How to Build Healthy Habits

How to Build Healthy Habits

Hi team, Mary here! With 2021 right around the corner, I’m sure some of you are looking ahead to better and brighter days. One of the things I love most about a new year is how excited people get about their new year’s goals! (Notice how I said “goals” and not “resolutions.”) Unfortunately, approximately 80% of people give up on their new year’s goals by February! Hence, why I refuse to call them resolutions.

Creating new year’s resolutions is usually about building healthier habits. One of the most popular is going to the gym regularly. Habits take discipline and dedication to take root in your life, so they become automated. It’s estimated that actions take 21-60 days of repetition to firmly become habits. Usually, these habit-forming resolutions are abandoned, for one reason or another, and forgotten about until the next new year comes along.

I believe creating healthy habits starts with dedication to yourself. You start forming new habits because you know they will be good for you but can become discouraged if you miss a day or multiple days, giving up on the habit creation altogether. When dedicating yourself to making new and healthy habits, you need to employ some empathy for yourself too. Don’t feel discouraged for not being perfect. Instead, feel uplifted and remember why you set out to start creating a new habit in the first place. One of the best ways to start creating new habits is to evaluate the ones you currently have.

Evaluate Current Habits

When you decide it’s time to add new habits into your routine, the first thing you need to do is evaluate your current habits. Some habits are completely automated and perhaps even subconscious (like, biting your nails) while others are intentional (like going to the gym). Subconscious habits are usually harder to spot as they are typically performed while in the subconscious-mode state. Nonetheless, write down and evaluate all your current habits that come to mind. You can add to this list over time as you discover some of the smaller subconscious habits you have. After you have your list, you will want to determine which of those habits are negative influences on you. Do away with negative habits to make room for positive, healthy ones.

Build Healthy Habits

Building healthy habits starts with dedication to yourself and pursuing a better life. It might be helpful for you, when you decide to create a new habit, to write yourself a note to encourage your future self to stick with it! We often forget why we set out to create new habits but reading a letter from your past self could help keep you on the right path. Even if you make a mistake, pick yourself back up and keep trying. The only person you let down by not sticking to better habit development is yourself. Wayne Dyer once said, “You leave old habits behind by starting out with the thought, ‘I release the need for this in my life.’”

Sometimes building new, healthy habits is hard if you don’t know where to start! One of the programs we are part of, ProHabits, makes healthy habit development a breeze. ProHabits sends you a daily MicroAction, either in a text or email, and you focus on performing that small action that day. Each MicroAction takes only 5-10 minutes per day and it corresponds to the habit track you choose. Some examples of tracks they have include leadership, mindfulness, and empowerment. They have a basic program with their stock tracks, but we partnered with them through IA Business Advisors to bring our clients specialized tracks based on The I in Team Series. If you want some help learning where to start with healthy habit development, ProHabits is the place for you. Just ask us how you can sign up!

Make a Routine

Once you know what healthy habits to put in place, you will want to schedule them into your daily routine. If you can fit in these new habits with ones you already have or during a time when you are already doing stuff for yourself (like, getting ready in the morning), you will have an easier time remembering to perform the habit each morning. For example, when I wanted to make the habit of taking my new vitamins every morning, I put my vitamin container next to my contact lens case. Therefore, when I put my contacts in, I would see the vitamins and remember to take them. Consider writing a sticky note to yourself and sticking it somewhere, like your bathroom mirror! Or, if you’re addicted to your phone like many of us are, finding a habit tracking/creating app or using your calendar or reminder app to help you might be your best route!


Habit development isn’t an easy task. It takes time, discipline, and desire to change. With the new year right around the corner, now is the perfect time to start considering your current habits and some goals you have for your future. Keep in mind that you’re only human, and all humans make mistakes. Making a mistake is not a license to throw your entire habit development plan out the window. Instead, show yourself some kindness and keep moving forward towards your goals. Adjust these goals as needed to keep them relevant in your life. If you need help with healthy habit development, contact us about ProHabits!

The Benefits of Slowing Down

The Benefits of Slowing Down

Hi team, Mary here! I think we can learn a lot by watching animals. Or, at least, we can better ourselves and find new standards to reach by comparing some of our behaviors to theirs. For example, my dog, Bilbo, is extremely loyal. He is a pack-dog through and through. His personality makes it seems like he is much bigger than he is! The love he shows, even to strangers, amazes me. Once someone is in our “pack,” he will protect and defend them. (I mean, he’s seven pounds. But he tries, which is what counts!) I think the trait of loyalty, love, and devotion is something to admire.

There are tons of animals we can learn from if we slow down and take the time to observe them and appreciate their efforts. Ants are hard workers and work well on a large team. Deer are cautious but still curious. And then we come to the three animals in our graphic for this blog: Turtle, sloth, and snail. All known for being slow, diligent, and mindful. There is importance in slowing down our fast-paced lives. If we don’t start today, our lives can pass us by in a blink. The way our world is currently set up is to make you fast paced. Get here faster. Send this faster. Give me what I want faster. But what if we just took a moment to breathe, be in the moment, and slow down?

Physical & Mental Benefits of Slowing Down

Slowing down isn’t just for your mental state, it’s for your physical state too. Sometimes I think we have a tendency to forget that our brains are part of our bodies and we need to take care of them like we do our body. The faster we are, the more likely we are to feel stressed and anxious. When we are stressed and anxious, our bodies create cortisol (stress hormone) and it ravages your body’s immune system and mental clarity—leading to anxiety, depression, digestive issues, headaches, and more. If you want to learn more about how stress and cortisol affect your body, read this article from the Mayo Clinic.

The benefits of slowing down are as follows, but are not limited to:

  • Reduces stress
  • Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
  • Reduces chronic pain
  • Improves sleep
  • Increases mental clarity and thinking
  • Increased awareness, attention, and focus
  • Increased brain function

Techniques to Slow Down

Slowing down isn’t an intuitive task. It takes patience and willpower to learn how. For those that have never slowed down, it may be harder to silence your mind at first but slowing down requires dedication and practice. Although, anyone can slow down if they try! Slowing down is about getting out of your head, phone, TV, games, etc. and getting into the present moment. It’s all in your mind and you have the power to control it!

Start with taking a few deep, slow breathes. Try to focus on your breathing: Feel your rib cage and lungs expand and contract as you bring in and release air. When your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath. If it helps you, you can count your inhales and exhales. To calm your nervous system, make your exhales twice as long as your inhales. This may be as far as you want to go to slow down your mind and focus on the present moment.

If you want to go further, next you will want to do a sensory check. What can you feel, see, hear, smell, or taste? Don’t attach any thoughts to those senses, just observe them as they are happening to you. You don’t have to interact with the sensations; this is your moment to relax and let your brain take a rest. This exercise can be quick but give yourself at least five minutes to just sit and breathe. That’s only 0.34 percent of the time you have in an entire day! Easy, right?


Once you have dedicated yourself to slowing down, even just for five minutes a day (although, you should give yourself longer on the days that you can) you will begin to notice changes in your mind and body. You are allowed to put social media away, turn off the TV, and breathe. This is your life and your moment. Don’t wake up in ten, twenty, fifty years and realize you have nothing to remember. Start making memories now and that starts with slowing down. I believe in you and your positive influence! If you have any questions, feel free to message us on Twitter!

10 Steps for Achieving Goals During COVID-19

Written by: Brian Smith & Mary Smith
Original by: IA Business Advisors

Setting and committing to personal and professional goals takes a lot of time, thought, and planning. It’s not typically something that is done on a whim or very easily. Deciding what your goals are, or what your company’s goals are, is a process. It can be difficult to stick to goals or set new goals amidst a pandemic due to the uncertainty. However, it is vital to your health and your company’s health to set new goals and see old goals through to the end. The IA Business Advisors team put together these steps to help you continue pursuing your goals.

Step 1: Take Care of Yourself

Make sure you are taking care of yourself. Whether you are stuck at home or considered essential, it’s important to be mindful of your current state and wellbeing. You cannot be your best self if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Ensure you are getting adequate amounts of sleep by setting alarms for bedtime and waking up. Going to bed and waking up at consistent times will ensure you receive the proper rest to support your psychological and physiological needs. When you have enough sleep, you have an increased ability to stay focused.

Schedule your meals in advance to ensure you are eating enough, but not too much, and that you are eating the best foods you can. Scheduling your meal plans in advance helps curb the boredom walks to the fridge. It also reduces the amount of anxiety in a day by allowing you to see exactly what your day is going to look like. In the midst of uncertainty, having a schedule can help us feel more stable.

Be mindful of scheduling time to be social. Facetime a friend, call a family member, or take your dog for a walk. Don’t isolate yourself from the world just because you have to be at home. Taking care of your full psychological and physiological health during this time is imperative to reaching your current and future goals. A lack of balance in your life will jeopardize your ability to stay on track.

Step 2: Understand the Costs

When setting new goals or evaluating old ones you need to determine and understand the different time, financial, and emotional costs associated with reaching each specific goal. How does that goal provide value to you?

Step 3: Double Dip

Use your goals to combine something you want with something you need. Commingling your wants and needs can help move you closer to your goals and help keep you motivated towards reaching them.

Step 4: Weigh Your Options

Make sure to weigh your options before committing to moving forward. Risk assessment can be as simple as asking yourself or others simple questions until you come to an objective conclusion. Some questions you can ask are:

1) Am I being objective? (Or, is my team being objective?)

2) How will these goals help me become a better human?

3) Are my goals S.M.A.R.T.? (Are they specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely?)

4) Am I mentally ready to commit?

Step 5: Affirmations

Be sure to notate how you will benefit from each step of your goal and how each step adds value to your goal. Understanding the influence your goal will have on you and the steps it takes to reach that goal is imperative for success. If you aren’t committed and motivated to the goal by understanding how it will benefit you, you will likely abandon the goal.

Create visual reminders of these affirmations as sticky notes, notes cards, or digital reminders. You can place these on mirrors, desks, walls, nightstands, or anywhere you will be able to see them daily. These affirmations will help keep you positive and committed to your goals, as well as reminding you why you started them in the first place.

Step 6: Designate Goal Days

Pick a specific day (or days) that you will commit to working on your goal. It doesn’t have to be the entire day, it could be Mondays from 5:00 – 6:00 pm, or every Saturday for three hours. If you set specifics around the times you will work to meet your goals, you are more likely to stick to them.

Step 7: Overcoming Temptations

You need to understand the temptations that can derail you from meeting your goals. Temptations can make us abandon goals completely, so understanding what makes us tick will help us combat this issue. We all have temptations, and these temptations are usually repetitive behaviors that have challenged us in the past. This will require us to be honest with ourselves as we reflect on our past. By understanding what tempts you, negatively, you can anticipate your ability to get in your own way. Hide any physical temptations out of reach. If there are people or immobile temptations that challenge you, make them difficult to access or as scarce as possible.

Step 8: Outsourced Accountability

Ask your friends, family, or peers to help you stay on track for your goals. Their positive influence and kind nudges could be what keeps you on track. If you have obvious temptations, be honest about those with your outsourced accountability team. Try to find someone who has self-discipline to help you. Ask these people to share with you how they overcame their own unique temptations and how they stay self-motivated.

Step 9: Willpower

Do you find your tank of willpower running out? Drink a favorite drink to increase your willpower! Remember step 1? Taking care of your psychological and physiological needs can help maintain or increase your willpower. Lower glucose levels have been shown to cause a decrease in willpower (energy). We recommend hot water, lemon, and honey or agave (or another sweetener of your choice).

Step 10: Learn to Live with Exceptions

Adapting goals you set at the beginning of the year to fit our current situation may be challenging, but we urge you to find the positive side. If your goal was to workout more, your gym might be closed, but there are tons of apps, videos, and online classes that can keep you safe in your home while reaching your goals. You must adapt your goals to living with change and exceptions rather than abandoning them completely.


We are all in this together. We are all adjusting, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on ourselves and our goals. Now is the perfect time to focus on ourselves, adjust our strategies, and come out of this pandemic as better humans. Planning for your future, taking care of yourself, and working to be better will all help contribute to your psychological wellbeing. If you need any help or guidance, IA Business Advisors are here to help you. Just send us an email:

© Individual Advantages, LLC. 2020

Managing COVID-19 as a Leader

Written by: Brian Smith & Mary Smith
Original by: IA Business Advisors 

When tragedy strikes, we are often bombarded by both inspirational stories and those of disappointment. With COVID-19, we have witnessed this bombardment across every sector of business. We consult business leaders, managers, and employees all day and—nearly—all night about the various aspects of life being interrupted by this amazingly challenging time in history. IA Business Advisors offer this advice for managing the effects of COVID-19 as a leader.

Understanding the Effects

First, its important that leaders realize that different people have different ways of dealing with stress. In addition, people will have different stress and trigger points. For example, not everyone is concerned about finances or where they work from. Some people have family and friends that are being more negatively affected than them, creating a different kind of stress that can be misunderstood or dismissed by people who don’t find themselves influenced by such issues. Others find the entire COVID-19 crisis ridiculous or feel the world is overreacting, supported by phrases like, “What’s the big deal? The flu is worse.”

We had a few team members who thought this might be an overreaction. We read influenza statistics and compared them to the statistics for COVID-19, feeling the data supported this conclusion. However, we were wrong. We owe our families, team, and clients a more thoughtful and deeper review of the risks this crisis is bringing rapidly into our lives and are happy to have changed our position quickly enough to get just a touch in front of the ball. As a business leader, you owe it to yourself and those you influence to remain strong, objective yet stern, and positive in your influence.

Your Positive Influence

Honest and open communication is a vital part of any viable business, becoming critical during times of stress and crisis. Remaining objective yet positive will help you and your team remain in a mindset that can be the difference between your organization maintaining its viability and falling prey to negative emotional shut down. Having an honest discussion with your team about the status of your environment can alleviate stress from the unknown.

Use your influence to provide simple guidance. Don’t assume that everyone on your team is following directives such as social distancing and limited interactions. Challenge your team to remain prudent and observant about their situations, especially when dealing with people. This requires you to remain consistent in your messaging; habits are formed by consistent action and this is a perfect time to establish healthy habits.

There will be times when your positive influence is challenged by someone’s negative influence. Don’t exacerbate these issues with a negative response; now is the time to employ some empathy for the myriad of negative situations people are facing right now. We previously mentioned that people handle stress in different ways; one of those ways is being negative. Empathetically challenge them with facts.

One of our previous social media posts, regarding disaster loan assistance for COVID-19 from the U.S. Small Business Administration, has been challenged by people replying that the SBA is a government entity and do people really want to be indebted to the government. Our reply is simple: It depends on the business. Businesses faced with losing their company versus getting a disaster loan to save it may mean that being indebted to the SBA is the better choice. However, it’s a decision that each leader will need to make after reviewing the current and future status of their company.

Learn more about applying for disaster loan assistance by watching this video.

Situational Awareness

Preparing your team to be situationally aware is another habit you can train by remaining consistent in your communication. We must be prudent and teach our teams to remain aware of their surroundings. Having situational awareness requires us to slow down and pay attention; acting out of emotion or desperation may force us to take action that is poorly thought out and may become counterproductive to the threat we are facing.

Situational awareness is emotionally and physically important as we work from home, visit the grocery store, or visit with others. Maintaining a healthy body and mind is imperative, especially for those of us who will be isolated at home. Keep a regular schedule: wake up at your normal time, schedule breaks in your day, call a friend or family member, and do some yoga or go for a walk. Don’t forget to keep your mind engaged in fun activities. Start an art project, do a puzzle, play a game, read a book, or start on that personal to-do list you’ve been meaning to get to.

When you’re out of the home, keeping people at safe distances (at least six feet) is as much your responsibility as it is theirs. If you find that people around you are violating social distancing, be mindful that you maintain at least six feet of space between you and them. Remind others if they begin to encroach on your space. You can do this kindly, and from what we have seen in public, people will be perceptive and kind.

A side positive note: We have noticed that people are calm and kind in stores; don’t be afraid to be kindly assertive to protect yourself and others.

When and if you are out in public, maintain situational awareness of your surroundings as well. There will be people who will become opportunists and take advantage of the current crisis in a negative way. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to remain aware. This is also true of your home. Keep doors locked, don’t leave valuables where they can be seen from the outside, and remain safe and cautious. It’s better to be safe and take precautions.

Support Your Team

As a leader, sharing prudent and pragmatic information about COVID-19 can help to get your team through this crisis. Empathy will get you even further. Be responsive and mindful of people’s emotions, even if that means monitoring their body language or non-verbal communication. Encourage your team to open up about the challenges they face and maintain an open line of communication that can support them.

Communicating with your team openly, honestly, and frequently about the status of your organization will help them better understand the short- and long-term consequences of this crisis. Support where you can and ask for help when you need it; understand that we will all make sacrifices and try to set a positive example for those you influence. Help your team get through this challenging time and establish a solid foundation for the future. If you have any specific questions, reach out to us:

© Individual Advantages, LLC. 2020

Leading the Next Generation of Leaders

Written by: Mary Smith
Original by: IA Business Advisors

All businesses are faced with opportunities to train future business leaders. Part of a leader’s job is to mentor the people around them. Some leaders tend to shy away from training others out of fear that they will be replaced. These fears are unnecessary. Great leaders aren’t replaced; people who think they are great leaders, but aren’t, may be replaced by a great leader.

The natural progression of everything in life is that we move on from chapters in our lives onto new and exciting things. The issue here is that when people move on, they leave a hole behind. Therefore, mentoring future leaders is vital for business today. We must ensure that we create great leaders to continue leading our businesses. Your fear would be ill placed in thinking you will get replaced by mentoring; your fear should be leaving your business behind with nobody to fill your place.

Step One: Finding Great Leaders

The first step to mentoring our future business leaders is to find those individuals that express interest in a leadership position within your industry. Start with looking at your current team members. Do any of them express interest in moving up in the company? Do you see them taking responsibility and small leadership roles within the team?

Finding a mentee means finding someone who is excited, dedicated, and eager to learn/move forward in your industry. Someone who wants to be a future leader will look for more opportunities at work, treat their team with respect, and try to remain objective when issues arise. Although, nobody is perfect. We all have moments where we are not our best self.

Do your best to get to know your team on a personal and professional level to sift through who may be a great future leader. Don’t get bogged down in the details here. Your entire team deserves to be positively mentored. Some may respond better than others, but it’s important to treat everyone the same. Some may want to be a future leader and others may be content not leading, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have something great to offer them in terms of growth.

Step Two: Mentoring Great Leaders

When mentoring future leaders, you have to think about what it is you want to teach them. Good leaders have several positive qualities. They are honest, mindful, open, positive, intellectually stimulated, fair, and more. One of the best ways to mentor future leaders is to exemplify the qualities you wish to see in them in your own life. You cannot be a “Do as I say, not as I do,” type of mentor. That kind of training never works.

Step Three: Acceptance

It can be hard to let go of a life you have lived for years, but all things must come to an end. When you do decide to leave your leadership position, you will feel much better in knowing that you have taken the time to mentor the future leaders of your business. When you prepare, you can reduce your anxiety. Accept that you won’t be in your leadership role forever but find peace in that acceptance by knowing you have mentored all you can.


One last note: Don’t expect all your mentees to stay at your business. It’s unrealistic to think that someone in the modern age will work for one business forever, although there are some that will. Don’t feel discouraged if someone you are mentoring leaves; it gives you an opportunity to begin mentoring someone new. Your positive influence will always affect whoever it is you decide to mentor, even if that individual is not on your current team.

We must mentor all future leaders and team members and exemplify the traits we wish to see in them in ourselves. Use your influence positively and don’t fear the unknown future. Find comfort in knowing that you have prepared others the best way you know how.

© Individual Advantages, LLC. 2020

10 Mistakes Leaders Make

Written by: Mary Smith
Original by: IA Business Advisors

Each and every one of us has the potential to be a leader. Some of you may be the leader of a company, all the way at the top as CEO, some of you may be managers leading team members, and some of you may be leading other groups of individuals like sports teams. The important thing to note here is that we all have potential to lead. The potential stems from one thing we all have in common: influence.

Our power of influence gives us the ability to lead. You may even be considered a leader to those who you may not know, meaning your influence impacts them. Influence can be positive or negative, depending on how you wield it. It’s important to exhibit a powerful positive influence for everyone who follows you, so that you may spread positivity. Outlined in The I in Team Series, there are some mistakes leaders can make that would exhibit a negative influence.

Not holding themselves or others accountable

If you don’t hold yourself or others on your team accountable, you’re setting everyone up for failure. By not holding yourself accountable for negative actions, even if they are accidental, you aren’t giving yourself room to learn and grow from those actions. You let yourself and your team down when you allow issues that you create to persist. Same goes for when you don’t hold your team accountable.

Refusing to evolve and learn

If you refuse to evolve yourself to be a better you, you’re not only hurting yourself. You’re hurting your team, too. If you aren’t your best self, how can you give your best influence? You and your team deserve for all of you to do your best. If you refuse to learn more than you already know right now, you aren’t expanding yourself. You’re limiting your ability to be a better and more well-rounded person. This impacts whether or not your team can evolve and learn from you.


If you’re a micromanager, it’s for one of two reasons. 1) You don’t trust your team or 2) you don’t have capable people on your team. If you don’t trust your team to do their work properly, that’s an issue. You need to trust your team to complete their tasks. That’s why they are there, that’s why they were hired. They deserve the space to complete their tasks as they wish. As long as the end product is what is expected, and they use the proper amount of resources to complete that task, then don’t micromanage them.

If you don’t have capable people on your team and that’s why you feel you need to be a micromanager, you need to work with your team to develop in them the skills they need to complete their tasks on their own. If you’re constantly micromanaging others, how are you getting your own work done in an appropriate amount a time? Micromanaging is a complete waste of resources for any company.

Improper communication and listening skills

If you have poor communication skills, you likely have poor listening skills. Listening is an often-forgotten part of communication. In order to understand someone, you must listen to them, ask questions for clarification, and provide feedback on where your understanding of that topic is. Poor communication on any team can cause small and large structural problems, depending on where the issue of communication is.

Being intellectually lazy

This goes hand-in-hand with a refusal to learn anything new, but it’s more than that. By being intellectually lazy, you are denying yourself any capacity to grow. It also means that you aren’t applying yourself in the best way possible. Meaning, that you are only giving your tasks and team a percentage of your skills. To be a good leader, you must go above and beyond for yourself and your team. If you are intellectually lazy, you have a refusal to learn as well as a refusal to apply what you already know.

Not mentoring future leaders

Many current leaders have a stigma against mentoring future leaders. Whether that stigma stem from fear of replacement or another reason, we need to mentor our future leaders. The fact is, that we aren’t going to be here forever. We need to take our opportunities where someone wants to learn from us and utilize that to share our influence.

Making assumptions

Making assumptions isn’t the best for anyone, especially when you are the leader. Assumptions can make you put your foot in your mouth and regret words and actions that may have been influenced by your assumptions. As a leader, don’t assume anything. Gather evidence and facts to help guide you in the right direction. Also, have an open communication policy. If you are in the position where you might make an assumption, just ask for clarification from the person or thing you are about to make the assumption about.

Going too fast

If you’re going too fast, then you are most likely setting yourself up to make mistakes. You also set yourself up to not be the best leader you can be. If you’re too busy for yourself and your work, you are probably too busy for your team. As a leader, your team is going to need you. If you’re too busy for them, you aren’t being a good leader. Not to mention if you make a bunch of mistakes on your tasks, it’s going to take either you or your team longer to complete those tasks. Slow down to be present for your team.


We are pro mono-tasking here at IA Business Advisors. If you feel the need to multi-task, it’s because you haven’t planned out your time well enough. You should only be focusing on one task at a time in order to give that task your full and utmost attention. This is important to do as a leader because your team looks up to you. They will follow what you do and it’s important that both you and your team focus on your tasks.

Lacking in personal goals

Just because you are the leader of your team, doesn’t mean that you can’t have personal goals. In fact, you should still focus on yourself and your life by having personal goals. If you work on yourself outside of work, you will better center yourself for when you are at work.


Being a great leader means being your best self. There are mistakes that we all make, but if you’re striving to be influential for your team, then you should avoid these ten common mistakes that leaders make. Remember to move forward past mistakes and failures; there is always room to grow and always time for new opportunities. If you’re looking to learn more about yourself and how to be an influential leader, check out our first book Individual Advantages: Find the “I” in Team.

© Individual Advantages, LLC. 2020