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The 4 A's Of Building New Habits And Breaking Bad Ones

After +25 years in various finance and business leadership roles across Asia-Pacific, Sandeep now runs a boutique strategy consulting and leadership coaching outfit, Value-Unlocked Private Limited. Sandeep's purpose is to help organizations and individuals bring to life the amazing success stories they want to script for themselves, and he delivers this through coaching, consulting and facilitation.

 
Executive Contributor Sandeep Jain

They say first we make our habits, then our habits make us. How true is that? Notwithstanding the role of luck, the difference between success and failure is often the habits we build for ourselves as we pursue our lives. An interesting thing about habits is that these are too weak to feel yet too strong to break. The less you notice them, the more difficult it is to escape them.

 Scissors on red background with note paper written BREAK BAD HABITS

4 a's of building new habits

Our habits make us efficient, as they help us get our jobs done without having to think as much, but we can also become slaves to them. When these are the bad ones, they can drive us to a precipitous cliff. Breaking bad habits or building new ones is difficult, but you can get there with the four As – Awareness, Acceptance, Action and Accountability.


1. Awareness 

Everything starts with awareness, whether it comes on its own or someone else draws your attention to it. Sometimes, you may see someone and project the same behaviour or outcome onto yourself; that could be the moment which switches on this awareness. It is like seeing something you have often seen but in a completely new light and connecting the behaviour and outcomes with what you want to achieve. If you wish to give up something or achieve something, it needs to play out in your mind before it plays out in the real world; this is what awareness is all about. Habits are thoughts that are hard-wired into our brains through repeated use. The only way to short-circuit the hard wiring is by applying our minds and awareness.


2. Acceptance 

Acceptance is not about resigning to things as they are but about embracing the hope and potential for change. It's about understanding why things are the way they are and being willing to test the cause-and-effect hypothesis between the cessation of bad habits or the initiation of new practices and the positive outcomes. When it comes to bad habits, it's about telling yourself, 'I release the need for these in my life'. This acceptance can be a beacon of hope, guiding you towards a better future.


Let's accept that we humans can't wish away addiction; the only thing we can do is give ourselves a chance to get addicted to good habits. Changing how you think about habits will propel you to change your habits.


3. Action

Ultimately, everything boils down to action. It's not about making a giant leap, but about taking that first, small step that can be the stepping stone to a new life. Every good or bad habit that is part of you today would never have become a habit without that tiny first step that you would have taken. Even with awareness and acceptance, most people can't change since they are unwilling to take action. They create excellent images of themselves in their head, but they are reluctant to give shape to those images in the real world. All of us are amazing thinkers but extremely poor doers. So, let's start doing!


It is also true that it takes time to develop habits since the neural pathways in the brain need to be re-wired for you to think and act differently. Initially, you do any new thing with a lot of effort and consciously, but a habit takes shape when you start doing it effortlessly and unconsciously. The ideal way is to begin with small but consistent actions and progressively step up the effort. You don't want to make it so difficult right in the beginning that you give yourself reasons to abort. While the science behind 21 days of building habits is hugely debated, I believe that 21 days of regular practice (and if you miss a day, you start from one again!) goes a long way in programming your mind to build a new habit or break an old one.


4. Accountability

Finally, another crucial piece of building habits is creating a sense of accountability. You can do this by putting in place a conscious tracking system, such as how many minutes you spent building the new initiative or leveraging daily reflection to reflect on how well you did or did not do on building the new habit. You could also create a 'soft' measurement system, where you could give yourself a score out of 10 as to how well you did on your new initiative. Otherwise, you can take an accountability partner, which allows each of you to work on your respective initiatives and hold each other accountable for what each of you wants to achieve.


Like seconds make a minute and minutes make an hour. Similarly, habits make our character, and our character makes our destiny. Make sure you break the bad habits and create the right ones to take charge of your destiny.


Which habits have you decided to break or work on? The best moment to start is right now, even if it is with the tiniest bit of action.


If you are still looking for motivation for the positive change you want to make in your work, life or relationships, check out my book Chase the Change!


 

Sandeep Jain, Leadership Coach & Strategy Consultant

Sandeep Jain | Leadership Coach & Strategy Consultant | CEO, Value-Unlocked Private Limited


After +25 years in various finance and business leadership roles across Asia-Pacific, Sandeep now runs a boutique strategy consulting and leadership coaching outfit, Value-Unlocked Private Limited.


Sandeep's purpose is to help organizations and individuals bring to life the amazing success stories they want to script for themselves, and he delivers this through coaching, consulting and facilitation.


As a coach, Sandeep primarily works with CXOs in organization-sponsored engagements and with senior teams on agendas around leadership, strategy, purpose and values, business growth, etc. On the strategy consulting side, he helps companies deliver on their transformation agendas through interventions around route-to-market, portfolio optimization, operational efficiencies, leveraging industry-ready technology solutions, cost savings, and organization re-design.

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