There are many inspirational posters on many walls across the world.
Most of these posters do not change the behaviors of those who purchase them, frame them, hang them, and look at them.
Rather, most of the posters deliver a sequence of endorphin boosts that very quickly fade.
In a short matter of time you pass the poster and you feel nothing.
Why Do People Seek Advice?
Most people who seek advice are not that serious about changing their behavior.
They want to change their behavior, and they want to feel the endorphin rush of wanting to change their behavior, but they do not want to put in the work that behavior change requires.
People like to feel that they can change.
People like to get advice on how to change.
People do not like the process of change.
If you are seeking advice, you’d do well to be aware of why you are seeking advice.
If you are giving advice, you’d do well to clearly articulate what it will require to implement this advice.
Or, at the very least, understand an advice session for what it is: a form of human banter that makes everyone feel good at the time but has little lasting effect.
What Advice Have You Received that Has Become a Habit?
It’s worth reflecting on what advice you have received that has become a mental habit, both to reflect if you’re doing the hard work of behavior change, as well as to understand why some advice leads to change and some does not.
Here are some pieces of advice that have truly change how I think and act:
Nobody promised us anything (my father): As my father was dying from Parkinson’s disease, I asked him if he was sad, and he responded: nobody promised us anything. I think about this phrase a lot – as well as a sister phrase that I’ve incorporated into my thinking: the world is not ordered for my own happiness. When I am feel frustrated, indignant, or consumed with self-pity, I say this phrase to myself and, in the moment, reorient my mindset as best as I can, which is often a good amount.
Workout and mediate everyday (self-help books): Basically every self-help / self-improvement book I’ve read and have hammered home the importance of exercise and meditation. And for good reason! It’s taken time, but I’m not at least 5-6 days a week for both. Working out and meditation have become long-term habits.
Lead congruent organizations / teams (Nancy Euske, NSNO management team): After a few initial failures, I am now very deliberate about leading teams and organizations that have an explicitly aligned mission, strategy, culture, structure, tactics, people management systems, and goals.
I’m sure there are other pieces of advice that have become habits – but these standout to me in that they have greatly impacted my life, five years ago I did none of these three with any regularity, and I continually track my behavior to ensure the habits stick.
The Biggest Mistake I Made with Habits
For years, I would read books for knowledge rather than behavioral change. For some types of books (novels, history, etc.) this is fine. For many other types of books (business, self-help, etc.), this is not fine.
But I get high off learning new information, which is dangerous. I used to rip through dozens of business and self-help books a year – and while this made be an interesting dinner party companion (or terrible depending on your conversation tastes) – it rarely led to behavior change.
Now, I only read a business or self-help book if: (1) I have the time to read it deliberately enough to draw out behavior change possibilities; and (2) I have the time to practice and implement the behavior changes.
The Ability to Adopt New Habits is an Incredible Competitive Advantage
Most people will spend over forty years working.
Over the course of a career, being able to adopt a few important habits a year will provide an incredible competitive advantage over people who do not adopt important habits.
Growth mindset and intellectual curiosity are amazing mindsets – but it’s the ability to form habits that unleashes their true power.