Habits of the Super Rich (2015)

Chapter 6: The Most Effective Way to Build a Habit


Attraction. Intention. Action.


Zach and Jim continued to talk occasionally about what made a successful person. They finally agreed on those three ingredients. “Not that there are so many more ingredients we could toss into this soup,” Jim said. But now, he was clearly seeing that the world wasn’t going to hand him success on a silver platter like it did to him, and so many others, in high school.


No, he now knew he would have to generate a certain level of enthusiasm and then to take appropriate action afterward. He gave it some thought and said, “Then I need to start creating new good habits that will contribute to my success and not sabotage me for my future goals.


He left the café determined to write out his goals and start creating new habits based on those goals immediately.


Smart man. The best action anyone can take – including you – is to create habits that will not only help you generate your goals, but carry them out for years and years. These habits will become your secret weapons on your journey.


That’s great, you say. But exactly how do you not only create a habit, but ensure you’re going to still be using them next month, next year and even farther down the road?


You’ve probably heard that if you take one action and perform it for twenty-one days, it becomes a habit. That’s true. But to be truthful that’s only part of the story. You need to make it as easy as possible on your subconscious to make a habit. Don’t worry that you’re making it “too easy” on yourself. Give yourself credit. You’re actually asking quite of bit of your mind.  Don’t worry. It’ll perform and excel with flying colors.


But it’s going to take a few more techniques than merely performing one action for twenty one days. That’s what this chapter is all about. You’re about to learn how the most effective and successful business people have done to train their brains to create habits that stick.


Your first task, though, is identifying the bad habits you’ve picked up over the years when it comes to your career and your life. Sure, it’s easy to identify the bad habits that involve your health: smoking, lack of exercise, excessive coffee intake, eating too much junk food, becoming a couch potato at night and not moving from the sofa except to visit the junk food cabinet.


It’s a bit more difficult to identify the poor work habits we’ve accumulated over time and even harder trying to correct them – especially when working alone. That’s why, you were given some information earlier about starting a Mastermind group. You’ll want to include successful business mentors in your group not only so they can help you identify those habits which are holding you back, but to identify the ones you need to succeed and to implement into your lifestyle.


Brace yourself for a bit of concerted effort. While we’re not saying that changing habits is necessarily easy, it will entail you to work at it some and above all for you to be patient with yourself.


Your bad habit didn’t happen one day. It took a concerted effort and months of regular action to ingrain them into your system. It’s going to take some time, effort and above all patience to kick them out and replace them with a habit that will kick start and sustain your success – for the rest of your life, we may add.


Just listen to Christin Whelan, a public sociologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She’s an expert on the topic of habits currently working with AARP’s Life Re-imagined Institute. She’s been studying happiness, human ecology and above all habits.


Making a lasting change in your life may take a few different forms. First, you may need to add an action to your life. Or it could be you need to end an activity you’re currently doing. When you talk about being successful, you’ve got to first consider what it is you need to do.


Add a Habit . . . Subtract What?


It’s easy to say I want to go to the gym for an hour and a half a day three days a week. But when you make this resolve to you seriously ponder what is not going to get done during the hours we’re at the gym. Most individuals don’t think about they’re surrendering in order to add that awesome habit into their lives.


Before you make your vow to go to the gym, let’s say, consider what it is that is not going to happen during those hours you’re there. If you’re like my friend, the freelance writer, you’re taking yourself out of a minimum of two hours a day of what could be productive writing. 


The question then becomes, “Is my time at the gym worth more than the loss of several hours of work? Or it may be can I go to the gym at a time when it doesn’t conflict with my productivity. Would I be willing to give up a couple of hours of sleep in the morning for my new-found habit of exercise?”


These are questions you need to ask before you enter into any agreement with yourself about starting a new habit. If you don’t and you realize as my friend did that she really needed that time to write – at least on certain days – then she very well may not continue the habit.


You know what happened after that? She blamed herself for not having enough will power to continue. That really wasn’t exactly how all her habit ended it. She unnecessarily put the burden of a failed habit on an internal flaw of hers. She felt bad enough to begin with, she needn’t start playing the blame game with herself.


How many times have you done the very same thing?


That’s the reason some individuals avoid pledging chunks of time out of their work day, Dr. Whelen explains. Instead, the pledge to create commitment strategies. This may be the best way to establish a habit, she said. They hold themselves accountable, sometimes in public ways.


While this isn’t always the best method of establishing a new habit it does indeed work for some people.


One of the most effective change strategies is to automate the change into your life. The aim of this is that you’re incorporating the new behavior into your life with a minimum of thought.


After trying to put an effective exercise program into his life and experiencing what he felt was failure one individual hit upon an idea. He, just like every one of us, used the restroom every day – several times a day. He decided every time he went to the bathroom he vowed to do so many sit ups. In this way, he didn’t as if were “stealing” anytime from his work, but he was still able to get a good number of sit ups.


He was amazed at how quickly this became a habit and how much of a difference it made in his life.


Another friend of mine started meditating in the evening. She watched television and during the commercials, she muted the television and grabbed several minutes of meditation time during those quiet moments. Of course, instead of closing her eyes, she gazed at the television. When the program returned, she turned the sound back on and continued to watch the show.


She was getting all the benefits of mediation, without having to remember to set aside twenty or so minutes daily. If she added a longer session later in the evening, so much the better.


How long does it take to instill a habit?


If you’ve rattled off the number “twenty one” you’ve confirmed what many people think, but Dr. Whelen is a bit more pessimistic about that. She affirms that to truly make a habit stick, you probably need to do it for a minimum of ninety days. The bottom line, she admits, is that you’ll be more successful in creating a lasting habit, one you truly don’t have to think about doing, the longer you continue to do it.


While this may sound like it’s difficult to create good habits, you must remember you didn’t fall into those bad habits overnight. The good news, though, is that once you’ve established this habit, the carrying out of it does indeed eventually become effortless. At some point you’ll discover that you’re performing this action without any thinking involved.


It won’t require self-control on your part or much active internal debate about it. You’ll just find yourself doing it. At some point, it becomes a part of you. On those few days you don’t perform one of your habits, you’ll feel something missing in your day – even if you can’t identify it right away.


Below is a checklist that Dr. Whelen suggests you go through as you add new positive habits into your daily routine:


  1. Take tiny steps. Choose one action at a time. Don’t do an entire makeover.


  1. Decide not only what you need to add to your routine to make this happen, but what you may have to subtract from your daily routine. Then make room for it.


  1. Make sure you’re creating a new positive habit because you want it, not because your spouse, mother or somebody else wants you to.


  1. Get a partner, friend or family member to hold you accountable for continuing the habit, especially in those early days when you’re in the position of pondering it.


Is it getting up an hour earlier? Have someone at some time during the day contact you to see if you kept that commitment.


  1. If you must, tie this new habit to something you have to do anyway.


In other words, automate it. Like the individual who ties his series of sit ups with his restroom visits, you’ll find it hard not to do after a while.


  1. Celebrate your continued success at certain intervals.


What you choose to do is up to you, but don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back, in some form.


  1. Stick with the habit.


The longer you continue to do it, the better the prospects it will become a part of you. Once it does become a routine, you’ll notice when you skip it. But even better than that, the chances of you just “skipping it,” will dwindle tremendously.