Last week I opened a cabinet door in the kitchen to throw away some trash. No big deal except we moved the trash can to another location in the kitchen…months ago. Why did I do that? Habit. Maybe you can relate to that. If not, how about one of these?
- You reach to the drawer in the bathroom for the toothpaste only to realize you moved it to the cabinet weeks ago.
- You go to grab the milk in the refrigerator then remember it’s now located in the door because you bought a new refrigerator.
- You begin to drive home from work the usual way then kick yourself because you know there’s road construction that will delay you by 30 minutes.
Each situation shows the power habits have over our lives. Indeed, habits drive much of our lives because it’s estimated nine in ten decisions and actions are made at the subconscious level, entirely outside of our awareness. Martin Lindstrom, author of Buy-ology puts the number at 85% and Leonard Mlodinow estimates it to be 95% in his book Subliminal.
Usually at year end I write a blog post on how you can PAVE the Way to Success in the New Year. Much of your success will start with creating new habits to reach whatever goals you set. Rather than waiting I want to give you a good head start with my three favorite books on habit formation.
The Power of Habit
Author Charles Duhigg wrote The Power of Habit, a New York Times bestseller, in 2012 and started a new focus on the impact habits have on our lives. I read this book shortly after it came out and was blown away by it. The book is full of research, is well written and gives practical steps to implement habit change.
Duhigg says five cues can trigger habits into motion: location, time, emotional states, other people and immediately preceding actions. As you might expect, it’s vitally important to know what cues trigger your current behaviors if you want to change them.
Tiny Habits is the work of BJ Fogg. Of the three books this is the most researched which is to be expected because Fogg is a professor at Stanford. The book is the culmination of about a decade of his work with students and non-students.
Fogg’s focus is to start small, tiny. For example, don’t try to do 20 push-ups every day, start with one. Make a commitment to do that single push up at different times, like immediately when you come in the front door or just before breakfast. In doing so you’re beginning to build a tiny habit which will eventually get you to 20 push-ups or more.
James Clear wrote this Atomic Habits. This was my favorite. Clear provides more detail than Duhigg but not as much as Fogg. His advice to implement new habits and break old ones is easy to follow and implement.
Clear says there are four laws to habit formation: make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy and finally, make it satisfying. If you can do these four things, any habit you seek to start, change or stop should be much easier for you.
Once habits are formed you’re pretty much at their mercy until you make an active choice to break old ones or create new ones. The questions you need to ask yourself to start are:
- Am I happy with who I am and/or where I’m at in life? If you are, keep doing what you’re doing! If you’re not entirely satisfied then go to question #2.
- Who do I want to be and/or what do I want?
- What changes do I need to make to get what I want or where I want to go?
- Which habits need to be stopped, changed or created to support my goals?
My old boss used to say, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” You can’t expect to get what you want without something changing. That change will likely start with habits. Don’t wait till the new year, look at these books, pick one that appeals to you and take the first step towards positive change.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.
Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world.