We are creatures of habit. From the days our feet started pattering across the house at age 2 (and even earlier for some) we develop habits. Good and bad.They are influenced by our environment: observation and modeling. I know someone who is never late because it was ingrained by her dad as they grew up. Punctual in their family meant 30 minutes before the stated time. If you weren’t there you were left behind. For some of us 9am means anything between 9.15 – 10.00 or whenever we get there.
According to research, at least 40% of the things we do every day are based on habits and not new decisions. Kind of like being on auto pilot. Think about it… When you wake up in the morning you have a routine (comprising of habits) that involves the actions you take from the time your alarm rings until you get out of the house. For instance I start by snoozing my alarm before dashing out of bed a few minutes later. After a shower and getting dressed there’s breakfast, make the bed, then brush my teeth, put on my shoes, grab my bag and out the door I go. I could get through it all blind folded. 90% of the time hubby and I use the same route on our drive to work. Then at work I launch into another routine… You know the drill. We all have a drill. For nearly everything (I can’t think of any exception).
Where we are in life today is a sum of our habits thus far. In essence a habit is an action that is repeated over and over until it is saved in your brain – like text predict on your phone or adding a new word to spellcheck on the computer. The brain uses less effort each time you carry out a habit because the process is etched in your brain’s pathways. This is why old habits die hard. Ditching a bad habit or even a good one involves some serious rewiring of the brain. The more it is ingrained the harder it is to unlearn/change.
This week there has been a media craze about examining the lives of the wealthiest people in the world and in Kenya. Personally I think they should call it the list of the richest because it was about who has the most money. Nonetheless, something that I found very interesting is the research that was done on their habits versus the habits of the not-rich (poor is such a harsh word).
The rich/wealthy all had some habits in common. They wake up earlier, exercise regularly, eat less junk food, read more, watch less tv, listen to audio books, teach their kids values and promote volunteerism. They also use daily to-do lists. Well, I suppose you could do all these things and still not get rich but I believe they are key for successful living. Check out the info graphics featured by Daily Nation on 20/02/14 <a href=”http://dailyoftheday.com/infographic-habits-worlds-wealthiest-people/”
(I couldn’t find an online version of the article but it was exactly as the one here.)
What habits do you have that you need to ditch? But also what good habits do you have that you need to keep up and maybe even take a notch higher? The answer to this starts with a bigger question: what do you want for your life (work, home, relationships, school, health)? Then work backwards by asking yourself “what habits do I need to develop to get me there?”
My definition of success includes ensuring meaningful and nurtured relationships. As a result I created goals towards this that include going on a date with hubby at least once a month, meeting with my best friends once a month, calling my folks every week, visiting folks and in-laws. I have a standing reminder on my phone so I don’t forget to make the calls, we started a monthly family lunch and I actually schedule meet ups with my friends. All these require formation of new habits. Without deliberate action all these relationships would probably be neglected as I got sucked up into the daily grind of life.
I also shared with you in “Celebrate little victories” that I plan to lose 10 kilos this year. That has also challenged me to change my eating habits and add exercise to my to-do-list. Seven weeks into it and I’m going strong. On some days I haven’t done very well but overall I can feel the change taking root. I feel better and have more energy. Sometimes in the beginning you have no psyche – can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to skip tennis but then I drag myself there and I always enjoy practice once I get into it. Just because good habits are rewarding doesn’t mean they’re easy to develop. So keep at it even on days when you’d rather revert to your old habits of being a couch potato, stuffing your face silly, sleeping, wasting time on FB or whatever.
As a new week begins why don’t you pick a habit that you want to focus on and decide on the action you’ll take. Then start to build it. Start small so that it is actually something easy to do. If it is waking up at 5.30 in the morning stop snoozing (yeah, I am talking to myself on this one). Smaller goals are easier to achieve and a great way to set in motion the change you want to see. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about how you should start reading more. You could begin by carrying a book on your commute to work or set aside 15minutes to read just before bed. Then do it every day this week. I can bet you’ll have a smile of pride on your face this time next week and will feel really good about yourself. Remember to celebrate your victory!