Habits as a primary driver to succeed

I expect and hope that working with habits will play a much bigger role in corporate life in the future. I see huge amounts being spent on training; leadership training, sales training, coaching etc. mostly “thought” training developing and inspiring the minds of the participants but also training that is very distanced from the daily routines and therefore hard to implement.

Working with habits gives you the opportunity to turn thought/theoretical training into practice and action-oriented training. As I see it physical training is the leading business on working with habits and mentoring at the moment.

Habits – how you act when your reptile brain takes over

I referred to my melting pot of daily roles in one of my last post (student, business owner, family man etc.). I guess that you will see a quite similar picture with most of my co-students – all people with many daily responsibilities and routines.

Studying at an Executive MBA we are all professionals who know how to plan and structureand put time slots in our calendar, “work smarter not harder” and all that. But what we all experience is that life does not play as planned, stuff changes or as they and we need to reprioritize on a constant basis.

Another way of putting it is as they introduced at the U.S. Army War College to describe the situation after the cold war (and what has later often been used in strategic leadership), the world is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA).

The reasons why working with habits is so important to me is that habits are what kicks in when we are tired, under pressure, enthusiastic etc. Also labelled as when the “reptile” brain takes over.

At the same time knowing that we will be pressured on time, on delivering results at work and achieving our career goals, good habits will be a key driver to succeed. It is actually some of the same situations where our dark sides take over (if you have any – most of us do).

Hogan labels dark sides in their personality assessment HDS as sceptical, excitable, bold, mischievous, cautious, reserved, dutiful, colourful, diligent, leisurely and imaginative.


Meet my trainer Thor

My experience on working actively with habits are quite new and lead by Thor. Other than Thor being one of the strongest men I know, he is also an expert in habit’s, physical training and mentoring – I am not sure that he agrees on the last part, I often hear him refer to it as coaching.

In my mind, this is highly misunderstood since he actually is an expert in his field (he knows what he is talking about) and he gives a direct recommendation. I will save this particular subject for a later blog post.


Working on habits

I started training with Thor about five months ago. I had originally signed up for a “get bikini fit” class since one of my friends told me to get things straight and hooked me up with Thor.

If you want to achieve your goals don’t focus on them

Starting out with Thor and wanting to “get bikini fit” he had a quite different approach than what I had expected. He did not want to weigh me and measure my progress on that and we did not talk diet (to begin with). He only asked me to get a good training habit (1 hour two times per week) and to consider how I could get more sleep. We were to work on my key habits.

Once we had worked for a while on training and sleep it was time to talk diet. Talking diet Thor simply told me to eat 500g of vegetables daily, he did not want to set any rules for what I should not eat, only thing was to eat 500g of vegetables every day.

We have enhanced slowly since that, we are now up to 600g vegetables per day and three training per week.

What happened to me on a personal level is that being a competitive person and thereby wanting to overachieve, and me actually succeeding on my targets every day (as it is easy targets) leads me to be a success in my mind and opens my mind to bigger challenges.

The connection between goals and habits

The Activation Energy of new Habits

No doubt my goal was to “get bikini fit” which for various and obvious reasons was a big goal, also called BHAG (Big Harry Audacious Goal). I tend to get hyped up on BHAG’s, and to be honest I did feel that Thor was a bit unambitious on my matters – to begin with. But what Thor knew (and I did not at the moment) was that BHAG’s often stick in our dreams as they require toy much energy, to begin with (as illustrated above), and what Thor helped me find was a catalyst for my habits in order to realise my goals and hopefully what will lead me to succeed on a long-term perspective as well.

One of my favourite musicians Nick Cave ones said:

I can control the weather with my moods, I just can’t control my moods

I imagine that the sun would be shining way more if Nick meets Thor.

Why habits?

From an MBA student´s perspective working with habits will help you pick up the book instead of turning on the TV in the evening, makes you get a TSS reader and have it read your study articles when you are driving instead of listening to the radio or make you train specific competencies that you need to write your next assignment, as well as making sure that you get proper sleep, nutrition and physical training. Nothing less.

From a corporate perspective working with habits is a very effective tool to develop organisation´s skills in line with the overall business strategy. I have seen great results happening from working actively with habits. F.x. the production hall where people started a common habit of shaking hands whenever they meet a colleague to break down siloes and enhance teamwork. Other opportunities are within sales to raise sales activities, leadership training to raise abstraction competencies and ensuring strategy alignment etc. or R&D to enhance innovation.

Thor and I will continue our work with habits and have already started up a process where we will work with an ongoing leadership training programme, to supplement it with action-oriented habits training to ensure implementation on a daily level.

Working with habits, Frederik Lysgaard Vind doing gym.

I recommend: That you start defining your BHAG and from there identify smaller habits that can help you on the way. It is important that the habits are small/easy to achieve, that they are to be done at a specific time (after lunch etc.) and that your success can be measured (the framework of SMART goals can work here).

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch, share or comment on my personal stories.

Stay tuned for my next blog post will come in approx. 14 days. I expect it to be on Managing processes and systems as it is the subject for my next Henley assignment.

For further readings I can recommend:

Or reach out to Thor on: https://dk.linkedin.com/in/thorwlarsen