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Episode 40 is all about those little bitty building blocks of our lives.
When so much of our life – 40% of our behaviors – are driven by habits, we wanna pick some good ones, right?
But where do you begin? What are the best habits to have? What are the habits of other successful people? For something so small, yet so impactful, it’s understandable to want to get this right.
So today, I’m sharing
A quick overview of why good habits are so important
Then, I’ll dive into a collection of 7 success-focused habits so you can pick your favorites, choose your own adventure and start taking steps in the direction of the life you want to create for yourself.
Why do we need good habits?
Habits are the nearly invisible building blocks of our daily life. Studies have shown that 40 percent of our daily behavior is on autopilot with habits.
So if we’re looking at 24 hours in a day – that’s a little more than 9 and a half hours we’re spending engaged in some kind of habitual behavior. Is that right? I’m not a math wizard, but 40% of 24 hours is 9.6. And if we sleep 8-ish hours, we’re only awake for 16 of those hours.
Our habits shape our entire lives, whether we realize it or not – and often, we just don’t realize it because they’re so ingrained.
This is exactly why it’s important to be mindful of those habits that make up the 40% of our actions.
They. Shape. Our. Lives.
And once you begin to realize just how much of what you do is based in habit, it might make you want to rethink what some of those habits are.
So – if you’re in a habit refresh mood, you might ask…
What are the best habits to have?
Where should I start?
And here’s where I hate to break it to you but,
There is no “best list” or one-size-fits-all solution for everyone. It’s easy to think that if we copy and paste the habits of CEOs, millionaires, successful and creative people – that we’ll see the same success.
But – copying and pasting – especially when it comes to 40% of our behavior, just isn’t the solution. We have to cultivate the habits that work for us.
And that’s why The number one, most important key to habit success is to know yourself.
And then, choose the habits, and strategies for sticking to those habits, that work for you.
If you’re looking for some inspiration about what habits you should start, you’ve come to the right place. I’m sharing a collection of habits that you can consider, for a total of 7.
Based on what you know about yourself, listen to each one, decide whether it might be a good fit or what it might look like at work in your life, and then go for it. Use this free habit tracker to capture your new habit, your WHY for that habit, and then track your success until it feels second nature.
But if you’re looking less for inspiration about which habits to start, and more for strategies for designing habits that stick – head over to Episode 11, How to Start Habits that Stick, and Kick the Bad Ones. In that episode, I break down the anatomy of a habit, and how to build them the right way.
Alright – ready to go?
The Three Building Blocks of a Habit
First – I want to do a quick recap on the three building blocks of a habit, so that when you do choose one or more of these 13, you’re building it intentionally.
The three building blocks of a habit are
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear uses four parts: The Cue, the Craving, the Response and the Reward, which is another great structure, but for this episode, we’ll focus instead on the these three building blocks:
The cue, the routine and the reward.
Let’s break it down using a habit that all of us (hopefully) have experienced.
The Cue – you wake up
The routine – you brush your teeth
The reward – minty fresh breath and the ability to speak to people in social settings without scaring them away.
You don’t even have to think about it. It just happens. It’s a thing you do.
Alright – now that we’ve got that refresh on the three building blocks of a habit, let’s dive into these 7 habits – Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
These 7 Habits Could Change Your Life
Stephen Covey is considered the most renowned leadership teacher of our time, and his transformative book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is considered one of the most inspiring and impactful books ever written. Even more books, trainings, events, resources, planners, tools and more have been developed based on Covey’s 7 Habits.
I myself bought my first FranklinCovey planner in college. It was a small green pebbled leather binder with a magnetic clasp, and it came everywhere with me. From classes and student government meetings to sorority chapter nights to the library. It was more than a planner, it was an organizational system based on the 7 Habits. I loved it, and my closest friends all knew “Franklin,” as I called it.
The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People are
Begin with the end in mind
Put first things first
Seek first to understand, then to be understood
Sharpen the Saw
So let’s take a closer look at each of these and how you can start incorporating them in to the 40% of your behavior power by habit
Be Proactive – while this will look different for each of you based on your job title, industry, type of work, etc – being proactive looks like recognizing that you are in charge, and you are in control of your choices. When you recognize that you are in control of your choices, your responses, your reactions – you change the narrative inside your head from victim-focused or reactive to proactive. Swapping out
“There’s nothing I can do” and “This is just the way I am” with
“I can control how I respond and how I show up.”
Instead of wallowing in a problem, or waiting for someone to tell you that you’re ready to do something you just do it.
For real estate agents, this could look like making it a habit to conduct outreach to 5 former clients every week to strengthen relationships.
If you’re a social media manager, policy director or healthcare professional, that could look like proactively staying on top of the latest industry trends by subscribing to newsletters or taking a course to grow your skillset.
In our personal lives, instead of waiting for someone to make the first move in a relationship – whether that be a friendship, romantic relationship or a professional relationship, be proactive and schedule the coffee date, pick up the phone and give that person a call. In summary, being proactive looks like being the opposite if reactive. It’s being in control, and acting accordingly.
2. BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
The second of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to Begin with the End in Mind.
This always takes me back to Alice and the Cheshire Cat.
In Alice in Wonderland – Alice comes across the Cheshire cat sitting in a tree. She asks which way she should go – and the Cheshire cat asks where she’s going. But Alice doesn’t know where she’s going…. She had no end in mind. She was just exploring, or wandering.
Beginning with the end in mind can apply to your entire life’s vision – the story you hope to tell as you’re 80 years old reflecting on the past from your front porch rocking chair, or the next hour of your life. What do you want or need to accomplish in the next hour. What does the end look like? Anytime you have a clear end goal, you can make sure you’re taking the right steps to get there.
So – whether you’re assembling a piece of ikea furniture or thinking through the next 5-10 years of your career, begin with the end in mind.
3. PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST
The third of the seven habits is to put first things first. In other words? Prioritize.
And you might be rolling your eyes – of course I need to prioritize. But here’s what I invite you to consider. There’s probably a whole lot more that could be prioritized.
Here’s an example using your email inbox:
When you open your inbox, do you open the first email at the top, answer it, and then move to the next one on the list, answer that one and then move to the next one down? Repeat, Repeat until you’re done – or until you get distracted or have to head to a meeting? If that sounds like you – here’s an alternative that puts the first thing first:
Open your inbox and Scan your unread email, looking at senders and subject lines to identify which email is most important, and respond to that one first, and then repeat the process.
Even better? Open the email that seems to be the most important and ask yourself – can I respond to this in 2 minutes or less? If yes? Respond now, send and move on. If no, flag it and come back to it later.
An example With your to do list – Do you make a list as you think of things, and then start with the first thing on your list and work your way down? Or do you make your list, and then number your list in ranking order – from most important to least important. And then tackle the things on your list in order of importance? That’s putting the first thing first.
4. THINK WIN-WIN
The fourth habit is to Think Win-Win.
This habit is all about compromise and relationships. It’s always being on the lookout for a solution that is mutually beneficial and satisfying to each party. Whether you’re negotiating one more bedtime story with your toddler, choosing a location for your in-laws’ surprise anniversary party, or you’re at the bargaining table with a new business opportunity – working to achieve a win for everyone keeps the focus on results, instead of keeping score.
Think about an upcoming interaction in your life – whether personal or professional – in which you’ll be working toward an agreement or shared solution. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. What is it they want, and how can you make an offer to meet those needs and create a win-win situation.
5. SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD
The fifth habit is Seek First to Understand, then to be understood. In other words, listen first. Talk second. Certainly not to be confused with Aaron Burr’s recommendation to Alexander Hamilton which was Talk Less. Smile More. That is a completely different can of worms.
Before we can offer advice, or solutions or basically tell someone how they should do something or how they should feel about something – we first have to deeply understand where they’re coming from. And that takes empathetic, thoughtful listening.
What works for you – may not automatically work for someone else. The way you feel about something, may not affect someone else in the same way. It’s easy to assume that what makes sense for us, makes sense for all – because that’s all we know personally.
One way to make this a habit is to pay close attention to the body language of the person we’re speaking to. What’s being communicated without words? And beyond their words – what’s being communicated by their tone of voice? So often, we’re only half listening because we’re busy stringing together in our minds what we’re planning to say next. Next time you find yourself in a situation in which you want to truly understand the other person – or just in general, your next conversation with your partner or child or colleague – practice being fully present as you listen, and see what a difference it makes.
The sixth habit is to Synergize. Now for me, this is one of those annoying business buzz words that’s been so overused in the last decade or so. Synergy – in the context of Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective people – allows us to create new alternatives and open new possibilities. It’s working as a group to create new things.
If collaboration lands better for you, and it does for me, then use that word instead.
No man – or woman is an island, and we grow stronger by growing together. If you’re a solo business owner, how can you make collaboration a habit in your day-to-day? Could it be joining a Facebook Group filled with others in your solo preneur shoes, forming partnerships and bouncing ideas?
If you’re a parent – how can you team up with others in your community to create new opportunities for your kids? How can you collaborate with your spouse or co-parent to set standards for behavior in your family? And how can you cultivate that thoughtfulness on a regular basis? Is it a weekly family meeting? Maybe an intentional conversation over breakfast or coffee once a week?
As a supervisor – how can you regularly foster collaboration across your team by building trust and opportunities for cooperation?
Even if we feel alone in something – there truly are opportunities all around us to collaborate. Be proactive – like in habit one – and find opportunities to synergize.
7. SHARPEN THE SAW
And finally – Habit number 7 – Sharpen the Saw.
Y’all – from 7th grade to my senior year of high school, one undeniable constant in my life was ag.
Aka Agriculture Class.
Seriously. Yes – I am an alumna of the FFA. Future Farmers of America, corduroy jacket and all. I grew up in a small town, and during 6 straight years of Ag classes, I learned everything from animal husbandry, to tree identification, small engine repair, and welding, I learned how to wire electrical sockets and switches, pour concrete, shave a pig, and I even can tell you how many eggs a chicken has laid by looking at its feet. My crowning achievement was being awarded the high point individual award in the state Dairy Products competition in 1998. An award I earned for being the best at identifying cheese and telling you what’s wrong with milk. Just Like in Napoleon Dynamite. True story.
but – above all – besides the cheese and chickens, my favorite part of ag class was spent building shelves and side tables in the woodshop behind the classroom. To this day, I love the comforting smell of unfinished wood and sawdust, and it always brings me back to picking out the plans for my project, measuring twice and cutting once. No flimsy handsaws, we had state of the art table saws, jigsaws, circular saws and more. And nothing could ruin a perfectly measured piece of pine like a dull saw blade. When you push a fresh board through a dull blade, it chips and splinters the edge of the wood. It looks awful, and you basically have to start over.
Ok – so now you’re wondering what all of this has to do with habits and success. Here we go….
In order to be effective – effective at whatever it is we do – working, leading, parenting, whatever – we must devote time to renewing – recharging ourselves physically, spiritually, mentally and socially.
Sharpening the Saw in this context is taking care of yourself: your physical health, your mental health, your spiritual life, and your most important relationships.
By making recharge a habit, we enable ourselves to show up as our best selves – with full cups – in every other area of our lives. When we forget to sharpen the saw – when we put our health and wellbeing, and our relationships last – things get rough and jagged real quick.
So whether you think of this habit as sharpening the saw, filling your cup, or recharging with rest, recreation and relationships – without this key habit – the rest will be nearly impossible.
So – let’s recap Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,
Be proactive. You are in control.
Begin with the end in mind. Knowing destination drives your steps to get there.
Put First Things First. Know what’s most important, then prioritize everything.
Think win-win. Focusing on shared results leads to a better outcome.
Seek First to Understand, then to be understood. Listen thoughtfully and empathetically.
Synergize. Or… you know… collaborate.
Sharpen the Saw. Take care of yourself so you can show up as your best in every other area of life.
CieraHW – Thank you so much! I’m so glad that It’s About Time is giving you something fresh, that’s not filled with fluff! Thank you so much for being a listener, for leaving a kind review and for including ME and It’s About Time at the top of your podcast rotation!
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