In January of 2020, I read a book called The 5 AM Club and in it, author Robin Sharma gave the secret to get up at 5:00 AM every single day, work out the first thing, and start the day with intention and purpose. I mean, that sounded so great to me. So I became the early bird and got two intentional & productive hours of my day done before the rest of the house even woke up.
Then COVID hit.
And I became a stay at home mom overnight, nothing was normal anymore.
And I know this isn’t just my experience. I know a lot of people have had this experience. I’d get up at 5:00 AM and my daughter would get up at 5:06 AM and then she wouldn’t nap. So I didn’t get any real work done until after she went to bed. So I’d stay up late working and then getting up at 5:00 AM was not possible. I had lost my early bird tendencies. I was stressed out. I was not my best self.
Something had to change. It felt like I had no control over my own life. And I know I’m not the only one with a story like this and it wasn’t just the pandemic’s fault.
In this episode I’m talking about how to intentionally cultivate healthier habits that work and what to do when those habits stop working.
- The 5am Club by Robin Sharma
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
- The paradox of happiness: Why are we not doing what we know makes us happy? in The Journal of Positive Psychology
- DM me on Instagram
- What habits are and the three different parts of a habit.
- How to hack your brain and make habits work for you.
- The action step you can take today to help you cultivate healthy habits.
Rather skim before you listen? ⬇️
In January of 2020, I read a book called The 5am Club.
In it, author Robin Sharma gave the secret to get up at 5am everyday, workout first thing, and start the day with intention and purpose.
That sounded great to me so I became the early bird and got 2 intentional & productive hours of my day done before the rest of the house woke up.
What sparked my cultivating this habit was my struggle with trying to get it all in – work, dedicated Mommy & me time with my daughter, eating healthy, alone time just for me, adult time with my hubby, moving my body EVERY DAY.
I’d work on everyone else’s priorities and then stay up later trying to fit mine in.
I’d read over and over that being an early riser would give me the edge I needed as a busy mom & entrepreneur.
But getting up at 5am when I went to bed at 1am was pretty much impossible. I would work late, scroll Pinterest and Instagram until the wee hours, or binge Grace & Frankie cause who doesn’t love Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda.
With Sharma’s guidance, I had made a few small changes to my day and how I approached making changes to my routine and boom, I naturally woke up at 5am every day – yes, even weekends – and started each day with a 30-minute workout, journaling, and some kickass creative time.
Habit formed, right?!
COVID hit and I became a stay-at-home mom overnight. Nothing was normal anymore.
I’d get up at 5am and my daughter would be up at 5:06. And then she wouldn’t nap, so I didn’t get any real work done until after she went to bed.
So I’d stay up late working, until 11pm or 2am, and then could never get up at 5am. I lost my “early bird” tendencies.
And I was stressed.
I was snapping at everyone and my patience was paper-thin. I was not my best self.
Something had to change. It felt like I had no control over my own life.
I know I’m not the only one with a story like this and it wasn’t just the pandemic’s fault.
We fall into this idea that getting stuff done + leveling up feels hard & unnatural, so it IS hard and unnatural. So we cultivate healthier habits to make leveling up easier & more enjoyable. But the habits that fit in one season may not fit in another, especially when external circumstances change.
Being intentional about your habits can make you more productive, especially when you choose them again and again.
In fact, I created a list of 21 habits that you can cultivate to become more productive in life and business. And you can grab it for free at workwithprocess.co/habits
WHY focus on HABITS?
40% of what we do every day is habit.
What does that actually mean?
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines habits as an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.
Basically, a habit is a response to a trigger or event that we do automatically.
Think about washing your hair in the shower or getting dressed everyday. You likely don’t really think about it when you are doing it, but when you get in the shower, you wash your hair.
When you get dressed, you put on underwear, then pants, then a top (or whatever order is your habit).
Or when you are sitting in the doctor’s office waiting room, you automatically reach for your phone to scroll Instagram because you are bored.
Habits serve us.
Not having to consciously think about everything you do saves your energy and mental bandwidth for those activities that really require them.
So instead of using all your energy trying to get ready for the day, deciding if you are going to work on goals and then what you are going to do during that time, you can lean into your habits to free you up to use that energy to make big business decisions or write content or deliver awesome value to your clients.
Intentional habits is what most of the buzz lately has been about: setting very specific habits to get to an ultimate goal. Books like James Clear’s Atomic Habits are well-known in the entrepreneurial and self-development worlds for a reason.
It does take some work and dedication to get super intentional about habits but the results can be significant in your journey and growth.
To be successful in setting new desirable habits and breaking old, tired habits that no longer serve you, we first need to chat about how habits are formed.
According to Charles Duhigg who literally wrote the book on the topic called Power of Habit, habits consist of three parts:
the trigger/cue (or an event that happens) > a routine (your response to that event) > a reward (the pleasurable part).
The trigger or cue is something that happens in your day-to-day. It can be something that is time-related, i.e. at 2:00pm every day, situational, i.e. when you are around certain people or at certain places, or even emotion-based, i.e. if you are stressed or uncomfortable.
The routine is the action that you take in response to that trigger or cue.
This can literally be anything and it usually is what we try to change when we think about changing habits. It can be reaching for soda or for water when you are thirsty. It can reaching for a cookie during the mid-afternoon slump. It can be working out right after work every day. It can be scrolling Instagram in bed.
The reward is the feel-good part that comes from doing the routine. The cookie tasted yummy. You got a hit of endorphins from your workout. You get little hits of dopamine from social media scrolling.
We can usually recognize the things aren’t getting us where we need to get to, and likely know that different choices would make us happier and more fulfilled. But it turns out knowing it isn’t enough.
A paper published in The Journal of Positive Psychology actually examined this.
Even though the study subjects knew and recognized that more “active” activities would make them happier long-term, they still chose “passive” activities such as binging TV, spending hours on social media, sleeping too much, & procrastination.
Though the study subjects knew the “active” activities could make them happier in the long run, these activities were seen as daunting and less enjoyable because the payoff or reward wasn’t instant.
Meanwhile the “passive” activities gave immediate gratification through dopamine, connectedness, or alleviating an immediate pain.
Scrolling on social media gives us little hits of dopamine (a neurotransmitter than gives us a feeling of pleasure).
Binge watching TV gives us hits of dopamine and gives us a false sense of connectedness, because the longer we watch someone’s story, the more we care about them and relate to them.
Drinking soda gives you a burst of energy from sugar and caffeine.
In summary, the immediate reward was more important than the long-term reward in changing behaviors.
So, to cultivate better habits to replace those habits that aren’t serving you by creating rewards that make a different decision more attractive in the moment.
We often give up on a new habit before it has really had a chance to form. Here are a few reasons why we do that:
- We make it hard. Have you ever decided to go from total couch potato to a marathon runner, pushed too hard, too quick, and lost that motivation to be back on the couch within two weeks? It doesn’t have to be hard. Your progress can be gradual.
- We self-sabotage. Change can be hard and scary. There is evolutionary reasons for that from back in our caveman days. So, we can consciously or subconsciously sabotage our progress, leaning into excuses or negativity, which won’t push you forward.
- We lack the mindset needed. Speaking of negativity, if you don’t truly believe that you are the type of person who does the new habit that you are cultivating, you are going to struggle. It isn’t just about what we have, or what we do. It is about who we are at an identity level. “I go running” vs “I’m a runner.”
- We don’t hack our own brains. Our brains can do so many awesome things and we know more about how they work now more than ever. You can use that knowledge of how your brain works to leverage your habit formation.
One way to hack your brain is to make the habit formation more enjoyable.
You’ve heard the whole “the joy is in the journey” thing and it is true.
Make the “how” just as exciting to yourself as the “what” at the end.
We often are so focused on achieving more and doing more that even when we achieve something that we have been working for for so long, we rarely celebrate the achievement and if we do, that celebration is short-lived before we are onto the next thing.
Achieving the thing isn’t going to make you happy. You already know this.
You have to decide to be happy right where you are with what you have. And that means including things in the process that light you up and give you joy.
So, how do you love the process?
Create a love list. This is simply a list of all the things, experiences, places, and people that light you up, give you energy and peace, and that you genuinely LOVE.
Then answer the question: How can you reward yourself, set up your space, or change your mindset by bringing in more of the things you genuinely love?
Now, if this were just about cultivating healthy habits, this episode would be over.
But the story I told at the beginning of this episode shows something different.
I had cultivated a habit of getting up at 5am because my environment supported it. When my environment no longer supported it, however, I lost the habit.
This is probably something you have experienced as well. External circumstances changing your environment, making it feel like you have no control.
That experience is exactly why I created my World-Class Wake Up method. I needed a way to be able to pivot and realign my morning routines and habits when things outside my control made it damn near impossible to continue as things were.
There will be seasons of life when waking up at 5am is possible and some where they aren’t. There will be seasons where running everyday is easy and seasons where walking outside at all isn’t an option.
You aren’t simply at the mercy of your circumstances, I am certainly not saying that. But to blindly keep trying to will-power your way through impossible situations isn’t going to lead to the whole reason you wanted to cultivate these habits in the first place which is to become the best version of you.
You have to know why that habit matters, what you want to get out of it, and be willing to pivot what it looks like in your day to day.
I always like to end each episode with an action step that you can take right now to help you move forward and begin to implement immediately. Here is your action step for this episode:
Take 20 minutes and map out the habit you want to cultivate next. What is the cue or trigger, the routine/action, and the reward? How can you hack your brain to help you cultivate this habit? Why does this habit matter to you? You then have a plan for how to move forward now + the knowledge to realign in the future if/when your circumstances change.