Most of life is habitual. You do the same things you did yesterday, the day before that and every day prior for the last month. It’s estimated that out of every 11,000 signals we receive from our senses, our brain only consciously processes 40.
Habits, good or bad, make you who you are. The key is controlling them. If you know how to change your habits, then even a small effort can create big changes. People don’t get fat because of one day of over-eating; it takes years of just a few extra calories everyday. Save twenty dollars a day and you’ve accumulated a fortune over a lifetime.
In business, consistent good habits can build reputations and successful corporations, and making small positive changes can, when put on autopilot, result in an improved quality of life. It is not just about getting rid of bad habits but adding positive habits that will truly make a difference. An important thing to remember is that not only individuals but organizations can develop better habits. When programs are used to support positive changes then the organization gets better – think ISO9001!
Here are some tips to get you started:
One Habit For 30 Days – Focus on one change for thirty days. It takes a month to integrate new behaviours to become a habit and sculpt the automatic programs that run in the background of your mind.
Use a Trigger – A trigger is a short ritual you perform before a habit. If you want to wake up earlier, this might mean jumping out of bed as soon as you hear the sound of your alarm. If you want to stop smoking, this could be snapping your fingers every time you feel the urge for a cigarette. A trigger helps integrate a new pattern more consistently.
Replace Lost Needs – You can’t successfully eliminate habits without addressing the needs they fulfill. Giving up television might mean you need to find a new way to relax, socialize or get information. Buy a great novel and then quit television.
One Habit at a Time – A month may seem like a long time to focus on only one change, but I have found that trying to change more than a few habits at a time is ineffective. With just one habit change you can focus on making it really stick. Multi-tasking between three or four new changes often means that none of the desired new behaviours become habits. Remember, one habit per month means twelve new habits in a year! That is a huge change to anyone’s life!
Balance Feedback – The difference between long-term change and giving up on day 31 is the balance of feedback. If your change creates more pain in your life than joy, it will be hard to stick to. Don’t go to the gym if you hate it. Find diets, exercise, financial plans and work routines that are fun to follow and support you. Find rewards for the changes.
“But” to Kill Bad Thoughts – Anytime you feel yourself thinking negatively about yourself, use the word “but” and point out positive aspects. “I’m lousy at this job – but – if I keep at it I can probably improve.”
Write it Down – Don’t leave commitments in your brain. Write them on paper. This does two things. First, it creates clarity by defining in specific terms what your change means. Second, it keeps you committed since it is easy to dismiss a thought, but harder to dismiss a promise printed in front of you. Writing business and life plans makes these goals real!
30, 90, 365 – Most habits go through a series of checkpoints in terms of conditioning. At thirty days, it doesn’t require willpower to continue your change, but problems might offset it. At ninety days, any change needs to be neutral where running the habit is no more difficult than not running it. At one year it is generally harder not to run the habit than to continue with it. Be patient and run habits through the three checkpoints to make them stick.
Get Leverage – Give a buddy a hundred bucks with the condition to return it to you only when you’ve been consistent with your new behaviour for thirty days without fail.
Make a public commitment to everyone you know that you’re going to stick with it. Offer yourself a reward if you make it a month – anything to give yourself that extra push.
When I started this newsletter I wrote on the top that it would be issued every Tuesday. So far I have stuck to that without fail for 206 weeks!
I think it is a habit now!
Keep it Simple – Your change should involve one or two rules, not a dozen. Exercising once per day for at least thirty minutes is easier to follow than exercising Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays with yoga the first day and mountain biking the third day, except when it is raining in which case you will do… Simple rules create habits, complex rules create headaches.
Consistency is Key – The point of a habit is that it doesn’t require thought. Variety may be the spice of life, but it doesn’t create habits. Make sure your habit is as consistent as possible and is repeated every day for thirty days. This will ensure a new habit is drilled in, instead of multiple habits loosely conditioned.
Experiment – You can’t know whether a different habit will work until you try it. Mix around with key habits until you find ones that suit you. Don’t try to follow habits because you should, but because you’ve tested them and they work in your life.
There are many great habits to choose from in an effort to improve your life and business, but here is a short list that occurred to me on this sunny summer afternoon.
Life is full of stress, and having the energy and balance to address all the challenges that come our way is much easier when we are healthy and fit. Waking up clear-headed rather than bleary eyed makes fighting the good fight so much easier. Get an exercise plan and make that your number one and most important habit in life. When blindsided by life, the extra energy will make the difference! Trust me on this one!
We cannot do anything without others. Keep in touch with friends and associates. Network, build and maintain relationships. Dig your well before you are thirsty.
Make one more call
When you have put in your day of telephoning prospects and customers, visiting clients, or cold calling, and you have done everything you planned to do, then make just one more call. More often than not, that call will be the big one of the day. Plus, one more call adds up to hundreds of additional calls every year. That will make a difference!
Gas tank full, car washed, extra pen packed, price list handy, samples clean and inspected. Always be prepared and you will save a lot of time not having to go back to the car or office or making a second trip. You will also develop a reputation for always being prepared. People will trust you!
Ask for the order
This has happened to me more times than I can remember. I have completed a presentation in front of a prospect, convinced they would never buy, but at the end of the presentation I asked for the
order anyway and walked out with a cheque in my hands. Always ask for the order!
If something is a good idea stick with it! Most people give up just before victory and victory usually takes just a little bit longer than we ever expect it will. I am probably the most persistent person I have ever met, and although that habit has kept me at some things longer than necessary, it has also meant that I have won prizes because everyone else has left the field. Never give up on a good idea.
Know when to quit
Although persistence is a great habit, we must learn to honestly evaluate the path in front of us. If the prospect doesn’t have any money then move on! If the prospect cannot benefit from what we are offering, thank them for their time and move on. If you hate your job and what you are selling then quit and move on.
Life is extremely difficult at times and we can all get miserable, but get in the habit of smiling easily. Smiles can break the biggest barriers and make people warm to us in an instant. Smile at everyone and mean it!
Always dress two levels above your pay grade. People will see you as being serious and professional and will be less likely to dismiss you out of hand. Dress as well as you can afford to and invest in quality, classic looks that will hold that investment. If you dress and present yourself like a top corporate lawyer people will listen to you.
I guarantee it!
Always be selling