The Power of Habits

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I’m going to start off with a really powerful quote by Mike Murdock, which goes, “the secret of your success is hidden in your daily routine”. I saw another good one too the other day that said, “successful people do what unsuccessful people are not prepared to do”.

And that’s exactly my point: there are hundreds of little things we either are doing or not doing that affect the degree of success that we’ve achieved.

A habit is an action done so many times that we don’t even have to think consciously about doing it anymore.

Most people agree that it takes 21 days to form a habit and only 3 days to break it. For example, when we were very small, we were all trained to brush our teeth every morning. The toothbrush with toothpaste was given to us and we dutifully brushed our teeth every day. Now, I don’t know anyone at my age (!) who has to really think about brushing his or her teeth. I know that I stumble to the bathroom, half-asleep, and brush my teeth automatically. Why? It’s a habit.

If you take time to think about your daily routine, you’ll notice lots of good habits like driving within the speed limit (J), drinking 2L of water daily, etc. A few years ago, I decided that I needed to start drinking more water. So on 1 January 1998, I started forcing myself to drink 2L of water every day. This habit took hold in only 14 days because after the first two weeks, it was easy and it’s been that way ever since.

Now, in the same way that good habits are formed, bad habits are also created just as easily. I know of people who start saving, say R100 every month, and everything goes well for three or four months. Then they decide to go on holiday and stop saving for one month. The snag is that it doesn’t end up being just one month, because the habit they were creating has been broken. The next month it’s easier to spend that R100 on clothes, and after the third month, they’re back to square one!

So this month, I want to encourage you to think about some good habits you want to start implementing and some bad habits that you need to replace with good ones. If you currently have a bad habit at work of shuffling paper around and not dealing with it, start this month by being disciplined and either filing it, working on it or throwing it away. When you’re tempted to just throw it back into your in-tray or start making a pile on your desk, STOP!

Remember that you have the power to break that bad habit and start creating some good ones. And the same goes for driving – if you’re like me and let other drivers on the road irritate you, stop and tell yourself that you’re going to replace all that negative behaviour with something positive. Maybe you need to start saying things like, “I am perfectly calm and stress-free in traffic.”

Action challenge

1. Take a blank piece of paper and write Habits Worksheet right at the top. If you work outside the home, keep a copy at home and another one at work.

2. Make a list of any good habits you want to start up and the bad habits that you need to be more aware of.

3. Read through your list every day to remind yourself of the habits.

4. Start implementing it. Make like Nike and “just do it”