The 3 Components of Personal Change

I just can’t resist using these pictures I took near our Colorado home, because every single time I see this scene I wonder this:

Do I do anything over and over that fails to generate a positive result?


On the left we see a driveway overrun with weeds, and a small formerly attached garage in the background. I say “formerly” because the house it was attached to burned down three years ago.

On the right we see several issues of the weekend Denver Post, tossed there by a delivery person week after week even though the house at this address burned down three years ago!

Seriously? The route guy or gal hasn’t noticed that these papers aren’t getting picked up, much less read?!?

Would you agree that it’s unproductive to engage in repetitious actions expecting a new and better result?

If you or I engaged in a negative behavior over and over, it’d be called a “bad habit.” Good thing we don’t, eh?

Actually, at 55, I still do some things I know won’t bring me a positive result. But, I’m making progress on creating change in me.

I’m working on breaking a bad habit or two. How about you?

There are three components of personal change, and each is as critical as a leg on a three-legged milking stool. Here they are, along with the correct “self-talk” of each:

Awareness: I know I engage in this bad habit and I admit it isn’t working for me or those around me.

Accountability: I own everything I do and make no defense of or excuse for my bad habit.

Action: I realize trying and failing is better than never having tried at all. I will act now to eliminate my bad habit.

Here’s a bad habit I am working on. (We’ll be asking you to share shortly!)

I am AWARE that I am extremely “clock” oriented and almost always know what time it is. I have a strong sense of how long something—in my humble opinion—should take from start and finish. Karen, my wife since 1980, is more carefree about time and much more spontaneous than I am. For her, there’s always one more thing that can be squeezed in that, of course, “won’t take very long.”

So when she’s been out and about and returns later than the clock in my head said she would, I’ve had the bad habit of asking, “Where’ve you been?” and “What’ve you been doing?”

How do you think those questions go over?

Not well. And I am completely ACCOUNTABLE for asking them. No excuses! And I know they have never reaped positive results.

What ACTION do I need to take? By subordinating my “need to know” to Karen’s need for me to not need to know, I can and I will ZIP. MY. LIP. Said another way, I commit to stop throwing newspapers on the road even though nobody has picked one up in three years!

Awareness. Accountability. Action. Meld them together and what do you have?


And change is a good thing, at least in me. How about you?

  • What is one bad habit of yours that you are AWARE of?

  • Are you ACCOUNTABLE for this bad habit, or have you defended it or made excuses for it? Be honest.

  • What ACTION will you take now to create personal change in your life?

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68 Responses

  1. I have a bad habit of saying “Yeah, sounds like a great idea!” when people say “Let’s do lunch!” even though I know I’ll probably not choose to make the time for it. I should just be more honest in the moment about the realities of my schedule!

  2. I have a bad habit of sometimes not being as careful with my words as I should be when I am tired or overwhelmed. I do apologize when this happens, and I always make sure that an apology is not followed up with any excuses. I need to take action to find a better way to temper my words in these situation.

  3. I have a bad habit of procrastinating on items/projects/things-to-do that really don’t take that long. Anticipating a longer/tougher/more boring than actual, these stack up. I need to be proactive..that is, take action 1st time it comes up – then it’s gone .. rather than stacking up project-upon-project-upon-project-upon-job-upon-???

    So first things first – go online (facebook, twitter, et. al.) no more than 2 or 3 times per day which is my diversion.

  4. My bad habit is procrastinating disguised as multi-tasking. When there is something I don’t want to do, I’ll not only put it off, I’ll do 3-4 things at a time in order to not do that 1 thing.
    My resolution: stop the multi-tasking, and stay on point. The brain isn’t capable of completely engaging in more than 1 thing at a time. Really.
    -Remember the conversation you had with your spouse when you were watching TV? Remember it all????
    -In that last meeting, were you distracted at all? You got the action items, right?

    Fully engage. It’s worth it!

  5. I have a bad habit of over-explaining myself. This is frustrating for people who are not talkers or verbal processors. I will try to share the short story rather than the long story.

  6. I have a bad habit of spell checking everything I read. I will give that up after I note that you’ve misspelled “receive” in the raffle header 🙂

  7. As a mother, I have a nasty habit of diguising “do it my way,” with “raising my daughter.” I will tell her what to do to solve relationship problems with other kids; after all, I’m an adult-expert (and she’s ONLY 5)…or so I tell myself. Recently, we had a discussion about bullying since she’s just started kindergarten.

    Luckily (or unluckily for her), she got to put her anti-bullying prowess to work the very next day. The result? She handled it like we discussed and solved her own problem. She’s capable and ready to take action. So, I am committing to taking a step back so she can learn to solve her own problems…to stop being the overbearing momma bear!

  8. John, such a simple concept but so well put by you. Thank you. I have habits that I am happy with. I’m not saying they’re good habits. But they don’t cause me grief. When they cause grief to us or others, it’s when its time to change it. I know my kids would say there are things I need to change about myself. Maybe I’ll take a written, anonymous poll tonight ha!

  9. I have a bad habit of becoming grumpy with my family when my glucose drops. I know I do it and I know when my glucose is going to drop, yet I continue to do so. Just like John said, I need to stop throwing my papers on them and make a change now! I need to be accountable to myself and change my behavior to 1) take action to keep my glucose where it needs to be and 2) not penalize my family for my condition.

  10. Thank you John, as always, you’ve got some great insights!

    Awareness, Accountability and Action – works well with my men’s accountability group as well.

    QBQ is a great way to help inspire responsible actions and behaviors. Hope the winner enjoys it!


  11. Thanks for creating another thoughtful dialog. I have historically had a bad habit of attacking an individual personally about issues they present in which I disagree, instead of providing constructive feedback to counter their proposition. It was easier to attack than take the time to construct a thoughtful argument. I was successful in using this technique and was rewarded with support from those standing behind me, rarely with me. Most often these were issues that threatened my organization so I felt justified in expressing my outrage.
    I believe, I have improved in recent years and either refrain from commenting or take the time to develop a more thoughtful response. I seem to be part of more groups that share my sentiment these days and collectively find a way to make an impact.
    You challenged me to think about my habits and what I have changed and it provided me some motivation to continue to find ways to improve. It is often much harder to look at oneself in a mirror than to look at someone else.

  12. I have a bad habit of hanging on to hurts. I know that I do it because I bring them up again long after an incident has passed. I need to learn to let it go once it is over. I cannot change history so I need to learn from it. I need to listen to myself and hear the hurtfulness in my words and stop them at that moment. Thank you for your guidance and your encouragement that change can happen….even in me!

  13. I have a bad habit of talking over people. Even though it was the style of my family growing up, I own it as an adult. I have to work very hard to not do it, which is especially hard if I think my awesome input will be missed out on. Its not good at home or in business to be a dominator.

  14. I have a bad habit of interrupting people, especially when I am looking for quick answer to my question. I need to focus and listen to the person.

  15. I have a number of bad habits that I am slowly trying to overcome through personal accountability (thanks to the QBQ emails and Parenting the QBQ Way!) . One bad habit I am really working on is telling my 3 year old to “Hurry up!” I get in a rush to get him to daycare or to eat his dinner or to brush his teeth and believe he should operate on my schedule driven timetable. I have to constantly remind myself that it is my job to give him more time to do things at his pace. Does taking 2 minutes to brush his teeth and learn to do a good job at it really need to be rushed? Does he need to be told to “hurry up” and put on his shoes so we can leave when he is teaching himself to be independent and velcro them himself? Am I setting him up to cut corners in order to “hurry up” and get things done even if it means he only does them halfway? I try to remind myself that if I discontinue rushing him, he will be free to teach himself to do things the right way the first time and be a more accountable and independent person – not to mention he will enjoy the little things that as an adult, I fear I take for granted.

  16. I tend to “do email” first thing in the morning, and I have read that this is an unproductive use of the early parts of the day, so I will begin waiting until later in the morning…

    One thought re the paper delivery person…if he/she delivers early in the morning it may be dark and he/she cannot see either the house missing nor the papers accumulating on the ground…he/she may be going off a list – perhaps the address will be dropped when payment ceases to come in!


  17. My bad habit is not listening or paying attention when my husband talks and getting impatient when he goes on and on. He is a verbal processor, likes to talk, and has to say every single thing that comes to his mind. I am definitely accountable for this bad habit. I commit to stopping what I’m doing to listen to him. I also commit to talking with him about the things he shares with me and ask him to focus on positive things.

  18. The one habit I am working to correct and/or eliminate is being sarcastic in answering questions when people ask questions I truly believe they should know the answer to.

  19. I have a few bad habits. Sometimes I am not quick into making decisions that need to be made. And sometimes I have a hard time making the right decision when it is needed. I let little things slide, but sometimes they turn out for the worse at work. I’ve been trying to become more proactive with my decision making, but sometimes my own weakness gets the best of me. Maybe it’s that “laissez faire” mentality I have that holds me back. Need to work on that!

  20. I tend to over analyze what I am writing to others. I waste too much time trying to figure out how to persuade the other person without being pushy. I need to learn how to be succinct and quicker.

  21. i find it really easy to procrastinate. it seems that i always have time to do things “tomorrow”. its really hard for me sometimes to just get things done when they come up instead of waiting till “later”!

  22. I try to counter what people say with an opposing view. Much like your commenting about how your wife took longer than it should have taken, I mention how the situation could be different than what it appears to my wife or others. This doesn’t always go over well.

  23. What is one bad habit of yours that you are AWARE of? I like food a bit too much and thus am over weight.

    Are you ACCOUNTABLE for this bad habit, or have you defended it or made excuses for it? Be honest. Yes and No. I recently completed an 8 week challenge. I did very well. I moved from 15th place to 5th place. Once the challenge was over, I stopped recording healthy habits–I exercises less frequently and began eating sweet foods more than once a week. Without the daily accountability of the challenge, I slipped back into over eating. .

    What ACTION will you take now to create personal change in your life? I will start a personal challenge where I am accountable to myself on a daily basis. I will remove the weight element and focus on being healthy. As long as I am regularly exercising, drinking plenty of water, and eating at least 2 fruits and 3 vegetables, I will count it a successful day. I find that I am less likely to eat too many carbohydrates when I daily record theses positive behaviors.

  24. What is one bad habit of yours that you are AWARE of?
    In my attempt to be completely honest in my relationship with my husband – I find that I can easily crush his spirit.
    Are you ACCOUNTABLE for this bad habit, or have you defended it or made excuses for it? Be honest. I defend my habit because of my own low self esteem – I am too easily hurt when he fails to reciprocate by giving birthday and gifts for other occasions (Christmas). His rationale is that he doesn’t knwo what I would like.
    What ACTION will you take now to create personal change in your life?
    I’m willing to stop measuring his love for me based on his inability to shop. We have a wonderful relationship – I need to stop grabbing the old habit of feeling sorry for myself and just get busy helping us create wonderful memories around special occasions.
    I’ve been a fan for years – read all of your books. Keep giving the world the straight talk that it needs.

    1. Sue – i also have a husband with an “inability to shop” so for the last five years I have given him a list of items he can choose from for my November birthday and Christmas. This way I always get “just what I wanted.”

  25. Hi! John –
    I’m a big fan of the QBQ! Your book was required reading for all team members at my previous place of employment.
    I have a “fixing habit”. I have a tendency to get involved with helping everyone solve their problems – at work, at home, for family members, for friends, for my son;s friends, co-workers…and the list goes on. On the surface, this may not seem like a bad habit; what it does though (as I was recently informed by the blackjack dealer at a church festival who evidently doubles as a psychic medium) is messes with everyone’s karma. My interference keeps these people from learning first-hand the results of their decisions (responsibility & accountability). So now, when I’m approached for assistance, my new QBQ is, “What do you think you should do?”
    Melinda: Wow, do I ever need to work on being more succinct – When my boss’s eyes glaze over, I can tell I’m “describing the entire pregnancy, when all he needs to know about is the birth” (as he so eloquently puts it!) He says, “Nancy, just give me the baby!”
    Rick H.: Living with two dyslexic individuals, who ask really simple questions when the answers seem so obvious, but they truly need the answer in order to process whatever it is they’re working out.

    OK! Done! Thanks, John, for QBQ!

  26. Bad habit of speaking too soon in conversation, cutting other people off because I am afraid I will forget what I want to say. Where do you find the lip zippers you mentioned?

  27. When I went through the drive thru of a popular fast food restaurant last weekend the worker asked if I needed salt or Ketchup. I said Ketchup and counted 14 packets in my bag for one bag of fries. Think what this cost the company.

  28. I tend to finish other people’s sentences, which has created other habits of interrupting and not truly listening. I know it. I own it. I’m working to correct it.

  29. My bad habit is interrupting people. I am very aware and have made some progress in the last 2 years. Always reading your books to help improve myself. Thanks

  30. My bad habit. Putting things off that I don’t like to do and finding everything else under the sun to do instead of that one thing that really must and should be done……..there I said it. I don’t know how many times I’ve had this conversation with myself to just do that which is less appealing first and get it off my plate. Instead I (for reasons I don’t understand) like to twirl it around and around in my head in hopes that it will go away. It never does. I need to just stop the twirling, get the job done! I’m changing today, it only makes sense. Who knows maybe I will get a book out of the deal!!

    1. Susan, when I see a comment here about PROCRASTINATION I make it a point to reply right away!!! Maybe you’ll be come an author! Title it “The One Thing”! Ha! Thanks for sharing!

  31. Gosh, I could just “ditto” several comments already – obviously I have LOTS of habits to get in order! At home, I habitually point out other’s undone chores, while ignoring my own. I’d better start putting away my clean laundry, picking up my unread magazines, & putting away the clean dishes. I’m working on it – lots of room for self-improvement though!

  32. My main problem of bad habits is coming up with a working and good thing to do but not following through. Too many times I forget because of trying to remember too many things. I have begun putting reminders with alerts on my phone which I carry all the time.

  33. My bad habit is being concerned about making mistakes, which results in procrastination. I need to take action and accept that imperfect action is better than none at all. Thanks for your book and blog. They are great.

  34. I am constantly evaluating the actions I take with regards to work and school. Recently I enrolled in a masters program to help further my career…for the first two classes I found myself just trying to do the bare minimum in hopes of a B ..I wound up with a low A for each class , and although very pleased, knew that for my next two classes, I could put forth a much better effort

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