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Positive change starts with good habits

December 01, 2020

Part one of this series on change was about taking charge of it. This part goes deeper by examining ways in which you can be more successful in making change happen through building habits into your life.

The importance of habits

A Duke University1 research found that habits accounted for more than 45% of a person’s daily activities. This number can be even higher based on the complexity of the activity.

Why should you build habits into your life? Gretchen Rubin, author of Better than Before2 tells us habits help us to do things better and save our efforts. Habits also give us more capacity to deal with more challenging and complex matters because they eliminate decision making. It is not about perfection but progress.

Reading and success

Several articles have been written about Warren Buffet and the habits that have been instrumental to his success. Buffet starts every day by reading and he estimates he spends as much as 80% of his day reading. In response to his success, he said: “I read and think daily. I do more reading and thinking and make fewer impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.”3

Other potential benefits from the habit of reading are4:

  • You’re more likely to be rich.
  • You’re more likely to be smart because of increased vocabulary.
  • You’re more likely to be emotionally intelligent.
  • You’re more likely to stay mentally sharp. Cognitive activity (i.e., reading) across one’s life span is associated with slower late-life cognitive decline.

Components of a habit

According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, habits are made up of three components:

  • Cue – the trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. An example of a cue could be a time of day, for example 3:00 p.m.
  • Routine – the behavior that leads to the reward. Making outbound calls is an example of a routine.
  • Reward – the payoff the habit brings. The reward also helps your brain figure out if the habit is worth remembering for the future which then leads to sustained change. Mark Wayshak, sales strategist and author tells us that 50% of salespeople from high performing sales organizations report that they have habits around sales processes, compared to just 28% of salespeople from underperforming sales organizations.

Bringing about change

Where are the opportunities for you to make changes? And what are the habits that will help you be successful with the changes?

Here are a few lifestyle habits of successful financial professionals:

  • Plan order into your day
  • Maintain good nutrition
  • Exercise and establish a workout routine
  • Plan for 7-8 hours of sleep each night
  • Embrace continuous education and read daily

Business habits found in some successful financial professionals are:

  • Develop business, prospecting and life goals
  • Schedule time when you are most productive to do your most complex, analytical work
  • Schedule time when you are least productive for mundane activities
  • Identify a Top Priorities of the Week list
  • Delegate tasks as appropriate
  • Follow up with prospective clients

Habits of communication found in some successful financial professionals are:

  • Ask good questions
  • Listen well
  • Tell stories from experience

Attaining habits

Be specific about the habit you want to master and acquire only a few at a time. Begin to introduce them one at a time and notice the impact on you and your business.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

Sources and Disclaimers

  • 1

    Neal, David T., et al. “Habits—A Repeat Performance.” Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 15, no. 4, Aug. 2006, pp. 198–202, 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2006.00435.x.

  • 2

    Rubin, Gretchen. Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits. London, Hodder & Stoughton General Division, 2016, p. 6.

  • 3, 4

    Ward, Marguerite. “Warren Buffett’s Reading Routine Could Make You Smarter, Science Suggests.” CNBC, 16 Nov. 2016, Accessed 4 Nov. 2020.

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