My very first class in business school was Strategy. Honestly the main strategy I learned in that class had nothing to do with the actual curriculum. My professor, Adina Sterling, was new to Stanford and had just moved to the Bay Area. She told us that the best time to break a habit or build a new one is during a life change or transition.
Professor Sterling, along with all of us students, was embarking on a major life change moving to Palo Alto and teaching at Stanford, and this was the time to make a change.
She was right. I changed a lot in business school. Some of the classes are so personal and emotional that it’s really more like a “life” school.
We are the sum of our habits
We’ve all heard that “old habits die hard,” but I like author James Clear’s take on habits. He explains that basically all we are is the sum of our habits. Our levels of happiness, success, well-being… they’re all a product of the sum of our habits.
Basically, we are our habits; they form who we are and make up our everyday lives.
So now I bet you’re starting to see why a “life change” is the best time to build or break a habit. When something shakes up your everyday life, be that a move, a breakup, or a new puppy, you have the opportunity to change up the habit “building blocks” that make up your life.
One small change can snowball into bigger changes
When I was working at Google, I started a side project as the Google Wellness Champion. I coached coworkers on wellness, nutrition, fitness, and behavioral habits. I trained as a life and career coach while at Stanford, and now have a number of years of experience. In that time, I’ve seen over and over again that when a person takes a step towards making a small change in their lives, suddenly it snowballs into whole smorgasbord of changes.
For instance, a young woman trying to lose weight can start by setting a small goal of having a fruit at every meal. When she’s successful, she gains confidence and decides to step it up a notch. That fruit turns into veggies, and then a salad. She feels good and is ready to exercise, so she throws on a FitBit, buys a yoga mat, and joins ClassPass. Next thing you know she’s lost 25 pounds.
So I’m not saying you have to have a major life change to change a habit. You just have to make a change. It’ll shake up “who you are” and allow you form other new habits that fit the new you.
Is anything changing in your life right now? What can you do to take advantage of it?
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