On a number of levels I am very interested in the impact of our work and personal habits on living a happy, flourishing and prosperous life.
William James wrote in 1892 “All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits.”
For some, in this constantly switched on 24/7 world, where the FOMO syndrome (fear of missing out) keeps them glued to the social media updates from their on-line ‘friends’, life becomes a blur of habitual living and is in fact more of a disconnected existence, even though in many ways, so many are more connected (at least via their smart phones).
Our brains are constantly looking for ways to save effort, and if we allow our lives to be less mindful in more moments more often, we fall victim to habitually living. And when we fall into that trap, it can be hard to get out, because we may not even know we are in it (that’s habitual living).
The key therefore is to be more (not less) intentionally mindful in more moments more often.
Charles Duhigg’s book ‘The Power of Habit’ is a great read if you’d like to explore how to break some of the goal-obstructive habits that might have crept into your life. He outlines 5 key areas that are ‘habitual cues’ that create the moment for your habits to kick in. They are (1) Location (2) Time (3) Emotional State (4) Other People and (5) Immediately preceding action.
So to learn more about what’s causing your habits to ‘kick in’, you ask yourself, (1) Where are you (location), (2) What time is it (Time), (3) What’s your emotional state? (Emotional State), (4) Who else is around you (Other people) and (5) What action preceded the habit (Immediately preceding action).
Duhigg recommends you repeat these questions for 3 days to discover patterns.
I’ve used his approach on a number of occasions now, and from discovering habit cues, have been able to (with varying degrees of success) replace some goal-obstructive habits with more goal-supportive ones… however, I still occasionally reach for that piece of chocolate, still enjoy more than just one glass of red wine, and… oh well.
Habits can be changed – it takes work though. I was a left hand golfer. I went to a golf professional back in the eighties who recommended I change to a right hand golfer. For 30 days I practiced the new right hand grip, swinging a golf club in the back yard. It was uncomfortable, strange, awkward and just didn’t feel right. Somewhere close to the end of the 30 days I remember vividly picking up the club and didn’t even consciously think about my new right hand grip. The swing was still awkward, but the grip was now comfortable. Over the next 90 days, with almost daily practice, my grip, my stance, my swing, all became more comfortable and natural to me. Almost 30 years later, while still a pretty ordinary golfer, it remains a real lesson for me that habits can be changed… it just takes work.
As a sad conclusion to this story, the golf professional who changed my grip all those years ago sadly passed away at age 61 this week from pancreatic cancer. Thanks David Honeysett for your wonderful golf and life lesson… one of a legacy of lessons and memories I’m sure you’ve blessed this world with.