Being present and mindful is one of the key skills that make an entrepreneur able to meet any challenge. The longer we can spend in the present moment, the more engaged we are. This means we are more equipped to deal with any situation in an intelligent way. But the reality is that most people will spend a large proportion of their lives on autopilot. In these times, we rely on good habits to make sure we perform well. Good habits mean that even when stressed or distracted, we will still be able to make the right choices.
Habits are something we can control and change. Those who find long-term success are not people who lucked out and learned good habits. They are often people who know how to change their habits when needed. People who can recognize their own bad behaviors and correct them.
So how do habits work? Let’s look at a common bad habit and pick it apart. For example, we’ll use the habit of obsessively checking your email inbox.
Every habit has four phases. First, a trigger or prompt that makes you want to do something. Then your mind creates a desire. Then an action in response to that desire. And finally a reward.
In this case, the trigger is a notification on your phone or browser that shows that you have a new email. The desire is then created to know what is in that email. You feel the anxiety that something negative might happen if you don’t check it immediately. Then you take an action. You check the email and receive your reward. In this case, it might be a sense of relief that the email is nothing serious. That feeling of relief releases chemicals in your brain that act as a reward. The cycle is complete. Until the next email comes in two minutes later.
To change this habit, we can interrupt it at any one of the four stages. Some are easier than others. For example, it might be difficult to affect the ‘desire stage’. Sure, you could try to convince yourself that reading emails is bad for you. But that could be a tough sell.
Instead, you could get straight in at the trigger stage. Turn off notifications for your email app. Or close the tab if you’re not using it. Now the habit will never get the chance to get triggered. You can still check your email at set times if you like, but you won’t do it compulsively.
The key to managing your habits is to understand which stage will be the best place to introduce an interruption in the cycle. Then take positive action to alter that stage of your habit.