Mel Savage Executive Coaching
The Highly Valued Leader Podcast - Building Your Brand

Episode 20 – Taking Real Action + Creating Habits that Stick!

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Episode 20 - Taking Real Action + Creating Habits that Stick!

Let’s talk about your development plan. New goals? Check. A detailed action plan? Check. But here’s the plot twist: focusing solely on the technical HOW won’t likely land you that sustained success you’re after. Ready for the game changer? It’s time to delve into the WHY and the WHAT.

In this episode, I’m letting you in on the secret sauce to crafting habits that truly stick by giving you a simple model that shows you how to easily change your behaviours for the long term.

Ready to hear how I plugged this model into my Ted Talk and my weight loss journey? Spoiler: It’s been a game-changer. This model is your compass for career development, nailing goals, or mastering new habits across the board.

If you’re looking for a specific freebie or tool mentioned in this podcast, you can visit to access additional free training tools designed to help you become a highly valued leader.

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Disclaimer: Some of the content and information mentioned in this episode might no longer be applicable. This includes references to specific links, courses, or programs. As a result, all the links mentioned will now redirect you to our current website. There, you’ll find up-to-date information, resources, and exciting new content to support your journey. We appreciate your understanding and unwavering support.

Hello there, everyone. How are you? 

We are about, I’m going to say the third week of January now. How’s everyone doing with those New Year’s resolutions? I know. Most people give up or park their New Year’s resolutions in about the first 30 days. So we’re about 20, 25 days in now. How are you doing? So if you’ve already fallen off or given up or parked your New Year’s resolution for now, I don’t want you to fret, my friends. 

This episode is going to help you get started thinking differently about how to take action on something, and really create the motivation to form new habits, or just keep moving forward until you reach your goal. And this isn’t just about New Year’s resolutions, this is about any situation in your career or in your life, where you have a goal that you are chronically not being able to meet. You’re taking action, but you’re giving up. You’re trying to do it but it’s just not sticking. This episode is for you because we’re going to talk about that today. 

I want to start with celebrating a bit this week because my TED Talk came out. I did a TED Talk late last year in December (2019) and my topic was the secret of career happiness. I’ll put a link in the show notes if you want to check that out. I’d love it if you did. I’d love it if you shared it. The point is that the reason I’m talking to you about this is because I was really nervous the entire time. I was nervous to apply because I might not get it. They might reject me. 

It took a ton of work to put the TED Talk together because the idea had to work in 12 to 15 minutes, so I had to be really succinct with my idea. I tend to ramble without notes or without key points that I need to focus on. In fact, right now I’ve got key points because if I’m not, I’m going to ramble. I’m going to make this thing like an hour, and no one’s going to want to listen to it. There was also no teleprompter, there was no screen even available with my key points on it. 

Not only did I have to be succinct in my thoughts, which is harder to do than being able to talk forever, but I had to memorize it. I present it a lot in my corporate job to large rooms, sometimes over 1000 people. I’m not really nervous to present but I’ve always had a podium. I’ve always had my notes or a teleprompter or screen of some kind with my notes on it. I haven’t actually memorized a speech since grade six or something when you had to do public speaking. So I was really nervous to do this. 

I had these ideas in my head about standing up there and totally blanking out. There was a lot going on there. But, you know what made me the most nervous? After it was all done, after I actually had the video, which I just got this week, actually posted it on my social media, and then let all my friends and all my family and all my colleagues and all the people that I used to work with, letting everyone see it. That was nerve-racking. I mean, it’s one thing to get on the stage with people you don’t know and you’re telling this story or sharing this idea, but now everyone gets to see it. That for me was a yikes for sure. But I did it, anyway. 

Then I decided that what people thought was not the most important thing. That took work because my first instinct was like, yikes, I do not want to share this. But then I sat down, and I decided what’s really important here. For me, the important thing is I did this, I pushed myself, I set a goal, and I went after it. And I had to work my brain and my mindset through it every step of the way. Because this entire process was a series of potentially scary moments. I had to push myself through those scary moments and face my fear every single time. 

Sometimes, I had to white-knuckle it. I had to white-knuckle my way through it. But most of the time, I really just sat down and worked through the thoughts in my head, so that I could change my perspective, so I could get excited about it. Because white knuckling anything only lasts so long because you’re fighting against the thoughts in your head. You’re still thinking all those crazy, scary thoughts, I don’t like that person, or this is going to be scary, and I’m going to suck at this. But you’re trying to fight against those thoughts with action. 

That can work for a few moments here and there, but you can’t create sustained momentum by just taking action, by only white-knuckling it. You need to focus on what you’re thinking about the situation if you really want to create that sustained motivation for long-term impact, and really be able to reach your goal. And this process of really managing your mind is something that you do all the way along. This is exactly what we’re going to be talking about today. Because if we really want to start taking action and creating habits that stick, it’s about managing your mindset. 

I’m going to talk about some mindset shifts that you can make, and a process of making those mindset shifts that are really going to help you reach your goal. I’m also going to give you then, on top of the mindset work, some functional tips, and some tactical tips as well, to help you make those habits stick. So some things that you can actually do as well, some actions versus some mindset work. But it does all start with the mind because as I often say, success is 80% mindset. 

If you want to address anything in your career, any pattern that you haven’t been able to address, or anything that keeps coming up in your life or in your career, it needs to start with your head. You can’t act your way through it for sustainable results. If you are someone who has wanted to do something for a while, you have a goal, but you haven’t been able to really experience that consistent, sustained result or maybe you have a chronic development challenge at work that keeps showing up on every single review and you’re getting tired of it, your boss is getting tired of it. 

It could be something that you wanted to do for a long time, but you’re avoiding doing or you’re avoiding trying or it could just be something that you keep trying to fix, but you’re just not getting traction. If any of those things are happening, then this is the episode for you. Because we’re going to be talking about identifying and how to break those patterns and some tools to really make that work for you. 

I want to start with the idea of habits. Habits are really about breaking patterns. It’s about recognizing and then breaking patterns. Because our brains love patterns and the longer we’ve been doing the same thing over and over, the deeper the groove in our brains. So we have to work really, really hard to not only break a particular pattern but to create new ones, and those that work happen in your head. You’ve been building patterns for years in your brain behind the scenes. 

Whether they started when you were a kid, or with work or whatever you’ve been doing, your personality, things you’ve never addressed, whatever it is, those patterns are embedded. And those patterns that you have in your head are based on your thoughts. You may have heard me talk about this before, but I’m going to actually take you through a little bit of the process today, your thoughts drive how you feel, and your feelings drive your actions, your actions drive results. 

This model, which I have adopted from one of my teachers, Brooke Castillo, you should look her up, she’s awesome. This model is something that I have embedded into my membership program and my coaching style, always working through what your thoughts are, how they drive your feelings, how those feelings drive actions and drive results, and what are those unintentional ways that you’re working through the model? So we’re in unconscious, unintentional ways and what are the intentional ways that you actually want to think and feel an act? 

So to go forward, like I said, and just try to change your actions, without changing your thoughts, it’s going to be tough. It’s not going to help you reach your goal, you’re going to be white-knuckling and struggling the whole time, and the first day that you feel weak or stressed or caught off guard, you’re going to fall off the wagon. It’s just like anything else when you’re addressing the symptoms, but not the core problem at work. Think of anything, I can’t think of anything off the top of my head. 

But at work, when we’re addressing the symptoms of this issue, we’re not addressing the core problem. That’s exactly the same thing when you’re trying to fix or change a pattern through action and not with your mind, with your thoughts. You’re addressing the symptoms, but you’re not addressing where the problem is. It all starts in your head. I know that can be intimidating to some people because they don’t want to get in their heads. Or they think, yeah, yeah, I know, I can handle it, I’m in my head, I can think about it, and I’ll work it out in my head. 

But your head is where the problem is. So if you try to work things out in your head, it’s going to be really tough. You got to get those thoughts out of your head so you need to write them down. If you’re someone who just avoids journaling, I got to tell you this, because I’ve avoided it for years. The reason you are avoiding journaling is very often because you don’t want to see what you’re thinking. 

So that might be the very first thing, the very first pattern that you want to break, because journaling, and getting those thoughts out of your head even if it’s not in the same book, I don’t care if it’s on a scrap piece of paper, as you’re thinking about it, it’s really important to get those thoughts out of your head. 

To talk a little bit about how to do this effectively, I’m going to use a journey that I’m struggling with right now. It’s not about work. This is a personal journey. It is my weight loss journey. And what I’m going to talk about today works for everything. It definitely works for work. We’ll talk about work examples as we go through this. But the journey that I want to share with you is about my weight loss journey.

I am about 50 pounds overweight, give or take, where I’m at on the day. My pattern is that I have lost and gained that weight all my life. I’ve gained the 50, I’ve lost the 50, I’ve gained the 50, I’ve lost the 50. That is my pattern. Right now I’m on the high end. I am 50 pounds overweight. And this year, I’m turning 50 and I’ve got 50 pounds to lose. As an ex-marketer, this is too perfect. It’s a perfect match. 50 for 50. To lose 50 pounds by the time I turned 50. Sounds great. And it is great. I’m being tongue-in-cheek here but that is now my goal. 50 pounds by the time I’m 50. 

Honestly, it’s time to do something about it. I’m not getting any younger. Carrying an extra 50 pounds is not going to help me and losing this weight is going to be good for my health and my long-term sustained strong healthy lifestyle thing. So I want to lose this weight. So I have this goal to lose 50 pounds by 50 and keep it off for one year. That’s my goal. My pattern, as I said, is that I lose this weight and then I gain it on and off. So this time, it’s coming off and it’s staying off. 

The first thing for you is to think about what your pattern is that you want to tackle and I have a ton of patterns that I could talk about. This is what I’m dealing with right now so I’m talking about this one. What’s yours? It might be overworking yourself to burnout. That’s another one that I do. Overworking myself to burnout. Why? Yours might be that you don’t set boundaries for yourself and so you become a big people pleaser until you get resentful about it. That could be a pattern. 

Your pattern could be not dealing with your feelings or frustrations at work and so you turn to gossiping and complaining openly in the office. Or maybe you have a goal that you’re just not reaching. A goal that you set for yourself. Maybe it’s a promotion, maybe it’s a certain development area. A goal that you’re setting for yourself, but you’re not reaching it. So think about what your pattern is that you want to work on. Once you identify the pattern, ask yourself, what do you believe about this pattern that you want to shift? What do you believe about this pattern that you want to shift? 

Back to me. My goal is to lose 50 pounds by 50 and keep it off for a year. What do I believe about this right now? When I talk about beliefs, I want you to know that beliefs are just thoughts that we think a lot. What thoughts do I have about this goal? When you’re doing this for yourself, for your pattern that you’re trying to break, I really recommend a full-on brain dump on this, like, just write out pages of thoughts, pages, and pages of thoughts, write everything down. If you can’t do pages and pages, just get a page in there. 

I’ll just share some random thoughts that I have about my weight loss. I often think to myself, first of all, if I’m so smart as a coach, and I help people work on their minds and overcome all their challenges at work, why can’t I lose this weight? I think I’m such a fraud. We often do that. I feel like a fraud. You don’t feel like a fraud, you think you’re a fraud. Feelings are a different thing. So when I think about this, I’m like, I’m so smart, I can help all these people, why can’t I help myself? Am I a fraud? 

And there it is, in my own words, because I say to myself, if I’m so smart, why can’t I lose this weight? I’m a fraud. Those are things I’m telling myself. But there are lots of other thoughts in there, too, like, I’ve never been able to do it before, I’m not strong enough, my body isn’t built this way, I just love food too much, I’m genetically overweight, I’ve been overweight all my life, this is who I am. Then there comes all the thoughts about working right out when I think about exercising. 

The pain that comes with working out. Oh my god, I have to go through this all over again. The feeling in my lungs when I’m running, the pain in my body when I’m doing strength training, the feeling of deprivation or hunger when I’m ‘depriving’ myself of eating all the stuff that I want. It’s like this FOMO thing. I don’t want to miss out. It’s Taco Tuesday, I have to have a taco on Taco Tuesday. There’s never going to be another Tuesday again. I have to have it. 

So why can’t I lose this weight? And you just want to go to download all these beliefs and thoughts that you have about whatever it is the pattern is that you’re trying to resolve. So why do you people please? Why do you have a hard time setting boundaries? What is coming up for you? What thoughts do you have about it? Why do you avoid building a certain relationship with someone at work? Why are you intimidated by them? Why do you feel competitive with them, for instance? What makes you overwork until burnout? What thoughts do you have that drive your sense of a need to overwork? 

Write down all your thoughts, download all those thoughts, and then I want you to pick a main one. It really has to be one. Don’t create compound sentences like, I think this because of this other thought, or try to avoid and or because. Just one single thought. Be really singular. When I boiled down my thoughts for my weight loss, I had thoughts like, I don’t believe that I can lose the weight, not permanently. I’ve been overweight all my life and I say to myself, I can’t do this long term. That’s the thought that I’m going to use. I can’t do this long term. 

Because really, I know I can do it. I’ve done it, but I can’t do it long-term. By thinking that thought, I can’t do this long term, what feeling do you think that thought generates in me? What feeling comes out of a thought like that? For me, it’s apathy. I get really apathetic, somewhere down the line because I’m not changing my thoughts. I’m white-knuckling it. At some point, I get really apathetic about the whole process. It’s not going to change so why bother? That’s where the feeling of apathy comes in. I can’t do this long term, I feel apathetic about it. 

When I feel apathetic, what actions do you think apathy creates? I’ll tell you right now. That taco, it’s Tuesday, just this one time, and then maybe I’ll have a glass of wine with that taco. I worked really late last night, I deserve this. Or I worked really late last night, I’m so tired, I didn’t sleep well, I’m going to skip my workout this morning. It’s snowing outside, I don’t want to run in the cold. I find all kinds of ways to sabotage my potential for success. Because really, I don’t believe I can do this long term. I feel pretty apathetic about it. 

So when I start to sabotage my own success with these actions, what kind of results do you think I get? I don’t lose the weight or I gain the weight back. I get the results that ultimately reinforce my belief that I can’t do this long term. I’m creating the cycle for myself. I don’t believe I can do it long-term. That’s my thought so I create the feeling and the actions that actually perpetuate that thought. I can white-knuckle this, and fight against this thought process for a bit, just like we do in the month of January when we all set New Year’s resolutions and we think we can handle it. 

But we generally fall off because we haven’t really changed our mindset. I might lose 20 or 30 pounds before things start getting wobbly. I’m really good at white-knuckling. But at about the 30-pound mark, I started to fall off. I get wobbly a bit. If I really want to break this pattern, I need to change my approach. I need to really get into my head and figure out what I want to think differently than I can’t do this long term. That thought is not serving me. 

The very first thing is when I do this unintentional model of my thought being, I can’t do this long term, I feel apathetic about it, I start to sabotage myself by eating tacos and not working out, etc. And my result is I don’t lose the weight I want or I gain the weight back. That’s my unintentional cycle. I need to first accept myself. I need to accept myself for that cycle and not beat myself up over it. Because when I beat myself up, it just creates a whole load of new thoughts about me not being good enough. I need to accept this is the pattern. 

I’m proud of myself for recognizing the pattern. I accept that this is the way that I currently think about myself. And I accept that this is not something that I can change overnight. Then what I want to do is I want to create a new, intentional belief system that I need to practice. Just because I say I’m going to believe it doesn’t mean I need to keep looking at that in reinforcing things to me. So I need new things to believe. I’m strong enough and capable enough to lose this weight, or discomfort means I’m creating my change. 

I want to feel my feelings because they enrich my life. So I need to think through and find a belief that resonates with me, that’s going to help me stay focused on losing weight. For me, honestly, it’s about the fact that I know that I can do anything I set my mind to. I can do anything. That’s my overarching belief. Some days, I need to work through different things. Some days, I don’t feel like working out because I’m afraid of yesterday’s run which was hard and cold, etc. 

I need to get into that I always feel better after I run. Or this is going to be so great for me. I love running, it feels fantastic. Do it. I need to change my perspective. Right in that moment, I need to model out whatever I’m feeling in that moment. So this isn’t just going to be one belief. These might be things that you have to work on as you go along. Just like in the TED Talk process that I talked about. 

I had to work through my thoughts around applying for the TED, writing the speech, which I wrote like 100 times, getting the coaching on the speech, memorizing it, getting on the stage, and sharing it with my friends. There were all these different aspects of that journey that I had to work through. It wasn’t one thought that carried me through the whole thing, I had to keep working through it. 

First, accept that I am the way that I am. Next, take action by choosing something new to believe in and really figuring that out every day as I go along. Then, the third thing is, I would say, I’m getting help. I don’t need to do this alone. Journaling my thoughts every day really helps. I’m journaling my thoughts and feelings every day and that’s something, like I said, I call the Self Reset Model. It’s something that I adopted and learned from Brooke Castillo, she is amazing, and this woman has changed my life. 

The process I took you through today is how I work the model all the time. That model is embedded in all my coaching processes and all of the content in my membership group. We’re always modeling out our thoughts, feelings, actions, results. In that way, I am helping myself by constantly journaling. The other thing I’m doing is, I have a coach. I have a mindset coach for weight loss that I am using to help me work through things because coaches need coaches, what can I tell you? 

We’re not perfect. The whole idea is that we’re always trying to get better. And having a mentor and a coach is a great way to help me work through my thoughts when I don’t see the things that I need to see that are right in front of me. So it’s important. 

You’ll notice the first three things I just took you through have nothing to do with exercise or food choices. It’s about accepting myself, choosing what to believe, and getting help. Then, in terms of the more action-oriented things that you can do, it’s about consistency and something I call habit stacking. So creating new habits. For me, there are a couple of books that really helped me with this. The first one is The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. I’m sure many of you have read it. If you haven’t, get this book. 

It’s really about setting yourself up for success at the beginning of the day, in terms of how you get your mind engaged, and your body engaged in your self-care rituals, essentially at the beginning of the day. Start your day with intention, with self-care, get your mind in the game, and get your body in the game at the beginning of the day. 

If you’re not a morning person, I definitely recommend picking up this book, The Miracle Morning, just try it. It really changed my mindset at the beginning of every day. It’s a huge benefit. It’s like starting a race, but you’re 200 meters ahead of everyone else and you’re starting at the starting gate. It just sets you up for your whole day. 

The other thing I talked about was habit stacking. I call it that because James Clear calls it that in his book called, Atomic Habits. It’s a really great book. There’s a lot of great content in there about creating habits. I just want to talk about habit stacking and rewarding. Habit stacking, if you’ve never heard this term before, is when you want to create a new habit, and you stack it on top of a habit that already exists. For instance, every morning, after I work out, I put the coffee on. 

And when I have my first cup of coffee, what I’m trying to do is take vitamins. So I take iron and then I take a multivitamin for seasoned women, let’s call it that. I’m not great. I haven’t been historically great at taking my vitamins. But now that I’m habit-stacking, I’ve been taking my vitamins for two months straight and it’s easy peasy. It’s interesting, too, because if there’s a morning when my husband wakes up early, he does not wake up early very often, but if he does, and he brings me my coffee, I forget to take my vitamin. 

So it’s important to stack on habits that are fairly consistent. Sometimes I catch myself later in the day going, oops, I didn’t take my vitamins. Habit stacking is a really great thing. And the other thing is reward. When you reward yourself for creating the new habit, your mind wants to actually do this new action, this new habit because it knows it’s going to get a reward. The way I reward myself is something I call a brag book. And again, it’s something that I do with my members in my membership group. 

Essentially, it’s a separate journal that I have that every day I just write, I just brag about myself and all the awesome things that I do in a day. It doesn’t matter how big or small they are. They could be, maybe I ate clean, maybe I worked out, maybe I got up in time to watch the sunrise, maybe I did something nice for my husband. Whatever it is, I write it down and brag about myself. Something that happened with my work, I got a new client, I got a new member, whatever it is, it’s all in my brag book. 

Then the fourth thing is small steps. I’m not going to lose 50 pounds overnight, I’m going to lose it one ounce at a time. I’m going to have to work my mindset on every pound I lose. It’s going to get easier as I go, every workout that I don’t feel like doing. It’s one day at a time thing. Even with the TED talk, I knew I had to get on stage but I didn’t worry about the stage until I had my script. I didn’t worry about memorizing. I didn’t even think about the difficulty in memorizing my script until I had a script I felt like memorizing. 

So one step at a time, don’t overwhelm yourself. Start small. So for me, I’m exercising about six days a week. But I’m not trying to overwhelm myself. I used to run 10k a day and then after that, I would do my strength training. That’s how fit I used to be on my little pattern journey. But I’m not starting there. Sometimes it could just be a walk, sometimes it’s jogging, sometimes it’s cycling, sometimes it’s my interval training. And right now I’m on a half an hour a day. 

Bike rides are usually a little longer, but half an hour a day. As I get stronger at running, I’m going to start to run longer and my interval training will become tougher. Ultimately, I might stack my interval training after my run, but I’m not starting there. Same with food, I’m keeping it really simple at first. I’m keeping my repertoire of food small, really simple. All my dinners are going to be similar. All my breakfast and lunches are really similar. And I’m going to start adding things into my repertoire a little bit at a time. 

For me, if I know that I feel like I have to make something different every night and start from scratch all the time and try to figure out what makes sense to eat, it’s going to be really hard for me to stay on top of my meal planning. I have a lot going on. Everyone does. So I walk before I run, I have five things I make for dinner, I’m going to stick to those five things, and I might add something every couple of weeks into the repertoire. That works for me. That is working for me right now. 

The other thing in terms of food and this is something I learned from a lady called Corinne Crabtree, who has a podcast called, Losing 100 Pounds and she actually is also a student of Brooke Castillo, and she’s amazing. Totally different than Brooke Castillo. She’s southern, she’s fun, she’s swearing and cussing every other word. This woman has got an attitude but she said something that I really use a lot, which is ‘exception meals’

They’re not cheats, because cheating, again, is a connotation on your mind. They’re called exception meals. So once a week, my husband and I go out for an exceptional meal. It’s not an exception day, it’s not an exception weekend, it’s an exception meal where I can eat anything I want at that meal. Have a beer, eat cake, have some nachos. Awesome. 

Those are the things that I’m doing. Accept me, choose something new to believe, get help, really focus on your mindset, and then consistency and habit stacking and just take small steps. Don’t try to do it all overnight. I’ve been practicing on this journey for only three weeks. I feel great, I don’t feel mentally tired at all, I don’t feel like I’m white-knuckling it, and I actually feel stronger than ever. Obviously, these are day-to-day things, but I know that I can do this because I can do anything I set my mind to. 

I capture my wins in my brag book, I work out my model all the time for all different kinds of things, and every day, I try to get as mentally strong as I possibly can. I start my day with spiritual, mental, and physical wellness. I get up now at six o’clock in the morning. I’m going to try and get up earlier at five but I’m working my way there one step at a time because we’re all on a journey. 

That’s it, my friends. Those are the keys to taking action and creating habits that stick. If you liked this content, I would love for you to subscribe to the podcast. You can do that at Leave me comments, give me a thumbs up, and let me know what you’re thinking. I love doing this podcast and I love putting it out there for you. And if you would like to talk to me or work with me, just send me a note. I would love to chat with you. Thank you so much, my friends. 

Next week, I actually am excited because I’m talking to an old colleague of mine, who runs her own branding agency. We’re going to be talking about how to brand yourself in your career and in your current job. I love this episode, I can’t wait to bring it to you. Her name is Julie Hamilton. She is a rock star. I’ll be sharing that podcast with you next week. 

In the meantime, I highly encourage you to figure out what pattern you want to break, and then start your self reset. If you need any help, reach out. I’ll help you with your model, no problem. Thanks so much. Talk to you next week. Bye for now.



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I have 20+ years working as a leader in the corporate world. I know what you need to do. And I combine that with four years of training as a cognitive behavioral coach. I know how to help you naturally think like the leader you want to be.
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