We are creatures of habit.
One scientific study monitored people going about their day. It revealed that a good 90 percent of what most people do in any day follows routines so complete that their behavior can be predicted with just a few mathematical equations.
We would like to think that we control our every action. Psychologist John Bargh of Yale University once said, “most of a person’s everyday life is determined not by their conscious intentions and deliberate choices, but by mental processes put into motion by the environment.” In other words, we operate mainly by instinctual responses to what’s going on around us.
So how do we take control over our day?
Even when we take ourselves into a new environment, we organize ourselves into a schedule of activities to help us get through the day with efficiency.
I remember when that revelation struck me. I was on a vacation at an all-inclusive resort. for a week with a group of friends. But by the second day, we already had our meal times figured out, we claimed our spot on the beach, had chosen our vacation drink and scheduled the activities we wanted to participate in. While we thought we were being wild and free, we left little room for spontaneity.
Once we develop habits, we tend to dig our heels in. Developing new habits, then, takes a tremendous amount of desire and effort. By deciding to create better habits, we’re not only changing what once worked for us (whether it was good or bad), but we now have to make the new habit more desirable at the unconscious level.
Until we get the unconscious part of our psyche to come on board, changing, dropping or creating a new habit is nearly impossible. Habits, it turns out, are hard to change. So, if developing success habits is new to you, be patient with yourself. Success habits are particularly hard because not only are you trying to change a behavior, you’re trying to upgrade your life.
CONSIDER TWO HABIT FACTORS
Success is a culmination of many things going on at the same time. Like the rare orchid, success requires the right balance of ingredients to thrive. Miss any one of them and the struggle becomes palpable. Apply too much or too little of an ingredient and you suffer from the wrong results. The aim of developing the right success habits is to provide you with the right conditions for success to take root and grow in a healthy, enjoyable way.
There are two significant factors to think about when considering your habits. First, you have the habits you live with. Second, you have habits you live with that work against you. Both exist simultaneously. Both play a significant role in your ability to reach your desired success goals.
Since established habits are mostly an unconscious behavior, your first task is to identify which habits you currently have that are working for you and which are working against you. It won’t be hard for you to figure these out.
Your next task is to identify what habits you’re missing that would help you to reach your success goals. Once you have these three lists, you can begin to figure out what you need to do to minimize or eliminate the habits that keep you from success. Only then can you begin to develop the habits that will guarantee you success. That last sentence packs a lot of punch. It’s easy to say, but very hard to do.
There are some ideas floating around out there when it comes to habits. I want to bust a few misconceptions about habits.
A mindset is not a habit.
A mindset is a mindset. A mindset influences habits. The habit is the activity you do because of a mindset. It’s not the mindset.
As an example, you want to be healthy. Being healthy isn’t a habit. It’s a state of being. Drinking 2 glasses of water on waking is a habit. This is a habit you can develop that supports your intention of being healthy. The mindset behind wanting to be healthy is that you decided that being healthy is a better way to approach being successful. You know it will help you live into what being successful looks like to you.
Habits support mindsets. Drinking water is the habit that supports the mindset.
Routines are not habits.
Routines are routines. We establish routines to make our lives more manageable. Grocery shopping on Thursday. Laundry on Monday. Call Mom once a week.
Inside of our routines, we do things habitually, like running every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. It’s a great fitness activity, but it’s not a habit. It’s in the likeness of a habit. How do I know? No matter how committed you are, you still have to manage it. You have to have the right gear. You spend time creating playlists. You have to make time for it. At times you have to convince yourself to ‘just do it’.
Habits are automatic. There’s little to no thinking involved. You don’t plan them. They just happen. Every time. Regularly. You actually have to think about what to do if it’s not happening.
Routines can develop habits, such as always grabbing a snack when you sit down to watch TV. The routine is sitting down to watch TV at the end of your day. The habit is grabbing the snack whether you need nourishment or not.
Goals and aspirations are not habits.
I find this one gets confused the most. I’ve even heard some of the big leaders in the training space use guidelines or principles and mistake them for habits. One example is to Be Present. It’s an awesome quality to have in any meaningful relationship. It’s just not a habit. It’s something you work at. Being Present is a quality and a behavior. You can cultivate habits inside the behavior such as folding your hands together as a trigger anytime you want to give the person in front of you your full attention.
In this example, the aspiration is to be more present with others. The habit is to clasp your hands together to activate that behavior. A habit doesn’t aspire to anything. It simply ensures a behavior is conducted, consistently when the right cue presents itself.
MAKE HABITS YOUR OWN
Habits are formed through repetition. Habits aren’t habits until you no longer have to convince yourself to do them. Consistency is key. Until that time, it’s going to take a repetitive, conscious effort to set the habit in place.
Habits are mindless activities. They are so ingrained, you don’t give them much (if any) thought. There’s no convincing. There are no second thoughts. They just get done.
If you’ve identified a habit that is key to your success, make it non-negotiable – like brushing your teeth. Schedule it, preferably at the same time on the same day(s) if you can. Then show up. Every time. Keep doing it until doing anything else will feel uncomfortable. Or if you miss doing it, something feels off. That’s when you know you’re well on your way to developing this habit.
Learn to love the habits you put in place. Make them fun. Appreciate the benefit of doing the habit. Find the good in it. Find something about it you can look forward to. Just thinking about your new habit in this way, activates the reward center in your brain that produces pleasure. The more you learn to love the new habit, the more you’re going to want to do it.
INSPIRATION TO FIND YOUR SUCCESS HABITS
The right habits provide tremendous benefits and support to having the success you want. Done right, they take care of doing the things that matter with little effort on your part. This frees up your time for thinking about other things that need your attention.
Alternately, the wrong habits can keep you from having the success you desire. Be very clear about the habit(s) you need to put in place and which ones you need to eliminate. There are many useless or hurtful habits you have that are no longer visible to you. Working with a qualified coach will help you gain clarity about these.
Be consistent until you no longer have to think about it. It takes time to form a habit. It takes an effort to form a habit. Find the motivation in your intention. Use that energy to push you through the tough times. Put it on your calendar if you need to. And be religious in your approach.
Never stop developing habits that work to serve you and your success. The more awareness you develop around your habits, the more refined your habits will become. Leave room to allow your habits to grow with you. You change. Life changes. New information becomes available and something has to change. Even though habits are hard to change, remain open enough to continue evolving your habits.
Well-formed habits do much of the work for you. The more aligned your habits are with the success and lifestyle you desire, the more time you have to actually enjoy the fruits of your labor.
That’s a benefit I’ll take all day, every day.