Research Paper By Gayle Nobel
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ~Aristotle
One of the first things I do each morning is pour myself a drink! Nearly every day, I stumble into my kitchen and fill a 12 oz glass of water. I chug at least half of it down immediately and spend the next half hour sipping as I perform my morning caregiving tasks with my son.
We may not realize it, but we wake up dehydrated. The hours we sleep are the longest we go without fluids and our cells are crying out for nourishment in the form of water. I didn’t always have the drinking habit. For most of my life, my consumption of water was random and haphazard. Sometimes I would be thirsty but put off getting the water and drinking until I was parched. Perhaps this sounds familiar.
About ten years ago, I got into the habit of having a water bottle in progress at all times. Progress. But often, I didn’t get it started for the day until I was already bone dry. Hello thirsty brain cells.
Then I read about the importance of beginning the day by filling my well. Literally. I decided this was a habit worth creating. Flipping on the light and entering the kitchen is my trigger or cue. Starting the day by accomplishing one important task to take good care of myself is my reward. Not to mention quenching a thirst I may not have realized was there. CUE-BEHAVIOR-REWARD = HABIT. I no longer have to think about getting a drink or remind myself to take the time because I have repeated it enough times for my brain to store it in the basal ganglia. That’s the area of the brain where habits reside.
Creatures of Habit
The word HABIT tends to get a bad rap. People associate the “H word” with drugs, smoking, alcohol, and unhealthy eating. But habit is so much more. Habit can be defined as a subconscious, automatic behavior or thought pattern. Anything we do or say or think automatically and repeatedly, without conscious thought, is considered a habit.
Humans are, by nature, creatures of habit. It’s widely reported that up to 95 percent of our thoughts and 45 percent of our behaviors are based on habit. If you think about it, most of our daily activities are a product of habit: when and how we get up in the morning, the way we shower, brush our teeth, get dressed, read the paper, eat, drive to work … the course of each day is directed by literally hundreds of our habits. The reality is, the habits we possess – or fail to possess – wield significant influence over us and go far deeper than just our daily routines. Our habits affect every aspect of our lives and have a ripple effect that impacts not just us but our friends and family. Ultimately, habits shape our destiny.
Habit = Thought Energy Made Efficient
Imagine life without our habits. What if nothing came automatically? This would mean we would have to consciously think about all the tasks we do each day to maintain ourselves and to function at even the most basic level. I’m visualizing a mighty long to do list. Everything from walk to the bathroom, turn on the light, and pick up the toothbrush. Or an array of colored post it notes adorning the walls. There would be little mental energy left over for the creative process or for learning new things. Getting through the day might be downright paralyzing and exhausting.
Learning something and figuring it out for the first time involves the cognitive system, or the prefrontal cortex. But once that sequence becomes habit, the habit takes over. In habit mode, you just do it… because you’ve always just done it. Habits, then, should be viewed as stored solutions or even thought energy made efficient.
As a life coach, I support people in moving forward to achieve their goals and dreams. Often these goals are health and fitness related. As an inquisitive detective, I ask questions to help clients uncover their values and intentions. These are the “whys” behind goals and dreams.
In my niche of health and wellness, clients often come to me seeking habit change. At some point in the process, they become aware that their habits are not in alignment with their goals, intentions, and values. Their habits may be keeping them from moving forward, feeling fulfilled, living a healthy lifestyle or achieving their dreams. They have chosen to partner with a life coach because they’ve decided it’s time to move forward and create healthy habits and/or eliminate unhealthy ones.
I am passionate about supporting people on their journey toward health. Through powerful questions and honest feedback, I encourage clients to dig deeper and uncover limiting beliefs hiding beneath the surface. We shine the light on obstacles which litter their path. In doing so, I help people discover strengths and create empowering beliefs. I support them in discovering and building motivation. And finally, I encourage them to choose and commit to that next action step forward.
When the body becomes healthier and stronger, energy and feelings of life satisfaction and self worth seem to improve with ease. As we accumulate a wealth of healthy habits we move toward a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle. It all starts by taking the first step. And the next and the next and the next.
Just do it – often.
Armed with clarity, motivation, a positive attitude, and strong commitment, we hung up the phone. I visualized my client putting on her athletic shoes and heading out the door for that powerful action toward better health and wellness: The Daily Walk.
I found out the following week that she had been struggling with her daily walk. Despite a well defined intention and detailed action plan, she was not able to follow through. Was there something else she was more committed to? Or, did a belief or obstacle rear its head? Perhaps.
She had many positive reasons to back up this worthy goal plus a support structure in place to make it happen. As her life coach, I encouraged and supported her in staying accountable. Nevertheless, it was a struggle and the bottom line was she hadn’t followed through on her commitment to herself.
With more information about the power, mechanics and necessity of habit, I began viewing the client’s situation through a different lens.