Up Your Business is an exclusive GEARS Magazine feature in which I share stories, insights, and reflections about business and life. Our lives are significantly influenced by habits. Research about habits estimates that over 40% of the actions people perform each day are not the result of conscious, deliberate decisions, but habits. That means that nearly half of the things you and I do each day aren’t things we think about – they’re habits.
According to Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit, “Most of the choices we make each day may feel like they’re the products of well-conceived decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits. And though each habit means relatively little on its own, over time, the meals we order, what we say to our kids each night, whether we save or spend, how often we exercise, and the way we organize our thoughts and work routines have enormous impacts on our health, productivity, financial security, and happiness.”
One dictionary defines a habit as a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior, or an established disposition of the mind, or a character trait that is acquired through frequent repetition. However, from my perspective, this definition fails to assign accountability. Habits are formed by the continuous repetition of deliberate choices we make. At some point, we stop thinking about these choices, but we keep doing them. Scientists say that habits emerge because our brains are always looking for ways to save effort.
For most of us, the word habit conjures up negative feelings. However, we know that there are good habits and bad habits because so many things we habitually do produce both good and bad results. In fact, some habits are neutral – not good or bad?
Here are 7 principles about habits.
- We don’t automatically drift toward good or better habits. Making good habits typically takes deliberate committed effort over an extended time.
- Bad habits are like a comfortable bed – they’re easy to get into and difficult to get out of. It takes far more effort and energy to form good habits or to change from bad habits to good habits.
- Habits are placeholders. Eliminating a habit leaves a void that cries out for something to fill it. It’s easier to replace one habit with another habit than to break or abandon an existing habit.
- The same level of thought and effort that allowed a habit to form will not be sufficient for changing, breaking, or replacing a habit.
- Everything we change changes everything. The definition of stupidity is continuing to do the same thing and expect different results.
- The results we get, our very destinies, are tied to our habits. In the Bible, it says, “You reap what you sow.” If you sow good seeds, you’ll harvest good fruit. Plant good habits, and you’ll harvest good results.
- The good news is that habits aren’t final. We have choice in the matter of habits. We can make, break, replace, and change our habits.
It would be unreasonable to attempt to address the broad topic of habits in a short article like this one. Stephen Covey wrote several books on the subject with his most famous being, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Many other writers and thinkers have tackled the subject, and it’s yet to be exhausted. With that said, I’m going to unpack just one small piece of one of Covey’s 7 Habits and suggest some steps you can take to use it to significantly improve your life.
Covey named the seventh habit, Sharpen the Saw. This habit focuses on preserving and enhancing your greatest asset – you. He believed that this habit contributed to the sustained energy needed to perform the first six habits. It involves a balanced self-renewal program for 4 key areas of your life – physical, social, mental, and spiritual. Here are some activities associated with these 4 key areas.
- Physical – healthy diet, exercise, recreation, and rest
- Social – meaningful social connections with others
- Mental – learning, reading, writing, and teaching
- Spiritual – expanding your spiritual self through meditation, prayer, music, art, nature, or serving
I’m going to focus on just 1 four-letter word – rest.
The Habit of Rest probably seems like an unlikely subject for one of my articles. Typically, I discuss topics that are action-driven and focused on anything but resting: Do this. Start that. Work faster. Work harder. Work smarter. You get the point. But rest is an essential component of life, and in today’s whirling dervish of a world, I’ve come to realize that most of us don’t know how to rest, let alone how to form The Habit of Rest.
For most of us, rest creates a void that we feel compelled to fill with some form of time-consuming activity. But how we spend time is of utmost importance. Until you value your time, you won’t do much of value with your time. Confucius said, “An inch of time cannot buy an inch of gold.” Here are 3 truths about time.
- One day you’ll wake up, and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.
- What you do today is important because you’re exchanging a day of your life for it. Will you get a good value?
- The “Law of Forced Efficiency” says that there’s never enough time to do everything, but there’s always enough time to do the most important thing.
Is it possible that the most important thing for you today isn’t even on your agenda?
Have you ever caught a yawn? They say yawns are contagious. Just now, the mere thought of it probably caused you to yawn. Have you ever had a day, a week, or even longer that you felt tired, empty, or running on fumes? Who hasn’t?
So, is this problem fixable? How is it that our society is so exhausted? What can we do to fix it? The simple, obvious, and, for some of us, the hardest answer is that we need more rest. Rest is crucial for the health of our bodies. It’s vital for our minds, our spirits, and our relationships with the important people in our lives. Without our health, it’s difficult to function at a highly effective level. And without rest, we can’t be healthy.
Rest is a gift from God. He set the example by resting on the seventh day of creation. He instructs us to do likewise and rest one day a week. If we’d rest on a regular basis, whether weekly, monthly or on any other consistent interval, it will eventually become a habit.
What does rest look like in today’s world? It could mean doing nothing – veg’ing by the pool, reading, watching TV, or just sleeping in. But it could also mean doing something different from your daily routines – a departure from your daily habits. Recreation, done right, is re-creation – it’s regenerative. For ideas, review the Sharpen the Saw activities listed above.
In any event, you need to prepare for your day of rest. Carve out as much time as you can to avoid working or doing the things that are exhausting and draining for you. Maybe it’s as simple as turning off your email. The point isn’t to do nothing, but to avoid doing the things that drain you and make you tired. Make time to turn off, chill out, or hang out with the family. Deliberately plan and prioritize the things that will constitute a day of rest for you. You’ll find that this kind of rest will reinvigorate you and recharge your energy cells for the coming week.
Find a “seventh day” in your schedule. Rest, relax, hit pause, refocus on the time you have. Here are 4 helpful steps for planning a day of rest.
- Look ahead in your calendar. Schedule a day that you’re going to pause, unplug, and reconnect with what’s important in your life.
- Set yourself up for a successful day of rest by preparing everything you’re going to need for that day, so you’re not scrambling around to put it all together on the actual day. Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to prepare for tomorrow’s day of rest?”
- Remind yourself of why you’re going to rest. “I’m resting because it’s healthy for my body, mind and spirit, and my important relationships.”
- Practice the pause. It won’t feel natural. It’s going to feel like you’re unproductive. You might even feel guilty, but don’t – this is beneficial for you and everyone close to you. Whether weekly or on some other interval, commit a day to The Habit of Rest.
The habits you and I have, those things we no longer think about, affect so many other things in our lives. Our rhythms, routines, and habits impact the quality of our lives and the results we get. We can change our lives by shifting some of these patterns and habits. Everything we change changes everything.
Why not make a conscious, deliberate choice to make The Habit of Rest your next new habit?
About the Author
Thom Tschetter has served our industry for nearly four decades as a management and sales educator. He owned a chain of award-winning transmission centers in Washington State for over 25 years.
He calls on over 30 years of experience as a speaker, writer, business consultant, and certified arbitrator for topics for this feature column.
Thom is always eager to help you improve your business and your life. You can contact him by phone at (480) 773-3131 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.