I was re-reading some of my Twitter feeds the other day and read a tweet from a few weeks ago – ‘it is the little decisions that we make daily that have the biggest impact on our life’. This was inspired by Jim Rohn (for those of you who haven’t come across him I would recommend hugely having a listen) the godfather of motivational gurus I guess, the man who helped launch Tony Robbins. He has a million and one great quotes – but one that truly resonates with me reflects the importance of habits in our lives.
“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practised every day!”
What he was talking about was the creation of positive habits, habits that work for you for free, that take very little effort and that help you be better every single day.
Habit = ‘a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up’
Now unfortunately good habits seem to be a little tougher to build than bad habits, if bad habits were the holy grail then I am sure I could stake a claim to the promised land, although I am getting better 😊 What do I mean when I say “work for you for free”? Well lets take my blueberry muffin habit (nearly ex habit now) but back in the day whenever I was in a coffee shop and ordering a coffee I would order a blueberry muffin, no effort, no energy, no thinking, no difficulty – pretty well automatic. The thing about habits that are truly ingrained is that we don’t have to make an effort, the smoker doesn’t work hard to have another cigarette, the concert pianist doesn’t have to think about practising and the committed marathon runner doesn’t think twice about popping on their trainers and going for a run. No effort, no hassle – activity for free.
Like me, I am sure that you have some great habits of which you are proud, if you chose to step back and think positively for a second (whole other blog) – positive focus, my intermittent fasting, my morning dog walk and my meditation are good examples for me. However, it is easier to think of the longer list of bad habits and the huge gravity associated with their pull and power over the choices we make. Success breeds success, so one of the first steps is to think about what you are proud of, what you have achieved and what you are positive about whenever you think about making changes in your life.
Much has been written about habits, (745,000 hits on Google search to be precise) so I am a long way from being any sort of expert. The perceived wisdom of the number of days it takes to create a habit is inconsistent, 21 days, 35 days, 66 days are all cited, the reality is that we are all different and different habits will require more or less effort to build, so starting with the mindset that it will take as long as it takes is probably best. James Clear – whom I have mentioned before specialises in habits – has an excellent blog and a number of great articles on the topic, I would really recommend checking him out.
So lots of resources available for you – how about you give it a go? Two angles – is there a habit that you would like to change, improve or eradicate (it is very difficult to get rid of bad habits, normally it is about changing them) OR is there a habit you would like to build or start? Understanding the Habit Loop is helpful – Charles Duhig and his book The Power of Habit bring this loop to life – recognising that this is the format of the habit gives you the insight to try and make the appropriate changes. If the CUE is deeply embedded – ordering a coffee – then how do you change the ROUTINE – ordering a muffin – to deliver a similar REWARD – sugar rush?
Anyway enough of the theory – come on – go back to those two angles – new habit to build or old habit to change? What is it? What daily or weekly habit would help you be a better version of yourself at work or at home or in life generally?………… Have you got one?
3 tips to get cracking and start to build a positive change that will eventually take no effort and come for free, liberating you to be awesome ……….. more awesome! 😊
1. Start easy – make it as easy as possible and eliminate as many barriers as you can. If you want to start a press up habit, start with 1, yup it might not do much for your muscle tone, but you are trying to build a habit not a rippling set of pecs or taut triceps. Habit comes before performance – build the habit then build the performance.
2. Pick a cue that makes sense and ‘piggyback’ off another habit if you can – for example if you want to drink more water, why not try drinking a glass of water with every coffee or tea you drink (if you drink coffee or tea). Back to my press up habit – what about that moment you are waiting for the shower to warm up – the cue becomes starting the shower then drop down and do your press up.
3. Don’t break the chain – this was attributed to Jerry Seinfeld I think – but he is a visual person, like many of us, and he started charting his habit adoption on a wall chart – visibly marking the days / weeks that he performed the new / changed habit, the idea was to not break the chain. Worst case, one blank was ok, but get back on track quickly and avoid two blank spaces.
The whole reason habits exist is to automate stuff and enable us to focus on even more important things, so by automating things that help you be better you are creating a double whammy, the more you automate the more you can take on.
So remember the little decisions we take daily, an apple or a muffin, running club or a beer and the paper have a knock on impact – “Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practised every day!”
Good luck and I would love to hear about how you get on – onwards and upwards!