If we are what we repeatedly do and excellence is not an act, but a habit, as Aristotle said, then habits are indeed one of the most powerful forces in our lives. It would behoove all of us to pay very close attention to our habits.
The science of habit formation has become a major field of study over the past few decades at major medical centers and universities worldwide. It is no wonder, since over 40 percent of our daily activities are comprised of our habits. Habits lead us to act mindlessly…and that can be good or bad.
Are you aware of your morning routine? Most of us do the same thing each morning when we first get out of bed. My morning routine has recently changed. It has taken great effort on my part to facilitate this change.
For year, and I mean years, the first thing I did in the morning was make a cup of coffee. Now, I drink lemon water as I spend time meditating, praying, reading and visualizing what my day will look like. Research has shown that it takes between 18 – 254 days to turn an activity into a habit.
I’m about 35 days into my new routine. At this point, my morning routine is not mindless at all. Before I get out of bed, I visualize myself preparing the lemon water. That has helped me form this new habit. Otherwise, I think I would mindlessly go into the kitchen and prepare coffee.
Habits are so powerful that unless we intentionally change a habits we will do the same thing day after day and year after year. Many of our habits were formed early in our lives and we don’t give them much thought.
Below are three reasons we need to be mindful of our habits and intentional about changing bad habits and improving good ones.
1. Habits create shortcuts.
Habits are short-cut mechanisms for the brain. Once a behavior becomes habit, we are on autopilot. Think about getting in your car. You don’t even think about what it takes to unlock your car, sit down in the seat and start the engine. That’s because these behaviors have become habits.
Since habits require little thought, we are able to focus our attention on more important ideas and tasks. Successful people have developed habits that allow them to focus the things that matter most.
In an interview with Tom Corley, he reported that successful people spend 80 percent of their time focused on accomplishing a single goal. By contrast, less successful people only spend 12 percent of their time doing the same thing.
2. Habits create routines.
Habits lock us into routines. If we have developed good routines, like exercising 30 minutes each day or eating healthy foods, then our habits are working for us.
Because habits become a part of our lives and we do these activities without thinking, we may have habits that are not good for us and need to be improved. Improvement is possible, but requires us to be aware and intentional.
3. Habits create a snowball effect.
Research has shown that when we start improving one habit, like waking up earlier, other habits also improve.
Start small. When you start making small improvements and find success, that will give you the momentum you need to keep going. This is called the “snowball effect”. You can apply this strategy to any habit that you want to change from exercising more to paying off debt.
To harness the power of habits, we must first be aware of their influence in our lives. Once we become aware, we can then change our bad habits and improve our good ones.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Question: Are you aware of the power of the habits in your life? Have you taken steps to change a bad habit? Or improve a good one? Share your successes or struggles in the comment section below.