The Power of Habit

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Success in life, however you define that to be, is derived from an understanding of who you are and where you want to go.  Who you are can be simply stated, but is usually a complex process of discovery. 

One part of who you are is your habits.  “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”  – AristotlePower of Habit

We often underestimate the influence of our habits, rituals, and routines.  I am reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  In the early pages, he describes what many of us consider to be conscious decisions (e.g. what we eat for breakfast, what clothes we wear, how we get to work) are really just the manifestation of a complex network of habits.

Have you ever driven down the road for awhile and come to realization that you’ve been daydreaming for 5-10 minutes and don’t exactly remember driving for that period of time?  Perhaps you even took a few turns, but can’t really remember it?  It’s alarming to say the least, no?  Have you ever been in the shower and about to turn off the water and towel off, but can’t remember if you washed your hair?  This happens to me more than I’d like to admit, and usually results in extra-clean hair that day.

These are examples of an over-reliance on habits.  In these moments, you can become acutely aware of how habits play a major role in your life.

Have you ever worn mis-matching socks?  Forgot to wear a belt?  Forgot to brush your teeth or use deodorant.  I’ve done all of these things.  I even forgot to pack pants for a 2-week business trip to Turkey a number of years ago.  I packed shoes, socks, belts, underwear, collared shirts, suit jackets, toiletries, and every other conceivable thing I could ever need.  But my pants, arguably the most critical of all of these items, were mindfully left behind. 

These little “glitches in the matrix” are a result of a deviation from your routine or habit.  Your mind relies so heavily on habits, that if an anomaly is thrown into the equation (e.g. you’re running late, you’re staying at hotel instead of home, you’re upset or angry) we end up overlooking very basic cues to our normal activity.

At Velocity, we are passionate about awareness.  With awareness comes choice, and with choice comes freedom.  To explore this topic further, we have an assignment.  Your homework is to do a habit inventory.  Take a few minutes and do an audit of your habits.  To get started, you may think about these questions:

  • What are your habits/routines between when you wake up and when you begin to work?
  • What are your habits/routines when you get home from work and before bed?
  • What are your habits/routines when you are tired?  Or stressed?  Or upset?
  • What are your habits/routines when you are at the grocery story?  At a party?  At work?
  • What are your habits/routines on your days off from work?

Once you are aware of your habits, you can now choose which ones work for you and which ones you want to change or eliminate.  Remember, habit formation is similar to skill development.  With awareness, choice, and practice, you can get good at just about anything!

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