“Leaders are not born, they are molded by a remarkably similar, simple, and dynamic set of habits.” –Napoleon Hill
I believe that one of the most powerful forces in the world is habit. Did you know that it's estimated that 95% of the things we do, we have done before? Think about it. How much consideration do you give about the way you drive home, the places where you eat, or what grocery stores you shop at? When you really ponder it, you'll find that most of what you do in a day is done out of habit. We tend to do things because we've done them before and know it's a logical and comfortable action for us to take.
This is a powerful observation. It means that if we do things out of habit, then by developing different habits we can change our personal characteristics and traits at will. Think about that for a moment. When you do something repetitively, that action becomes an ingrained part of who you are. People often say they are a procrastinator, that they are shy or even that they are outgoing. These are not things you are, but rather habits you've allowed yourself to become associated with.
“Men's natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them.” –Confucius
If habits are learned behavior, then it stands to reason that if you want to change something about yourself, you only need to create a new habit that will lead you to the desired change. Someone who wants to become a better chef might develop a habit of cooking a new meal once a week. A person looking to become more educated in a certain subject might make a practice of studying that topic every day for 30 minutes. Over the course of time, the person will get closer to their goals and these actions will develop into habits that will continue until other habits replace them.
Of course, this sounds simple on paper (and it really is), but many times we end up getting in the way of ourselves. We've developed so many bad habits over the years that it can feel like a monumental task to make any real changes. This is where willpower is just not enough. You need more than a desire to change to create a difference. You need steps that will help you take action every day.
“Successful people are simply those with success habits.” –Brian Tracy
Success is not an elusive dream or goal. It's created by taking small daily strides towards your goal. It's achieved by creating habits that will lead you closer and closer to your desired success.
How do you create new habits?
To start, it's always easier to tackle one habit at a time. I know we all want to have everything fixed “right now,” but when it comes to long-term change, slower is always better. Personally, I tackle my habit changes with a simple, easy method. Every six weeks, I write down six things I really want to focus on and change. Then I prioritize them. Over the course of the six weeks, I tackle a new habit each week, starting with the habit with the highest priority. I tend to put the most difficult habit first, so I have the entire six weeks to focus on it. At the end of the six weeks, I start again. Sometimes I may not be satisfied with a previous result, and the habit ends up on the cycle again until I've mastered it. If you start to feel discouraged about how far you may need to go, remember: “Rome wasn't built in a day.” It's really the baby steps that take you where you want to be.
Don't worry if you temporarily fall off track. Devote every Monday as a “restart” day, just in case. That way if you do let your behavior slip, you can always renew your commitment to your new habits on Monday.
Create a method of accountability. Let your inner circle know what your intentions are and ask them for help in keeping you focused on your goal. Having an accountability buddy gives you an outside motivator and helps considerably when you're feeling like giving up or straying from the path. If you feel yourself slipping or losing motivation, call on your inner circle for help.
Make a 30-day challenge with yourself. It's been proven that most habits are deeply formed after 21 days. Use this knowledge to your advantage and make a pact with yourself to just get through the 30 days. In most cases, you'll find you've deeply rooted a new habit for yourself. This will put you on the track for a long-term change.
Thought to Ponder:
What habits do you want to create? Do you need to blog every day for a month? Exercise for 30 minutes three times a week for a month? Try a new productivity system? Think about your goals, and then consider what habits you currently have that get in the way of reaching them. Work on developing new habits that will get you there faster. As a final thought, keep in mind this quote from Charles C. Noble, “First we make our habits, then our habits make us.”
How are your habits defining you or your business?