Thursday, August 21, 2014

Creatures of habit. Back to school, back to routine: Now is a great time to take stock of daily habits—and make changes.

We all have our routines and habits—both good and bad. For most of our kids, the summer routine of late nights and lazy mornings is about to come to an abrupt end with school back in session. While we’re helping them make that transition, it’s the perfect opportunity for us to take a look at our everyday routines and then make changes as we see fit.  

One of my favorite books is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg; it takes a look at why habits exist and how we can transform our habits to make life changes. Duhigg studied successful athletes, CEOs, ministers, etc. and he found that by focusing on patterns, it’s possible to make self-discoveries. It was interesting to me that most of us don’t spend time analyzing our daily routines.  For the most part, we don’t even realize the actions or activities that have become our everyday habits—I know I didn’t before I read this book.

Duhigg breaks down the habit discovery process by the cue (or the trigger), the routine, and the reward. Here’s an easy example: For a coffee drinker who enjoys a cup of coffee on the drive into work every morning…the cue is getting in the car; the routine is stopping at Starbucks; and the reward is the extra caffeine kick. By identifying the cue—and replacing it with something else—we can shape change in our daily habits.

Of course, it’s not easy; change of any kind takes awareness and discipline. It’s a process. And it requires repetition: When our actions are repeated over and over again so much so that they become second-nature, that’s when we’re able to make a true transformation. 

The idea of creating change in routine doesn’t have to focus on bad habits—it can be positive, too. And it can also be related to a goal (I want to lose 50 lbs. or I want to sell $1k this year). Say you want to grow your business by creating loyal, raving-fan customers. You might get into the habit of following up with every new customer with a hand-written note (which is a unique touch) and returning phone messages within 24 hours—these are great examples of habits, that once established, can help you work toward achieving the reward or goal.

Putting a plan in place is the first step. The real key is first understanding your patterns and then committing to make the needed change or action.  The reward will happen—you just need to be disciplined enough to commit and follow through.

Good luck!

For more about The Power of Habit: