For better or worse, our habits define us and, if significant enough, can shape our future. The habits we practice every day, whether big or small, eventually add up as the sum total of our behavior. They impact our decisions, our actions and even our internal thoughts and feelings. Good habits can make us smarter, more physically fit and better at our jobs, while bad habits can make us stagnate — and possibly sabotage our own careers.
Accordingly, being able to positively change our habits (i.e., introducing new good habits and eliminating old bad habits) is one of the biggest keys to long-term success, no matter how you define that success. Of course, the issue here is that changing habits can be very difficult. Ingrained habits are ridiculously hard to stop; practicing a habit continuously reinforces it, making it harder and harder to break away from the pattern. And starting something new requires a surplus of focus, attention and willpower.
So how can you do it? How can you form better habits as an entrepreneur?
Your first job is understanding the “anatomy” of a habit. Why do habits form and what do they look like?
You can think of habits as unfolding over four mini phases:
These four phases can serve as a blueprint that can help you analyze and eliminate your bad habits — or construct new habits from scratch.
Let’s look at breaking the bad habit first.
So how can you start a new habit?
Whether your goals are to exercise every day, stop responding to every email automatically, guest blog more consistently, or something in between, these tenets can help you break your bad habits and start new ones. This doesn’t mean the process will be easy, but you’ll at least have a framework that can drive your decisions and behaviors in the future.
Originally appeared in Entrepreneur