Tuesday, January 24, 2017

We are our HABITS!

We are NOT the end result of the goals we set for ourselves! At least I do not want to be defined this way. Rather I believe we are the HABITS in our lives because they perfectly capture "what" we do and how we do this "what". For example are you a hiker if once every year you walk 200 miles of the Appalachian Trail, with the goal of walking the entire trail in your lifetime? My answer would be yes, even if this is your only hiking activity for the year. Why? Because the work and preparation it requires to walk 200 miles requires a HABIT in your life that prepares you for this activity. So, while we may be recognized for having "hiked the AT", those who are hikers are going to be aware of the effort you put forth in preparation, as much as the completion of the act. In other words, those who KNOW the effort of your goal define you to themselves more by your HABITS of preparation than the achievement, because the HABIT enabled the achievement; and those in the "know" understand what it took for the achievement to be realized.

I walked the Grand Canyon from Rim to Rim to Rim (r2r2r) last September with one of my brothers ( have two) and one of my sons (I have three). We did it for the "bucket list" achievement of being able to say (BRAG!!) that we'd done it. And we did do it, 46.3 miles, over 110,000 steps, 22,000 feet of elevation gain and loss, and over 12K calories burned in 22 hours. There are a few people that I know who are aware of the training routine we three hikers followed, so they have an appreciation of the effort it took for this achievement. That effort has established HABITs for me that I expect to last a life time. I eat better, I exercise regularly although not the same extent I did training for our r2r2r, I got to feel again the satisfaction of a long period of hard work paying off, and I spent some terrific time with family members creating a story that will last my lifetime and perhaps longer. (My father immortalized our trip in the family Christmas letter, including a picture of us a the South Rim). Most people will look at this trip as the singular activity of making the hike, I see it as the culmination of months of effort, achieved by having HABITs.

Like you I have professional achievements I want to realize, I have a host of others that are personal that I also want to complete, and I have hobbies that are wonderful diversions from work and life. I am able to enjoy all of them because I prioritize all of them. The HABITs I have help me with the structure I need - because they are also time bound. Getting something done within a certain period of time requires effort and focus. The HABIT of putting the important and essential on my calendar ensures that I block time in my "professional" day to work on that which enables success. But I also have HABITs that support my strategic and long term interests.

For example I have another hobby, model trains. I have a HO gauge layout at my office. I like running trains, but more than that I like building the layout. This hobby can be as simple or as complex as you desire (go to YouTube and search for Model Train Layouts...you'll see what I mean). Space is a great limiting factor for running model trains, my space is limited to 5 feet by 9 feet, but by layering and using the vertical space available to me ,as well as the horizontal, I have crafted a hobby space that enables me to experiment and craft with carpentry, electricity, arts and crafts (think diorama and you'll understand), and patience. Nothing teaches patience like running small plastic and metal cars on a hand built layout. I used to set time frame goals for finishing part of my layout, but I never get to them because somewhere in the process I wandered down an unexpected path of learning and spend time on a different aspect of the hobby. My point?? simply that this HABIT provides an escape that is not time bound because hobbies are lifetime activities and this HABIT is simply about taking take to have fun, not "finish".

My work life is very different because it is very much time bound. Months, Quarters, and Years all measure success and achievement. Revenue leads to Profit and this pays the bills, at the company and for my family. Work in Sales Leadership cannot be 100% It-Will-Happen-When-It-Happens, this will not keep the lights turned on. Sales Leadership requires HABITs that reinforce the time bound; it takes repetition and improvement - HABIT. So this is where it all comes together. I didn't make it across and back in our r2r2r by deciding three weeks before the trip to "get in shape". We worked for months practicing, getting stronger, trying new ideas, eating different foods, figuring out how to get more effort into an hour than we were able to put forth a few weeks earlier. Our HABITs enabled our success because they enabled the preparation and effort that lead to achievement. I hiked over 1,000 miles of training distance for that one day (I went up/down Stone Mountain 10 times one Saturday, back to back to back to ....). 

I know that if you do not have HABITs in your day then you do not have the structure in your approach to reach the achievements you desire for yourself, your team, or your company. Be known by those who understand for your HABITs, as they are ones who truly understand what your achievements really represent.

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