This case study is part of the Habits blog series and the result of an interview with someone who combines all of the elements of great habit forming across their personal and work life.
To be able to do this Joan has done a lot or reading and research about what it takes to create habits that work for you and has used this knowledge to build her ongoing sustainable and supportive environment.
"My habits have a purpose - they keep me on top of my game.
When I am on top of my game I am able to make a contribution and be useful to the world"
Our Case study - the context
Joan is married with a grown up daughter and has spent her entire working life being an influential leader in the world of education. Joan has a special connection with early years and special schools and supporting these settings has been a passion throughout her working career.
Joan says that she has been a leader almost all of her life, taking on this role as a young child. It is very important to Joan to be professional in all things, and to achieve a consistently high standard of professionalism, Joan has found that having a set of supporting habits are the key to that consistent, reliable professionalism.
The core goal is to be organised. Joan says that being totally organised means that she can be efficient that there is no time wasted! For example, to be able to get from bed to work ready with as little faff as possible she has a useful habit of everything being in its place for simplicity and ease. All items are ready even starting the night before having clothes ready and bags packed - everything from the hairdryer through to her makeup is always in the same place and optimised. Her habits are unconscious and in this way she uses as little mental and physical energy as possible when getting ready for the day.
Joan has been able to shape her day into two separate parts and her habits help her meet her desires and goals for each part. The Day Time has a goal of 'keeping the show on the road' where unconscious efficiency helps her create peace and calm through practical habits. There is a place for everything and everything in its place. Alarms are set for regular tasks and a sense of being 'in flow' is promoted whenever possible. The Evening Time is 'relaxing'. and Joan triggers the change by telling her husband that she is 'turning into the evening person'. The office area has been tidied away, the coal fire is lit, some food is made and Joan moves into her relaxing habits which involve knitting, listening to the radio and podcasts as well as reading. For Joan, knitting is another In Flow activity that promotes peace and calm as she creates various items that bring her joy.
Joan doesn't have to think about her routines, they are now unconscious habits that have been designed to minimise conscious effort and not drain her physical and mental energy.
There was a time when the Evening Time routine was completely different. Working long hours and travelling around the country meant that Joan's evening routine was more likely to be - stop at 7pm, eat something, continue after finishing emails etc. until around 9pm and bed at 10pm. Joan says that 'none of the evening was mine! So since she has had the opportunity to change that, her evening time is now certainly her own - in fact she feels very much 'short changed' if she doesn't have it! Joan has deliberately built a set of habits that has created the Evening Time in the way that she wants, promoting peace and calm.
Our case Study - the questions
Joan was interviewed by Shared Inspirations' Jacci Wright, and these are the questions and responses that reveal the nature of how she lives and works supported by her habits.
1. What motivates you and why is it important for you to have useful habits?
"When I m at the top of my game I am
able to make a contribution to the world’"
Joan has a very clear purpose for her habits and that is to achieve the ultimate aim of keeping herself engaged and purposeful while also promoting feelings of peace and calm. When this is missing Joan can feel that she is 'losing the plot' and and unsteady with herself so it is important for her habits to help avoid this uncomfortable feeling. Professionalism and peace are of core importance and these are helped by two key aspects - 'I have to be able to look and feel good' says Joan so all habits support this as they create a peaceful place where everything runs smoothly.
2. What emotions do you notice and how does this affect your state?
"I find myself in a peaceful place"
Joan says that she experiences a 'whole body state' where she is settled, peaceful and calm. Because of this Joan is keenly aware that everything that she feels on her body must be all about comfort. Her clothes have to be not too hugging and promote a very comfortable feeling, in fact Joan doesn't pay attention to fashion but looks for her clothes to be comfortable to wear while still looking professional. And when it comes to how she feels emotionally there is total peace and calm where her mind is able to focus and be In Flow.
3. What outcomes are you aiming for by having these habits?
"Action brings satisfaction!"
For Joan there is a real desire for achievement and to be of use to the world. This motivates Joan to achieve something everyday toward this end. Being 'her best everyday' with a consistent and high performing outcome is the daily goal. It doesn't matter how big or how small it is important to achieve at least three things in the day. Setting intentions for the day through a variety of mindsets really helps her outcomes to happen with 'Action brings satisfaction' being one that Joan has created to support this. When Joan reflects back she can see she has achieved and counts even the smallest this, such as sending a birthday card, as such - realising the 'Action brings satisfaction' mindset.
4. What do you know and believe about this way of being?
"My habits serve me well"
There is a constant theme throughout the interview that points to Joan being driven to achieve peace and calm both internally and externally. Having habits that serve her well are consciously created and are always being 'tweaked'. Joan believes that paying attention to what her body is noticing with regards to peace and calm means that when she notices a change she can become conscious of what is happening, find the cause and make adjustments to the habit, bringing back the feeling of peace and calm. Joan knows that habits can be refined and adjusted to achieve the peak performance they support.
Her habits are important to Joan's overall wellbeing and finds that useful mindsets such as 'action bring satisfaction' 'there is no failure, only feedback' and 'if something doesn't work today, it will tomorrow' bring with them an ability to be kind and compassionate to both herself and others.
5. What common mistakes can people make when creating habits?
"always notice what your body is telling you"
Feelings lead to behaviours so for Joan this means that she can ensure that when building or maintaining a habit she uses that whole body bio-feedback to make sure it is working.
A common mistake would be to create a habit and then not notice how it is playing out. Joan keeps an eye on her habits so that she can make adjustments quickly and get back on track. It is easy to blame the habit when it doesn't work, so making the mistake of not noticing how the habit makes you feel and therefore not making adjustments will almost guarantee it to fail.
What can we learn from this?
Joan's story tells us that it is possible using a few simple principles to create a lifestyle that supports your aims, ambitions and objectives. That it is possible to have habits that create an existence that 'serves you well' and that using your ability to notice what needs to change and making adjustments can lead to a way of living with peace and calm while still being productive.
What can you do to create habits that serve you well?
What’s the smallest viable habit experiment you could do that might be a big winner for you?
Atomic Habits - Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results by James Clear
The Power of Habit - Why we do what we do and how to change by Charles Duhigg
'How to improve by 1% each day' - A TEDX talk by James Clear (YouTube 8 minutes)
Don't delay! Find your best habits today!
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