Habit upon Habit

Calendar with colored blocks

Recently I came across a social media post with a great image having the months of the year written in a block font and broken into how many days in each month (see photo above). Immediately I knew I wanted to pull that into my personal resources to help master my habits. I am fully aware each day is an opportunity to build a habit upon habit.

As I began to fill in the days I began to call it my “patchwork of progress”. It hits so well upon the science of habit loops.

Habit Loops

James Clear, in Atomic Habits, and Charles Duhigg, in The Power of Habit, speak of habit loops. They describe a 3-part cycle of a habit loop. The cycle is started with a trigger or cue, which then causes a response or habit, resulting in a reward. The item I appreciate James Clear speaking more of is how craving is a part of the loop. The craving for the reward is what puts us in action and solidifies the loop into a habit. I like to think of craving as a catalyst fanning the flame of action.

Habit Loop - Cue, Response, Reward

My Habit Loop

Allow me to tell you how I took the coloring page into my own habit loop.

The cue for me are seeing the calendar sheet. It reminds me of my “why” of the desired habit and the end state I desire, but it also triggers a craving for me. I LOVE “done” and want to continue the streak of coloring in each day. So getting to color in a shape or checking off a block motivates me. But I know in order to be able to get the reward I must take action (response/habit). And then once I do, I get the reward of coloring in the daily block.

This cycle works well for me because I love to color but rarely take the time to do so. This means my reward is very desirable for me. And since I have this reward so closely coupled with a cue/craving it is very effective.

But How Many?

This year I picked three core habits I wanted to work on. I picked one for my heart, one for my mind, and one for my spirit.

I also give myself “partial credit”…just like I encourage my students to do. Allow me to explain.

One of my three is to step on my scale. I have a long hard history and battle with my scale. The numbers it displays sometimes seem to taunt me or yell at me causing me to want to avoid it and give up on my ultimate goal of good health.

I am working on changing its meaning as I work on my health. So every day I set my intention and awareness of a health-focused day by stepping on. Yes, I want a downward trend and am working on that, but more importantly, I step on…notate it…and color in a block. But on days I travel, I have no scale to stand on so I mentally set my intention. If I do that, upon my return I don’t fully color in the block for that day but I hashmark it. Grace…grace…grace.

Awareness

Awareness is the first step to change.

I teach this to my students from their very first coaching session by providing a sheet of blocks to chart their wins. And I encourage them to give themselves credit in multiple ways. If they fully execute the habit we are working on, they are to “x” the block, like a “strike” in bowling. If they don’t execute on the habit but immediately think of it afterward…you know that “D’oh” moment…then I instruct them to give themselves a “/” in the block, like a “spare” in bowling. Awareness is the first step to change.

Little by Little

Bit by bit I see my habits changing and I like it. Little by little I see incredible changes as I work with teams!

So what two to three things will you and your team choose to work on? Dont’ even stress about two or three…pick ONE. Master that one habit/process and move to another.

Remember…habit upon habit…process upon process.

Contact Communicate Excellence for a systemized habit-upon-habit approach to the success of your team.

New Year Intentions. New Possibilities…But Are They Probable?

Turn new year intentions into a possibility.

There is something special about a new year with its new beginnings, new intentions, new possibilities, new calendars, and new planners. All seems fresh and the possibilities are endless.

But if it is possible, does it necessarily mean is it probable?

Our family enjoys going to CiCi’s Pizza. “Welcome to CiCi’s!”

On one particular instance, prominently displayed at the front door was a sign offering a $250 prize for anyone who could meet “The Challenge”. The rules included eating a 28-inch pizza and drinking a large soda, without ice, in 60 minutes. No standing, no throwing up.

Now is this possible? Yes—according to the sign, one person had succeeded.

Is this probable? No—so far only one had succeeded while over 40 people had accepted the challenge.

Possible vs Probable

So what is the difference between possible and probable?

The dictionary says that possible means, “capable of happening, existing, or being true without contradicting proven facts, laws, or circumstances—capable of occurring or being done”. Common words—”it could happen”.

The dictionary says that probable means, “likely to happen or to be true”. Common words—more than likely, “it will happen”

New Year Intentions

This is the time of the year when we make resolutions or add things to our “bucket list”. Each of these things falls into the category of possible or probable. Some things that determine where they fall include your expectations and effort.

When we walked into CiCi’s, we saw the challenge and determined that it was something we could possibly do, (we like pizza and how hard could it be?) — but probably would not do because we did not expect to win and were not willing to make the effort to win, and so far, only one had succeeded.

Your List – Your Choice

Think about the resolutions you have made for yourself and your team. Then categorize them into Possible and Probable. Finally, see how many you can transition from Possible (it could happen) to Probable (it will happen) by providing the correct expectation, effort, or resources.

Remember, it’s your list—it’s your choice. You can turn “possibility” into “probability” with the plan and effort it takes to meet your expectations.

And what would that look like? Success!

Set Yourself Up for Probable Success

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John McGill

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Coach John Wooden

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“It’s too…(hard, busy…)”

Picture of cheese as a play on cheese with a complaining whine.

Do you need some cheese with that “whine”? We have likely heard this play on the phrase “wine and cheese” when someone is whining. Our team members are not immune to it…and neither are we.

But let’s face it, phrases that start with, “It’s too…[hard, busy, new, different]” usually equate to one thing…a whine or EXCUSE.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

Willingness is a key component of change and growth. Without it, even the most capable person wallows in mediocrity or stagnates their progress.

In order to overcome a challenge or obstacle, we must apply willingness. When I see stories in the news or posts on Facebook of individuals overcoming impossible odds, such as Nick Vujicic, Aldo Amenta, or Anna Sarol, our willingness seems pale by comparison.

“In order to accomplish something, you must be willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish it.”

Mike Hernacki

Now I’m not saying this is to do anything illegal but let’s take it to where the rubber meets the road in our offices with two examples of what we can do to foster success.

“It’s too hard to remember.”

Really? I know the change of a habit is not easy but we can prepare in advance.

An example of this is when I hear some individuals needing to exchange one word in their greeting. The culprit is the word “can” instead of “may.” The last part of our introduction should be, “How may I help you?”

And why do we say “may”? “May” is a permission word and “can” is an ability word. You may remember this from your grade school days when you asked your teacher to leave the room to go to the bathroom. You may have said, “Can I go to the bathroom?” to which your teacher sarcastically responded, “I don’t know…CAN you?”

Then you would make the exchange to use the correct word and repeat yourself by saying, “May I go to the bathroom?” Then your teacher would grant you permission.

The same happens on the phone. We have teachers and English majors calling our offices and though they may not say the sarcastic response out loud, I can guarantee they are saying it in their head. So, exchange the word and remove an unnecessary hurdle. Say it correctly and demonstrate you take care of even the little details to get them accurate.

What can you do? Create a reminder…a sticky note to be placed at your phone. That way we set ourselves up for success as we exchange one habit for another. (For more on exchanging habits, refer to Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit.)

“We’re too busy to take an inquiry call on paper first.”

Here is another one. When I hear this whine or excuse, it cries the need for a checklist. Checklists are invaluable as a safety net ensuring nothing is missed, and they serve as a communication and trust tool allowing anyone to notice, at a glance, the status of the process.

It is said best in The Checklist Manifesto that checklists:

…provide a kind of cognitive net. They catch mental flaws inherent in all of us – flaws of memory and attention and thoroughness.

Atul Gawande

The debate over taking an initial call directly into the computer versus on paper doesn’t seem to go away. A summary of the debate can be obtained here.

But that is not the point here. We want to apply willingness to create the best first call experience while not forgetting to input the details into our system. So what do we need to ensure we do what it takes to make it excellent and without error? A checklist!

Create a checklist and stick to it. Not only will your callers have a better experience, but you can then move some of the tasks on the list to a quieter time of the day, allowing for level loading of work capacity. Checklists are critical to your office’s playbook of success.

Summary

Watch out for when a whine or excuse bubbles up in your office. A key indicator of them is hearing phrases start with, “It’s too…”

Finally, apply true willingness to overcome the obstacle. Do what it takes! A couple of examples are reminders and checklists. Do so and you will set the environment for excellence!