We Make Our Habits – Then Our Habits Make Us…

Think about it.  We run almost 99% on automatic programming (our habitual behaviour).  Most of us have habits that we did not choose – we just adopted them from our parents, teachers, priests, coaches, and so on.  It is a safety/survival mechanism to be like those around us.

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A habit is simply a decision, repeated until our brains “just do it” for us.  Each repetition increases the “size” of the brain channel that does it for us.   Let me repeat that:

A Habit Is a Decision You Repeat.  That is All…

A metaphor is that each of your habits is the river that flows along your path of least mental resistance.   To change the flow direction of flow of the river – or to remove it – there is nothing to do but divert the flow into other (chosen) river-paths.  Not “dam” but “divert”.

  • First step – recognize it is YOUR decision you are repeating.
  • Second step – recognize your brain just wants to follow the previous path/river way.  And that is good.  Decriminalize your past actions due to that repeated decision.  You are not “bad” because you used to smoke, or refuse to read, or do your taxes on time.
  • Third step – decide to review the decision you are replacing EVERY time it gets “triggered”.   It is a repeated decision – put in a counter trigger to remind you to review it.  Say you smoke – to do that you have to get your packet out – open it, get one out, light it, and proceed.  A simple tool might be to put a rubber band around the pack – it reminds you to DECIDE again.  Earlier in the process would be to have a trigger to “Leave your smokes at home”.  Perhaps blu-tac the pack to the bench – the counter trigger will remind you to DECIDE.  If you do not have the pack with you – it adds a barrier in your river.  Create counter triggers – have one to “not buy the cigs.”  Avoid the place where you buy them.  If you do not buy them – you have to “bum” them – and you can build a trigger to prevent that too.  A rule.

As you think about the river metaphor – you will realize that the earlier in the river you intervene – the less water there is to divert.  It easier with a little stream than with a Amazonian flow that happens downstream.  So go upstream.  In this example – when you get the slightest urge/trigger to desire a smoke – overlay that trigger with a preferred action – STEAL it.  When it fires – do some “air squats” or a “60 second meditation” or 5 pushups or some stretches or a make a list of 5 things you are grateful for or brush your teeth or give someone a real compliment.

With enough repetitions – the new decision will OWN the old have-a-smoke trigger.

The decision to repeat your past decisions is yours.  You can dominate the process if you can describe it clearly.  In business I suggest process maps – what happens, then what happens, and so on.  Each step has a “necessary condition” – without which the step cannot proceed.  You cannot smoke a cigarette you do not have any, or if you cannot light it.  You cannot smoke a cigarette without taking the rubber band of the pack.  And you cannot smoke a cigarette if you have truly decided not to, and you prevent yourself doing it “automatically”.

This final perspective can have super powers.  My father stopped smoking the instant he coughed up blood.  A very strong motivation – reasons why – can alter the flow of your rivers instantly.

But many people still smoke while undergoing chemo or suffering emphysema.   The “habit” decision is yours.  Again and again and again.

The pathway to establishing new habits is the same – but you are feeding your river once you have created it.  You can use triggers – like putting your work out clothes and shoes ready to go the night before.  You grease the process – so your new decision just slips into place.  Adapt your environment to support your new river flow.  Borrow water from a friend (or personal trainer) to feed your own river.

Here are some potential habits to make decisions on:


About the Author Business Coach James Hooper

Townsville based James Hooper: The term “rainmaker” is becoming regularly used in business context as someone whose role is to ‘make rain’ or ‘create growth’ in your business. In some senses the term ‘business coach’ is limiting as it is primarily about optimizing the effectiveness of the owner/operator. Sometimes the leverage is in the business systems rather than in the operator – and focus on that produces the preferred outcomes.

Business is a game, a puzzle, a tool to get you what you want in life. Call me for a second opinion (other than yours) on how to make your business give you what you want it to.

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