Our habits are key points of interest on our path to personal mastery. Here is what I know about habits and how to create new ones.
Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do”.
Excellence, therefore, is not an act. But a habit. Let’s talk about what a habit is…
hab·it | /ˈhabət/ | noun
Definition: a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.
I like to think that habits are another layer of ourselves that when explored deeper, great insights can come from the patterns we typically fall into. Our habits can be the scaffolding that keeps us in our comfort zone’ or as I prefer to call it, our ‘ Zone of Familiarity’; it may not be comfortable, just familiar. Do you feel me? I thought so.
We are what we repeatedly do
Quick Exploration of Your Habits: Some Serve You, Others Block You
What are some of your habits that serve your greater good? What are your habits that may be blocking your own evolution? Grab a piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle of the paper creating two columns. On the left-hand side list all the habits that serve your greater good, and on the right-hand side list all your habits that may be blocking your evolution.
Really focus on your behavior to identify your habits, you may find the list is much longer than you anticipated. Duke University reports that up to 45% of our behavior is habitual. Nearly half of our life is on this wacky autopilot zone of familiarity!
Imagine, if you will, how breaking through those limiting habits and replacing them with new habits designed serve your best self, could propel you to more balanced and sustainable success…on your own terms. More powerful use of your habits!
Coaching and Habits
As a coach with 25 years of experience with individuals and professionals, I spend a great deal of time identifying and strategizing with my clients on how to first identify habits and decide if they serve or block rendering personal visions practical. This part is pretty straight forward, creating new ones is where the work is!
Breaking down a habit
If we want to change a habit we must first look at them from a technical perspective. Habits can be broken into three (3) major components.
The first way to analyze a habit is to look at what is the frequency. Is it something you do hourly daily weekly or monthly? The frequency of the habit matters, big time.
The next thing is effort. Are you willing to practice and to fail and to practice again? Possibly over and over again until you create that new mental muscle memory of the new habit? How much effort are you willing to put into it?
And the third thing is the margin. Where are you now compared to where you want to be.
The Business of making New Habits
Michael Stanier in his book: “The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way Your Lead Forever” identifies five components that are essential to change a habit.
One: The Payoff
The first one is the reason! You need to identify a clear payoff for the habit that you want to adopt. Find your WHY!
Two: The Trigger
The second thing you need to do is identify the specific trigger of the habit. The higher the degree of specificity the better!
When you notice you are about to do what you normally do (ie. your habit!) I invite you to sit in it a little bit longer and see who, what, when, and where seems to be triggering you. Is it always one person, a certain type of person, at a certain place, etc? The more clear you can get at where that trigger lives or starts the better you can move through that habit and transform it into a new one.
Three: Micro Habit
I love this one. It can be applied to any problem or goal in life. You have a problem…what is your first baby step to solving that problem? Look at developing micro-habits. Something that takes less than 60 seconds that will lead to a bigger habit change. Adopting a new habit a more positive habit. For example, an athlete who’s working on a golf swing. They would break it up into micro activities and try and start at the very micro level. They wouldn’t necessarily do the entire golf swing. They’d first look at where their feet situated, Their grip on the club, etc. Breaking it into smaller pieces and practicing that repetition and continuing to repeat it leads to the new habit.
Four: Effective Practice
If we continued with the golf swing analogy…practicing a new swing and micro-habits during a tournament would be setting them up to fail. You use effective practicing techniques on the practice range where it is a safe place to effectively create new habits that will translate to the big tournament day.
Five: The Plan
And then finally you need to have a plan. You need to prepare for the stumble and don’t let it get away on you. Start with the end in mind. You will experience some retrogrades on the path to a new habit. Expect these ‘setbacks’ to best prepare to not lose all momentum. Learn to rest, not quit! All of that can be accounted for in a solid plan.
Creating a new habit does not happen overnight. Something I want to take the time to explicitly say is if you slip a little bit it does not mean you have to continue to fall all the way down the hill.
The ability to stop yourself before the bottom is perhaps the greatest life skill one can acquire. In his book, Michael Stanier talks about if the reason is outside of you sometimes it’s easier to do it for someone else rather than yourself. Perhaps you can tap into that and build a more robust reason to create a new habit by defining what it will do to improve for your Health, Wealth, or Life AND how it will do the same for those closest to you.
A key takeaway is a micro habit. Is there a little thing you can start with? For example, if you want to start an exercise program what if it was just starting with 20 Squats in the morning. Not necessarily doing a five-hour workout the next day. What little things can you do to change your behavior and effective practice?
Final Thoughts from Gandhi & Me
When it comes to habits, the reality is they took time to be put in place and they take time to then be replaced. Perfection is not the target. Perfection is a myth and I want you to set a new target, for anything and everything in your life: Excellence. Excellence is possible and it simply means to be a better version of yourself today than you were yesterday. That is progress and progress is the goal.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.”
More of a video person? We got you covered. Click here to watch the video on YouTube all about habits and while you are at it, why not take Gandhi (and me) up on our advice and take some time to discover and explore your values as well? Click here to learn why I believe Values Underpin Everything You Do!