Around 40% of all of our daily activities are habits. That is 40% of the time, we are not making conscious decisions about what we are doing. This is actually a good thing. Habits are efficient. Thinking is exhausting. It consumes energy and willpower. Think of thinking/decision making as a resource and we can only use up so much of that resource a day. As with any resource, we want to use it as wisely as possible. Habits let us save the thinking/decision making resource for the more important decisions.
So habits are good . . . . . . . well sort of. Habits are good at making conserving our thinking/decision making resource. Whether a given habit is a good or bad decision, depends on whether the outcome of that decision is consistent with your long term healthy goals. So much of our success depends on ensuring our habits are supporting our long term goals.
According to The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Anchor we can change our habits with really small changes. Shawn argues that if you make good habits 20 seconds easier to accomplish you are significantly more likely to actually do that habit. He uses his efforts to practice guitar as his habit. Simply by getting a cheap guitar stand and moving it to a more convenient location was all it took to start practicing. Similarly, making a bad habit 20 seconds harder to accomplish makes it much more likely we will not do this habit.
We can apply this lesson in our personal habits, our professional habits, our team habits and even in our customer habits. Big changes come from small changes consistently applied. Look at how you can make good things just a little bit easier and make bad things just a little bit harder. That little bit will accumulate over time. It will make a big difference in your life. Just start today.
I’m reading How to Change Minds by Rob Jolles. He spends a significant amount of the book with the Decision Cycle, basically the process that we each go through whenever we make a decision of any significance. This process is powerfully useful for me in coaching my clients, I am always looking for new perspectives and techniques to help my clients.
The second step of the Decision Cycle is Awareness. This is the person is aware that they need a change but the pain of not changing is not yet significant enough to drive the person to change. Frequently, the person uses coping mechanisms. He uses the example of the first home he and his wife bought. It was a wonderful little home but was located as close as legally possible to the Beltway in D.C. The noise from the Beltway was constant and loud. They coped by keeping their storm windows on all year and running noisy air cleaners to drown out the noise from the freeway. These coping strategies were enough to let them live in this home for years, until the pain of staying in that home was more than choosing to move to a quieter home. This happened when they had a party and several of their guests independently wondered about all the noise.
A more sever example is a person who is overweight, doesn’t exercise and eats lots of unhealthy foods. He knows that his health is at risk. He knows what must be done to improve the situation but the pain of being overweight isn’t enough to cause him to change his habits . . . . . until his first heart attack. Suddenly, he finds motivation to lose weight, exercise and learn to love broccoli. I’ve heard it said that having the first heart attack has saved more lives than every doctor preaching about taking better care of yourself put together.
Rob has been training large groups of people for years and with each group he surveys them on where they are in the Decision Cycle. He has found nearly 80 percent of them are in the Awareness stage. That is, they know they aren’t satisfied with where they are but they haven’t yet had the heart attack moment. The heart attack moment isn’t just about health. It could be losing a job, failing in a business, getting a divorce, etc.
This is where coaching can come in. By working with a coach, we can help you make a commitment to change BEFORE you have the heart attack moment. Coaches can help you realize the need for change at a much more visceral level and help you create that change in your life.
Let me help you. Reach out before the heart attack moment. Let’s build a better you together.