by davidlermy | 5:55 pm


I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t have some desire to do or be better at something. When it comes to betterment, habits come into play. Whether you are shooting basket after basket or chip shot after chipshot or writing, writing, editing, and writing some more, doing something over and over till it becomes habitual is the most effective way to sustainable change. Some scientists say it takes 21 days while others prove it takes over 50 days, but both agree it takes a lengthy time commitment. Here is where M. J. Ryan’s Habit Changers becomes advantageous.

Her book is divided into sections with an alphabetic order from A to W, with topics from Acceptance, Change, Happiness, Perfectionism, Risk Taking, and Worry. (You can tell what captures my attention easily.) Within the A through W divisions, are easy to remember or memorize matras. I will list a few that have already helped me on my quest to grow into the Me I Want to Be!

Acceptance – “This Person is My Teacher”

I needed this in my life because I often come across others who think they can do it better, think charity work is wrong, or cannot believe I would waste my time preaching and teaching the Bible. We will have enemies. We will have others who disagree. We will have confrontations. The key to remember from this idea is that we can learn from anyone. It’s about us and our response, not the other person who we cannot control.

Change – “Build a Bridge to the Future on the Pillars of the Past”

Ryan explains that often when we are ready fro change we feel as if we are standing on one side of the Grand Canyon trying to figure out how to get to the other side. This is when you need to realize that to get to your desired future you build on your learned past strengths one pillar at a time. for me, what I learned working for Staples for years, honing my skills at customer service, actually propelled me ahead of the rest when I went into full time ministry designing welcome points and processes for churches making them more guest friendly. At first, I wondered how my years at Staples would help me be a man of the cloth, so to speak, and yet it was the defining feature that set me above the rest in an area that now is common in churches, although a decade ago, was not.

Happiness – “Change it, Leave it, or Accept it”

When I get fixated on a change I want to make in my life or leadership, I tend to fuss about it till others around me are quietly thinking, “Get on with it then!” Okay, maybe not so quietly. But we all find ourselves there from time to time. To truly be happy, we need to examine our life and decide when we want to change something, when its time to move on, and when we simply need to accept – it is what it is. As she writes in the book, “Acceptance is an act of surrender, the opposite of effort.” When you have truly placed positive effort towards something for a certain length of time with little to no results, acceptance may be the key to your eventual happiness.

Perfectionism – “Feed Forward, Not Back”

Building off the coined term “feed forward” from executive leadership coach and author Marshall Goldsmith, dealing with feedback only is dealing with the past. If it was a past failure, you are reliving it only to fail again, if only in the mind. It’s a no win. But “feed forward” is when you take a failure, realize you are not perfect, and create a path of success built on past failure. We cannot correct the past but we can course correct for the future!

Worry – “Outsource Your Worry”

This has nothing to do with finding someone else to worry for you. That doesn’t help anyone. The concept has to do with taking the things that worry you and finding someone who potentially excels at them or at least can help you move through them and therefore avoid the internal struggle of worry. Ryan explains when we worry we can get stuck in a cycle. When you feel worry, or the spinning coming on, Outsourcing Your Worry, reminds you to reach out and get help. For me, it was about knowing when to take something to the team and not play it so close to the chest. Can it make you look weak? Possibly. Does worry make you look strong? Absolutely not! You never know, you team or friend or whoever you reach out to may have a new found respect for your authenticity.

I give this book 5-stars because I feel like the author, an internationally recognized female leader and executive coach, has zoned in on and simplified a book of resonating truths for anyone to grasp. It’s like having a personal coach to tote around in your backpack or set next to your desk. Further, instead of being a one-time read, it’s a leadership reference to go back to on a weekly basis.

I highly recommend this to those in leadership positions of any kind. If I was to focus on a few types, I would say women in leadership, human resources and development, consultants, and life coaches. I believe the world needs more solid, thriving women leaders and M.J. Ryan will inspire ladies to see if she can do it, so can you! Those in development roles are always looking for books full of pithy teaching principles and this book does not disappoint. Even if you used one phrase at a time for a meeting or staff training, you can literally go for a almost two years! Finally, Consultants and coaches are those who are leading other leaders, and these types need to stay ahead of the leadership curve and be ready with solid advice. Again, Habit Changers doesn’t disappoint, especially as it accesses dozens of other leadership resources and already drills them down into bite-sized principles for the busy leader.

Whether you need a morning jolt of leadership with your morning caffeination or find yourself up against a wall and needing some inspiration, Habit Changers is a book that will keep on giving the gift of leadership for years to come!

Ryan, M. J. Habit Changers: 81 Game-Changing Mantras to Mindfully Realize Your Goals. New York: Crown Business, 2016. 240pp. $22.00.

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