Recently I had a loan courtesy car while my own trusty Astra was being repaired. The loan car had a five-speed gearbox, my car has a six-speed box. After three unsuccessful attempts to go from fifth to reverse at about 40 mph, I realised how habitual my driving was, and how it wasn’t helping me (or the courtesy Nissan Micra!).
I guess our lives are like driving – we fall into sub-conscious patterns of behaviour, which sometimes help and ease our passage through life, and sometimes don’t. Maybe, to be more successful we need to break those habits that don’t help and strengthen those that do.
It seems to me that there are three stages to getting the right habits in place:
Notice – be mindful of what things you do habitually. Sometimes you’ll need to interrupt your pattern just to notice (like my driving: the habit of going into sixth was unnoticed, until it caused me to crunch the gearbox in the Micra). You might want to have colleagues or customers give feedback on how you work, to raise your awareness of habits. Or you might want to keep a journal for a day or two, where you can just notice what you do, how you do it and what habits you have.
Differentiate quality – separate your habits into those that:
- always serve you ( eg breathing; doing as your wife tells you; or making three sales calls before you open your email Inbox each day);
- serve you at some times and not others (like backing up your computer on a Monday morning – which won’t serve you on Bank Holidays, or if your busiest day is a Tuesday; following a script on phone calls – which won’t help if the client’s situation is off-script; or checking emails as you go to bed – which won’t help if the emails you receive cause you to lose sleep);
- are self-destructive (such as finishing the packet of Haribos once you start; having that fourth pint of lager on a Friday night; clicking into Facebook when you sit down at your desk or trusting you’ll wake up in time for your station on the late train home).
Change – put in place new habits where you need to (let go of the self- destructive ones and develop new habits to fill the void). In order to change, find a positive replacement, create an infrastructure or routine to give the habit the best chance of sticking, persevere (it is said that it takes 3-4 weeks for a habit to get traction), be accountable and finally celebrate success.
Like all of us I am sure, I have good and bad habits. I really notice when the good habits help – my savings habit started when I worked in a supermarket at 19, and will give me the chance to retire early. Sometimes it is really obvious when a habit is destructive – the sugar rush from the Haribos is a clear sign I have eaten too many! The hardest ones to spot are those that might seem to work, but might not in certain or new circumstances – so pay particular attention to what those might be for you.
Good habits will slowly but surely make you more successful. Bad habits will inexorably hinder you.
The good news is, you get to choose which habits you hold onto. Which do you need to change to get where you want to in 2017?
Let me know how you get on!