In 1903, The American Journal of Psychology defined a habit as “as more or less a fixed way of thinking, willing or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience”.
In other words, from doing something over and over it becomes routine. Whether that be mental or physical. Habits are so interesting because once they are embedded they become almost automatic and they end up forming a huge part of our lives. They set out the path of your life. Think about your morning routine or your night-time routine when you get back from work. The activities you do, I’m assuming, don’t wildly change. You get coffee at the same or similar time, you read the news or think for a period of time or you shower. Whatever it may be, they are your habits. They are the foregone conclusion of your life. Or put another way, habits are perhaps the most reliable way to achieve whatever you want.
The way I think of habits is systematic. It’s as if we choose which things warrant enough time to do them over and over again every day. Once we choose, we embed them and do them enough times for them to become automatic. Once automatic, we have a system or a process that allows us to achieve a desired outcome. Your habits are the sum total of your output. In other words, if you want to get something done, create and embed a habit around it. If you want to become something, create a habit that will allow you to get there. You quite literally become whatever you do on the regular. You are that person that writes every day, you are that healthy person that exercises every day.
“ We become what we repeatedly do “ Sean Covey
I think it then interesting that we become what we repeatedly do, when we are not consciously aware of what we are doing. I think the most obvious example, perhaps because I used to do it a lot, is negative self-talk. After a meeting you think about the four-hundred and one things that you didn’t do or didn’t say. You think about how a certain person said something and that made you feel like you were inferior and that you didn’t know what you were talking about. You get angry with yourself because you knew the answer to that question but you did’t feel confident enough or smart enough to say it. Then you find yourself doing that after most interactions, you find yourself always in some defensive state as if the world of work is trying to prove you aren’t capable of being there. And then you realise it’s probably the right time to take a little bit of time off to readjust and get out of work mode.
Essentially, you’ve made a habit of being horrible to yourself.
A habit can sometimes go unnoticed by the person displaying it because it has become an embedded system, so much so, it required no thought. If we look inside ourselves (metaphorically of course) we can ask ourselves some questions that might reveal some of our unconscious habits.
How often are you worrying that you’re not where you’re supposed to be?
How often are you comparing yourself to other people?
How often are you saying what you have isn’t enough?
How often are you criticising yourself?
How often are you praising yourself?
It can be quite revealing to ask yourself those simple questions — maybe it will tell you something about your unconscious habits.
We are, in general, pretty bad at knowing ourselves. It sounds quite silly because well you are you so how would you be bad at it. If you think you are pretty kind to yourself but then find yourself answering yes to those first four questions and no to the last one — you might not be as kind to yourself as you think.
Our habits are what we become and there is a tonne of value in looking at where you are today and asking yourself what is it that you do every day… right now.
Sometimes we think we need to create seven new habits to become wildly successful. If we could only be more confident, eat healthier and be more proactive we would definitely get that pay rise or be the person we want to be. Aside from the fact there will always be another pay rise and another ‘something’ too chase, I think there is something much more valuable. What if we took stock of what habits we have today.
If you want to be more confidence and have just found yourself answering yes to all those questions above and no to the last one… maybe you just need to hack the habits you already have. And that starts with being conscious about them.
Originally published at https://www.careerhealth.info on April 20, 2020.