“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”
Any level of success, in any area of life, stems from positive and disciplined habits. Most people spend endless amounts of time and energy trying to break bad habits and create good ones. I think we all know how important this is.
The largest gap between the healthiest, wealthiest, and wisest people and the average joe is not a gap in IQ, class, gender, race, location, or anything else outside an individual’s control. The biggest difference is that successful men and women have the ability to see through the process of breaking a negative habit and replacing it with a positive habit. Something we ALL can control.
Every single person reading this can determine what they want out of life and obtain it through the consistent development of new habits. So why is it that over 70% of our country is overweight when we know that obesity plays a huge role in health and happiness? Why is it that some still smoke cigarettes even though everyone knows it’s killing them? Why is it that the average American is up to their eyeballs in debt but they keep purchasing a brand new car every 5 years?
It is because most of us are never taught how to develop positive habits. We just go through life on autopilot with the same habits we developed as kids and we rarely change them.
As my high school football coach always said, “You’re either getting better or worse every day.” A meaningful life is one that is constantly improving, and to improve your life you must improve your habits. The skill of building positive habits is not something we are born with. It's a muscle you must build and the purpose of this article is to teach how to build it.
The Same Old Story
We all know the familiar old story. It starts after a large Christmas feast. You realize your pants are pretty snug so you step on the scale. You are 30 pounds heavier than when you graduated from school! You just bought these pants 3 months ago because you got to heavy for the previous pair.
Until this point your subconscious mind has been making clever excuses for you about how its just healthy weight. You're thick, but not obese and this is just what happens once you reach a certain age. But after you see that new number, 30 pounds overweight, you finally realized it's time for a change.
So you head to the supermarket and load up on produce and tupperware for meal preps. Next, you head over to Dick’s Sporting Goods and get your new workout gear. And on January 2nd you set your alarm for 5:30 AM. You’re going to start your day with a rigorous cardio routine. You have phenomenal intentions and you’re going to make it work. You will willpower your way through this.
Three days later your alarm goes off again. You groan and realize how tired you are. You hit snooze and figure one day off won’t hurt. You need to give your body rest after all. Your mind starts to get creative again. The excuses are everywhere. It is really amazing how good your subconscious is at convincing you not to change.
The next day for dinner you drive by a Wendy’s and see a nice, big ad for a Baconator. "One won’t hurt," you think, and you stop and get the meal.
By February 1st you haven’t lost a single pound. You’ve half assed your way through one month of “changes,” and you’ve decided this just isn’t’ going to work. A few more clever excuses like, “I’m just big boned,” and, “It’s in my genes,” and you’re done. All those great intentions gone. Back to settling for a lesser you. You can’t fight the excuses anymore.
Why on Earth does this happen?!?!?!
You set out with such great intentions. You had all the right programs, gear, food, everything. Why have you failed to reach your goal?
The key to unlocking this secret is in the subconscious mind. The part of your brain that operates outside of your direct control. If you simply learn how the subconscious grows through changes you too can grow and achieve any desired result you want.
THE CURVE OF GROWTH
Enter the beautiful Curve of Growth as developed by Rod Hairston. Understand this model and implement it in your life and you can unlock that secret to the subconscious so you can develop those habits that you know will serve you.
Let us take a look:
As we can see there are 4 phases along the curve. Anyone wishing to develop a new habit will journey from inception, through deception, transformation, and end up with their new identity at the end. We must fully understand what each of these phases means and what it feels like so that we can accurately determine the phase we are in and act accordingly. This is how you master your habits.
Inception: In this wonderful phase you are full of excitement and creativity. Everyone has been here. You see the light and realize that you must make a change and you start to envision what your life will be like once you make that change. You get all excited, buy all the gear, read all the books, and just get yourself jacked up to make some life changes. You’re getting ready to get ready to get ready.
In inception you are unconsciously, incompetent. Meaning you don’t know what you don’t know. You are generally clueless about the journey you are about to embark on but you don’t even know that you’re clueless. Everything looks like rainbows and butterflies. You have a great idea and your mind refuses to look at the struggle you will have to endure to accomplish that idea.
Deception: The miserable phase where most people quit. This is when your subconscious mind starts chirping at you. That devil on your shoulder starts to tell you that this isn’t you. This new habit you are creating is not what you are used to and you should just quit. You won’t succeed anyways. The subconscious doesn’t want to change it wants you to stay the same in your comfort zone.
In this phase you are consciously, incompetent. You’ve suddenly become aware of how incompetent you truly are. You now see clearly all the struggles you are enduring and will have to endure to reach your new identity. Your mind starts to justify a million reasons why you should quit and give up on developing this habit.
Rather than becoming disappointed when this phase comes around you should celebrate it. This means that your mind is operating exactly how you expect it to and you know that if you just persist a little longer through deception there is a better you waiting on the other side.
Transformation: This is when things start to get fun. For the few who persist through deception you start to see light at the end of the tunnel. This uncomfortable, new thing you’ve been trying to develop into a habit starts to feel more comfortable. It's not as hard for you to do this consistently. You start to feel that new you that you envisioned in inception.
In this phase you are consciously, competent. You’ve now built that mental muscle and you know that you are improving. There are no more are the feelings of discomfort or awkwardness. You are on the up and up.
Identity: The beautiful place of new identity. It's everything you imagined. You’re a new and improved you. Maybe in a small way, maybe in a big way. You’ve achieved the vision of yourself that you set out for in inception. The beauty is that it is now automated. No more extreme focus. No more hard work. Its smooth sailing from here.
We call this unconscious, competence. The new habit you’ve developed is on autopilot and you do it without thinking.
A college teammate of mine is a great example of the power of the growth curve. Let’s call him Bill. From day 1 of camp freshman year you could just tell the kind of guy Bill was. The very first workout started at 8 PM and Bill showed up at 8:10 with disheveled hair and the wrong colored shirt on. Whether you are an athlete or not, you know this kind of person. “Not a morning person,” they will tell you. This is how they start their day and it often carries over into the rest of their life. Always late. Rarely prepared.
The other side of the story is that Bill had massive talent. He was a huge beast of a guy. Muscular, fast, and just had a good football sense about him. He really failed to live up to his potential that first year though, and I think a lot of it stemmed from his habit of being late. It affected his performance and he was always in the doghouse with the coaches because of it. I think he knew his lateness was the root of his struggles.
Coming back to camp sophomore year I saw a new spark in Bill. He was making an effort and was getting to the facility at 7:50 now. Ten minutes early! He was excited and energetic by the time the workout was underway instead of still being half asleep. I could tell he was serious about achieving his potential this year.
After a few weeks, however, he started showing up late every now and then. 8:01, 7:55, 8:10. He was in deception. His old habits were creeping in and you could almost hear the voice in the back of his head that he was hearing every morning. “Bill this isn’t you man, you just aren’t a morning person.” He was clearly fighting an internal battle. One day the new Bill would show up 15 minutes early ready to attack the day and the next day old Bill would show up late and looking like a zombie. The fire I saw in his eyes on day one was gone and now he fighting his way through his change of habit.
After just a week or two of this battle I saw that fire re-emerge in his eyes. Bill started to become more consistent. Early every single day. And people started to forget about the old Bill. The new freshman who met him thought he was a great leader that was always on time. The coaches that had known the old Bill were impressed at his changes. He soon climbed the depth chart and was in the starting lineup by week 4 of the season. His transformation was nearly complete.
Two years later if you came to a practice you would see a team captain, a leading tackler, and a man who was always 15 minutes early to every practice, workout, and event. He was widely accepted as the best role models on the team. And it also paid off with his results on the field of play. He had truly achieved his new identity.
Bill’s story is something that I have looked back on retroactively, after learning about the growth curve, and determined it to be a great example of its power. At the time I had no idea what the “Growth Curve,” was, but I watched it unfold before my eyes. Possibly, an even more helpful insight, is how I first used the, “Growth Curve,” in my own life.
After a weekend mentoring session with the creator of the growth model himself, Rod Hairston, I decided I had one habit I was going to use this new idea on. I had been struggling for over a year to develop a morning routine. From my studies of successful people I had learned that having routine to start every day was imperative. I really wanted to implement this routine called SAVERS. The problem was every time I tried to implement it I failed.
After a few mornings of completing my routines I would feel great. I would start to feel the benefits of starting my day of in such a positive way. The results I was looking for would start to show themselves. Then inevitably, one day, the alarm would go off and I would hit snooze and roll over. At the time I was working a full time job as an engineer, building my marketing business on the side, and struggling to maintain my fitness as well as a semblance of a social life. I had all the justifications in the world for wanting to get an extra 45 minutes of sleep and just blow off that routine. And as soon as those justifications creeped into my mind I listened to them and quit. Every time I hit deception I would give up. Then a week later I would get all excited again in inception and give it another try. I was stuck between inception and deception.
After learning about this method from Rod Hairston I realized that those justifications creeping into my mind should have the opposite effect. I should get excited when my subconscious tells me to quit! This just meant I was on the brink of forming my new identity as someone with a solid morning routine. If I just persisted through a few days (possibly weeks) of that deception I would have a lifelong habit that would serve me tremendously.
So after this weekend mentoring session, with Rod, I planned to try one more time. I was going to develop a habit of SAVERS every morning. Except this time it was different. I wasn’t expecting to have a new identity in a few days. I had a clear vision of what things would be like with my new identity but I was rational and expected deception to hit. In fact I looked forward to it. Sure enough after a few days my subconscious started getting clever with its list of reasons to quit. This time I consciously overcame these excuses. I celebrated these moments as the defining moments in my growth. And after just a few days of persisting through deception, things started to get easier. Over the course of the next few months there would be a day every now and then where I would oversleep or forget but 95% of the time I was doing my routines. I had finally got unstuck and had made it to transformation.
Today if I wake up and don’t begin my day with my SAVERS I’m very unhappy. It's funny because I used to be so unhappy about getting up and doing them. And I owe so much of my own success and happiness to these daily morning routines. I'm so thankful that I persisted through those few tough weeks to create the habit. The lifetime of reward from it was well worth the few tough mornings.
Wouldn’t you be willing trade a few tough days for a lifetime of a better you?
“Through discipline comes freedom.”