Imagine walking into work every day and absolutely crushing it. You start each day feeling good and leave the office with a clean inbox and to-do list. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel like this every single day?
So, what’s holding us back?
The simple answer is our habits. Having too many bad habits or not enough good habits, or maybe a bit of both. But establishing new habits isn’t easy. It takes discipline and dedication. It means forcing yourself to do things you don’t want to do.
In the first part of this two-part post, we’re tackling the science behind habits, how to game your brain, and what it takes to build a better routine.
The Science Behind Habits
The first step of building, breaking, or even choosing a good habit is understanding how they work. Let’s dive into the science behind habits.
There are three parts to the habit loop: the cue, the routine, and the reward. The cue is a trigger that kicks off a habit; a routine is a habit you’re trying to change or reinforce; and the reward, of course, is the positive reinforcement for that behavior.
The faster you’re rewarded for a behavior, the easier it is to establish the habit. But we’re living in a time of delayed gratification. It takes longer for us to see the results of hard work – especially work we don’t like doing.
For example, do you make prospecting calls every day? It’s the number one thing we see Sales Specialists not doing. We know we need to make these outbound calls but it’s hard to do. There’s very little immediate gratification or reward for doing them.
So, since we’re pursuing new habits in a world of delayed gratification, we need to think differently about building up those habits.
Take It One Step at a Time
How many times have you set a New Year’s Resolution to eat healthier? You go out and buy organic, healthier foods and get a gym membership with the best intentions, but a few weeks later you’re slowing down. You don’t have time to go to the gym and don’t know how to make kale taste good. Eventually, you let the resolution slide entirely.
Here’s where you went wrong: You tried to do it all at once without a clear plan.
James Clear wrote a comprehensive guide on changing habits that we recommend you read called Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones.
In this guide, Clear writes, “Habits are the compound interest for self-improvement.”
You can’t expect to build up a habit in one day, just like you can’t expect to run a marathon after one day of training. Here’s what’s tough about building or breaking habits. You’re not going to notice a change day by day, but tiny changes make a huge difference in the long run.
Go slow and take things step by step. Don’t say “I’m going to start prospecting every day,” but instead say, “I’m going to make ten calls every afternoon” and build from there.
Gaming Your Brain
The third element of building habits is tricking your brain into rewarding those good habits.
Think about the last time you went onto Facebook. As you scrolled through your feed or looked at notifications, your brain was giving off dopamine.
You may not realize it, but you were building a habit: Did you go on Facebook because you were bored? There is the trigger followed by the habit. As you stayed on the platform, you were rewarded as your body gave off dopamine, a chemical that makes you happy.
But going on Facebook isn’t exactly a productive habit. You can build habits using this method, even if it’s something you don’t particularly want to do.
Think of ways to reward yourself for making those prospecting calls or putting your leads into the CRM. Maybe it’s with a cup of coffee or a checked-off to-do list. Eventually, your brain will associate the habit with the reward (and happy feeling). Prospecting = Coffee!
In our next post, we’re going to give you more tips on gaming your brain to build better habits. We’ll be talking about hacking habits, creating a successful plan, and some ways to enforce those habits.
Looking for more resources for building habits? In addition to Atomic Habits, we also recommend: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success by Darren Hardy.