Habits—good habits—are hard to form and easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to form and hard to live with. First we form habits, then they form us.
It takes 21 to 35 days—three to five weeks—to form a good habit. Sadly, it only takes three days to form a bad habit.
Habits are like silk thread. If they are woven long enough, they turn into cables. Routines are the cables. When we have habitualized a positive action long enough, it becomes a routine. Like putting one brick onto another—after long enough, we have built a cathedral.
Rituals are the minor actions we take to reinforce the routine. George Bernard Shaw would make tea, read the paper, put on his writing clothes and hat and enter his writing hut, a small 8’x8’ cabin to write for four hours every day. The sign on the door said, “Unless the house is on fire, do not disturb.” He was, like Thomas Jefferson, a lifelong vegan and would walk several times a day for an hour. He lived to be 93. Stephen King’s routine was to write from 7:00 am to 1:00 pm every day, then go for a long walk. What we are talking about are daily rituals which lead to lifelong routines.
What are your rituals and routines?
I write first thing in the morning, one hour or three pages, whichever comes first. Writing is an adjunct to my speaking business. It compliments it. Writing for me is a way to process the learning. It summarizes what I have assimilated through reading, study, reflection and observation. Every thought and emotion I hold, every book I read, song I listen to, movie I watch, conversation I have, seminar I conduct is part and parcel to the learning. It’s all copy and content. Nothing is lost. Everything counts. There isn’t anything that doesn’t matter.
My goals drive the bus. My goals determine who I talk to, what I read and study, what I think about. In the end, it really is true: We become what we think about. We are all students. We must never stop learning.
Earl Nightingale was one of my first mentors who really impacted my life. He said:
“Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored.”
Pele, the legendary soccer player, said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”
And finally, Albert Einstein, one of history’s greatest minds, believed, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”
So, how can you develop good habits—as a contractor or at home—and make those habits yours?
- Start with small steps. Most people want to create big change quickly. Don’t.
- Get hooked on your habit. Is it yours?
- Have clear intentions. What will the habit afford you?
- Celebrate your small wins. Do you write them in your journal?
- Design your environment. What are your rituals?
- Surround yourself with supporters. Who are your cheerleaders?
- Commit to your habit. What are your reasons?
Behavioral psychologists speak to a 3-step pattern to help achieve good habit-forming success. Let’s call them the “3 R’s of Success”:
Reminder—the trigger that initiates the behavior
Routine—the behavior itself, the action you take
Reward—the benefit you gain from doing the behavior
What habits will you form this year? What rituals will assist you in that adoption? What routines will cement your resolve and commitment?
Remember, “The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routines.”