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Can habits be the key to success?

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Can habits be the key to success? – By Andy Crook

A habit can be defined as a routine behaviour that is repeated regularly without conscious thought. According to behavioural scientists, up to 43% of our daily behaviours are habitual. It follows then, that we are the sum of our habits, both good and bad.

Breaking bad habits and forming new, good habits is the key to success in all areas of our lives. Developing good habits that can positively impact the workshop is everyone’s responsibility, from health and safety to the most complex diagnostic work and dealing with customers, we can all improve our habits.

How are habits formed or broken?

Habits are formed when behaviour is repeated until it becomes automatic. It is a slow process that requires between 18-254 days of repetition, the average time for participants in a 2010 study to form a new habit was around two months. There are three components to every habit – good or bad:

1. Reminder (The trigger that initiates the behaviour)

2. Routine (The behaviour itself)

3. Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behaviour)

Consider breaking a habit, if the reminder or cue is removed, then the routine simply does not start.

This is because there is no reward to be gained. Our brain is hardwired to seek these rewards, our very survival depended on primary rewards such as food, water and reproduction. This is what makes habits so powerful.

In modern society, we are more likely to seek out secondary rewards, such as money and fame, praise and approval, love and friendship, or a sense of personal satisfaction.

We perform any habitual behaviour to experience the reward it delivers, the driver, therefore, is the craving or desire for the reward, not the actual behaviour. The reward must be greater than the effort to perform the behaviour otherwise, we simply will not do it.

Stephen R. Covey’s book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ identified the 7 habits listed below as key for success:

1. Be proactive

2. Begin with the end in mind

3. Put first things first

4. Think Win-Win

5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood

6. Synergise

7. Sharpen the saw

Habits 1, 2, and 3 are focused on self-mastery. Habits 4, 5, and 6 are focused on developing teamwork, collaboration, and communication skills. Habit 7 is focused on continuous growth and improvement and embodies all the other habits.

Covey believes the way we see the world is entirely based on our own perceptions.

“The way we see the problem is the problem,” he suggests that “We must allow ourselves to undergo paradigm shifts – to change ourselves fundamentally and not just alter our attitudes and behaviours on the surface – in order to achieve true change.” Let’s take a look at the first three habits of highly successful people in more detail. The so-called ‘Self-mastery habits’.

Be proactive…

Being proactive is accepting responsibility for a given stimulus or situation. Reactive people take a passive stance, they believe that the world is happening to them.

Successful people are proactive, they focus on the things they can influence within their circle of concern. Reactive people focus on the things they can’t influence within their circle of concern, blaming outside factors for their failure.

Begin with the end in mind…

Starting with a clear destination or setting goals is a habit that helps you stay on track. It allows you to make decisions with clarity. To remain focused, to act in line with your beliefs to shape your own future, instead of living your life by default or based on the standards or preferences of others.

Put first things first…

Once you have a clear direction, you can prioritise, having the discipline to carry out tasks in the correct order is a habit few master.

It is all too simple to put the most urgent tasks before the most important ones. It takes willpower to do something we do not want to do, to act on values instead of cravings or desires in any given moment.

“The challenge is not to manage time, but to manage yourself ” Steven Covey

Matthew Syed wrote about mindset in his book, ‘Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice’. He suggests we either adopt a ‘fixed or growth mindset’. In a Fixed Mindset:

  • People believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits
  • They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them
  • They believe that talent alone – without effort – creates success.

    In a Growth Mindset:

  • People believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work
  • They understand that intelligence or talent is just the starting point
  • This view creates a love of learning and resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.

    Changing your mindset is the key to success, changing your habits is how you will achieve that success

    As an example, I have been trying to learn the guitar for a number of years. I practice when I get a chance, I don’t follow any routine or have any lessons. With a fixed mindset, I would believe that I don’t have the talent, I’m tone-deaf and I will never be able to play the guitar.

    Bruce Lee is often quoted as saying: “I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks, but the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times.”

Using the Self-mastery habits, I should take control of my situation, set aside time to practice with an end goal in mind. Once I have done that, I can prioritise my time to spend 20 minutes a day of meaningful practice, with feedback. It would be better to set a larger goal with a series of smaller objectives and key results. Key results are what and how you need to achieve your objective. They should be measurable, specific and time-bound.

Goal…

Learn to play the guitar

Objective…

Learn a particular song on the guitar.

Resources…

Resources: Guitar, online lessons. Time – 20 minutes every day apart from weekends, when it is 30 minutes = 2.65 hours per week.

Key results…

Did I practice for 2.65 hours this week?
Was it meaningful practice?
Can I play the chords by week 3?
Can I move between the chords by week 4?
Can I perform the strumming pattern whilst changing the chords by week 5?

Can I play the song by week 6?
What other song uses these chord progressions to learn by week 7?
What other song uses these chord progressions to learn by week 8?
Can I play 3 new songs 8 weeks from now.

If a skill requires 10,000 hours of practice to master it should take me around 73 years to master the guitar with that level of time investment.

With a growth mindset, I know why I haven’t mastered the guitar. I understand that I haven’t put the hours in. That I need to practice for longer each day, and that in order to improve my guitar playing I need to improve myself.

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