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The Secret to Forming Successful Habits

Updated: Mar 12

Most people assume that to form a successful habit like exercising more, getting up earlier, being more productive in your business, securing more deals, all comes from repetition. Some people even say - If you complete a certain task for twenty days in a row, then it becomes habit.

This is all nonsense according to New York Times bestselling author James Clear.


James is an entrepreneur and author of the book 'Atomic Habits.' He makes a fantastic case for another theory and it makes perfect sense. I'll try my best to give you a synopsis...


James, believes that successful habits are formed not by repetition but by us having a positive emotion about doing said task. Let me explain...


I listened to a podcast recently and the host is a Doctor, a GP. He told the story of a patient who came in to see him and they talked about him getting fit and him joining a local gym to help with some health issues. They had a really honest and positive chat and the patient wanted to and agreed to workout for 40mins a week. Off he went, all pumped up and ready to take action. Four weeks later this guy turns back up in the surgery and is looking downbeat... he tells the Doc, I'll be honest I've not been the gym yet, I've been working late and the gyms quite far away from home and it's expensive.


Fair play to the guy for showing up to the appointment and being honest - is the first thing the doctor thought... and the Doctor realised to help this guy he could try to simplify the task, and really lower the bar. So instead of working out for 40 mins a week in the gym, he said ok I'm going to show you right now a few exercises you can do at home and I want you to do just 5 minutes, twice a week. They did the exercises together in the doctors room and off he went.


Another four weeks later the guy is back for a catch up appointment and he's smiling and says Doc, I love those exercises I have been doing them every day before my evening meal. So he is now working out for over an hour a week because he is doing 10 minutes a day.


This guy had a negative emotion about going the gym, getting there, making the effort and was ensure of how it would help him, so ultimately he failed to even attempt it. But because he was able to start exercising at home and he felt good about doing it those first few times, he upped his game and started exercising for longer and more often. The reality is this guy is now exercising even more than what he initially had planned to do at the gym, but that first taste of a positive emotion came more easy and more quickly so he carried on and formed himself a new habit.


I think it's really fascinating and I can see a lot of this in property, people take a course and they have huge expectations (sometimes these are a bad thing) and once they start out, they struggle to find that positive emotion. They start all pumped up and raring to smash goals and quickly lose interest and stop altogether. If there's no quick win or positive emotion then most people give up and look elsewhere to find that buzz.


Another thing James talked about on the podcast was this...


If you grow up in a house and your parents are active and fit and regularly exercise and eat well, you are more likely to have that same belief system. Fitness and being active is good for you. Human beings do things over and over because they have a positive emotion associated with that task, it's that simple.


You don't hear of people just randomly starting running one day and they keep doing it day in day out, if they hate and despise every single damn step, why would they carry on. Some of us are able to focus on the health benefits (the runners) and some of us struggle to make that connection completely so it means enough for us to do it (non-runners)


Put simply, If I repeatedly ran every day no matter what - it doesn't mean I will form a habit and I now magically love running! If I hate it and see no positive reason to continue I will stop.


Have you heard the saying 'You are who you spend time with'?

If you have 5 friends and they are all fitness obsessed, you are likely to mimic their activities, If you have 5 friends and all your social contact revolves around going down the local pub and getting drunk, by default you will be doing it too. Even if you don't really like the setting or activity, the positive emotion is social contact with your friends, so you do it anyway.


I once had a friend years ago when I was around 19 or 20 and we worked together... somehow we agreed to start going running after work. Seemed like a good idea while we were sat in the canteen eating a full english at breakfast time!


I would get home change out my clothes and into my running gear and straight back out. You know what? The hardest thing is putting on those running trainers and getting out the front door. The easiest thing was putting down one foot in front of the other and pounding the streets and parks in all weathers. The positive emotion was getting home and feeling tired but feeling so good with it, I actually loved it.


So if you are just starting out in property you need to find that positive emotion and attach it to something you did. Like having in your mind to speak with 2 investors per week, but imagine you spoke with 5 or 6. May be you wanted to view 3 houses this week and you managed 10 or more. The key is just to be realistic with your first steps, your small wins will help you keep rolling forward, they will help you build momentum with your property business.


Be kind to yourself and don't expect to move mountains on day one or month one. Yes goals and target are a necessity, but they need to be realistic and if you find things tough at first - re-address where your goals are and take those first small steps. Mindset is huge in all walks of life, but if you have the right framework and approach mentally, then that will directly effect the outcomes you have and lead to successful habits and progress in whatever your doing.


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