“Sticky Habits” Talk

"I can predict your future! No, seriously, I can! I can do it for everyone in this room. I can tell you if you are going to need expensive dental treatment, I can tell you if you are going to put on weight, I can tell you how productive you will be at work, I can tell you how content you are going to be with your life - I could go on. And I could do all this just by asking you one question.

The question I would ask you is “what do you do every day?” 

How can I make this bold claim with so much confidence? Because I know two things, firstly that we are creatures of habit and secondly I know that little by little a little becomes a lot.

Studies at Duke University have shown that at least 40% of what we do every day is habit. 40% of what we do every day we do on autopilot. Usually these habits develop without our really thinking about them. Some of these habits just happen to be “good” and some happen to be “bad.” If you deliberately develop “good” habits then good things will eventually happen. People who are successful purposefully develop good habits. Your life is the result of your habits. Let me say that again because its important - your life is the result of your habits.

Stephen King has the habit of writing 10 pages a day, every day (including weekends and holidays.) Ben Franklin asked himself at 5am every day “what good shall I do today” and at 9pm “what good have I done today.” I seem to recall he did pretty well for himself. Bill Gates reads for one hour before bed every night. Again, someone who did quite well for themselves. Katie Perry always carries a toothbrush with her and brushes her teeth 6 times a day - and look at her teeth. :-)

You may have gathered by now I am a big believer in the power of habit. I have come up with my patent pending “sticky habits” method to help make new habits. All you need is some sticky notes and a pen. This method combines the findings of several pieces of research in to habits and I think its simple enough for anyone to follow.

The first step is to pick a new habit you want to build. Pick one new habit to build. Research has shown that people have the best success rates when they only work on one habit at a time. In fact one study showed your chances of success drop 70% when trying to create more than one habit at a time.

Habits should be small, simple and sustainable.

Start small and build it up over time. Build habits incrementally. If you are trying to build a habit of running 5 miles a day and you haven’t put on a pair of running shoes for years you probably won’t be successful. For example: Make your first habit to walk half a mile each day. Then make your next habit to run half a mile. After that make the habit after that to run a mile. Over time increase it to two miles then three miles and so on.

Make it simple. The more complex your habit is the greater the chance you will find something that “prevents” you from being able to do it. The habit of “drink a glass of water before each meal” is more likely to stick than “drink half your bodyweight in ounces in every 24 hour period.”

Make it sustainable. Make it something you can realistically do every day, not just on weekends, not just when its sunny outside, everyday. If you wanted your habit to be to go for a 45 minute walk at lunchtime. How long do you get for a lunchbreak? Could you do it every day Monday to Sunday

Write your habit down. Make sure you are constantly reminded of your new habit. A recent study showed that people who didn’t write down their habit failed to build the habit because they forgot about it after a week. Write your new habit on 3 sticky notes. Place one sticky note by your bed, one at your desk and one in your purse or wallet. Give yourself reminders everywhere.

The next step is to come up with a way to ensure you do your habit every day. Pick a trigger. Pick something that will cause you to do your new habit. 

Some triggers you might use are:
* An existing habit. Do your new habit whenever you wash your hands, whenever you eat, whenever you go in the car, whenever you check facebook. Pick something you do every day already and link your new habit to that.
* A specific time of day. Decide on a particular time of day, 6amnoon8pm or whatever works best for you and set an alarm or calendar reminder. Or before breakfast or after dinner. Make it a “time” you can do every day.
* It could be right after your shower.
* It could be before you eat breakfast.
* It could be at 7.00am
* It could be after you drink your first coffee
* It could be at lunchtime. 
* It could be after you have eaten dinner at night
* It could be 8.00pm

Write down the trigger for your habit on another sticky note.

Now I have some bad news for you. I’m sure you have heard that it takes 21 days to build a new habit. Unfortunately there is absolutely no research to back that up. What researchers have found however is the amount of time it takes actually depends on how difficult the habit it. The average however is 66 days. So, to really ingrain a new habit it takes about two months. 

This is where your preparation really comes into play. It will enable you to stick to your new habit every day.
Read your habit on a sticky note each morning and throughout the day as a reminder.
Do the new habit at the trigger every day. 
If you slip up one day start fresh with your habit again the next day.

Sticky to your habit for two months and commit to never missing more than one day in a row.

Take another sticky note, draw a 4 x 7 grid on it and write down the number for each day you do your new habit. 

This will help you with your new habit in two ways. Firstly it will keep you motivated as you will be able to see your progress. Secondly, the mind doesn’t like to break “chains”. 

How do I know the “sticky habits” idea will work. Well, firstly because it is based on a whole lot of research but secondly I have been using it myself for years. On the first day of every month I pick a new habit to work on. The first month I work on one habit. The second month I continue working on the first habit and I add a second one. The third month I evaluate whether to continue my first habit or not and decide them to either make it bigger or drop it. 

If you are sold on the idea of habits but need some inspiration on where to start, here are 8 good habits to consider:

Start your day right. Get some positive input in the first hour of the day. Pick something that resonates with you. Books, music, whatever. Religion, philosophy, inspirational Youtube videos. Start the day by learning something new. If you aren’t learning you are falling behind. If you pick a topic you are interested in, it will even be fun! Avoid TV news, it is almost all negative. Decide first thing that you are going to have a good day. Find 30 minutes to get some exercise. Make it something you enjoy. Eat a healthy breakfast and pack some good snacks. You only have one body to live in so look after it. Whenever you start something pick a positive attitude. Tell yourself that you can do it. Watch your self talk. The more your mind hears something the more it believes it to be true. When you believe something to be true it affects your actions.

Focus on goals. Schedule time each day to focus on your goals. Turn your goal into a habit. All successful people have goals. They are successful because they know where they are going. It’s that simple. Have a todo list and spend time each morning before you start work picking the most important tasks to do first. Network. Spend time with the right people. Deliberately seek out people who are where you want to be. Jim Rohn said “We are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with.” Spend an hour a week networking. It will pay huge dividends. 

Exercise. Find 30 minutes a day to get some exercise. Make it something you enjoy instead of a chore. Eat healthy food every day. You only have one body to live in so look after it.

Learn. Carve out time to learn something new every day. If you aren’t learning, you aren’t growing, and if you aren’t growing you are falling behind those people who do take time to learn every day. If you pick a topic you are interested in, it will even be fun! Use some of your TV time to read a book.

Network. Spend time with the right people. Deliberately seek out people who are where you want to be. Jim Rohn said “We are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with.” Spend an hour a week networking. It will pay huge dividends. 

Plan your day. Have a todo list and spend time each morning before you start work picking the most important tasks to do first.

Kindness. Make sure you treat people kindly. Do good deeds daily. Volunteer. Join a non-profit cause you are passionate about.

Be grateful. Choose to see the good in people and situations. Be grateful. This is the single biggest thing a person can do to be happy. Spend time at the end of the day to express gratitude. Express it in a diary, express it around the dinner table, express it in an email to yourself - whatever works for you. The most important thing is that you do express it. Be grateful for however things turn out. Look for the lesson. See the good in people. If you haven’t got anything nice to say - don’t say anything at all. be kind.

So in summary. Decide on a small, simple and sustainable habit. Write your new habit on 3 sticky notes. Find a trigger for your habit. Track your daily progress on another sticky note for 2 months. Commit to never missing more than one day in a row. Reap the benefits.

Thank you for listening and I hope you will think about how you can leverage the power of sticky habits."