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Habits by Gregg Goodmanson

As I sit writing this article the world continues to remain tremendous chaos. During times of chaos it is imperative we have the right perspective. So often our immediate reaction is to try to understand so that we can control. While that is a natural reaction and even a right reaction, too many times we focus on things we can’t control.

To be successful in times of crisis, we must focus on what we can control.

A few years ago my colleague and partner Brandon White introduced me to the idea of becoming path oriented rather than goal oriented. We can set a goal, but if we are not on the right path, we won’t realize the goal.

James Clear in his book, Atomic Habits says something similar. “Forget about goals, focus on habits.” He makes the point that with the right system of habits, you could forget about your goals and still achieve them. He’s not suggesting that we skip goal setting. Only making the point that without the right habits, our goals will never be reached.

The right path is paved with great habits. Right path + good habits + grit = Goals Achieved!

I am going to share three things that have been useful to me in this quest accomplishing more of my goals by focusing on the right path and better habits. Hopefully they will be helpful to you as well.

First, Take Control of Your Day by Taking Control of Your Morning. There have been several research studies done looking at both adults and college students. These studies have revealed that people who are successful at maintaining an exercise regimen consistently over a long period of time have built initiating triggers into their day. These triggers initiate them into the behavior of exercise.

For some, it’s finishing work and then immediately going to the gym. For others, it is waking up and getting a glass of water, drinking 6 to 8 ounces and then moving into their exercise routine. There were multiple initiating triggers, but those who had developed them were much more consistent in exercise over a long period of time than those that did not have triggers.

By taking control of your morning, you will have a much higher chance of creating a great day. Derail your morning and the likelihood of having a productive day becomes challenged.

Taking control of your morning is all about creating consistent rituals. The right routine is key to success. For me, my day starts at 6AM with some type of hot beverage. I prepare coffee or tea, then immediately read for 30 minutes. The hot beverage is my initiating trigger that prompts me to read. From there I review my day and the rest of my week. I identify key to do’s for the day and then either exercise or get started with my day, depending on which day of the week it is and when my appointments start.

Let’s discuss some things that can derail a good morning routine and thus, derail your day. Be aware of anything you give your attention to that can take you off course. Text messages and voicemails, social media, news and other items. None of these things are bad. However, if you want to establish great habits and really take control of your morning, don’t give control to these external forces. They will eat up your time and your energy at the most critical time of the day. What is so important it can’t wait an hour or 90 minutes for you to make your day count?

Second, Organize Yourself Your Way. I used to try to organize myself according to all kinds of recommendations from people who are instinctually more organized than I am. I failed. My instinct is not to organize in a sophisticated fashion. If yours is, I envy you. However, we are not all designed instinctually the same way. So, all of us have to build a system that works for us. My system is much simpler.

Some people thrive by making lists and have a sophisticated strategy to get things done. They enjoy having a checklist and creating organizational systems. Others like me work off of urgency and a to-do list won’t motivate behaviors that get things done. I personally calendar everything. Once I make a list of to-do’s, they go into my calendar as a block of time. Things that need to be done weekly or monthly are in the calendar as a reoccurring appointment. Projects are calendared as blocks of time over a period of days or weeks to make sure they get done. Bottom line, we are all different and need to find what works for us.

There are several really strong systems and ways of getting organized. Don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. Find your way and live in that space. Even if it is vastly different from others. I recommend you look at 3 to 5 organizational strategies that meet the needs of different people and choose the one that best fits your instinct, personality and temperament. Your habits and your organizational system your way.

Third, Reward Yourself Often. Most habits don’t have immediate payoff. If I make 10 prospecting calls today, I may not see the reward of a new sale for weeks or months. If I exercise consistently for 5 days, I won’t necessarily see increased strength, stamina or weight loss in that time. In both of those cases, the result comes later.

However, most of us look for an immediate reward. There is evolutionary science that confirms this. However, we don’t need to get into that today. Bottom line, when you have successfully executed a habit, find a way to reward yourself. After I’ve completed a project I’ll allow myself to surf the internet for 15 minutes. Once I’ve finished prospecting for a day, I’ll allow myself some time to play a golf game on my iPad. These may sound silly to you and that is fine. You have to find your own rewards. Things that attract give you enjoyment and feel like a reward.

Take a moment and identify 1 habit that if established would make it likely you would reach a specific goal. Whatever habit you decide to create, identify an initiating trigger that will move you into performing the habit. Making coffee, leaving work, or something you are already do regularly will work. Then, attach your new habit to the initiating trigger. Start small. If you want to read, start with 5 minutes. If you want to exercise, walk vigorously for 10 minutes. Once you’ve established the habit, you can expand it.

I also want to challenge you to help your team in their quest to reach their goals by establishing great habits. Imagine if your team was focused on the right path and the right habits 80% of the time. How would that impact your ability to meet your goals and financial objectives? Could that get you there faster?

Control what you can. Your habits and path are in your control even when everything else is completely uncertain!