Habits run our life.
They can serve us or dis-empower us. They can be 40% of our behaviour in any given day. We can have bad habits or good habits. Cultivate good, positive habits that serve and empower you.
By definition a habit is “An action or decision repeated and repeated till automatic”. It is moving from the conscious mind to the subconscious.
One of my favourite books and one that has had a big influence on me is Stephen Covey’s fantastic book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. He defines “A habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to, why to), skills (how to) and desire (want to)”. All three must exist - the knowledge of what to do and why to do it, the skills on how to do it and the desire to want to do it.
He highlights 7 Habits for Lessons in Personal Change. These Habits are:
Be Proactive - The Habit of Choice
Begin with the End in Mind - The Habit of Vision
Think First Things First - The Habit of Integrity and Execution
Think Win-Win - The Habit of Mutual Benefit
Seek First to Understand and then to be Understood - The Habit of Mutual Understanding
Synergize - The Habit of Creative Cooperation
Sharpen the Saw - The Habit of Renewal
THE ANATOMY OF A HABIT
A habit has 3 key components :
A cue or trigger / reminder
An action of routine
This is the habit loop - a cue occurs that leads to an action and then a reward and then this is repeated and repeated.
For example, with the smoking habit
Cue - Feeling of stress and work colleagues going outside for a break
Action - Take cigarette, light and smoke it, chat with work colleagues have a break
Reward - Feeling less stressed, social connection, be outside
Another example, taking a mindful moment
Cue - Feeling of stress or overwhelm
Action - Take a moment outside to go for a mindful walk, focusing on your breath or each step
Reward - feeling less stressed, be outside
Action: Identify the Cue, Action and Reward in one of your dis-empowering and one empowering habit
One type of habit is the Keystone Habit. A Keystone Habit is one that leads to the development of multiple good habits. They start a chain effect of positive results. According to Charles Duhigg, “The Power of Habit” , keystone habits have the power to transform your life. An example is regular exercise also fosters better eating habits. Or sleeping 8 hours a night fosters better energy and productivity.
The name Keystone comes from the building of an arch. The last stone, a wedge shaped one to be put in place at the apex is the keystone (or capstone) which locks all the others in place, providing structure and allowing the other stones to bear the weight.
Think small, easy, tiny, atomic actions/ habits. This is related to the idea of marginal gains, small changes done each day that over time compound (See books The Slight Edge and The Compound Effect). The British Cycling team used this idea to make small changes in all areas that led to great success. E.g teaching cyclists how to thoroughly wash hands to avoid infection, change in bike material to be marginally lighter, taking cyclists bed mattresses and pillows to hotels so they feel at home and rested.
Some more examples of atomic steps
for exercise to get to 20 push ups a day, choose and commit to 1 push up each day.
For dental hygiene choose and commit to 1 tooth flossed each day.
For reading choose and commit to read 1 page each day.
These should be easy to do, take little time and are foundations to add to and build from as progress and momentum is made.
SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
Layout your tools, supplies, equipment.
For running have running shoes and gym bag by bed or door.
For reading have book by bedside or in daily bag.
For a dis-empowering habit such as smoking cigarettes do the opposite - make the action difficult to do e,g put cigarette pack in a locked box, outside of house in far corner of garden and give key to friend who lives 30 minutes away.
As we repeatedly do something the neurons in the brain fire and wire so with repetition new wiring / pathways are created which become stronger and replace the previous created ones.
SETTING YOUR OWN HABITS
We can have goals and habits in all aspects of our life including: Relationships, Work/Career, Family, Health, Spiritual & Financial.
Here are some guidelines to help build successful, positive, empowering habits.
Identify a cue or cues e.g. Set a time and location, use phone reminder, post it note
Think small, easy, tiny, atomic actions/ habits.
Set yourself up for success - create environment, layout supplies
Have a partner or community who are also working on same things
Pick yourself up if you fall, get back on track
Celebrate the successes
It takes 21 days to create a habit, 90 days to create a lifestyle.
Jerry Seinfeld the comic has reportedly used a yearly wall planner to develop his habit of writing a joke each day of the year. Each day he writes a joke and then marks a cross on his planner. This visual cue and action becomes the habit where he does not want to break the chain. For effective habit formation - monitoring and measured are needed. As the saying goes “What gets measured gets done”.
Consider your existing habits and ones you want to develop …
What is the cue?
What already existing Habit/Cue can I link this with?
What is the action?
What is the reward?
What are the obstacles I may face?
How will I overcome the obstacles?
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
My keystone habit is the daily practice of gratitude, actively and consistently since the start of 2017. This has supported additional habits of:
daily journaling using a happiness journal,
regular reading and study,
Mindfulness & meditation (Monthly Awakin circles - Awakin.org)
exercise - playing badminton twice a week, walking, swimming and sauna,
regular prayer and service.
I have developed habits in the areas of Physical, Mental, Social/Emotional and Spiritual, these help me lead a happy, effective, productive and meaningful life. I wish you the same.
“Sow a thought, reap an action,
Sow an action, reap a habit,
Sow a habit, reap a character,
Sow a character, reap a destiny”
Content Sources for article
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen Covey
The Slight Edge - Jeff Olson
The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg
Atomic Habits - James Clear
The Compound Effect - Darren Hardy