Autopilot is a beautiful thing when we want to pop on our running gear as soon as we get out of bed, or grab the apple instead of the muffin on the morning tea table.
But what happens when the habits we’ve set, and our autopilot response, are actually the cause of our ongoing failure and lack of momentum in our business?
You know you’re more capable than the results around your show. But no matter how much you say things are going to change, nothing ever does. Momentum starts when you learn how to take the steps needed and get out of your own way. But this isn’t just about to do lists and schedules. It’s about your habits.
Let’s understand habits.
You rarely think about your habits, and that’s the whole point. A habit is a series of actions that you have on autopilot and rarely think about.
A habit forms when the brain converts a sequence of actions into an automatic response, known as chunking. The brain is basically batching these actions to save time and energy. It creates a habit loop by combining a cue, routine and reward.
As your actions become more routine, you start thinking about them less. Each time you see or feel the cue (or trigger), your brain automatically sends you to the routine so it can get its reward.
‘When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making’ says Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit.
Habits for failure anyone?
Charles also goes on to say that ‘Your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits.’ Not great news if you’ve trained your brain to set up habits that don’t lead to your growth.
As I started to pay more attention to my habits I noticed some alarming patterns.
- Instead of focusing on the action or what I needed to do, I would focus on the excuse.
- Instead of asking ‘what will I learn?’, I would default to ‘will it work?’ (Read why ‘will it work?’ is the wrong question to ask here.)
- Instead of diving in deep to do the work, I craved distraction and would check my email or social notifications.
These are just a small sample of the habits I’d created to keep me playing small. Do any of them sound familiar to you?
Now, time to think about your habits.
What habits have you created that are keeping you stuck rather than fuelling your growth?
Are you letting distraction take over your day, rather than staying focused on what it is you need to do? Working with too many tabs open on your laptop, or notifications turned on, begging to distract you at any chance they get?
Perhaps you’ve been sucked into doing all the easy tasks each day that takes up your time, rather than prioritising the foundation and growth work that needs to take place to set you on the right path for success.
Or maybe your habit is to start work right away when you wake up, instead of giving your mind and body time to reset and recalibrate so you can be more effective throughout the day.
Take some time to pay attention to the habits you’ve created in your day, and work out if they need to change.
Create habits for success instead.
Habits can’t be erased, but they can be replaced. The trick is to create a new habit loop that is kicked off with the initial cue (or trigger).
For example, you might wake up, stretch and reach for your phone to check the overnight notifications that are waiting for you. Instead, wake up, stretch and reach for your running shoes and head out the door for a walk or run to reset your mind and get your body moving.
When you feel uncertain or uncomfortable about a particular task, you may be tempted to jump to another task, promising yourself you’ll come back to it when you feel ready. Instead, acknowledge the discomfort and see it as a sign of growth. Then stick with the task and defer the distraction until it’s done.
Making the new habits stick.
‘For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible. And most often, that belief only emerges with the help of a group’ explains Charles Duhigg.
Sure you can buckle down, and go it alone. But if you’re not convinced you can make the change, and you’re not seeing constant proof and reinforcement that it’s possible, chances are your old habits will kick right back in.
Joining a like-minded community allows you to see that change is possible and will help keep you accountable to the changes you want to implement.
Just like you’ve created a habit around getting dressed and brushing your teeth, you can create habits to support your success.