This past week I’ve been reading a new book I picked off the shelves at the book store when what I was looking for wasn’t there. “Atomic Habits” by James Clear has proven to be a great choice at only 90 pages in. How true is it that much of our success is defined by the good or bad habits we have?
This isn’t your typical self-help book about how to get everything you’ve ever wanted, but it does have some practical concepts that have really made me analyze the way I operate on a daily basis. I’m sure the rest of the book that I’m working away at each morning is full of beneficial concepts, but here’s a little glimpse of some of the things I’ve learned about so far.
One of the barriers to forming good habits is not seeing immediate results – which should be no surprise in the instant gratification society we live in. For the last few days, I’ve been waking up at 5AM to work out for 20 minutes on my new-to-me, but super old, elliptical I just bought. 3 days of hard work and willpower, and then I step on the scale and TA-DA….nothing has changed. I guess I should just give up right? WRONG!!! This is the thinking that is counterproductive to creating good habits. We don’t see an instant result, we think we aren’t making progress, so we give up and revert back to our old ways. Sound familiar? It should, because most of us fall into this trap at some point or another. But…if you make just a 1% improvement each day, compounded daily over a year, that leads to a 37% improvement at the end of one year. I don’t know about you, but this fact alone gives me hope to stick with it. Celebrate little wins (like getting my ass out of bed at 5AM each day) and over time, those little wins will amount to something a lot bigger than the individual win itself. Progress and success don’t happen overnight, but to everyone observing from afar, that’s definitely what it looks like. For all you business owners out there reading this, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Another profound idea in the book is to stop focusing on what you want to achieve and instead focus on who you want to be. To put that into context for you – when you achieve the thing you set out to do, the efforts typically stop. Any habits that got you there no longer have the motivation linked to them to keep you moving forward. So, if I said something like “I want to open a business” and I had that as my goal, for a while I might have a lot of energy behind doing what I have to do to get there, but once I do, then what? Some of that steam likely dies down and I’m sitting there at a desk with a dumb look on my face not knowing how to spend my time. If I re-framed that, however, and said “I want to be a kick ass serial entrepreneur” – now wait a second, there’s a noticeable shift in the energy! Now the goal is aligned with my identity instead of being a milestone to achieve. If I want to be a kick ass entrepreneur, then the actions I take and the habits I form have to be in alignment with vision of myself, and thus, they’re more likely to stick. This idea right here gave me a bit of a light bulb moment as I nodded my head in agreement while reading the chapter. It makes total sense! Figure out who it is you want to be, and the habits you need to form to get there will have that much more ammunition backing them.
And then there's the actual habit formation itself. Want to make a change? Position yourself for success by changing your environment to support the habits you want to form. If I stuck this monstrous looking elliptical in the basement or somewhere I didn’t want to be, what are the chances you think I’d use it every day? Exactly, slim to nil. But since it’s right in the middle of my living room, it’s pretty hard to avoid. Same thing goes with your business – how is your office? Is it a place you want to be? A place where ideas can flow and productivity can happen? Or is it cluttered, full of dead plants (hey, we've all been there), cold and loud? You have to position yourself to make good use of the habits you want to form, and a lot of that is created by your environment. I used to have my office in my house for years until this summer. I thought it made sense to have it in the next room to my son’s, but that ended up being a roadblock because when he went down for a nap, I didn’t want to be in there in case I woke him up. That, and the fact that it was at my house was distracting for obvious reasons. Since moving to my downtown space that I have created as my own, every day when I go to the office I know it’s time to get shit done, and since that space was created for that purpose, it’s super easy to be productive there…you could almost say, it’s a habit!
Change, in any capacity, doesn’t come without effort. It takes time, energy and a lot of willpower sometimes to make a positive change in your life – whether personally or professionally. I know firsthand, though, by establishing productive habits, it will bring you that much closer to the person you want to be! And if your desire is to be a kick ass entrepreneur, I can definitely help you get there too!