5 Bad Habits to Break for a Better New Year

Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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 five 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.)