How to Replace Your Vicious Cycles with Positive Ones

I have spent the last three years collecting stories of positive change. Stories that were shared by innovators and influencers that I brought together for The Better Workplace Conference over the 17 years that I led the event.

All of their stories, advice and recommended tools are captured in A Better Place to Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture.

Collectively, these stories show that shifting to a more positive culture at work is not as much about policies, strategies and programs as it is about practices—daily applications that you can start putting in place immediately. Some of these practices are individual ones that we, as leaders, can begin today such as learning how to replace the vicious cycles we get into with resilient ones.

Here is a short excerpt from the book about getting out of vicious cycles:

A funny thing happened when I was completing the book. I was behind schedule and found myself working into my summer vacation with houseguests and family commitments. Rather than putting it aside until a later date, I fell into my typical pattern of trying to meet the deadlines by writing late at night while on vacation.

I work well at night, and this pattern is OK in the short term, but as I carried on for weeks I started to look exhausted, feel sleep-deprived and become very ineffective. My own agenda was creating a “crisis” for my team, who were pushing me to meet the timelines so they could succeed in helping me achieve this agenda! Can you see the vicious cycle here?

I looked in the mirror one morning and said, “Whoa!” Considering what I was writing about made it even more ironic; I needed to follow my own advice and say, “let’s stop, step back and have some breathing room.” The book has been better for the extra time.

We all get caught in vicious cycles. In a class I took with author Patti Digh, she suggested creating our own cycles of resilience, which she calls virtuous circles. This is a great exercise to examine the places you get stuck in vicious downward cycles and to visualize new, more resilience cycles.

During the course, I found myself sketching out one of my own vicious cycles in relation to my health and work style, shown in this diagram. When things in our lives are relatively calm, it is easy to maintain healthy work habits. It’s when a crisis hits that we can find ourselves falling into bad habits, that lead to more bad habits, which can become a vicious cycle.

In my example above, my old habit when the going got tough was to work harder, not smarter. This leads to being exhausted and overwhelmed, which can lead to not getting enough rest, eating poorly and practicing other bad habits, which make me feel worse.

The resilient cycle I sketched out to counteract this now causes me to stop myself when I start falling into these habits, and to consciously practice healthy habits that make me more effective in a lesser amount of time.

What are your vicious cycles? In what ways do you participate in cycles that make you more ineffective as a leader or negatively impact your health? When the going gets tough, are there negative patterns that you fall into? As you answer these questions, take out a blank piece of paper and draw your own vicious cycle.

Once you’ve done this, try turning your vicious cycle around by drawing a resilient cycle for yourself. What healthy work practices can you focus on or develop to create a more effective cycle for yourself?

Creating a culture of continual renewal in your team or organization starts with you. If you want to be more productive and creative at work, renewal and resilience are essential. Developing your own resilient cycles will help to keep you from finding yourself in vicious, downward spirals that often lead to burnout.

Try this practice to start building personal renewal. Share it with your team as one way to start building a culture of team renewal.

This blog describes one of the over fifty practices Deborah shares in her new book A Better Place To Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture. Follow this blog for weekly ideas on new practices to create your “better place to work.”

If you want to delve deeper into these practices, join Deborah’s online course “8 Weeks To A Better Place To Work” starting again October 18/18. Log in every week from the comfort of your office or home and join others, like you, who are engaging in new practices to improve the health and positivity in their workplaces. A complimentary copy of A Better Place To Work will be sent to you as a part of this course. It’s like a book club, with online coaching – fun, informative and hugely practical!

Order your copy of A Better Place To Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture, with reduced prices available for bulk orders for your team and organization.

Deborah Connors

Deborah Connors teaches leaders to radically shift culture so that people can flourish. She is an engaging speaker, storyteller, author and coach.

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