1. We fall into habits because we are programmed to conserve energy. But we need to make sure that our habits are helping us achieve our potential.
2. Every habit has three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward. Instead of focusing on the habit itself (the routine), we need to focus on the cue (what triggers the habit) and the reward (what we get out of the habit).
3. By recognizing our cues and then planning how we will respond to them, we can change our habits.
4. By focusing on the reward, we can sort out why we do it and how it's moving us closer to achieving our dreams.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” - Aristotle
Do you ever wonder why Olympic athletes spend so much time training? Certainly they have to develop the strength, endurance, and flexibility they need to excel, but they also have to hone their technique to the point where they can do it without thinking.
Athletes get feedback from their coaches about their technique and then practice the new approach over and over again until it’s automatic. Great practice leads to great habits.
You can make significant strides toward your dream if you know how to build the right habits.
I would like to focus on a particularly excellent book on the subject: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by New York Times reporter and Harvard Business School graduate Charles Duhigg.
Duhigg explains that 40-45% of the “decisions” we make every day are not actually choices. They are automatic behaviours. He then outlines how every automatic behaviour – every habit – has three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward.
You might think that changing a habit means focusing on the routine – the behaviour we keep repeating. But we actually need to focus on the cue (what triggers the habit) and the reward (what we get out of the habit).
We are cued to engage in a habit by 1) other people, 2) a time of day, 3) a certain location, 4) a particular emotion, and 5) a behaviour that causes other behaviours. By recognizing our cues and then planning how we will respond to them, we can change our habits. Like sorting out in advance how you can avoid the sugar craving that hits you at 10:30 pm.
Looking at the reward of a habit helps us to sort out why we do it. What do we get out of it? And is the reward moving us closer to achieving our dreams?
The key idea here is to look at your habits and then spend some mental effort finding a new way of handling yourself. Understanding cues and rewards can help your break habits that are getting in the way of improvement.
We fall into habits because we are programmed to conserve energy. No one can sustain a heightened level of mental focus and attention all the time. We need automated processes. But we also need to make sure that our habits are helping us achieve our potential.
It takes 20-120 practice sessions to install a new habit. The average is around 66 days. So remember that for 66 days you need to focus on installing that one new habit until it is routine, then you can redirect that energy somewhere else.
As we move through each module, every two weeks I'll challenge you to incorporate a new habit into your life that will help you improve your performance. By taking just a few minutes each day to consciously practice doing something new, you will lay the foundation for building great habits as we move through the program.