New Routines = Better Outcomes

I’m in the middle of reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

I find it fascinating. He masterfully distills tons of research into simple, easy-to-grasp concepts, and leverages the power of story to illustrate not only the how, but more importantly, the what and why.

I’m only 1/3 of the way in, but I just got through reading about how all habits are really a function of three elements: cues, routines, and rewards. Charles also used the back story of AA and the 12-steps of recovery as one example of how changing our routines can literally change our lives.

He got it right.

I know, as I have successfully used and applied the 12-steps for more than three decades. I can attest to the effectiveness of his key premise—that when you change your routines, you change your habits and create new, healthy cravings that produce the results or rewards you desire. The old habits never completely go away. We just learn to replace or override them with new routines. Ones that enhance, and often improve, our outcomes and results.

Obviously, there’s a lot more to it. But one thing is certain, as I’ve heard many times from different people—if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you got. Doing the same things expecting different results is, according to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity.

Am I calling you insane? No. But repeating the same routines and patterns of (often destructive) behavior will not produce a different or better outcome. So stop. Do something different. Aren’t you worth it?

Or, perhaps you’re content with what you have. If so, great. But, if you are like me and the millions of others who struggle with a garden variety of quirks, habits, even compulsions or obsessions, and if you’re not happy with how you feel and where you are, then wouldn’t it be prudent to look at mixing up your routine a bit?

I’ve had to change routines many times throughout my life. I probably always will. So will you.

Here’s one thing I learned in thirty-five years of recovery—changing the habit is often not as hard as the first step: recognizing, admitting, or identifying something that isn’t working. (In my case, the first step: acknowledging that I was an alcoholic and that my life was unmanageable). I’ve practiced that routine— identify the problem before looking at possible solutions—so many times that it has become automatic.

Once I do the first step, then I need to become really clear about what I want (solution/reward), then I need to find the courage to change—to try something different and stick with it until it becomes new routine or habit. Whenever I do this—change my routine (my habits)—just as Duhigg shows in The Power of Habit, my life improves. Yours will too.

Recovering from my addiction to alcohol was just one of many areas where I replaced a routine that was no longer working with one that would.

If we had more time, I could list hundreds of examples from my career, relationships, as a parent, as a leader, as human with normal “life problems” where what I was doing stopped producing the results I wanted and forced or inspired me to want to change. I am sure you have your own list. But the important questions to ask are: what have you done about it that’s worked and what isn’t working? And the bigger question is do you want to do anything about it? If so, I hope you do.

My inspiration and desire to change varies depending on the circumstances surrounding the problems or opportunities I am facing—in other words, if I am not in enough pain or have a big enough need to change, I probably won’t. That’s perfectly normal.

With my addiction, the need was clear— it really was a matter of life or death. In my sales career, I had to stop being afraid of rejection and learn to become more empathetic and confident. In my relationships, I had to stop being a self-centered asshole. You get the idea. In most cases, the threat or reality of losing something was a catalysts for me to get off my ass and do something different.

Sure, each change was uncomfortable, awkward, and even painful at first. Many new habits are. Most change requires courage, boldness, and some deep sense of why (a reward) that adds significance and meaning to the inevitable pain and suffering. But, over time, in recovery and in life, as I learned to replace my old habits with new ones—new routines—my life improved.

I learned not to fear change and that most of what I thought I was afraid of was False Evidence Appearing Real. Lies. Bullshit I believed about who I was and what my worth was and, as a result, I kept repeating the same bad habits expecting different results. Newsflash: That is not a recipe for change or success. But Duhigg’s book is. So is my upcoming release—Ten Seconds of Boldness, as well as hundreds of other proven systems, programs, and resources specific to helping you solve whatever problem or opportunity you have or seek.

But, none of them work, unless you put them into action. Nothing will ever change unless you change your routine, habits, and behavior.

Whatever it is that you may be struggling with or seeking, I hope you A) clearly identify it, B)decide to do something different and, C) find a reason why that is big enough to motivate and sustain you through the pain of change.

I can tell you from personal experience that when you identify the problem, find your why, and harness the courage to change, your life will never be the same again, ever!

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