The Science Behind Creating a Habit

I’m really lucky; I love the work that I do. My life’s purpose is to help organizations who are actively working to eliminate the social injustices in our world. These not-for-profit organizations (NPOs) have programs and services that are doing phenomenal work. They’re truly making a positive social impact in the communities they serve. I am in awe of the program work that they do.

My Superpower 

My superpower is understanding an organization’s strengths, pinpointing their areas of improvement, and providing them with the road map to succeed. It’s not uncommon for me to work 10-12 continuous hours on a project. I work hard because I’m craving the high I get when I see organizations succeed. When it comes to my client work, I don’t ever procrastinate.

Queen of Procrastination

Even though I don’t procrastinate at work, when it comes to my personal health, I am the Queen of Procrastination. For close to 20 years, I’ve tried and failed to instill the habit of daily activity. Even though I have a metabolic disorder, I’ve not found the inspiration to be active daily. Let’s be honest, I haven’t found the motivation to be active once a week.  

(Il)Logical Thinking

Here’s how I talk myself out of working out. In the thirty minutes it takes to work out, do you know how much I could have accomplished for a single NPO? We all know that NPOs are changing our world for the better. Who am I to deprive these organizations of the strategic help they need to advance their mission? I will work out tomorrow after I finish this project.

Queen of Illogical Thinking

I know my thinking doesn’t make sense. On one hand, I’m saying that I don’t matter and I need to help these organizations. And on the other hand, I’m implying that I’m the only one who can help. It’s crazy!  I know that being unhealthy isn’t helping anyone, not myself, not my family, and not my clients.

Time to Create a Habit

Now is the time to change my awful habit of talking myself out of being active. Since I’m a data-driven girl, I decided to read the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I wanted a book that would give me the formula and time-frame to establish a habit. Even though The Power of Habit didn’t give me a time-frame, it did provide me with the science of creating a habit.

The Process of Creating a Habit

Simply put, we all have habits. When it comes to creating a new habit, we’re really not creating a new one but changing an existing one. Let’s use my daily activity as the example.

I want to create a habit of working out in the morning. I already have a morning habit. I wake up, get ready, and immediately start working. I want to change this habit so that I wake up, work out, get ready, and then start work.

To change this habit, I need to understand why I want to establish this habit. My why is because I want to be healthy, so that I can increase my chances of living longer to enjoy being with my loved ones. That is what I crave, but unfortunately, that isn’t going to be a reward that I will receive immediately. And for those of you who don’t know, I’m a person who likes instant gratification. I need an immediate reward.

To ensure that I will work out every morning, no matter what, I need to create a reward. For me, the reward is that I can’t have my morning cup of coffee without first working out. Once I have determined the why and the reward to ensure that I will work on the habit, the next steps are to determine what your routine for the habit will be, and what you will use as the cue to start the routine for your new habit each day.  

Morning cup of coffee while doing work, that’s what I call a reward

In the book, Duhigg recommends keeping your same cue and maybe adding an additional one. When I wake up, instead of getting dressed for the day, I change into workout clothes, and then I’m actually active for 30 minutes. It makes sense, and when everything goes well (getting to bed early enough, no issues with kids/husband), I’ve been able to keep up the routine to establish the habit. Unfortunately, when the kids stayed home for two days, I didn’t follow through and I still had my cup of coffee! Very, very bad.

Reviewing the Steps

  1. Understanding why you want the habit (what are you craving?)
  2. What will ensure you will be patient and persevere in creating the habit? (what’s your reward?)
  3. What is the routine/steps for the habit?
  4. What is your prompt/cue to start the routine for your habit?

Establishing a habit is no joke! It’s hard and you need patience and perseverance. In my opinion, to succeed, you also need to identify things that could sabotage your habit. Create contingency plans, so that the habit doesn’t break.

Establish a Habit at Your Work

Working in the NPO world, we have a list of things that we want to do better: marketing, communications, stewardship, just to name a few. However, we won’t ever truly do better and get it together (GIT), until we have created a routine where we are working on it regularly. We need to create a habit, and that’s why you should take time to change one existing habit so that you can better serve your organization.

What habit will you change?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: