The Thing About Habits

The Thing About Habits

Many books have been written about habits, starting with authors like Stephen R. Covey with his book “The 7 habits of highly effective people” or Charles Duhigg with his book “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change”. They all tell the story about the importance of creating the right habits for your life if you want to be successful.

To understand habits you need to understand what they actually are. In the book “BrainChains: Discover your brain, to unleash its full potential in a hyperconnected, multitasking world”, Theo Compernolle describes the physical aspect of creating habits very well and reading between the lines, makes it very clear how dangerous habits can be.

Basically habits are action and thinking models which when repeated often enough become natural to you. Its like driving a car. At the beginning it is difficult. You have to consciously think of everything at the same time. Things like pushing the clutch pedal, moving the gear stick to the first gear position, slowly releasing the clutch pedal while softly pushing the accelerator pedal. At the same time looking into the mirror and scanning your surrounding area to see if it is save to move. This is a lot to think about, but after repeating this over and over again all these actions become part of you and you start doing them naturally. Habits are created by repeating a process over and over again.

The whole thing is a very clever part of our evolution. Our thinking brain cannot manage too many things at the same time. It therefore stores the learned informations as connected procedures in our storage brain from where we can retrieve these procedures without too much effort within a very short period of time. All the things like talking and walking are stored procedures we’ve learned at one stage and repeated over and over again. This is also called a habit.

But it goes further. Even the things you think, the things you say or the way you see the world are stored procedures based on repeatedly thinking or speaking in a certain way until it becomes natural to you.

The thing with these procedures is once they are habits you are no more aware of them, because you don’t think about them any longer. That means if you’ve created a bad habit you will keep doing it unless something major either forces you to change it or you decide to change it. But how do you become aware of bad habits?

Over 60% of all drivers believe that they are very good drivers and maybe at an early stage they were quite good. However, over time our procedures are influenced by all the other things around in our life. If we are late everyday getting up and we have to compensate by driving that bit faster to get to work on time, it will influence our way of driving. If we do this often enough it will change our driving procedure, probably making us a much riskier driver without us even being aware of it. We still think we’re a great driver.

If you stop for a moment and think about all the things you do automatically throughout the day without actually thinking about them you will probably come up with a very long list of actions. These are all the habits you’ve created for yourself during your life time. If you consider that your thinking brain can only manage to think about one thing at the time you understand the power habits have on your life.

We don’t have a reset button to start all over again. The only way to change your life is by influencing your current habits. Selecting one habit you’ve found holding you back in your life and working on that single one will automatically influence other habits as well. Reviewing your habits and procedures from time to time is certainly a wise thing to do.

To find out which habit is more destructive than productive you need to set yourself a standard you want to measure against. Doing so will allow you to see the bad and the good habits. You can view this as a constitution of your life, the things you want to stand for and what defines you. This can be your point of reference. If any of your habits go against your own constitution, you know what to do. It also helps creating new procedures you want to integrate into your life as a habit.

This isn’t an easy process. You will need to push the selected procedure into your thinking brain, revise its actions and consciously repeat it until it overrides the existing habit. This requires some effort and because of all the other things going on in your life you often don’t want to take the time. But if you don’t do that all the new things you’re going to learn will be tainted by the bad habits you’ve created for yourself in the past. Its like building a house on a bad foundation.

My advice is to start by writing your own constitution, outlining the things you want to be important in your life. What you want to stand for and what you want your family and friends to think about you. Have a look at the habits you execute everyday which are not in line with it and pick one. I would start with the easiest one. Have a look at it and physically rewrite the procedure to fit your desired process. Put it on a list you view everyday and actively work on it. Its like starting to drive a car again and it will take some time to become natural. But after a while you don’t need to think about it anymore.

Sometimes creating another habit like meditation or sport will have a huge impact on your current habits and might influence them in a good way.

Whatever you decide to do, your willingness to do something in the first place will already impact your behaviour, your thinking and your actions.

Have you written your constitution yet?

Finding Customers And Dealing With Competition

In this Q&A I am talking about finding customers. What you can do to find the right customers and where to look. The second question is about dealing with competition. What is good and what is bad about it. If you have any questions please put them in the comments below or send the by email to [email protected].


Becoming A Leader

Becoming A Leader

For many years, leadership has been a major subject of discussions in the business world. There is a lot of talk and opinion about what a good leader is, what she should do, how she should behave and even what she should wear. This subject has been taken apart over and over again.

I’ve even seen job descriptions of leadership roles, describing in detail what the work entails, the responsibilities and rights and not a single word about the people this person should lead. Amazing!

What’s more, I frequently have discussions with so-called ‘leaders’ – and the majority of them are struggling to be a good leader.

Being a Leader is not an assignment, but a decision you take!

A leader’s job shifts from being a worker to supporting her team to do the job. This requires trust, commitment and the decision to stand for the team.

It’s very similar to parenting. When a child comes into your life, your attentions, actions, and behaviours change to support the child. Like in parenting, there are different views about what makes a good parent, but I believe (or at least hope) everyone has the best interest of their child in mind. They will be there when the child needs a parent and stand in front of the child in case of any danger. Leadership is exactly the same.

Being a Leader is taking a decision to support the team, create a secure environment to develop and be in the front-line in case of danger.

This creates an environment where team members can safely develop, innovate and create to achieve a common goal, without fear.

Not everyone is born to be a good leader, in the same way that not everyone is born to be a good parent. If you’re put into a leadership position and you struggle, the first step step must be:

Make the decision to become a great leader!

The worst cases are the common career paths, where we need to move into a leadership position in order to move up the ladder. Most often the motivation is not in being a leader, but in money, position or status. All of those have nothing to do with leadership, but only relate to that one position. Everything you learned and have been so good at in the past loses most of its value and you start from scratch.

Now, you need to learn about people. You need to learn about creating the safe environment, about standing up for your team and defining the direction you and your team needs to take. This is a huge step and most likely far away from what you’ve done so far in your career.

If you set out on your career path to be great in your field, becoming a leader will change most of it completely. Becoming a leader is passing some of the work you’ve done to your team and trust them to do a better job than you’ve ever done. Being able to let go of your previous job is part of that transition and that is where, in my experience, most people struggle.

A friend of mine described it like this: becoming a leader is like having to sell your Porsche in order to buy a family van and be super happy about it.

Make the decision to be an amazing leader. Learn the people skills required and create an environment in which your team can safely grow.

Are you ready to be a leader?

If you like this post, have a look at this one:

Decisions, Decisions