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Breaking Bad: How to Replace Bad Habits with Good Ones

While the NFL’s appearance in political headlines caught our attention this weekend, it’s hard to forget the inspiring athleticism we’ve already witnessed since the season began. For instance, when the Broncos played the Cowboys, I was reminded of the well-deserved attention Cowboys rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott, has earned recently. And the more I learned about his formative years in the game, I couldn’t help but make a connection between his practice philosophy and a much-needed leadership skill in business.

When the NFL describes this phenomenal player, they say, “There’s Dak Prescott and then all the other rookie quarterbacks.” One of many statistics worth mentioning is that Prescott has the NFL record for most consecutive passes without an interception to start a career.

Prescott credits his late mother, Peggy, for his focus on protecting the ball and for giving him a unique perspective toward the game. As a young athlete, when he’d come home after practice and tell his mom he threw an interception, she’d say, “Why are we practicing that?”

Her question stuck with him to this day. Even when practicing against his own team’s defenders, he’ll do anything he can to avoid passing the ball to them. If a defender asks for the ball between drills or when resetting a play, Prescott puts the ball on the ground and rolls it to them. Prescott claims that throwing the ball to the defense in practice is “creating bad habits.”

How do we eliminate bad habits and create good ones?

Prescott no doubt has natural abilities that help him break records but we can all learn something from his purposeful approach on the field. What we can extrapolate from Prescott’s method is that his mother’s question created an awareness, which was followed by replacing bad habits with good ones. By using that awareness to pass exclusively to his offense in practice, he’s less likely to throw the ball to a defender when it comes to game time.

As business leaders, we’re often in the position of quarterback. We’re looking ahead, evaluating the team and making smart decisions based on the competitive factors. What if you have a bad habit like refusing to delegate? By applying Prescott’s philosophy, you could seek awareness by asking yourself, “Why am I practicing that? What is behind my unwillingness to let go?”

Once you’ve explored those questions, look for circumstances where you could be comfortable delegating again. Perhaps with a smaller project, with more explicit instructions, or with someone you especially trust. Not every delegated outcome will be perfect in the beginning, but as you repeat the action, the good habit begins to fill the void your bad habit once occupied.

If you’ve ever been evaluated, consider some of your own bad habits that contribute to lower marks. Whether it’s a common deficit like micromanagement, indecisiveness or refusing to delegate, rather than eliminating them with the finite source of willpower, try replacing them with something good. Your chances for success are much higher and you’ll find you can apply the same Prescott principles to other areas in your work and life.

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