Making Change is Hard, This is Harder

 So most of you who read this blog with any regularity know that I pay fairly close attention to my health.

I try to make healthy food choices. 

I actually enjoy working out.

I value my faith in God and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I love my important relationships: My wife, my family, my team, my customers, my close friends.

At my most recent appointment with my physician, the incredible Dr. James Scelfo, he asked me a number of follow up questions from my previous visit. Here is the one that was the most interesting to me:

“Scott, you have lost about 5 pounds. We had a goal of 10, and 5 is really nice progress. Can you sustain it?”

Provocative Question

Did you catch it?  The good doctor inferred a change in behavior based on the outcome: The loss of 5 pounds. He also questioned if the shift in behavior and habits was one that I could continue. I thought his question was a really good one. He wasn't curious how it did it, but rather if I could sustain it.

Not improve upon it.

Not make it better.

Not lose 2 more.

Sustain it.

Sustain: What an interesting word! Not one that gets too much focus in the world of leadership development. We are always looking to say, "Can you improve? Can you give me a little more? Can you do just a little better? There might be one more promotion out there, if you do this one more thing!"

Dr. Scelfo didn't ask that. He is a really smart dude. He knows that before I can commit to giving him one or two more pounds, the real question is can I keep it up. Can I stay where I am long enough to learn new habits? Learning new habits becomes one of the key elements to sustainability.

What does it mean to sustain?

I was so intrigued by this question. I had to go back to my car and look up the word in the dictionary. I thought I knew what sustain meant and one of the definitions provided was pretty close to my thinking: “To keep going an action or process."

Although, that's not what caught my eye. What was fascinating to me was one of the other definitions given: “To undergo, experience, or suffer (injury, loss, etc;) endure without giving way or yielding.”

To sustain means to recognize that you have undergone a process, had an experience and even suffered and you are enduring without going back to your old ways.


Celebrate Observable Change In Behavior

Personally, I don’t know if there is anything more rewarding than when I observe a client making a change.

I recall a client several years back who, unbeknownst to himself, would interrupt people and finish their sentences for them.  I remember like it was yesterday sitting with him, being in the conversation, and having him cut me off mid-sentence. As he would do it, I would stop him in his tracks and say, "There, you did it again."

In our coaching, he really worked hard on increasing his impulse control and at the same time decreasing his need to feel heard. 

Not easy work. In fact, it's really hard work.

When I did a mini-360 check-in with some of his key relationships they were surprised at the dramatic change he had made. The question the president of the affiliate had for me was, “So coach, do you think he can sustain the change?”

In our coaching, let’s not ever fool ourselves into thinking that just because we are seeing some behavior change, that we are seeing a new habit.

How Coaches Can Help Finish Change

There are times where a coaching relationship just ends too soon or for internal coaches, the behavior change happens and then we move on to whatever is next. All of this in the context of the person has “moved” to a new change behavior.  The question we all have to ask ourselves is have they made the change? Have they obtained sustainability?

Think about a change that you want to make or one you've tried to make. What would your life look like if you made that change? Are the habits for that change sustainable, something you can live with long term?

Next week, I'll share 5 steps you can take to make sustainable changes or coach someone through it. In the meantime, leave us a comment about what sustainable success you've had. How did you do it and what advice would you give others?

And The Winner Is...

Congratulations to Cari Nicholson! Cari won a copy of Jan Tilley’s new book, “Eat Well to Be Well,” from last week's blog contest.

Hey, Cari, check out the Yogurt Marinated Grilled Chicken on p. 103! I made it last night on my smoker. Only 170 calories; 7 gms of fat, and 24 gms of protein. It was KILLER good!

If you want to order a copy of Jan’s book you can find it by clicking here.

If you are saying, “Hey, I didn’t know there was a contest last week!”...

First, here is the link to last week's guest blog from Jan Tilley herself! It's a really good one you don’t want to miss it.

Second, don’t fret. We are going to give away another copy of Jan’s book this week! Just leave us your favorite healthy eating tip, either when you travel or when you are home, and we will draw another winner next week!

The Leadership Paradox

Speaking of the winner.

Do you remember the famous paradox story from Greek mythology of Achilles and the tortoise?

Achilles was a warrior character of great strength and speed. If you want a modern day equivalent, think of Usain Bolt who currently holds the title as the fastest man in the world. The tortoise is, well, you know what a tortoise is: slow, steady, and sure.

Imagine a race between Achilles (or Usain) and the tortoise, a sprint like the 100-yard dash. And to make it interesting, we are going to give the tortoise a 50-yard head start.

Who do you think would cross the 100-yard finish line first? Most of you would say that Achilles would easily catch the tortoise and beat him soundly.

Not so fast, says Parmenides, a pre-Socratic scholar, who philosophized that one's senses can lead to results which are false and deceitful.

Parmenides (and his student Zeno) make the claim that for Achilles to beat the tortoise, he first has to catch up to the animal. These ancient philosophers say this can never happen, and here is why:

Suppose when Achilles starts running, the tortoise is at spot X. When Achilles gets to spot X, then the tortoise is at X2. When Achilles gets to X2 then the tortoise is at X3….hence the ancients say that Achilles will never catch the tortoise and the tortoise wins the race.

The Leadership Lesson

What is wrong with the above paradox? Well, there might be several things wrong (there are some quantum physicists who say there might be more truth to the paradox than we give credit, but their thinking goes beyond my feeble brain).

If we only think about one dimension such as distance, then the logic used by Parmenides and Zeno might be true. But we know that a race is more than distance. We have to consider things like strength, speed, motivation, and mental preparation just to name a few. You can not just use one dimension to determine who is going to win a race.

As we think about what goes into leadership, too many of us pick one dimension and focus only on that one item. But just like the race between Achilles and the tortoise, we have to consider more than distance in order to determine a winner.

For example, many folks I work with equate certain leadership styles to leader effectiveness. Leadership is much more than personality; being an ENTJ on the Myers-Briggs or a high “D” on the DiSK. Leadership is so much more than being able to articulate a vision, or being influential, or even having a servants heart.

Maybe it is time for us to get a much broader view of what it takes to be a leader!

Connection to Wellness

Over the past few weeks, we have dedicated these electrons (we used to call them pages, but that just doesn’t feel right anymore) to the idea of wellness.

How might wellness inform our ideas on leadership? This is a question I have been asking myself a lot lately:

  • Perhaps spurred on by what is going on in the US political arena.
  • Perhaps aroused by some experiences in my past.
  • Instigated potentially by some reading I have been doing.
  • Propelled by some enlightened conversations I have been having.

Likely a combination of these.

WELLNESS the process you go through as a leader to live a meaningful, purposeful, and intentional existence.

WELLNESS as a metric for leadership in addition to personality, vision, integrity, performance.

The next time you have to select a leader in your organization, why not frame your interview around a wellness framework? Stop asking them about past achievements, or at least expand the horizon of your discussion to topics of:

  • How positive and affirming the person is.
  • How they view their mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
  • How does achieving their potential help others achieve what they want out of life?

One of the problems we have in our society is that we think only on one dimension. We use the winning and losing arguments of performance to gauge success. This is not a metric that is going to serve us well in the long run. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-competitive, far from it. But focusing only on performance for performances sake can leave us longing as humans.

We still have as a classic example of this phenomena, “The Stock Market Crash of 1929."  In a nut shell, people thought the performance of the market would always go up. To the average investor, stocks were a sure thing. Performance was all that mattered. As we all know, fraudulent companies were formed and money poured into them. Then on October 24, 1929, panic selling ensued as the realization came that the market was nothing more than an overly speculative and inflated bubble.

Performance is only one metric to be studied.

Even if you do not want to change your paradigm, perhaps we might at least consider things in addition to performance. Perhaps we should look beyond results and start looking at what goes into those results. Focus on quality inputs instead of solely looking at outcomes.

Leadership is a holistic discipline. Don’t get caught living in just one dimension where a tortoise could beat Usain Bolt in a 100-yard dash. This logic is doomed to leave you wanting and spending too much time diagnosing what went wrong in your leadership.

Homework: Reflect for yourself on how you are doing on your wellness journey. Use the questions above to ask yourself what you are doing to live a more successful existence. Grade yourself on your emotional, occupational, physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual health. How are you doing?

4 Factors to a Longer and More Successful Leadership Life

"One of my clients had a profound impact on my life this week. What I heard him say is:

"Scott I realized that I have to take care of me. I am at my best when I am taking care of myself. I decided that I am going to do yoga when I get up in the morning, and I am going to exercise at noon. I am going to be conscious of my diet and make good choices about what goes into my body."

When I probed for the reason, he continued,

"There has been a lot of negativity in my life recently, and I am just not going to allow it to get me down any longer. I am going to choose the leader I want to be and not be some weak victim of circumstance."

Absolutely Profound.

Choosing positive self-care over a negative circumstantial life perspective. Thanks to the courage of this story, this month I am dedicating the blog to the idea of wellness. We will discuss ways that you as a leader can take a positive self-care position, rather than be a victim of any negative circumstance.

Businessman holding two papers with happy and angry face each on them

According to the National Wellness Institute, wellness is "an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence."

Four things to notice about wellness:

  • It is an active process. It is something you devote energy to making happen. It is intentional on your part as a leader.
  • It starts with self-awareness. Are you aware of the moment when health choices present themselves?
  • Wellness is a choice. You decide to be well in the moment, or say screw it and become a victim of your circumstance.
  • There is an end game. A successful existence. This is your life. You only get one. Why not make it the very best that it can be?

The National Wellness Institute describes six different dimensions for us to consider as we examine our own wellbeing:

  • Emotional
  • Occupational
  • Physical
  • Social
  • Intellectual
  • Spiritual

This week I want to focus on your Emotional Wellbeing as a leader.

The Story

One of my favorite authors is Martin Seligman. As a past president of the American Psychological Association, he has the credibility from a research standpoint that is really meaningful for me. In addition, Martin is a gifted storyteller who can weave a story together and then bring home a point that has real impact and causes me to pause and examine my own life.

One of my favorite stories that Martin tells is in his book Authentic Happiness. He details the stories of two of 180 nuns who are the subjects of an impactful and noteworthy study on longevity and happiness. If you want all the details, you really need to get the book, it is a great read. Here is the bottom line:

  • 90% of the most cheerful 25% of the nuns was alive at age 85 vs. only 34% of the least cheerful 25%.
  • 54% of the most cheerful quarter was alive at age 94, as opposed to only 11% of the least cheerful.

Studies of longevity are admittedly dicey and very complex from a pure science standpoint. Causality is extremely difficult to make a case for. However, one of the reasons this study is so impactful is that nuns lead very similar life. They eat similar food, they don’t smoke or drink alcohol, they have similar routines. Sure there are some other differences that could account for the results:

  • Different levels of intellect
  • Different depths of spirituality
  • Different outlooks on the future

However, none of these in the research made any difference. The thing that Seligman points out that made a difference in the longevity of the nuns was the amount of positive feelings expressed.

If longevity is at least one measure of a successful existence, then the positive outlook you have on life matters!

Happiness and Emotional Intelligence

In the Emotional Intelligence training that I do as a part of my consulting, one of the attributes we measure is that of Happiness or Wellbeing. In the model we use there are four factors that comprise Wellbeing:

  • Self-Regard: Believing in yourself and living according to your values.
  • Self-Actualization: A willingness to learn and grow in accordance with your values.
  • Interpersonal Relationships: Engaging in mutually satisfying relationships.
  • Optimism: The ability to respond, recover, and claim a happy state from disappointments and setbacks in life

There are two important considerations as you evaluate your own level of well-being.

The first is that you display as much of these four attributes as you can. Believe in yourself and live according to your values. Learn and grow in areas that really matter to you. Have friends and ensure that there is reciprocity. Realize that things are not always going to go your way. It isn’t if you are going to have a setback in life it is when. What counts is how you respond.

The second is that you have balance between these attributes. For example, you want to make sure that your self-regard is balanced with your interpersonal relationships. If you have a high level of self-regard and low levels of interpersonal relationships, you could come across as prideful and in it for yourself. If you have low levels of self-regard and high interpersonal relationships, then you could come across as needy and not fun to be around.

As you think about the successful life you want to live as a leader, are you choosing to maximize and balance these 4 attributes of emotional health?


Rate yourself on a scale from one (low) to 10 (high) on each of the 4 attributes of well-being. Are you maximizing each attribute? Are all four of the attributes in balance with each other? As you reflect on these, what changes would you need to make to live a long and successful life?

Eating Healthy While Traveling

[guestpost]Jan Tilley is the President and CEO of JTA Wellness, a national leader in nutrition counseling, wellness, and chronic disease management. As a registered dietitian, Jan helps at-risk clients develop a healthy lifestyle to combat chronic health issues. Holding a MS in Nutrition, Jan has over 20 years of experience in the food and nutrition industry. Thank you, Jan, for contributing to the blog today! [/guestpost]

On the Road . . . Again!

Healthy eating on the road can be challenging even for the most seasoned road warrior! Finding healthy food when traveling is not impossible, it simply takes a little preplanning and good ol’ fashioned street smarts to set yourself up for success.

First let’s tackle the basics of healthy balanced eating. It is as simple as 1, 2, 3!

  1. Eat every 3 hours. Our body digests a meal in about 90 minutes so if you are going longer than 3 hours without food you are asking your body to operate on no fuel. Food is the fuel our body uses to keep us energized, focused and productive. Without it we get fatigued, foggy and grumpy.
  2. Carbohydrate + Protein or Healthy Fat. The combination of foods we choose matters greatly! Carbohydrates are our body’s first choice for fuel and are converted quickly to glucose to fuel our brain and muscles. They are digested very quickly and if eaten alone, can cause us to feel dissatisfied and constantly hungry. By adding a protein or healthy fat we slow the digestion of the carbohydrate allowing us to stay feeling fueled and satisfied longer. This combination keeps our blood sugar and our energy to stay stable throughout the day.
  3. Don’t let your hunger get ahead of you! What happens when you allow yourself to get extremely hungry? The tendency is to overeat and make bad food choices. I often see this in my clients who eat very little throughout the day then eat everything in sight at the end of the day attempting to get satisfied. I like to demonstrate this concept using a hunger scale. janguest The goal is to eat within a 3-hour window all day and always balance carbohydrate food choices with either a protein or a healthy fat to stay between a 4 (beginning to have some hunger pangs) and a 6 (satisfied) on the scale at all times.

Practical Tools for the Road

  • Right-size your portions. If you are traveling with a friend or spouse, consider sharing a plate. Usually ½ of a restaurant portion is enough to satisfy if you’ve been fueling all day long.
  • Divide your plate into quarters. Think about what you are planning to order and make sure that ¼ of your plate is protein (i.e. chicken, fish, beef), ¼ is starch (i.e. sweet potato, quinoa, brown rice), and ½ your plate is fruit, non-starchy vegetables and salad. Using this mental exercise will ensure that you are including a variety of nutrients and balancing your meal.
  • Travel days can be difficult. Eating in airports or on road trips can be tricky. Plan ahead to have single-serve healthy, shelf-stable snacks available. Great ideas can be peanut or almond butter packets, nuts, Babybel cheese, Somersaults, jerky, KIND bars, 100-calorie olive packets, light popcorn and pretzels.
  • Limit alcohol. Providing empty calories with little nutritional value, alcohol can decrease your good judgment and drinking in excess can result in poor sleep. Recommendation is 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
  • Focus on choosing anti-inflammatory foods. A common complaint of travelers is the bloating, swelling, uncomfortable feeling that can result from making poor food choices. Choose more vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy and stay away from pro-inflammatory foods such as highly-processed foods (think chips, cookies, pastries), saturated fats (think sausage and ice cream), and sugar.
  • Take your tennis shoes! Hotels have a gym – use it! You will feel energized, revitalized and ready to ‘kill it’ at your next meeting!

Travel and over-indulging don’t have to go hand in hand! For more information on how to make healthy lifestyle changes, visit my website and sign up for our weekly newsletter to receive my motivational blog along with one new healthy recipe a week.

Take charge of your health and refuse to let travel days get in the way of a healthier, happier you!


Plan healthy food options before your next trip. Research some healthy restaurants and pack some healthy snacks. Keep a food journal and see how you do! Comment here and let us know how it goes. I'd love to hear about your experience!