The Power of Habit

Our habits impact our health, our productivity, our relationships, our finances and in the end our state of happiness much more than we think. Our lives are full of them and we go day in day out without thinking about them. They become part of who we are.

When you woke up today, what did you do? Did you check your phone, hop into the shower, had a coffee? What route did you take to work? What places do usually you go for lunch?

We may feel that most of our choices we make each day are all well considered decisions, but they’re not. Most of them are habits. Habits are automatic, no-willpower consuming actions which you don’t have to think about.

Habits and routines are everywhere in us and it’s really a good thing as they save us a lot of energy. Imagine you wake up and would have to consider the best way to brush your teeth, take a shower, tie your shoelaces, drive your car. All those activities we take for granted are hardwired into our brain, have become natural.

My one year old son is currently putting a lot of energy in learning how to walk, but soon it will be natural to him. Same applies for riding a bike, typing on your pc, cooking a meal, building a house, negotiating a deal. All these may or may not be part of our routines.

Habits are not only actions, they are also thoughts and emotions. When faced with challenges, there are people who have the habit of complaining while others ask themselves useful questions: ‘what can I learn from this?’ or ‘how can I make the best out of this?’. Those are different habits, which will produce very different results and feelings.

Why are these habits so important? Because in the end success is not one giant event but the result of a long list of little actions we do day in day out. Positive or negative. Whatever result you are getting today, it’s the outcome of weeks, months, and years of small little acts.

The key is to increase the number of habits that serve you and reduce as much as possible the ones that do not. Identifying these can be a real challenge as we all have stories we tell ourselves to justify some of our habits; “I don’t have time for this (running, reading, connecting,..), you know, I have a family and kids, and a job. It’s not easy”,  “I don’t like running in the winter, it’s dark outside”. There is always a story behind which you can hide if you really look for one. There is also always a way, if you look for it and you really want it.

Habits have become part of who we are and are controlling our daily lives. From there on, either we show a growth oriented mindset and we actively look for ways (habits) to improve ourselves, or we may or may not at some point be forced to change because of the results of our habits impacting our health, finances, relationships, etc. Whatever you choose, your habits will always be the mirror of the standards you set for yourself.

Moreover, in the instant gratification society we currently live in (the never ending buzzing of our phones, google replying to any question under one second) we all are becoming very impatient. Same goes for changing our habits. We want to see results immediately and look for shortcuts on how to get rich, lose weight, connect. We all tend to forget that creating or changing habits is a slow and sometimes uncomfortable process, but one with great rewards.

You want to get going but don’t know where to start? Start with one (!) easy new habit that will give you the confidence to tackle a more difficult one afterwards!

You are already more confident? Look for ‘cornerstone habits’. Those are habits that if changed, have a ripple effect and will impact many other aspects of your life.

As an example if you start running and get fitter, this may lead you to stop smoking, lose weight, eat healthier and in the end improve your productivity at work, your relationships and your finances. For me a cornerstone habit was starting to read 30 minutes a day. What could be yours?