The Power of Habits for Success

Habits are small but powerful things because they can help ease the burden of our never-ending to-do list – both professionally and personally.

Setting great habits allow us to work at our best, getting into creative flow more effortlessly and maximise opportunities.

“Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones” – Benjamin Franklin

Our automatic habits control around 40% of our lives. This is too serious to not think about. If we don’t get this sorted, how can we reach our full potential and transform our lives to the level we want?

Humans are creatures of habit. Most of us do the same things over and over: we shower the same way, eat the same foods, see the same people and barely put thought into it. This is because our brain loves efficiency.

Our brain is wired to look for patterns so that if we start to repeat behaviours, it’s almost as though it thinks “A-ha! She did that three days in a row, I’m going to get that one on auto-pilot as she must intend to continue the pattern and I want to save my blood glucose for more important matters!”

This is an excellent system for the things that we don’t want to have to consciously think about every time – like driving our car or doing tasks at work that we need to do fast.

However, though habits can work in our favour, as most of us know all too well, they can also work against us. Often failure is just a few errors, repeated day after day. It’s subtle.

“Any act often repeated soon forms a habit and if allowed, steadily gets stronger. At first it may be a spider’s web easily broken through, but if not resisted, it soon binds us with chains of steel.” – Tyron Edwards

It’s been well said that “We make our habits, then our habits make us.”

Bad habits are like a virus. They spread into other areas of our lives and cause problems! The challenge is, the effect that our bad habits are having is often under the surface, so it’s not always easy to see the damage they’re doing.


How to take control of your habits

So, how do we begin to change habits that have been in place for a long time?

Charles Duhig in his book ‘The power of habits’ talks about Keystone habits – they’re like stones that are formed in an arch together, you remove one and all the rest fall over.

“Keystone habits have the power to create a chain reaction… keystone habits have the power to transform everything.”


Determine your bad keystone habits

If you want to see change, figure out what those keystone habits are.


Some examples of bad keystone habits

  • Chronic texting or checking our social media
  • Watching too much TV
  • Eating processed food on the run
  • Drinking too much
  • Spending too much time with people who complain a lot
  • Forgetting to drink water
  • Going to bed too late

All of these things are keystone habits because they can have a flow-on effect that slows us down physically and mentally and causes a domino effect into our productivity and happiness.

These things may seem like not a big problem now, but as we project into the future, over time things can really escalate. They get bigger and more powerful as the snowball rolls down, if we project ourselves forward, who are we going to be – with compound interest?


Determine why you have this habit

Once you’ve decided what habit you want to break, your next step is to unpack why you have that habit in the first place.   Tweet: When you have an early meeting or you just can’t face eating before you rush out the door, then a smoothie is the perfect morning companion.   Click to tweet

Do you go to bed too late because you’re craving fun or connection and can’t seem to get yourself off social media?

Do you buy too many takeaways because you haven’t booked times in your diary to make healthy meals?

Unpack the reason you have this habit on paper. Ask yourself what you’re getting out of it and what you want instead.

You need to have a conversation with yourself and convince that part of you that there is more benefit from letting go of that habit than holding on to it. It may not give up without a fight.

But remember – you are the boss of your mind. If you give it a strong enough ‘why’ to change, your mind will work for you.


Replace a negative habit with a positive one 

Ask yourself:

“What is the one habit that is going to make the biggest impact if I replace it?

If we simply try to just remove a behaviour, we are left with a hole. Our brain does not like this – so an essential step in the process is to decide what you will do instead of the bad habit.


Pre-load some decisions

It also helps to ‘pre-load’ some decisions. For example, before you start working on a task, decide how long you’re going to spend on it. Before you say yes to another lunch out, think about if that’s really what is going to get you the results you’re working towards.


Some examples of daily success habits:

  • Start your hardest task first-thing in the morning, BEFORE checking email
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes
  • Plan your following day before you shut down your computer the night before
  • Sleep at least 8 hours a night
  • During the day, set an alarm every hour to get up and stretch for five minutes


3 easy steps to creating a new habit:

  1. Pick ONE new success habit to start with
  2. Persist with the one habit until it is formed
  3. Reward yourself when you achieve it then move to a new one

Remember – ALL habits can be changed. And the best day to start changing a habit is today!   Tweet: When you have an early meeting or you just can’t face eating before you rush out the door, then a smoothie is the perfect morning companion.   Click to tweet

Be well. Love life.

Kat Millar

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