Habits Matter

Why Does This Matter?
The biggest dreams are realized through consistent steps, not big leaps.  Our habits can automate steps to get us there.  Learn how to turn your habits in the direction of your dreams.  

Achieving your dreams won’t happen in the big leaps, but in small habits and incremental growth. 

What Are Habits?
We all have habits engrained in our lifestyle, whether we like them or not. So, we are going to either have a life filled with good habits (leading us toward meaning) or bad habits (distracting us from meaning). By replacing the bad with the good, it not only helps us stay on our desired path but get further down it faster.

A habit can be defined as ‘a regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up’ and broken down into three parts:

1.      A Cue: Something that triggers our action.
2.      An Action: Shat is engaged with the habit.
3.      A Reward: What we get for performing the action. 

Let’s dive into each part in order to help us utilize habits to serve us the most.

First the CUE – What are some cues for your current habits?  They could be time bound, such as waking up and grabbing a coffee, or getting home and sitting in front of the tv.  They could be activity bound, such as getting in the car and turning on the radio.  Start thinking about all the different cues in your life already triggering habits.

Next is the ACTION – At first, as you create new habits, it won’t be natural and you will have to force yourself to do it.  Fortunately, the way habits work, the discipline needed will subside after time along with the energy accompanying it.

And finally is the REWARD – All of your habits already have rewards, even if it is vegging in front of the TV, which gives you the reward of comfort and entertainment.  The key is to increase the rewards of your new habits beyond those of your old habits to motivate new behavior.  Most of the time, it is a simple as defining and remembering why you wanted to create the new habit in the first place.  

Habits Matter
Let’s use an example to illustrate these three parts of a habit.  Let’s say I have a habit of grabbing a donut on the way to work every day.  My cue is driving by the shop and my positive reward is a few minutes of tasty pleasure.  But after a year of this habit, I have some undesired results, such as discomfort with tight pants, not liking what I see in the mirror, and more difficulty playing with my kids.  The problem is that these motivators aren’t at the right time to override the desire that is cued as I drive by the shop.  So, I must rearrange things to work in my favor.  I could write all the reasons I want to stay trim and have them in the car with me.  Or I could move my habit to eating a healthy breakfast at home before leaving. It is all about aligning the cues and rewards around the habits you want in your life? 

And on top of habits being recurring steps toward your dream, they are also time-savers.  One of the biggest questions we get when it comes to reaching dreams is “how to find the time?”.  Creating better habits in one of those ways, as taking the planning and energy out of steps toward a goal creates great efficiencies in your life.

So, no matter what your dreams are, make sure your habits are the foundation of support for them, as everything big is built on your habits. Writers write consistently.  Runners run consistently.  Painters paint consistently.  Ask yourself “What does the person who accomplishes this dream do consistently?”   

And remember “It’s not a sprint, but a marathon”, and trying to add or change many habits at once, is like trying to sprint a marathon, where you will gas out quickly. So, start with one desired habit, until it is established and then add the next one and so on. Studies show that it takes between 33 and 66 days for a new habit to form, so rely on discipline, planning and doing everything you can in the beginning to set yourself up for success, knowing that it will just get easier and easier as time goes by.