The Key to Greatness

  • Published
  • By Major Nelson Mitchell
  • 17th Comptroller Squadron

If you attended Stars and Stripes last week, you heard Chief Kirkpatrick’s closing words about greatness and how we are members of the greatest Air Force in the world. His words were very inspiring and motivating. Later that day, as I was driving home, I started to think what is the best way for me to strive for greatness and how can I make my Airmen great? Just looking in the mirror every morning and saying, “I am the greatest,” like Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live, is standing over our shoulders will not cut it. Confidence in ourselves is key but our habits are paramount in achieving greatness. 

Habits are what make us who we are. Habits are mental, physical and emotional reactions that drive our interactions with the world. Understanding these reactions, good and bad, are the first step in working towards achieving personal greatness. By taking a personal inventory of your habits you can start developing a plan of ways to improve those habits you feel are not productive.

The key is to tackle your to-do list one habit at a time.

The reason is that undressing a like, “going out to eat for lunch every day,” can uncover a multitude of deeper reasons why eating out daily has become a habit. On the surface you want to change this habit to save money, but digging deeper you discover this habit started because you don’t like your job, and lunch is an escape. In this case, by not addressing what is making you unhappy and developing ways to improve your personal satisfaction, achieving success may not be achievable. Successfully adjusting those perceived negative habits can be done, but the correct cause of that habit must be identified in order to improve and continue towards reaching your personal greatness.    

Looking at teams across all sports, if you followed them around for a year, you could see that each team has their own habits. These habits will eventually form the team’s identity. This identity will ultimately be what leads them to victory or defeat, and we are talking about more than just wins and losses on the field of competition. In the office setting, victory and defeat can be seen in production goals, customer service ratings, project completion or organizational climate assessments, to name a few.

Team identity is built on the collective habits of everyone associated with the team. Establishment of successful group habits depends on two important factors, leadership and communication at all levels.  From the front line supervisor to the senior leader of the team these two factors are necessary to keep the group’s habits productive, squash the formation of negative team habits and continue the positive identity of the team. Most of us have been a part of a team that has one or more of these components missing, and to be honest, it feels like wasted potential. This wasted potential is what ultimately keeps teams from reaching their greatness.

Not constantly looking at our habits and looking at how to make them better, we are wasting our potential and will fail individually towards reaching greatness, and collectively at maintaining greatness. With the way the world is now, that is a risk we should not be willing to take. 

In order for us to continue to be the greatest Air Force in the world, we must individually and collectively look at our habits.