Build Powerful Habits for a Successful Career
What are habits?
“A habit, from the standpoint of psychology, is a more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience. ”
~ American Journal of Psychology
Habits are patterns of behavior repeated without too much conscious thought. They are a set way of thinking, doing things based on repetitive behavior. Some of your habits help you grow, make you effective, productive and successful while some limit you, make you lazy and slow you down.
Waking up early and making the most of the day can be a habit, waking up late and rushing through the day could also be a habit. Planning well, staying organized and taking prompt action or being disorganized, procrastinating, both can become habits. One helps, the other hurts. One makes you more successful, the other limits you.
“40 to 45% of actions we take everyday feel like decisions but are actually habits” says Charles Duhigg, author of the book, The Power of Habit.
So if almost half of your decisions are in auto mode, are they being driven by habits needed to build a successful career?
How habits are formed
Habits are formed slowly and may need sufficient time to be replaced. You make small decisions everyday, develop routines, repeat some actions and over a period of time these decisions, routines, actions turn into habits.
In talking about how they are formed, Charles says there are three components to every habit. The trigger, your routine and the reward.
Let us look at a few examples
Smoking a cigarette each time you step out for a break, having a piece of chocolate or a sweet when you finish a meal, Picking up a book to read as you get into bed, interrupting someone every time you have the urge to speak, procrastinating or putting things off when you are reminded of its importance, flying into a rage when your work is questioned, reaching for a pen, notepad as your boss starts to brief you on a new assignment…
Did you notice the trigger, routine and reward in each of them?
Every time you respond to the trigger and exhibit the same behavior, you are strengthening the habit, even if its a bad one. Stronger a habit becomes, longer it may take to replace it.
Why habits matter at the workplace
Your behaviors and habits reflect your professionalism, your attitude and approach to work. Exhibiting good, positive habits everyday will create the right impression and have a positive, long term impact on your career.
Let us look at some habitual behaviors that people exhibit at the workplace:
Limiting behaviors Empowering behaviors
Interrupting others Focusing on the solution
Being disorganized/sloppy Eye for detail
Being overly aggressive Being organized
Arguing Being timely
Yelling, screaming, being abusive in conflict situations Attentive
Criticizing, condemning, complaining Objective
Avoiding responsibility Proactive
Lying Enthusiastic, energetic
Not showing initiative Cheerful / Appreciative
Procrastinating/putting things off Curious/open to learning
Being stubborn/difficult Bias for action
Speaking ill of about team members, colleagues Polite / Helpful
Being reactive Responsible
Being submissive Co-operative/Collaborative
Being late to work Humble
Indulging in gossip Being assertive
Do some of these seem familiar, are you exhibiting any of them, are they the limiting ones or the empowering ones?
Needless to say the limiting habits will hold you back, create stress for you and those around you. The empowering habits on the other hand will position you as a professional, help you deliver better results, increase your personal effectiveness, create good impressions, get you and your work noticed, bring you rewards and recognition…
Awareness is key to change. As you pay attention to your work habits, you will become clear on which ones are serving you and which ones need to go.
To make any change sustainable, you must begin by starting with small ones. This helps you avoid overwhelm and keeps the momentum going. Next, repeat them. The more often you practice a new habit, easier it becomes.
Charles Duhigg also talks about keystone habits in his book. These are habits that have a disproportionate influence, they set off a chain reaction that changes other things. (ie studies show that people who begin exercising tend to then reduce credit card usage, procrastinate less and are better organized ).
Could this be the result of better self discipline and control?
You can identify one keystone habit that would help you change many unwanted behaviors and habits.
Here are 10 simple steps to replacing limiting habits with empowering ones
1. Make a list of habitual behaviors that you are not proud of
2. Identify empowering ones that you would like to have instead
3. Commit to it in public, maybe announce it to your team, boss
4. Begin with one of them( preferably a keystone habit)
5. Start practicing the new behavior consciously, do it everyday, repeat it
6. Keep reminders
7. Re organize your work environment, desk if necessary to help you be more effective
8. Seek help, have an accountability partner
9. Keep track, measure progress, use a calendar
10. Reward yourself each time you practice the new, empowering behavior
Once the new behavior becomes a habit, just move onto a second one and repeat the process. There will be times when you slip up, miss out on your practice, instead of worrying about it focus your efforts towards getting back on track. Your ability to bounce back and stay with it will determine the pace at which you make the positive changes.