Did you know that up to 80% of your day-to-day actions are the result of a habit? Repeating simple behaviors and actions frequently, until they become habits, will determine whether or not we successfully reach our goals.
Having been in the business of health and fitness for over 20 years, both my passion for observing human behavior and my PhD in Social Science have taught me that successful people and athletes are actually hard workers, physically and mentally. Just being talented and spending many hours on training is not enough. Habits play a key role as well.
As a Performance Analyst and Mental Coach I work with sportspeople behind the scenes. I have experienced talented but average athletes being transformed into successful, focused and resilient performers, by being willing to learn and to continuously practice techniques and actions, leading to habits required for a professional mindset and behavior. Adapting these habits into our daily lives can maximize our own achievements.
1. Emphasizing a desired behavior
While it is difficult to reduce an often practiced behavior (e.g. checking your phone every two minutes), it is easier to increase a desired behavior . During my sessions with athletes we start by identifying a simple positive behavior that is convenient for them to practice, like stretching and releasing tension after every training session. Repeating the behavior frequently will eventually transform it into a habit, which is performed automatically, resulting in positive side effects. In our daily professions, working first on the important items rather than focusing on the interesting ones can be a good habit to propel us forward and to improve our development.
2. Linking new habits to old ones
It can be difficult to include new behaviors into a daily routine because we tend to forget them. However, connecting a new behavior to an existing habit makes the difference . During my coaching, one footballer started to link the habit of changing his clothes before the training or match to the action of reading his list of personal strengths, and choosing an appropriate strength on which to focus. As a result he was more focused in training, and better aware of his strengths. The benefits of this strategy are not limited to professional sports but can be used in daily life or business as well. For example, if you want to drink more water but are a coffee lover, you might consider combining both, such as drinking a glass of water every time you have your coffee.
3. Changing our thinking habits
Often competitions in sports or presentations in business are the ultimate highlights. Our positive habits and efforts contribute to our best performances during these occasions. Unfortunately, even athletes often do not enjoy competitive situations; they are nervous and worry about what could go wrong. It helps to understand that the situation itself is not harmful, only our thoughts make it frightening. Establishing new thinking behaviors is the key to improvements under pressure. Being well prepared, developing pre-competition routines, creating mock presentations or competition situations to get used to the stress, and learning how to relax by breathing techniques, already helped many athletes to be able to achieve their best performances under pressure.
Embracing one’s alertness is another positive: the adrenaline helps us to perform at our best. Also, our physical responses to stress (elevated heart rate, sweating, tension etc.) are the same as being excited. Recognizing these signs as “being excited” makes them already easier to handle.
Including strategies from sports psychology into our lives opens up a new set of tools. Practicing some of these habits will have beneficial impacts on our long-term success. Entertaining an athlete’s mindset by trying out some of the habits mentioned above may help us to achieve exceptional success.
Try to change a habit and let me know how you get on in the comments below.
(1) Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychologie: Die Macht der Gewohnheiten: Vermeidungsverhalten lässt sich leichter ändern als Annäherungsverhalten, verfügbar unter: https://www.dgps.de/index.php?id=143&tx_ttnews%5btt_news%5d=1757&cHash=3cc276aaba8e8cf36a9ea8dd6f32f237 (10.04.2017)
 PhD BJ Fogg, Stanford University: http://tinyhabits.com