Let's Get Real About Habits

blog Apr 06, 2019

One of the reasons that success is so challenging is because it’s hard to develop and sustain positive habits. I have written many times that if you want to become amazing, you have to have amazing habits and routines. I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. However, it’s not as simple as a decision to develop positive habits and routines. There is the narrative that you have about life, social pressures, doubts, fears, other feelings, and neurological factors. These are not excuses to give into negative habits. This is meant to empower you to take control of your amazing success and your habits.

Breaking bad habits and installing positive habits can lead you to amazing success. As a disclosure, I struggle with my habits and I am obsessed with amazing success.

Many habits happen automatically without us thinking about it. They happen in the basal ganglia part of the brain. If the brain sees a pattern, it wants to be more efficient. So, you act without thinking about it. Much of our days are dictated without us thinking about it. This is not meant to sabotage us, but rather meant to make us more efficient. This frees up energy to use the frontal cortex of our brain to work on more critical tasks.

When people learn to drive, they are focused on the tasks. However, a seasoned driver does not need to think about what they are doing. This is why on your drive, you can think about your day, listen to your music, or talk to other passengers. If you had to critically think about everything that you needed to do during the day, then you would be mentally exhausted.

For the most part, having habits on auto-pilot is a good thing. However, we all have habits that can be more efficient or, in some cases, habits that we need to quit. In the book The Power of Habit, Pulitzer Prize winning author Charles Duhig writes that human beings have a habit loop. The loop starts with a cue (signal) followed by a routine (behavior) ending up at a reward. For example, any time our cell phone rings (cue), we check it (routine). Finally, we get a reward which can be a new email, a text, or juicy gossip. This process happens almost automatically and without us thinking about it.

In The Power of Habit, Duhig also writes about keystone habits. These are habits that set the tone for the rest of the habits. For example, if you start the day by making your bed or eating breakfast with your family, you are more likely to carry that energy throughout your day. On the flip side, if you start the day in flux, you may carry those emotions into your work.

My morning routine involves listening to music, reading, and playing with my kids. When I do that, I set the tone for the day and I also spend time writing a to-do list and just thinking about my intentions for the day.

Jim Rohn says that we are the average of the five people we hang out with the most. This includes habits and attitudes. If you hang out with complainers, you are more likely to complain. If you work with ambitious people, you are more likely to be more ambitious. If you spent time with people who have bad habits, you are more likely to have bad habits. If you want better habits, spend time and do business with people who have positive habits.

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