The Chains of Habit


A couple of weeks ago, my wife came to me and wanted to discuss an area of our lives she thought we needed to change.

Laura recently talked to some friends about the practices they put in place to limit their attachment to their phones, and she thought we would benefit from one of them. We have gotten into a routine where the last thing we do at night and the first thing we do in the morning is look at our phones, so she suggested we find a way to kick this habit.

Honestly, I didn’t see this as a problem for me, but since it was important to my wife, I decided to give it a try.

We made the commitment, bought an old fashioned alarm clock, and decided to stop looking at our phones for the last hour before we went to sleep and for the time it takes us to complete our morning routines before we leave the house. No major changes throughout the day, just putting the phone down a little earlier and waiting a little longer to pick it up in the morning.

Sounds easy enough, right?

But this has been one of the hardest things I’ve done in a long time.

When I’m lying in bed awake, I want to grab my phone to send that one last email. I need to check my Instagram one more time. I really just want to look at the latest analysis for the most recent college football rankings. In the moments that I’m trying so hard not to get up and grab my phone, I’m realizing how deep this habit truly runs. In some strange way, I feel like a drug user that so desperately needs a fix, but my drug is an addiction to a piece of technology.

I know this blog might sound like another criticism of smartphones, but it’s not. It’s about how habits influence our daily lives.

“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” – Samuel Johnson

Habits can be good things or bad things, but we often don’t realize we’ve formed a habit until it feels impossible to break.

When we try to form positive habits like exercising or eating healthier or committing to read more often, these things don’t come naturally. We have to intentionally decide to work at them to form healthy habits, so down the road, the good practices are the ones that feel like second nature.

Unfortunately, negative habits are much easier to form.

We often don’t realize that we’ve formed habits like hitting the fast food drive thru for dinner a few days a week, watching Netflix for a few hours after work every day, or scrolling through Instagram every time we have a break. These habits don’t require any conscious effort to form, so they require some focused work to break.

I don’t think that a smartphone is always a harmful piece of technology. However, when I realized that constantly interacting with my smartphone became an unhealthy distraction at the beginning and end of each day, I needed to make a change.

Are there other, seemingly harmless habits that you’ve slipped into? These aren’t always overtly negative things, but they shape your daily life.

On the flip side, are there positive habits and disciplines you need to pursue? Perhaps there’s a way to kick a negative habit by working at a positive one.

Consider your habits this week. It’s important to evaluate the things we do each day to determine how our habits influence our personal and professional lives. Our healthy and harmful habits can impact the people closest to us. So let’s work to kick the habits holding us back, and pursue others than can make us better.

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Today, business means more than just mere products and services. Your organization needs to stand for something. Branding is what you tell the world; leadership is how you make it come true.

No one knows this dynamic better than Kevin Paul Scott.

Companies turn to Kevin for advice on how to up the meaning-quotient in their businesses, so that employees and customers alike champion the business as if it were their own.

Let Kevin come and teach your group about how to build a business and communicate corporate values in a way that resonates with consumers.

His speeches include:
• Building a Business with Meaning
• Leading When the Majority is Wrong
• In Changing Times, Hold to Unchanging Principles
• The War for Talent: Recruiting and Retaining Top Tier Talent
• Essential Exchanges: What You Have to Give Up to Go Up