The older I get, the more I understand that habits intrinsically make up the fabric of our lives, yet the less I grasp how to generate beneficial ones with staying power.
Why am I curious about habits?
They build our character as we exercise “changing our slice of the world,” turning careers, lives, and possibilities into reality. It represents turning from one source of identity to another.
Every January, most of the country sets off the year with hope in our hearts and a handful of New Year’s Resolutions written down—only to find most are dropped by, as some studies say, January 17, and others mid-February.
I suppose I should find that statistic rather shocking, but I don’t, as I’ve experienced the plunging drop off of resolution habits myself. That’s why I produced the podcast “No New Year’s Resolutions—Please” (https://www.buzzsprout.com/1520422/11909320), offering another approach to generate a terrific year for yourself.
I don’t know about you, but there are some new behaviors, thinking, and acting that I’d delight in undertaking to produce a better life. That is, if I believed all the effort would pay off with a game-changing habit that sticks! This transformation requires shaping behaviors that cause what you want to add to your life and career, which has me probing deeper into the topic for my peace of mind, and I hope for yours too.
The first aspect of habits to recognize is that comfortable, well-established patterns hate disruption of any kind. And yet, remaining static in today’s competitive business environment is not an option.
To move forward effectively, you need to break up long-established habits that no longer serve you to put into place new ones that will lead to your future success.
Yes, it sounds simple…and we all know it isn’t!
Second, never haphazardly adopt a new habit simply because it sounds good, would be nice, or others believe you should. Those reasons never have the emotional oomph to get you to the other side.
Studies show determination and willpower alone don’t offer sufficient holding power. Umm…do you think that’s why there are so many abandoned and unfulfilled New Year’s Resolutions?
Identity-driven is the key to success. Why waste your time taking on a habit that doesn’t awaken excitement or connect at a visceral level to the life it will deliver?
We instinctively know this is accurate. How many habit commitments have you made that fizzle not based on attaining somewhere closer to your desired identity?
Third, the probability of retention isn’t likely without attaching habits to your life values. It isn’t enough to decide on a new routine if it doesn’t touch a yearning in your heart. So before making an effort, get honest with yourself and confirm that it directly correlates to your desired outcome.
My entrepreneurial Mastermind leader set five challenges for the group. Four were a stretch, but one I couldn’t conceive of accepting. It was waking up at 5:00 a.m. every day! Yes, even on the weekend! You don’t know how crazy the concept of getting up at that appalling hour is to me.
Since I was a kid, I’ve been a night owl with the flashlight on and the covers over me, surreptitiously reading long past bedtime. Even now, I pride myself that my baby blues don’t flicker until a more reasonable hour.
He also said we could design these challenges with any rules we want.
I decided to experiment. I would wake up, read my Bible, which is of high value to me, and then go back to sleep, waking up again at my usual hour. To accomplish this, I set my cell phone alarm daily for 5:00 a.m. (which is a cue we’ll discuss next.) It works… and amazingly, I love the uninterrupted quiet time with the freedom I feel upon waking up. Yes, the second time!
Immediately, I jump into work. Life-changing for me, with no work interfering with my Bible time. I would never have thought of this habit on my own (sometimes listening with an open mind is essential to growth), but it is working.
Why? Because it attaches to a defining value of mine. This unexpected sleep pattern about-face confirmed how necessary reinventing around your values is to lasting habits.
Fourth, designing steps with proactive cues, overcoming barriers, or renaming the problem increases your prospects of success.
What are they?
You produce them to counteract anything popping up to stop you from accomplishing your new practice. Once you’ve decided to take on a habit, ask yourself, “How can I improve the possibility of developing this into an ongoing habit that serves me well?”
During a Thrive@Work MasterMind session, one executive woman identified worry as a lifetime attitude that is now harming her leadership presence. She determined to put it in her rearview mirror sooner rather than later.
What were the cues Sandy felt would support her in developing a healthy outlook? First, we looked at any physical signals her body sent out before she entered her anxious mode. There were clear signs she pinpointed. Sandy took on as a cue paying attention to her body in challenging situations likely to trigger her.
Next, she decided using the term worry had her stuck circling the drain way longer than was wise, so she decided to re-language the experience to “gut check,” “concern confirmation,” and she’s still having fun coming up with terms that put her in a better frame of mind.
Fun is another splendid way of solidifying your habits.
What do you want to transform in your career or life through developing rigorous, sustaining habits? Remember, habits aren’t a one size fits all equation.
You’re uniquely you, and your habits will reflect this…just as my 5:00 a.m. may sound crazy to you, yet works for me!
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