Habits are one of the most powerful tools we have to accomplish our goals.
It is estimated that more than 40% of our daily activities are accomplished by the habits we’ve previously formed.
Some of the activities that require no conscious thought on our part are a lot of the biological functions of our body, such as:
- Digesting food
- Pumping blood through our bodies
There are other activities where we’ve built up muscle memories where we no longer have to think about how to do things such as:
- Putting clothes
- Washing ourselves
- Driving a vehicle
- Typing on a computer
Conscious thinking requires a lot of energy.
I’ve had many days where I was doing some heavy thinking and was drained more after those days than after I’d run a marathon.
The brain uses habits to move activities from our conscious minds to our subconscious minds.
When I was in the Army, a lot of the skills training, I received was reinforced through implementing habits.
The Army wanted me to master critical skills so that I would not have to think in order to perform the skill.
Once a week, on Wednesday for half a day, I received training to rehearse the necessary soldier skills.
The Army knows something significant about how the brain and body work together.
The other thing the Army did during my training was apply an extreme amount of stress towards me.
The Army wanted to train me to react under the most stressful circumstances.
In battle, there are times when the difference between life and death is a millisecond.
If I were to spend two milliseconds trying to make a decision, it would have resulted in tragic consequences.
I still remember some of those basic soldier skills from my days in the Army even though I never served in combat.
I remember hearing a story about Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian. I was a huge fan of Seinfeld and laughed many times at the hilarity of the show about nothing.
James Clear, in his blog post How to Stop Procrastinating on Your Goals by Using the “Seinfeld Strategy,” shares a story told by Brad Isaac, a young comedian who was looking for some guidance.
Jerry Seinfeld shares some advice with Brad Isaac on how to become a better comic.
He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes, and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.
He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.
“After a few days, you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it, and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”
A few days ago marketing expert Seth Godin wrote a blog post entitled Streaks.
Seth has written a blog post every day for the last eleven years.
What an achievement! Congratulations Seth!
In his blog post, he shares that streaks are their own rewards.
Streaks require commitment at first, but then the commitment turns into a practice, and the practice into a habit.
Habits are much easier to maintain than commitments.
I’m pretty sure that the blog would still have an impact if I missed a day here or there, but once a commitment is made to a streak, the question shifts from, “should I blog tomorrow,” to, “what will tomorrow’s blog say?”
I’m currently listening to the audiobook The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
The book shares that there are three components of creating a habit as follows:
The cue is a trigger that starts the brain to repeat activities it has previously learned.
The reward is the positive thing we receive by continuing the habit.
The craving occurs when we don’t get the reward that our brain has prepped us for. We become disappointed and long for the cue that started us back on our habit.
The habit is a continuous circle that has us repeat recurrently.
By understanding how habits work, we can harness their power to move us towards things we desire in life.
Habits are a powerful force for good or bad in our lives.