Updated: Mar 2, 2022
At this point, you are aware that things need to change in order to turn your vision into reality. Now we just have to turn that awareness into action!
What bad habits are holding you back?
What good habits could you better leverage?
What changes are hard for you to make/sustain and why?
What has enabled you to create positive change in the past?
Deciding What to Change
There are endless ways in which you may change. And as you learn more on this journey it is easy to feel overwhelmed with all the different ways you could improve personally and professionally. So, where do you start? How do you do you decide what to change?
There is not one right answer with regards to what you may need to change. Everyone is different, each person has their own unique opportunities for growth. It is important for you to search within yourself to identify the ways you may benefit from changing.
Keep in mind your long-term aspirations. Then think about the things you do day-in and day-out. In what ways do your daily actions support your aspirations? And in what ways do your day-to-day routines hold you back? Take the big picture view, then break the actions down to the daily habits that will help you get there.
For example, say you decided that you need to engage more actively in the customer discovery process. That means that on a day-to-day basis you need to be making strides in the right direction. Daily activities may include phone calls, meetings, administration or note-taking, reflection and planning.
How do you need to change to follow through on this intention? Do you need to change a bad habit or establish a new habit?
I have good news and I have bad news. The bad news is, there is no such thing as breaking a bad habit. Neural pathways form in your brain when you establish a habit. You cannot just break the habit because those pathways will not disappear. The good news is that you can rewrite the habit, effectively rewiring your neural pathways. You can turn a bad habit into a good habit.
Framing the Problem
It is really important that you take time to frame exactly what the problem is that you are trying to resolve with change. The bad habit I had to change when I started on this journey was around my productivity. What I did not understand at the time was that my absence of a helpful routine was itself a bad habit. I would turn on my computer and check my email. I would open a new web browser and go to Facebook. I was wasting my time, my energy and my focus with these bad habits. Something had to change.
The Habit Loop
Figuring out what to change and how took consistent time and effort. I experimented with a lot of different solutions, organizational methods, programs, time management techniques, etc. With every thing I tried, I gained clarity around how to frame the problem that was driving my need to change.
The Habit Loop is a beautifully simple yet powerful tool for experimenting with changing your habits. Charles Duhigg introduced the Habit Loop in his book, The Power of Habit. There are three elements, the Cue, the Routine and the Reward. You cannot change the cue and the reward, you can only change the routine. Yet, it takes experimentation to be able to identify the true cue and the real reward. This tool works for establishing a new habit and changing an existing habit.
We can look at my productivity habits using the lens of the Habit Loop in a before/after comparison:
Habit Loop – Before
Cue – What should I do next? Routine – What do I feel like doing…. Reward – I got something important done!
Habit Loop – After
Cue – What should I do next? Routine – Look at weekly planning sheet Reward – I got something important done!
As a result of this shift I went from focussing solely on the urgent to giving more time and attention to the important not urgent stuff. In essence, my productivity issues were about learning how to manage my day-to-day better so I could move the needle forward.
Change Doesn’t Have to be So Hard
This is a lot to digest. There are likely more things you can identify you want to change then there is time in the day. No one has the bandwidth to tackle it all at once. I have made that mistake in the past, making declarations that I was going to get healthy! And my plan included a radical diet change, working out, spending more time outside, and such.
Those change efforts never manifested for me. I tried them in my entrepreneurial endeavors too, radical proclamations of major productivity changes by fixing what was wrong with me…no, my successful change efforts happened when I leveraged what was already working.
For all my bad productivity habits, I had one really good habit. It was something I had been doing for so long that it was second nature. I did not even think of it as an asset in this situation until I had been working steadily on my productivity for a few years…journaling.
I realized on 4/13/2013 that journaling was the best habit I had. Upon having that realization, I took the advice of Chip and Dan Heath; I leveraged that bright spot. I need to write to process my thoughts and I prefer to write by hand. So, I scrapped all the productivity tech I failed at using.
I started writing more in notebooks and on worksheets. I experimented with different ways of organizing my ideas and planning my days. I just kept at it, building on what worked while tossing the rest. Things started to really shift after that, I got unstuck. Now I have my own system for managing my productivity, and I am getting a lot more done in less time as a result. All I had to do was more of what I already did.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business By Charles Duhigg In this entertaining book, Duhigg provides a simple yet well educated overview of how habits are formed and why they can’t be broken. Fear not, habits can be changed. The “habit loop” is a great tool for better understanding how to change habits on an individual level. But he doesn’t stop there! Duhigg goes on to show readers how to change people’s habits on an organizational and societal level as well. This book is a must read for any change agent that wants their efforts to be successful.
Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard Chip and Dan Heath The Heath brothers draw on the latest research to outline three steps for creating change in their book Switch, A) Directing the Rider, B) Motivating the Elephant, and C) Shaping the Path. In other words, you need to make both a rational and an emotional appeal while removing obstacles to ease the transition from the old to the new ways.
What are your experiences with change for a change? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!