning like Franklin did, thinking about how you plan to be better on ONE thing.
  2. Write down what you plan to change. Prioritize your habits and focus initially on the one behavior change you think will bring you the largest impact on your life. Do not move on to the next one until you have spent the time changing the first bad habit. Writing your goals down makes it more likely you will achieve them.
  3. Give yourself time to change. Today, we all seem to want instant gratification.  Unlike Franklin, who only took a week on each virtue, I suggest you spend at least two months on each habit. True behavior change takes time. Don’t rush it.  The goal is to create a new habit to replace the old, “bad” habit. This will take time.
  4. Use visual cues as reminders. For each habit change, create a visual cue that is meaningful to you. Post this somewhere that you will see frequently throughout the day.  I’ve seen clients use smiley faces, a picture of a frog, or a stop sign as a visual cue. Put your reminder on your computer, your phone, or your planner – wherever you will see it often. You can make your visual cues fun or irreverent.  Changing behavior is hard work, have some fun with it!
  5. Seek feedback. Identify someone you really trust who will be honest with you.  Share with them the habit you are working on and ask them to give you feedback, both good and bad.

January is the perfect time to start!  Write down your list then start your first two-month cycle of the one bad habit you want to improve upon.  Use Ben Franklin’s time-tested method to effectively change your behavior!  For help honing your leadership skills, schedule a meeting by clicking below, contact Joni Lindquist –, or call (913) 345-1881.