I really appreciate all the referrals I have been receiving from my newsletter subscribers. My coaching practice continues to grow and after 12 years of coaching I think I am beginning to know what I am doing. By my calculation I am almost to the 10,000 hour mark. According to Daniel Pink, that is when you really start getting good at what your are doing. I believe I have created some good habits. This month we will spend a little time discussing:

The Amazing Power of Habits

Any act often repeated soon forms a habit; and habit allowed, steadily gains in strength. At first it may be but as a spider's web, easily broken through, but if not resisted it soon binds us with chains of steel. ~ American theologian Tryon Edwards (1809–1894)

How much of what you do is wise? Most of the choices we make each day feel like well-considered decisions. In reality, ingrained habits drive us to act.

Research has shown that the average person has approximately 40,000 thoughts per day, but 95% are the same ones experienced the day before. Other studies support the notion that 40% of our daily actions are based on habits and routines, not newly formed decisions.

Our habits—what we say, eat and do, and how we organize our thoughts and work routines— have an enormous impact on our health, productivity, financial security and happiness.

As someone who works with people to help them improve, I know this is true. People can be highly motivated to achieve goals and make changes in their lives, yet be firmly entrenched in habits.

In the last two decades, scientists have begun to understand how habits are formed, how they work and, more importantly, how we can change them. As
New York Times staff writer Charles Duhigg reveals in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (Random House, 2012):

    1. Before Pepsodent entered the market in the early 20th century, only 7% of Americans had a tube of toothpaste in their medicine chests. A decade later, the number had jumped to 65%, thanks to Claude Hopkins' legendary advertising campaigns. The toothbrushing habit was firmly established.
    2. Procter & Gamble turned a spray called Febreze into a billion-dollar brand by taking advantage of consumers’ habitual urge to “breathe happy” and eliminate odors.
    3. Alcoholics Anonymous reforms lives and enables people to live free from powerful addictions by redirecting self-destructive habits into constructive routines.
    4. By changing one small keystone habit (like safety precautions or tracking in a journal), individuals and companies can influence everyday routines, leading to widespread results.
What one small habit could you change today that might cascade into large results?

How Habits Are Formed

Habits emerge because the brain is constantly seeking ways to conserve energy. It looks for a cue that becomes the trigger for a habitual response.

We are then rewarded with a blast of the pleasure-inducing neurotransmitter Dopamine. Dopamine plays a major role in the brain system that is responsible for reward-driven learning.

The process is a three-step physiological loop:
    1. A trigger event or cue occurs.
    2. There’s an automatic response (physical, mental or emotional).
    3. A reward helps the brain decide that this loop is worth remembering for the future.
Over time, the habit loop becomes increasingly automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation emerges. This explains why habits are so powerful: They create neurological cravings. Most of the time, these cravings form so gradually that we’re not even aware they exist. We’re often blind to their influence.

Charles Duhigg reveals that all habits are neural connections formed in the brain.

Habits never really disappear. They’re encoded into the brain’s structures—a huge advantage because we don’t have to relearn things we haven’t done in a while, such as riding a bike, speaking a foreign language or driving to work.

But your brain can’t tell the difference between good and bad habits. Even after you’ve conquered a bad habit, it’s always lurking in the back of your mind. One cigarette can reignite a smoking habit after years of abstinence.

This is why it’s so hard to create new routines. Unless you deliberately fight an old habit by substituting a new routine, the pattern will unfold automatically. When you learn how the habit loop works, you’ll find it easier to take control of your behaviors.

Habits aren’t destiny. They can be ignored, changed or replaced. When we learn to create new neurological routines that overpower old drives and behaviors (thereby taking control of the habit loop), we can force our bad habits into the background.

Changing your routines and habits isn't easy, but it's certainly not impossible either. One of the best ways to go about it is with the help of a coach. In the work I do, there are a number of ways to make the process of change easier and faster. Give me a call if you'd like to know more.

The Golden Rule for Changing a Habit

I've been learning a lot about how we use habits and routines throughout the day from Charles Duhigg Here's what happens in a habit loop: A cue triggers both a routine and a reward (i.e., a rush of endorphins or sense of accomplishment from engaging in a positive habit).

If, for example, you’re tired or bored, you may automatically reach for a snack. Or, if you want to avoid the calories and improve your overall health, you can choose to exercise instead. Both solutions relieve boredom and chemically reward the brain, but one is the smarter option.

To change a habit, identify the underlying craving; then, reward the brain with a more healthful behavior.

You cannot extinguish a bad habit; you must learn to modify it. Here's what author Duhigg calls "The Golden Rule for Changing Habits:"

    1. Use the same cue.
    2. Provide the same physiological or emotional reward.
    3. Change the routine.
In the work I do coaching people, I've also found two other elements are necessary for making changes. Other studies support my experiences: desire and belief must be present.

In other words, you must want to change and believe you can do it. Without desire for change, and without really believing change is possible, it's an uphill battle to shift your habits and routines. But with desire and belief, you can consciously modify a habit loop into new permanent behaviors.

Your degree of desire will influence the amount of persistence and discipline you apply. This is how people with the personality trait of "grit" excel. Deliberate practice is critical. For some people, they will need to stick to their new routine for at least a month—perhaps even 3 months—to create a new habit.

Final Thoughts:

Which habit do you want to change this week? Need help or coaching? I'd love to hear from you.

Coach Jerry

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Jerry Pinney

For the last twenty-two years Jerry Pinney has been president of his own consulting firm. Currently he focuses his efforts on providing executive and personal coaching to persons who are interested in improving their quality of life and consulting to small and mid-sized companies and nonprofits. He is a facilitator for peer advisory groups with The Alternative Board and is a Certified One Page Planning Consultant. Jerry has over three decades of experience in the food industry, and possesses a unique perspective of customer service, marketing and strategic planning. In addition to overall general management qualifications, Jerry has proven expertise in operational planning and business development. His food industry career started at Jewel Food Stores followed by a long career with IGA, with their retailers, wholesalers and ten years as Vice President of Marketing. In addition Jerry has served as Vice President of Membership for the National Grocers Association, Sr. Vice President of Procurement for Shurfine International and Executive Manager of The Zenon Hansen Foundation.

Jerry has also served on a number of nonprofit boards including: President of the Volunteer Center of Northwest Suburban Chicago. He is currently a Project Manager for the Executive Service Corps of Chicago. Jerry’s ESC assignments have included coaching for several Executive Directors, and consulting on various Board Development projects and on a number of strategic planning projects.

Jerry Pinney & Associates
102 East 32nd Street
Chicago, IL,
phone: 312-842-4577,
fax: 312-842-4705

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