Success – Make a Habit of it
Written by Andrew Johnson - Thu 11th Jun 2020
Audit your Habits
The first challenge is to be aware of our routine habits. Record your habits over a period of a day. Now rate your habits. Do not score them as “Good Habits” or Bad habits. One person’s “bad habit” might be another person’s “good habit”. Instead, categorise your habits by how they will benefit you in the long term. Use a rating system using a + sign for those habits that help you become the person you desire to be and a – sign for those habits that conflict with your desired long-term goal.
Establishing a Desired Habit
There are two ways to establish a new habit. The first is to pair a specific new habit with a specific time and location. I am currently learning French. In order to establish this habit, I have committed to studying at 7.00am (Time) in my Home Office (Location) every day. So far this has proven successful as I am on a 74-day streak. I do not need willpower or determination to establish this new habit, it is simply part of my everyday schedule.
The second strategy is to do what is called “habit stacking”. Simply identify an existing habit you do every day and stack your new habit on top. This method, which was created by BJ Fogg as part of his Tiny Habits programme, can be used to design an obvious cue for nearly any habit. The Habit Stacking Formula is:
“After (CURRENT HABIT), I will (NEW HABIT)”
I have used this method successfully as a part of my fitness routine. After my daily exercise routine (cardio or weights), I have bolted on a stretching routine to improve my flexibility.
A word about Willpower
Do not rely on Willpower alone to achieve new Habits or break Bad Habits. I like to see Willpower as a muscle. The more we use it, the more tired it becomes. That is why we might start a new day with good intentions and “bags of willpower”, but by the end of the end of the day our willpower muscle is severely weakened and we often falter in our discipline. Dieter’s often start a new diet successfully for a few days, their willpower driving their success, only to falter by week two when they do not see the results they want and their willpower has faltered. It is far better to establish a routine of habits into your everyday schedule to drive success.
Breaking a Bad Habit
Any habit we have is in our lives for a reason. The habit satisfies a need we have in our lives; some are biological and some are emotional. People tell me they smoke to relieve stress (a need) or they go on a shopping spree to overcome boredom. If a “bad” habit satisfies a need it is too hard to simply stop, you need to replace it with a “good” habit that satisfies the same need.
I have detailed some ideas below to help your bad habits.
Choose a substitute for your bad habit.
You need a plan for how you will respond when you face the stress or boredom that triggers your bad habit. What can you substitute, that is a positive step toward your desired long-term goal or that better version of you? If it is opening that bottle of wine at 6.00pm after a day’s work or stopping at the pub (not at the moment) on the way from work for a quick pint then maybe you can start an online Fitness class or activity (Jo Wickes look out). It is far easier if you have a substitute.
Change your Environment
The more you can do to remove the triggers that cause your bad habits from your environment, the easier it will be. Take the sweets and cakes out of the cupboard, leave your phones and devices in another room, make sure the stationary bike is accessible and not littered with clothes. If your environment makes your Bad Habits easier and your Good Habits harder, change it and change the outcome.
Expect to Fail
Do not let a missed work out, a bad meal, injury or just a crappy day derail you from your goals. Accept it, we all do it, and move on. What separates the great from the good is their ability to bounce back. As Ant Middleton says in his book “First Man in”, failure is not making the mistake, it’s allowing the mistake to win.
Surround yourself with people who live the way you want to live.
If you want to be a runner, join a running club, if you want to be a writer, go to writing retreats. Feed off the example and energy these role models provide. Joining any club is not just about the hobby, it is a lifestyle choice where you surround yourself with like-minded people sharing the same passion. It becomes a brotherhood/sisterhood.
If you intend to start a new habit like running, weight loss, a new skill etc, rather than keeping it secret so people can’t see you fail, instead pair up with someone with the same goal and achieve it together. This is a powerful motivator and driver of success.
Visualize yourself Succeeding
This is a simple but powerful technique. Top athletes use it, seeing themselves winning a race, breaking a record, time and time again, in their mind’s eye. See yourself in that healthier body, achieving that goal, finishing that development programme or course.