While conventional wisdom says it takes three months to adopt changes in your life and convert them to habit, an awful lot of us never make it that far (witness the fast death of New Year’s resolutions).
And yet there are profound opportunities for transformation buried in our habits.
Charles Duhigg thoroughly explores this territory in “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business”.
My favorite is “Lisa”, one of the subjects of a scientific study of habits and brain chemistry. She started smoking and drinking at 16 and by her twenties was obese, had never held a job more than a year, was being hounded by collection agencies and had just been left by her husband for another woman.
And yet by her early thirties, she was a non-smoking, non-drinking, home-owning marathon runner, working steadily as a graphic designer.
Her secret? Changing just one “keystone” habit, in her case smoking cigarettes.
Replacing cigarettes with jogging led to waterfall changes in how she “ate, worked, slept, saved money, scheduled her workdays, planned her future and so on”. Her brain scans demonstrated progressive rewiring in the part of the brain governing self-discipline.
The trick to improving your performance—for yourself or your company—is to identify your keystone habits. Duhigg’s research suggests that you look for patterns that give you plenty of small wins to build momentum.
One of my clients desperately needed a quiet oasis to recharge from a thriving business, so he committed to a daily yoga practice. After a few short weeks, he not only felt calmer, but started making changes in how he prioritized his day and delegated tasks. His profit is up and his happiness factor is off the charts.
In my own case, deciding to work out in the morning (before letting the day carry me away), brought on a series of cascading good fortune.
I suspect—particularly for those of us wired as entrepreneurs—that simply doing one small thing for ourselves is the small win that starts building momentum.
What new habit could transform your life?
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