Productive habits shape destiny

Each individual’s future is shaped through his or her habits, daily routines and behaviors. 

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit,” said Will Durant, an American writer, historian and philosopher. Each person has millions of habits, but the majority of people don’t think of their behaviors as habits that will shape their future. 

Through reading the New York Times best seller, “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, I was enlightened and began to reflect on my daily habits. One habit I have is that the first thing I do every morning is check the time on my phone and end up getting sucked into all the social media sites and texting back friends. This became a habit I was unconscious of, but it was an action that soon became a daily routine.

I was beginning my day getting lost in my phone when in reality, I wish I was getting a different, more motivational start to my day.  Duhigg’s book taught me how habits work and how people have the ability to change them.  Bad habits don’t have to control people’s lives, and if more people understood how habits work, they would then take control of their present and future life. 

“A habit is just a behavior that you do consistently. The question is how to get people to do the behaviors that make people’s life meaningful,” said Sonoma State Professor and performance psychologist Glenn Brassington.

Habits are a three-step process that first start with a trigger, which is what compels the person to act on the habit. The trigger could be anything, the time of a day, an emotion, a location, a preceding event or another person. Second, after the trigger, the routine follows. Lastly, there is a benefit from the routine to which the person associates the habit. If there isn’t a benefit from a behavior, then people wouldn’t repeatedly do something. 

If there is a habit that a person wants to change, the first step is to recognize what is triggering the routine.  Once a person is able to recognize the trigger, they can use that same trigger to overlap with the new habit.  

But the key is to keep the same trigger and reward, while consciously changing the routine from your bad habit to something positive. Having a bad habit is not an excuse, each person is responsible for his or her own actions and has the ability to change his or her behavior. 

“Perhaps a sleep-walking murderer can plausibly argue that he wasn’t aware of his habit, and so he doesn’t bear responsibility for his crime, but almost all of the other patterns that exist in most people’s lives — how we eat and sleep and talk to our kids, how we unthinkingly spend our time, attention and money — those are habits that we know exist,” said Duhigg in The Power of Habit,  “And once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom and the responsibility to remake them. Once you understand that habits can be rebuilt, the power of habit becomes easier to grasp and the only option left is to get to work.” 

Say you have a bad habit of being lazy instead of exercising, that would be your routine.  What you need to find is what’s triggering you to be lazy and what benefits you get from the routine. Then associate a new habit with that same trigger and reward to basically overlap your bad habit. Remember, you can’t extinguish a bad habit you can only change it.

I truly believe that if people recognize their good and bad habits they can then reshape them to what they want to be in order to shape their future.  Making choices every day takes an effort, but once you make a habit it becomes automatic.  You no longer have to make a conscious effort to make that choice because it has become habituated.

“We create habits that make you consciously create thoughts, feelings and behaviors,” said Brassington. 

During a person’s college career, they are not as concerned with forming good habits that will form their future.  The majority or stereotypes of college students are known to have a unhealthy diets filled with junk food, binge-drinking and not worrying about exercising.  

The reason most students and people keep unhealthy behaviors was found in the well-known copy machine study by psychologist Ellen Langer in 1977.  The study discovered the secret word behind our behavior is “because” and  as long as we have a justifiable reason for our behavior then it will drive it. 

As for college students, if students are going out to party on a regular basis and engage in binge-drinking they keep doing it because they make a justifiable reason in their head.  Such as,  “I can continuously drink alcohol because I am in college and once I graduate I will  have to become more serious.”  But, the truth is that if a person is creating a habit to drink from a certain trigger then it will remain a habit that will continue to later years, not depending on whether you are in college or not. 

 Life is happening right now and in order to achieve goals it starts with the present moment.  People need to realize they are accountable for the decisions that they make and each decision they make is creating them to be the person they will be in the future.  For a person who is trying to achieve success, focusing on personal behavior and daily routines is crucial. In order to achieve success you have to build habits that are constantly moving toward your goals.  Just like a puzzle, piece by piece you fit each behavior together to reach achievements based on the habits that you keep. 

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going,” said Jim Ryan, former player for the Denver Broncos.