The Power of Habit

October 11, 2023

Small Changes, Transformative Results: The Power of Habit

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, says the ancient proverb. In the context of personal and professional growth, this journey often starts with the smallest changes in our habits. These minor shifts, when consistently applied, can lead to transformative results that shape our lives in ways we could never have imagined.

The Turner Group team enjoys learning.  Recently, Brigitte suggested the book Atomic Habits by James Clear.  Several of us have read or are reading it now, and it is one of our recommendations.  As Clear explains, implementing “atomic habits,” or small improvements in behavior, changes your life because behaviors compound and build on each other, creating more and more changes until there is a complete transformation.

In his YouTube talk, Clear says that the 4 stages of the laws of atomic change

  1. Find a Cue – make it obvious for example, it can be a smell, a sound or an event that triggers a desire. It could be the smell of coffee as you walk down the street on your way to work and pass the coffee shop.
  2. Craving – make it attractive. The brain will anticipate an opportunity for a change in your physical or emotional stage. This may be the energy you feel after having that cup of coffee.
  3. Response is the action that you will take to make it easy. You buy a cup of coffee.
  4. Reward – make it satisfying. You are refreshed and ready to go when you reach the office.

Unlike goal setting, there is no “destination” or completion of goals.  When you set a goal, you feel great when you achieve it but bad when you don’t.  This usually occurs around January 15th.  Adopting a system brings long-term transformation in your beliefs.  When you tell yourself that you change your outlook or your beliefs.  Instead of playing an instrument, maybe we tell ourselves we want to become a musician.

The behavior is part of an ongoing pattern that compounds into another.  When you pay your partner a complement it may not have a profound impact on them in the moment, but doing this every day can completely transform a relationship.  The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg shares that changing one core habit can trigger a chain reaction that encourages you to change other habits.

The Butterfly Effect of Habits

The Power of Habit

Consider the butterfly effect, a concept from chaos theory. The idea is that the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas. While this might sound extreme, it beautifully illustrates how minute changes can have massive, unforeseen consequences.

Similarly, our habits function like those delicate butterfly wings. A small alteration in our daily routine might seem inconsequential at first. Yet, over time, these changes compound and can radically alter the trajectory of our lives.

Habits: The Building Blocks of Excellence

Every expert, be it in sports, arts, or any discipline, started as a beginner. Their ascent to mastery was not a result of a single, monumental change but rather a series of small, dedicated habit adjustments over time.

For instance, consider the act of reading for 10 minutes every day. Initially, it might seem like a trivial commitment. However, over a year, this small daily investment results in over 60 hours of reading, potentially translating to more than 10 books, depending on their length. Extend that over a decade, and one could have read over a hundred books, amassing knowledge that would undoubtedly impact their worldview, skills, and decision-making.

The Domino Effect of Good Habits

Domino Effect

Establishing a positive habit often leads to the formation of other constructive habits. This cascade of positive change is commonly referred to as the domino effect.

For example, making a small change, like waking up half an hour earlier can lead to other positive shifts. This extra time might be used for a morning workout. Over time, regular exercise can boost energy levels, improve mental health, and build discipline. These benefits can, in turn, enhance work productivity, foster better relationships, and enhance overall life satisfaction.

How to Harness the Power of Small Habits

  1. Start Small: One of the primary reasons people fail to maintain new habits is because they bite off more than they can chew. Instead of overhauling your routine, identify a small change you can integrate seamlessly into your daily life.
  2. Consistency is Key: The power of small habits lies in repetition. It’s not the intensity but the consistency of the effort that results in significant change. Focus on maintaining the habit daily, even for a short duration.
  3. Track Your Progress: Documenting your journey can provide motivation and offer insight into how small changes are shaping your life. Journals, apps, or even a simple calendar can be effective tools for this.
  4. Celebrate Milestones: Every time you achieve a personal milestone, no matter how minor, celebrate it. These celebrations act as positive reinforcements, motivating you to persist.
  5. Be Patient: Remember, transformative changes won’t happen overnight. It’s the consistent application of small habits over time that yields results.

Instead of saying we will lose 20 pounds in 3 months, we commit to taking a 20-minute walk at lunch.  Maybe we agree to finish one more task or reach out to someone we haven’t spoken with.  These small changes can lead to great results as we build on them. 

In our pursuit of transformative change, it’s easy to dismiss the potential of small habits, opting instead for grand gestures. However, history and science show that tiny, consistent changes hold the power to reshape our lives. By recognizing and harnessing this power, we pave the way for growth, success, and realizing our most ambitious dreams.