Habit Change and Brand You

In last week’s post, I set out my rationale for Brand You. I, also, distilled the elements of my credo (“to become what we truly are”):

Mastery

Attitude

Trust

This week I want to stand back from the minutia of each subject area, and look atop at one aspect that will make the biggest difference in realising your (Brand You) potential.

In short, habit change.

It may sound trite, but we all know that if we carry on each day doing the same thing as the previous day, then very little in our lives will change.

For any change to occur, we have to change our limiting habits.

Recently, I have been listening to the audio edition of Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit. It is an excellent book, and has made me consider my own thinking on habit formation and change. Indeed, for a while now, I have been examining some of my self-limiting habits, particularly those associated with my former life as a lawyer and those that have the biggest effect on my family.

One habit that I have found hard to break is to fill each hour with as much activity as possible – those wretched 6 minute units – and, instead, focus on my body clock and working intensely during my best period (the early morning), and not feel guilty for taking time off later in the day.

As regards my family, I have noticed that the normal cues that would set me off on one of my rants can also be controlled (picking up clothes is a constant chore with 3 girls!) to the point where I now feel much more able to say nothing. This might sound a small thing but when I am calm and relaxed so is everyone around me.

Everything we do is controlled by habits, from the simple act of brushing our teeth to more complex tasks like driving to and from work. In The Power of Habit the habit process is distilled down to a number of component parts:

Cue

Routine

Reward

And, importantly, Belief in a higher purpose

But, the point of the book isn’t just to unlock the formation of habits or parade the brilliance of people who have adopted a new habit and made a difference in their lives or others. It is to reinforce the fact that all of us have the power to change our habits, no matter how deeply cast:

“Once you know a habit exists, you have the responsibility to change it . . . others have done so . . . That, in some ways, is the point of this book. Perhaps a sleep-walking murderer can plausibly argue that he wasn’t aware of his habit, and so he doesn’t bear responsibility for his crime, but almost all of the other patterns that exist in most people’s lives — how we eat and sleep and talk to our kids, how we unthinkingly spend our time, attention and money — those are habits that we know exist. And once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom and the responsibility to remake them. Once you understand that habits can be rebuilt, the power of habit becomes easier to grasp and the only option left is to get to work.” (my emphasis)

If you have faith in your capacity to change, then to prove that you can break a negative or limiting habit, you would do well to pick something trivial and give yourself a manageable period to change the routine. It might be self-orientated like flossing your teeth everyday or changing your behaviour around others – saying good morning with intensity and a huge smile can make a massive difference to those around you. Easy wins are important because the set up a purposeful approach later to changing the big beasts! Of course, I don’t want to make light of things – even the smallest change can be hard, but if we are able to commit to a new routine, then when you come to the more debilitating habits, you will have built a foundation of self-confidence to inspire you to act. As we know, change begins with a single step, but still for a lot of people that step can be monumentally hard.

But, my interest at this stage isn’t to look inside every nook and cranny of your life but, rather, to add a necessary dimension to the component parts of Brand You. As I see it, there is no point waxing lyrical about the importance of mastery, attitude and trust, if you can’t see a way of breaking the habits that have been holding you back from getting better, being more focused and breaking asunder your lack of self-trust and trust in others.

Going back to the component parts of our habits, one thing to bear in mind is that absent a higher calling, faith or belief, it is unlikely that you will stick to your habit-change path. Some people might find their calling in religion (and I don’t mean the religion of money!), others to make a difference in the World (Steve Jobs’ dent in the Universe), others a need to make the most of their life, and quite a few to right some injustice that has been done to them or others. Whatever your calling, you have to have something bigger that the accretion of material wealth in and of itself, career progression or status.

In summary, it is critically important to recognise the habits that are holding you back from personal development. The first step on the journey to changing your habits is to make a detailed list of those habits that, if changed, would make the biggest difference in your life and others. This is not an exercise designed to excise all your foibles but, rather, to focus on the things in your life that you would most like to change. Once you have completed your list, leave it a few days and then read the list again.

Give yourself a reality check: are these negative habits worth the pain of change?

Once you have decided on the final list, you then need to pick one habit to change. You could go for an easy one straight from the off, or you may decide that if you are going to commit to change that you might as well change the habit that will make the biggest difference in your life. Whichever habit you pick make sure that you start it now, not tomorrow or next week. Don’t think about it too much. The longer you delay the harder it will be to start.

In my case, going to bed earlier has been a habit that I have now worked into my day. Previously, despite being an early riser, I would still feel the need to carry on to 11.30pm or later as otherwise I felt that I hadn’t made the most of the day. I know it may seem small, but I now go to bed by 10.30pm. The cue (sleep) and reward (productivity – being fresher the next day) is still present but I have changed the routine.

Next week I will look at some habits associated with mastery, attitude and trust that I believe, if adopted, will build on my Brand You philosophy.

Working with me:

I am available for speaking, consulting and one on one coaching. Please feel free to email me at juliansummerhayes@gmail.com or contact me on 075888 15384.

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