I was recently asked why I place so much importance on habits and why habits is the topic for one of my two weekly blogs?
For me this is an easy question with a simple answer. I know of nothing else that plays a greater role in the results we produce in our lives than those things we do, or don’t do, repeatedly – our habits.
While not every result comes from our habits, it is an inarguable fact that the vast majority do.
Some time ago I wrote of the four traits of greatness. I learned these from a paper I read many years ago by an author whose name I have unfortunately long forgotten.
He said that if we can master four simple behaviours it would be next to impossible not to manifest greatness in life.
Those four behaviours are:
1. Be on time.
2. Be polite.
3. Keep your word.
4. Finish what you start.
Each has the propensity to profoundly impact our lives and each is, of course, a habit.
Which further serves to highlight the importance of working diligently to develop the habits needed to take us to where we always wanted to be.
Your Habits, Your Choices
In the same way that politeness is a habit, so too is rudeness. Whenever we witness rudeness, we are seeing the repetition of a behaviour that is endemic to its owner.
Take a moment to notice how people greet you and you will see patterns repeated in their behaviour. Very often the same people will ask the same questions each time they greet you, not because a limitation of vocabulary prevents variations in their approach, but rather because the greeting is as habitual to them as (hopefully) brushing our teeth is to most of us.
Those who are quick to anger have done so before, many times, and continued to do so as this is their habit.
A few years ago, a client confessed that he had, on two separate occasions, been court ordered to attend anger management courses.
Not once, but twice.
And still, having completed both courses (with two certificates to verify his attendance) anger appeared to be his default response whenever he disagreed with anyone. He acknowledged this to be a lifelong behaviour and, interestingly, when he began to understand the nature of habit formation and committed to the process of changing his habits, the incidence of rage became fewer, less intense and further apart.
When he and I last talked more than a year had passed since he had felt true rage. Now the very same situations that once would have induced uncontrollable anger, now evoke a sense of calmness allowing him to select more appropriate, nonaggressive responses.
Nothing Changes Until Habits Do
So, each time I am asked why habits play such an important role in the work I do it is because years of experience have repeatedly illustrated what I now unequivocally believe to be an irrefutable truth: nothing changes until our habits change and our habits won’t change until we change the story we tell ourselves about ourselves.
To me, it makes no sense to bring change of any kind to our lives without first recognizing the habits behind the behaviours that got you where you are in the first place. Then, and only then, can you start the real work to focus on sustainable behavioural change.
That is why habits will continue to be at the very center of everything I do, be it in my day job as a Habits Coach or in my consulting work evolving organizational cultures (habits) in the workplace.
I love the work I do and that is a habit I have no intention of ever replacing.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.
PS: This we we've launched a video that reviews a most important habit: the story you tell yourself. I hope you'll take a look: