It’s believed that successful people maintain good habits that facilitate their success. However, it may not be the habit alone that helps ensure success. There is extreme power in the ability to maintain contextual objectivity. The power of a habit is that it is often a subconscious behavior, something done with little thought or strain on will power. It frees our brains to be able to multi-task and live in our environment. Once formed, a habit becomes a natural occurrence, but not all habits are good and habits that once served us well may become detrimental to continued success.
Starting or stopping a habit requires a great deal of objectivity and being personally objective is difficult when we live in the contexts of our environments, feelings, relationships, social interactions, etc. If we see habits as a skill then we have to be able to objectively assess not only where we are, but where we want to be. We want habits to be purposeful, not just a series of actions and reactions, but to do so, we have to remain objective. We have to practice objectivity. One way to practice this difficult task of being personally introspective and purposeful with habits is to occasionally stop ourselves and ask WHY? Just three letters W-H- Y.
Asking why you do what you do, when you are doing it is extremely critical to ensuring your habits are aligned with your purpose. Let’s use an example of a behavior I’m doing right now, drinking a cup of coffee, specifically a cappuccino? Why am I drinking this coffee? I’ll make a list of my first answer and then a deeper reflection in parentheses:
I like it. (But do I really? I have some steamed milk, a packet of raw sugar in it in order to drink it. Is it the coffee I really like or the milk and sugar?)
I need it. (Why do I need it? Is it the caffeine? Am I not getting enough sleep? Have I formed a dependency that simply by getting another 30-minutes of sleep each night might fix?)
It gives me something to do. (It’s a routine of making coffee that helps me start the day, it’s a habit. I’m sure there’s something else I could do with this time that would help me start the day. I also like hanging out at coffee shops, but is it the coffee or the people I’m there with?)
It’s socially cool. (I want to blend in with the coffee drinking crowd. I have a great coffee mug I like to show off. I find that it’s socially rewarding to hang at a coffee shop).
This list could go on, but this little exercise of asking WHY of just one of my habits, drinking coffee, forced me to consider the myriad of reasons I drink coffee. It’s not to say that any one of these reasons is wrong or right. This exercise forced me to be think deeply about a behavior and consider whether any of the reasons I’m doing this behavior contradicts with who I want to be, where I want to go, or takes me away from my life’s goals. Asking why, forces a level of personal objectivity, but it only works if you are willing to take a few moments to be honest with yourself. In my case, my coffee drinking may be a habit born of poor sleep patterns and social practice that I’ve assimilated as a value and practice.
If you want your habits to be On Purpose with you, your life and your goals, you have to be able and willing to do the work it takes to ask yourself why you do what you do. And not just ask whey, but to analyze not just actions, but the underlying drivers and motivations. If you aren’t good at being objective, you can always ask a friend or loved one to help you…hopefully they can be lovingly objective. : )
if you are trying to live On Purpose, be willing to openly, honestly and introspectively consider your behaviors and actions. Even the little habits can reveal some amazing insights. Consider what you working to accomplish and objectively explore and create some new behaviors that will help you achieve your goals. Practice these behaviors until they become a habit. But don’t forget to occasionally stop and evaluate your habits to ensure they are still aligned with your purpose.