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Are habits stopping you from reaching your true potential?  3 Ways Habits Can Help Your Chances of Success

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Are habits stopping you from reaching your true potential? 3 Ways Habits Can Help Your Chances of Success

Scott Miker

Habits control much of our lives without our direct awareness.  Most people respond to adversity in a similar way regardless of whether or not they realize it.  We all rely on set habits that dictate how to respond to a given situation, how to view the world, and how to prepare for success.  Yet most people seem to discount the effect that habits have on our success.

Psychologists have tried to quantify habits but estimates of our habitual life vary.  Some have even claimed that up to 90% of our lives are habitual.  That is an incredible amount of our lives that get controlled by our habitual behaviors.  This isn’t just our bad habits of smoking, biting our nails or reckless driving.  This points to a much larger aspect of our lives that we tend to take for granted.  This reflects the fact that we tend to go on autopilot throughout much of our days.  

One of the richest men in the world at the time and owner of Getty Oil Company, J. Paul Getty said “The individual who wants to reach the top in business must appreciate the might and force of habit.  He must be quick to break those habits that can break him - and hasten to adapt those practices that will become the habits that help him achieve the success he desires.”

That is an incredibly powerful statement.  It cuts to the core of habits and how impactful they are to the success of us as individuals.  When I look at times that I failed and times that I was successful, three things stand out to me.  At times where I failed I wasn’t able to truly take advantage of these three areas but when I was successful I was able to rely on these to take me where I wanted to go.  Develop habits to control your ability to persist, your willingness to step outside your comfort zone and your ability to improve to truly unlock your potential.  


1. Persistance

The willingness to persist when times are tough is a great habit to have.  At times in my life I would quit or find a way out instead of persisting in the face of adversity.  It is amazing that times when I persisted, despite the discomfort associated with continuing to work hard, were times that I now label as successful.  Times when I failed to persist seem to be the times when I missed my goal.  They key for me is to find the balance between pivoting (remaining flexible) and continue to pursue despite adversity (persistence).  


2. Willingness to Step Outside of Comfort Zone

In my book You Can’t Surf from the Shore, I discuss a time when I stepped outside of my comfort zone.  In that case it ended up being a wonderful moment that I would have missed if I hadn’t been willing to go beyond what was known and comfortable.  Despite this there are still plenty of times when I choose to play it safe instead of exploring something new.  But the true successes came when I was willing to do something that I previously wasn’t willing to do.


3. Ability to Improve

In Navy SEAL Dogs, author Mike Ritland talks about the dogs that the military special forces uses on missions.  Throughout the book he talks about how they train the dogs to perform at the highest levels.  The ability to improve is incredibly important and there was a lot of insight into human ability when Ritland talked about the dogs used in the Navy SEAL teams.  

He says “Anyone who’s ever owned a dog knows that they are ‘creatures of habit.’  Any break from their normal pattern of behavior is something that a handler has to investigate.  Ironically, that kind of scrutiny is something that is also essential in warfare.  Soldiers are trained and develop habits, and they are trained to identify the habits and routines of their enemies and to notice any breaks in them.  Similarly, they are trained to look for anything unusual in their environment.  That constant examination and evaluation of what is usual and what is unusual is one of the fundamental elements of modern warfare, and it has been practiced in recent years in fighting insurgencies in both urban and non urban environments.”

Understand that habits are an incredible aspect of our lives and will, in large part, determine success or failure.  What habits can you point to that helped you achieve a goal?