Over the years, I have read hundreds of books on leadership and human development, not counting the self-help and self-improvement ones. In addition, as part of doctoral studies in human development and adult learning, I have perused or read countless scholarly articles with research on the topics.

What fascinates me is what it appears we, the audience, are looking for.

It seems as if we are looking for the newest “formula” or the “steps” or “techniques” that will enable us to magically lead effortlessly, communicate flawlessly, form meaningful and fulfilling relationships, and make the changes we say we want to make. We are searching for the secret sauce that we can put in our mental microwave and have instant success with. Key word here is –instant.

Look at the diet industry for example. If you are someone who wants to lose weight and keep it off, and I asked you right now what the steps were to lose weight, would you know what they were? Chances are you pretty much already know what the steps are, and they would include — eat less and exercise more. You probably even know what you need to eat more of and what you need to eat less of or what you need to cut out completely. Most of these newest and latest diet books you read will give you a slightly different twist on the same thing—the thing you already know how to do but keep seeking a different answer for.

Same thing applies for so many things that we keep chasing the newest “how to” or formula.

“How to have better relationships in 3 weeks.”

“How to get fit in 7 days.”

“How to get rich in 90 days.”

“How to be a better…(fill in the blank with whatever you are wanting to do or accomplish.)

In reality, the pursuit is merely a decoy to disguise what we aren’t doing. We aren’t consistently doing the real hard work and practicing what it takes to manifest what we say we want. In other words—we aren’t doing what we already know how to do, but keep looking for a new “how” to avoid the difficult task of actually doing something consistently.

As someone who has spent over two decades helping people make changes in their leadership and their lives, I have this piece of advice to offer from my experience. If you really want to make a change and move the needle in something that is developmental in nature—like having better relationships or being a better leader — stop looking for the newest “steps” and “models” and “techniques”. Instead—start focusing on practicing what you know will move the needle—and practice it consistently until it becomes a habit. There is no “end” state when it comes to our leadership or human development—it is a continuum composed of our actual behaviors or habits.

If you want to have better relationships, for instance, what do you need to consistently practice?

Being more curious rather than judgmental.

Listening intently.

Being present with people and interested in them.

Being empathetic and understanding their perspective.

Doing little things for them and recognizing their contributions.

You could probably come up with a list from what you already know—or you could use some resources to add to the list. But the work is not in finding more “how-to’s”. The work is in actually practicing the things on the list. Regularly. Until they become second nature to you. Until the practices become habits.

As Aristotle said, “Virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions.” In other words, “we are what we repeatedly do.”

What do you need to start practicing more of –-today?