The Importance of Habits

The three main factors that determine your work ethic are:

  1.  Motivation
  2.  Discipline
  3.  Habits

I've written a lot in the past about motivation and discipline, so today I want to focus on habits. Habits are important because they are largely controlled subconsciously, which means they require little conscious motivation or discipline. This is very helpful because you only have so much motivation and willpower (discipline) to use every day. Once you use up all your motivation and willpower, you'll stop working hard. So the key to improving your work ethic is building positive habits so you can conserve most of your motivation and willpower to be used for more difficult tasks. For example, if you form the habits of waking up early, eating a healthy breakfast, stretching after practice, and watching film at night, you can do these things without using much motivation or willpower. You can then focus your motivation and willpower on more difficult tasks such as completing a tough workout or a homework assignment. On the other hand, if you don't have positive habits formed, then you're most likely going to have to pick and choose which tasks to use your motivation and willpower on. If you focus all your motivation on completing a tough workout, then afterwards you may be emotionally drained and have no motivation left over to stretch, watch film, etc. And if you focus all your motivation and willpower on the little things such as waking up early, eating a healthy breakfast, stretching, and watching film, then you may not have enough motivation left over to complete a tough workout. As you can see, when you have great motivation, discipline, and habits, you can do both the small and big things and maximize your work ethic.

Here are some tips to forming positive habits:

First, decide which habit you want to form. Try to focus on only 1 or 2 habits at a time. The more habits you try to form, the less likely you are to make any of them stick. Also, choose a relatively simple task such as stretching or doing 20 push-ups a day. Remember, it's almost impossible to turn a very complex behavior into a habit that requires little motivation. For example, no matter how many days in a row you do a tough workout, it's always going to require a lot of motivation to start and finish.

Second, try to sandwich your habit between a trigger and a reward. For example, you can do 20 push-ups every morning before taking a shower. Or you could do five minutes of meditation after getting in bed to go to sleep. Also, doing your habit at the same time every day is vital. These "triggers" do a great job reminding you to do your habit. 

Giving yourself a reward after you do your routine can provide the motivation needed to help make your habit stick. For example, if you reward yourself with a healthy and tasty snack after watching film, you'll be more likely to do it. Furthermore, you could reward yourself while doing your habit. For example, you could listen to your favorite podcast while jogging on the treadmill.

Another key to forming a positive habit to to keep a positive attitude and try your best to actually enjoy what you're doing. If you hate what you're doing, you're unlikely going to make it a habit, no matter how many days in a row you do it. Practicing gratitude, positive self-talk, and mindfulness can help you enjoy the process more, which will greatly increase the likelihood of you forming a habit.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, forming a positive habit takes perseverance. Even if you follow all the above steps, forming a positive habit is not easy. It can take a lot of motivation and time to successfully form a positive habit. You need to force yourself to do your habit every day until it starts to stick. Depending on the habit and the person, this may take months, so you need to be patient and not give up! Also, even once your habit starts to stick, it may still need some motivation to maintain it. If you get lazy and lose motivation, your habit can very easily fall apart.

Breaking bad habits is equally as important as forming positive habits. Here are some tips for breaking bad habits.

First, understand that it is much easier to replace a bad habit with a good habit than it is to break it. For example, one of the best ways to stop drinking soda is to replace the habit with drinking something healthier, such as coconut water.

Most of the tips for forming a positive habit apply to breaking a bad habit. Paying attention to your triggers and rewards can greatly help you replace a bad habit with a good habit. For example, if you know you tend to waste time watching YouTube videos after dinner, then you can remove this temptation by setting aside your phone/tablet for a certain period of time. Lastly, breaking a bad habit takes motivation and discipline. The more you persevere, the more likely you are to succeed.

In summary, successfully forming a positive habit or breaking a bad habit depend on three things.

  1.  How well you design your habits, triggers, and rewards.
  2.  How motivated you are.
  3.  How many days in a row you perform your routine.

If you focus on these three things, you can greatly improve your habits, and therefore improve your work ethic and success!