Eating too many cookies in place of lunch. Watching TV instead of working out in the evening. Texting while driving on your way to work. Bad habits? You betcha!
Rising at 6 a.m. for a five-mile run. Sending out follow-up emails after meetings. Politely remembering the birthdays of your employees. Good habits? Absolutely!
As we all know, it’s much easier to make a habit than to break one. And that’s a good thing, because habits can help us function more efficiently. Instead of having to use conscious thought every time we perform recurring tasks, our brains file away the specific sequences of actions necessary to reach the desired results and set them in motion when necessary. And by using these specific sets of actions over and over, our brains can run partially on automatic pilot while dedicating conscious attention to other actions or thoughts. For example, as soon as your alarm sounds in the morning, you’re rehearsing a presentation you’re giving at work. But in the meantime, you’ve reached over and turned off the alarm clock without thinking about it! Or you get home from work and immediately call your friend to discuss your promotion... but you got out of your car and locked it, walked to the front door, unlocked and opened it without consciously thinking about those actions.
Whether they’re good or bad, we’ve all developed habits without even realizing it. But did you know that you can teach yourself how to form good habits—ones that help you become healthier and more productive and a better colleague?
Habits good and bad are formed when an activity yields a result we perceive as rewarding. The memory of the reward and the desire to repeat the feeling motivate us to repeat that activity until it becomes automatic. And that’s not a problem … unless we want to change that habit. When we consciously try to change, our brain interprets that endeavor as threatening and will do pretty much anything to keep up the automatic actions in order to be rewarded.
But here’s the good news: You don’t have to break old habits to form new ones. In fact, according to Psychology Today, instead of trying to break unwanted habits, you should focus on creating new patterns of behavior and thinking to “muscle out” the bad habits.
Forming New Habits
To create new, desired habits, all you have to do is consciously associate a trigger with performing actions that bring you a feeling of reward. Then repeat the trigger-action sequence a number of times until your brain starts to expect the good feeling associated with it.
So let’s take a closer look at habits that can help you become more successful.
Exercise not only keeps you fit but also makes you more relaxed and clears your mind. Calmness and clarity are both helpful attributes at work. So if you want to start exercising more, set your alarm (the trigger) an hour earlier than usual and make yourself get up. Exercise for half an hour or so (the action), and your body will release endorphins that make you feel good (the reward). The next few days, you’ll still need the alarm and a conscious decision to get up and start moving. But after about a week or so of performing this morning ritual (repetition), your body will start to expect to feel good in the morning when you hear the alarm and rising early to work out will become habitual.
Or maybe you want to keep track of your accomplishments at work so you can measure your career progress. At the end of every week, set an alarm in your scheduler. No matter how tired you are and how much you want to go home, take a few minutes to list your achievements of the week. By reviewing them, you’ll start to feel good about your work and look forward to your private end-of-week review. Soon, you could even be working harder to feel even better about your progress.
You can apply this method to teach yourself as many good, success-building habits as you like. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Spend an hour after dinner each day reading about new developments in your field.
- When a challenging assignment comes along at work, volunteer for it.
- Expand your network by sending personalized messages to people on LinkedIn.
- Map your day ahead of time and make sure you get everything on the list done.
- Demonstrate genuine interest in your colleagues’ lives.
Training your brain for success might be one of the most important career skills you ever learn. Decide which actions would benefit you and your career, and create processes you can repeat. Before long, working for success won’t be a conscious thought anymore; it’ll be a habit!
Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-exactly-how-to-form-a-habit-that-sticks-2014-4; http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201003/why-old-habits-die-hard-what-managers-need-know; www.psychologytoday.com/basics/habit-formation