Scientific research shows that when you carry out certain actions repetitively, neural pathways are created in the brain, making the habit automatic. As I’m sure you experienced, there are habits that get you to your goals, and habits that don’t.
When you’re not meeting your goals, consider your habits need to change, particularly when they foster undesirable behaviors. For example, a gentleman was trying to stop smoking. Whenever he got in his car, he had a habit: he turned on the radio, put his seat belt on, and then checked his pockets for his cigarettes.
When he set his goal to stop smoking, he realized he still had the habit of reaching in his pocket for his cigarettes that got him thinking about lighting up. His pattern of behavior triggered his urge to smoke. To meet his new goal of healthy living, it was necessary to create a new habit so that his self-limiting habit would not trigger the undesired behavior.
As you create new habits for yourself and in your company, consider these tips:
1. Ask If You’re Interested or Committed
When asking yourself if you’re interested or committed in reaching a goal, you’ll be surprised at how it shapes your actions. If you’re interested in making a change, you look for convenience. When it comes to changing a habit, it often takes more than just being interested because not all things will be convenient on the path to sustaining your habit. When asking yourself this simple question, you might find that, while you’re interested, you’re commitment is missing at times when you need it the most. Identify what you’re really committed to.
2. Change One Habit, Master It, and Move On To The Next
Rather than scattering your energy to change multiple habits, focus your attention on one new habit until you do it regularly without thinking. Once you master that new habit, move on to the next one. If you find yourself starting a new habit but not sustaining it, tackling one habit at a time might be a better fit to sustain the new habit.
When you’re changing your company’s culture, the same tip applies. For example, if you want productive meetings, make sure each person is trained in the habits of mastering meetings. Part of our Excelleration Mentoring Program is to educate leadership in how to be a meeting master, including how to create an Agenda, the importance of Meeting Roles, and how to create Existence Systems. In this larger scale example, you can you see how changing one habit company-wide could take some time and effort to implement so that it becomes part of the company’s culture.
3. Keep It Super Simple
You’ve been there on January 1 when you start that exercise routine, work out for an hour, then are so sore the next day and you stop exercising. If exercising for an hour each day is too much, start out by exercising 10-20 minutes a day. Simply increase the amount each week.
4. Schedule It
At the end of the day, if you’re asking where the day went (and wondering why you didn’t get done what you had planned), this may be a clue to change the habit of where you focus your time and energy. If you start the day surfing the internet and aren’t focus on the activities that will get you to your goal, set an alarm to keep yourself accountable. When the time is up, it’s time to stop surfing and start focusing on the business of the day.
When setting an appointment with himself to get a task done didn’t work, one of my clients had an accountability call with one of his staff. They used the call to work on the project . This working call got the tasks done. Setting an appointment with yourself to get a task done can easily get rescheduled. By setting an actual task meeting with someone else on the team, they moved the project ahead.
5. Set Yourself Up for Success
If you’re trying to increase your pipelines of new clients, carefully identify where you’re spending your time. If you have the habit of answering the phone every time someone calls, think about carving out specific periods of time in answering phone messages rather than interrupting the flow of your day on every single call that comes in.
6. Build in Accountability
As you create a positive habit or work on breaking a bad one, join a group or connect with a buddy to keep you going. The benefit of linking with a buddy? It creates accountability.
7. Visualize It
What is the end goal that this new habit will help you reach? Find pictures or images that represent your “after” picture and post the pictures on your office vision board. Keep your board in front of you so you see it every day.
A clear mental picture of what you want in your life is a very powerful aid. It keeps you focused on the end game.
8. Celebrate Successes
When you get started with your new habit identify time frames and metrics you want to achieve. When you hit those milestones, reward yourself in a way that is consistent with your end game.
Take a moment today to look at the routines or habits you’ve created. Ask yourself: what habit is missing that if I put it in would make a significant difference in reaching my goal? One habit-changing step today produces life-changing outcomes.
ABOUT EXCELLERATE ASSOCIATES
Lisa Mininni is President of Excellerate Associates, a business mentoring and organizational/leadership development company. It’s the only national curriculum taking a systems approach to profitability.