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Your habits determine your career success

Very few of us consider the impact of our habits on the life and career we are trying to build. When we think about habits we think about healthier lifestyles, we often don’t consider our careers. I learnt about habits during lockdown and have been trying to cultivate the habits  needed to be successful as I navigate my own career journey.

Lockdown begins 

This year didn’t turn out the way any of us imagined. Many of us – me included – started lockdown with great intentions. I wanted to exercise, I wanted to create something and I wanted to learn something new. I would love to tell you that I succeeded in all of this, but I didn’t. 

I probably spent the first couple weeks making pretty breakfast bowls and loved the idea of being home to prepare something healthy in between meetings and calls and answering emails. But like most things that start due to external factors, it didn’t last long. Soon I was tired of the online meetings, the amount of dishes that piled up daily and my husband using his outside voice instead of his inside voice when he was on a call and the rest of the participants couldn’t hear him. 

The rabbit hole

I knew things needed to change, especially because lockdown was going to be around for much longer than anticipated.  I decided to look for help in books, podcasts and Youtube videos, which almost always leads me down a rabbit hole. I love self-help books and enjoy listening to inspiring podcasts or Youtube videos.

I learnt that if I wanted to become the best breakfast bowl maker in my house, I had to look at my habits. 

Our brains like predictability and that means that when we want to change a behaviour or take on something new, we need to interrogate (with compassion) the habits required to be successful. 

I created a process for myself to examine what I needed to do in order to change my habits. Before we get there, let’s look at an example (other than making pretty breakfast bowls).

A successful career

If you wanted a successful career, you would look at your skills and determine if your skills are aligned to your future role. You would make sure you stay up to date with any industry changes. You know that a balanced life would make you more successful, and you would spend time developing and nurturing relationships within your organisation as well as outside of it.  

To move from your current career to the next stage, here are 6-steps to get you started. 

  1. Determine what you want – Knowing what you want gives you a purpose. Make sure the change you want to make is important for you and that it is something you definitely want. 
  2. Consider your current habits – Determine which habits you keep and which you need to change. Old habit: I work 12 to 14 hours a day and never speak to my colleagues. New habit: I find a way to be more productive without working 12-14 hours a day. Habits to keep: I am a mentor for underprivileged kids who want to do what I do. 
  3. Understand the rewards you get from the habits you want to change – We get a pay-off for our behaviour. If I always say yes when I want to say no, the payoff is that I feel people will like me more, or, that I am saving the day or I get to complain about how busy I am. Determine what the payoffs are for the behaviour you want to change. 
  4. Visualize how different your life will be if you already had what you wanted – Spend a few minutes just daydreaming. If you already had what you wanted, how would you feel? What would you do? Who will you be doing it with? 
  5. Set a goal for a specified period of time (30 days or three months) – Research indicates that it takes an average of 66 days to develop a new habit. Set clear goals describing exactly what you want to achieve. Be specific and realistic when you set these goals.
  6. Wake up every day and think what you want – Visualise what you want, journal about it or meditate. Then set an intention daily to move closer to your goal.

“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not.” -Octavia Butler

The biggest takeaway for me is that our habits impact a lot more than just a healthy lifestyle. It impacts how successful I will be as an entrepreneur and business owner and it will determine how successfully you transition into your first leadership role or how you progress in your career. 

If you’ve been wanting to achieve a specific goal but always seem to be back at the starting block, you can schedule a free 30-minute coaching call here to get started.  

About the author

Selina is an ICF-accredited coach based in Cape Town, South Africa. She is the founder of SelinaNewman Coaching. A coaching practice designed to help professionals turn what often feel like impossible life and career transitions into powerful opportunities for growth.


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