How to Create Successful Habits

By Aaron Morton

Picture of a neon sign that says Habit

6 days a week my alarm goes off at 5am. It has done for the last 4 years. After breakfast I sit down and write. Someday I will write a good amount, other times it can feel like my mental flow is treading through cement.

However I still write.

I wasn’t always like this. I would get up later, have breakfast and then get out the door to go to work. It wasn’t a damaging way of starting my morning, but it got to a point where I wanted to make better use of the fact I am more alert in the morning.

So I started to set my alarm for 5am. At first it didn’t work. The temptation to turn the alarm off and fall back to sleep was too great. Despite loving sleep (who doesn’t?!) eventually it got easier, namely because I created a purpose for getting up; I scheduled what I was going to do with this spare time before I went to bed.

What I have described here is the creation of a habit. A cluster of behaviours that are done with little thought and happen continuously over time. There is so much in our environment attempting to grab our attention, our awareness can only focus on a finite amount of information. As a result, our brain creates heuristics in order to save time and carried out automatically. If you drive to work you are likely to take the same route, if you regularly go to a coffee house, it is likely you go to the same one and order the same drink. This is habit.

When I talk about turning ideas into reality and making money on the side from your ideas, I am referring to the set of habits that have to be present in order to make best use of your time and make best use of your talent. It also means avoiding the common trap of wasting time regularly doing things that are not going to serve you in the long term, like watching TV every night.

One of the things I look for when first working with a new client is what habits they currently have. This is to see which ones they can use to aid their outcome and then what habits they have that could deter them from getting their outcome. This is the benefit of a coach because habits are typically outside of our awareness and can be hard to spot. I have a coach myself for the same reason.

Once this is established we start the process of creating habits that will leverage you towards success. This is done by looking at your outcome, establishing what resources you have and highlighting what needs to be done regularly to get your outcome. As an example I am working with a graphic designer, who is in a job but wants to set up a graphic design business on the side (using their skills to earn extra on the side). One of the habits we established was each day spending 30 minutes opening communication with prospective clients via freelancer and odesk. By doing this each day, it becomes part of his day a ritual of proactively getting work.

In order to establish a habit, according to author of ‘The Power Of Habits’ Charles Dughil, there are 3 steps. The first step is a trigger which prompts the brain to find the behaviour that is associated with that trigger. In the above example that was the time 6 o’clock in the evening. The second part is the actual act, the habit, which for my client was going through the current project listing and seeing which ones fitted his criteria. Finally in order for a habit to continue there has to be a reward in close succession to the act. This prompts the brain to know ‘this is a keeper’. With my client it was to place a big red cross on his calendar to signify the act is done which creates a chain of crosses as he continues to do it each day.

Habits are important in turning ideas into reality. When you look at what you currently do in your day ask yourself the following question:

“what behaviours am I doing regularly that are contributing to my outcome”

You want to be looking at behaviours that take you closer to your outcome such as connecting with valuable people, writing for your website, creating material, serving others. All of these bring you closer to your outcome. By making these habits you will find your focus becoming more streamlined, your productivity skyrocketing and your outcome being achieved rapidly.

Now your turn! What habits do you think are currently creating the most problems for you in achieving your goals & what could you do instead to create successful habits?

About the Author

Aaron Morton is about human performance. As a coach and personal trainer, Aaron works with entrepreneurs to create the environment, mentally, physically & strategically, where they can perform at their best.

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