Hello everyone and welcome to The Executive Edge, my podcast for skills in life and business.

Today I’d like to cover one of the subjects I have a real connection with.  This is habits that I think are either good for you, or desirable – whether in business or in life

The reason why I’m doing this episode is based on a book by James Clear called Atomic Habits. He wrote this because he had a very bad accident as a young man and had to rebuild his confidence, skill, and athletic ability. James went on to be a grade A student and excellent sportsman despite his injuries. He credits this determination to get better to a remarkable set of habits he set up.  These habit were applied consistently until he achieved his goals. But it’s important to know that these habits weren’t anything other people can’t emulate. It’s more the way in which he achieved them that stood out.

I guess the first habit I come to would be to set goals. Remarkably, not many people regularly set goals. It’s thought that only about the top 10 or 20% of the population do this. They might write a ‘to do’ list but rarely think about what they want, and this is an important distinction. Setting goals isn’t the same as setting actions, although you obviously have to take action to achieve anything.

James refers to the fact that you can only act in keeping with your identity. In other words, you will do what ‘fits’ your beliefs and revert to this programming in all circumstances. So, if you’re wanting to lose weight for example it’s difficult to do if you believe you have trouble going on a regimen or giving things up. It’s equally difficult to stop smoking if you believe you are a smoker. The place to start is with your beliefs. You have to want to alter these

What else?

James explains that we prefer habits that are easy to do and enjoyable. That means the premise of giving something up in the first place is potentially doomed. Rather than putting it this way, he feels it’s best to position things in any way you can think of to make it easier. For example, putting your gym kit out at night so that you can’t forget it, or overlook it in the morning. Add positive cues to this by associating the act of going to the gym with a set time and expectation. This works better. “ I will exercise for 30 to 40 minutes at ‘x; time” or “before breakfast”. It enables you to plan it in to the point where you don’t have to think about it.

To set a new goal and consistently achieve it is possible if you alter your identity to suit. You can do this. But, the trick is to really focus on what you want instead. To try to change a habit you don’t want is tough. It expends a lot of energy and is harder to achieve. Pointing your efforts towards something you’d like, or aspire to, is more successful.  It alters your identity more quickly. If you can influence your mind, you can change your results.  At the end of the day, this is what we all concentrate on!

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