Habit: a settled or regular tendency or practice. An automatic reaction to a specific situation.
Habits. We all have them. In spades.
They can help us pull through tough times. Especially now.
Think about what body part you wash first, where you put your keys, how you start and end your day. They’re all chockablock full of habits.
Having issues with my shoulder has taught me how much of an ingrained habit I have for which arm I dress first. It’s been surprisingly challenging to change that simple habit by dressing my opposite shoulder first. Talk about shouldering a habit (pun and subsequent groan intended).
I’ve been doing some research on habits, including Think Small, The surprisingly Simple ways to reach big goals by Owain Service and Rory Gallagher, Directors of the world’s first Nudge Unit (it was a favourite read of mine from 2019. More of their work in an upcoming blog post.
For now, let’s focus on Matt Davella’s habits video. He had the bonkers idea of creating 12 habits, one per month, for a year. The video is the result of his creating habits adventures such as quitting caffeine, waking up earlier, journaling, stopping eating sugar and more.
Habits can swing both ways
They can make your personal and work life flow with ease or they can throw a ratchet into all your spinning sprockets, bringing things to a grinding halt.
Think about the positive habits you currently have and the impact they have on your life. Then think about the habits you want to gain, in order to stop those ratchets bunging up your progress.
An example of a positive habit you may have can be something as simple as a system for where you put your keys every day so you don’t waste time and get stressed in the morning looking for them.
An example of a habit you may want to gain is how to create a learning plan every year for yourself so you are proactive about making sure you learn, in ways that work for you, about things that matter to you.
You may be feeling overwhelmed by the mammoth task of creating positive habits that have an impact on your life. But take heed of this quote by Claire Weeks, that Matt shares in his video.
Strength is not born from strength. Strength can be born only from weakness. So be glad of your weakness now, they are the beginning of your strength.
In other words, your bad habits, or at least, your yearnings for good habits, are actually a springboard to strength. Can I get a high five?!
And here’s the thing, creating a habit doesn’t have to be the stuff of blood, sweat and fears.
Creating habits can be a whole lot easier if you follow the eight suggestions below from Matt’s video.
Acknowledge you want to change or create habits is tough. Have a realistic mindset that you’re going to need to buckle down for a bit until the habit is firmly ingrained.
Start slow and steady
Instead of biting off more than you can chew, start with small steps because your likelihood for succeeding will be way better.
Focus on one habit at a time. Prioritize and start with one and only one habit you want to create
Choose wisely where to start. Make sure you’re invested in the habit that you start with and that it matters to you. Especially now.
Learn from others. Matt uses suggestions from his community about what habits matter most and folds those into the ones he plans out for the year.
Customize your habit
And customize your plan for yourself. Use other’s suggestions but figure out what works best for you. For example, Matt thought that waking up at 5 AM every morning would be a game-changer for his productivity. Turns out not so much for him.
Learn from the process. Be curious and gather data. Pay attention to how you’re feeling. For Matt, he learned that the three habits that really changed things up for him were exercise, eating healthy and regularly working on his business. Be a detective and drill down to what matters to you, and what has value for you.
Embrace the flinch
The flinch is the “ugh, oh good lord, this is tough, I don’t want to do this, get me outta here” kind of feeling. By acknowledging and embracing the flinch, it makes the next flinch easier (plus easier to stay away from bad habits). Think of the flinch as an elastic band. By embracing the finch or the stretch, you’ll be able to stretch yourself even further next time (with less pain and discomfort).
Here are some examples from my own life, some habits I’ve worked on and are working for me:
I start and end most of my days with what I call RnR or “ritual and routine.” They’re habits I use to make sure I’m getting off to a good start and ending on a positive note. The RnRs include a 10 minute learning bite (learning something new in 10 minutes), meditation, exercising my shoulder etc.
Flossing my teeth
My dentist has been trying to get me to floss for years (okay decades if I’m honest). By adding it to my habit creation list, I’m actually doing it pretty much daily. My dentist is going to faint from shock the next time I see him.
I’ve started a bunch of habits by being on the metabolic eating plan for about 6 weeks now. Feeling fab and proud of myself.
I’m religious about time blocking or setting aside chunks of time each week for the individual tasks of my business. It’s been a game-changer for me.
The result of a proactive approach to habit creation?
Doing small stuff, repeatedly, every day … the pay off, in the long run, is huge. Words to habit by.
By embracing habits we “push ourselves to do things we never thought we’d have the courage to do.”
Create a habit plan for yourself and follow the tips above: acknowledge it will be tough for a while, start with one habit, choose wisely which one to start with, learn from others AND customize your habit plan for yourself, earn from the process and embrace the flinch.
Now go on and learn, laugh and lead.
- Watch Matt Davella habits video (note there’s some swearing in it and a joke about drug use).
- Habits can bring bliss. Truly. Like Christian Hull, “when I bought this shirt folder I didn’t realize how much joy it was going to bring me!”
- Create a habit creation plan, and get going towards “pushing yourself to do things we never thought we’d have the courage to do.”
P.S. I’m leading a workshop called “Leave No One Behind: 4 Inclusive Steps To Teaching Workshops That Work” at Humentum’s OpEx conference. Check it out for change-maker goodness. Update: it’s been postponed however the organizers are looking to hold the conference virtually. I’ll keep you updated.