Energy Habit #4 is DEVELOP – and we develop on the road in three ways –
1. Sharpen the Mind
2. Process the Thoughts
3. Monitor the Heart
Sharpen the Mind – is what we put in to sharpen us in multiple ways
Process the Thoughts – is getting out of our head all that we put in
Monitor the Heart – is keeping a pulse on how we’re REALLY doing
One of the best ways to sharpen the mind is to read content that teaches and challenges you to develop personally and professionally.
And one of the most influential books I’ve read in the past year was written by someone I’ve interviewed before and followed his writing, James Clear.
His book, Atomic Habits, was pivotal in curating and translating my habits in helping business travelers and is the foundation of the content in this episode. So, all the content kudos goes to James Clear.
There are seemingly no bigger creatures of habits than someone who works on the road: aka – a Road Warrior.
We’re the essence of creatures of habits. We have our way of doing our “road thing.”
Habits make or break your ability to become an Elite Road Warrior. The irony about our habits is that if we have good habits at home, we’ll most likely have good habits on the road.
If you don’t have good habits at home, the road will absolutely expose you.
Now, I’m not talking about taking a business trip once a twice a year and it feels like vacation but when the road is your vocation.
If you eat lousy at home, few turn it around on the road.
If you don’t sleep well at home, you rarely sleep more or better on the road.
If you don’t workout at home, you rarely turn into a gym rat on the road.
And I can go on and on and on.
According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviors on any given day. 
Here’s the goal or the win of this episode – to get you to think about your Road Habits and find out where exactly you’re in a Road Rut with your habits.
I’m a psychology nerd and have the degree to prove it but it’s important to understand the process of building a habit to start the Road Habits conversation.
A habit is a behavior that is repeated enough times to become automatic.
It can be divided into four simple steps:
1. Cue. A piece of information that suggests there’s a reward to be found, like the smell of a cookie or a dark room waiting to light up.
2. Craving. The motivation to change something to get the reward, like tasting the delicious cookie or being able to see.
3. Response. Whatever thought or action you need to take to get to the reward.
4. Reward. The satisfying feeling you get from the change, along with the lesson whether to do it again or not.
The cue is about noticing the reward.
The craving is about wanting the reward.
The response is about obtaining the reward.
If a behavior is not sufficient in any of the four stages, it will not become a habit or automatic.
In summary, the CUE triggers a CRAVING, which motivates a RESPONSE, which provides a REWARD, which satisfies the craving, and, ultimately, becomes associated with the cue.
This is key: All behavior is driven by the desire to solve a problem.
Sometimes the problem is that you notice something good and you want to obtain it. Sometimes the problem is that you are experiencing pain and you want to relieve it.
Either way, the purpose of every habit is to solve the problems you face.
So, let’s get practical.
Many of my road habits are to relieve stress and make life on the road easier – not necessarily better.
- I order what I want that I either can’t get at home, not willing to pay for on my own, or eat because it’s front of me.
- I don’t drink on weeknights at home but I almost always do on the road.
- I’m connected with my family more at home because they’re right there in front of me but on the road, I sadly find it a challenge to even text or call and it’s always on the time that is best for me.
Do you see what I mean?
Then, over weeks, months, and years of doing things that relieve my stress and make my life on the road easier, I develop certain habits that help me get by, not get better.
And this is why the Six Energy Habits are vitally important.
They challenge us in six key areas to leverage the road and what it can do for us, not look at only the limits and what it can’t do for us.
On the road, it is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment or massive change and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis.
Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action. And as a result, we do nothing.
Improving 1 percent isn’t particularly notable – sometimes it isn’t even noticeable – but it can be far more meaningful in the long run.
Unfortunately the slow pace of transformation also make it easy to let a bad habit slide.
- If you eat an unhealthy meal today, the scale doesn’t move much.
- If you work late tonight and ignore your family they will forgive you.
- If you procrastinate and put your project off until tomorrow, there will usually be time to finish later. A single decision is easy to dismiss.
But when we repeat 1 percent errors, day after day, by replicating poor decisions, duplicating tiny mistakes, and rationalizing little excuses, our small choices compound into toxic results. It’s the accumulation of many missteps – a 1 percent decline here and there – that eventually leads to a problem. Over the span of moments that make up a lifetime these choices determine the difference between who you are and who you could be.
“Success is the product of daily habits – not once-in-a-lifetime transformation.” – James Clear
What matters is whether your habits are putting you on the path toward success, and this is where most road warriors are wasting their years on the road.
They’re the most over-worked / stressed / burned-out / unhealthy / and disconnected they’ve EVER been in their lives.
I know because this was my Road Life for way too many years.
Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.
I love this quote by James Clear: “Few things can have a more powerful impact on your life than improving your daily habits.”
So, how do you know if you’re stuck in a road rut and how do you get out of it?
Maybe you’re saying right now in your head, “I definitely need to change some of my road habits and I’m in a road rut – thank you Dr. Obvious”
But how do you make those changes?
The book Atomic Habits offer Four Laws of Behavior Change:
1. Make it obvious. Don’t hide your fruits in your fridge, put them on display front and center.
2. Make it attractive. Start with the fruit you like the most, so you’ll actually want to eat one when you see it.
3. Make it easy. Don’t create needless friction by focusing on fruits that are hard to peel. Bananas and apples are super easy to eat, for example.
4. Make it satisfying. If you like the fruit you picked, you’ll love eating it and feel healthier as a result!
Sometimes a habit will be hard to remember and you’ll need to make it obvious. Other times you won’t feel like starting and you’ll need to make it attractive. In many cases, you may find that a habit will be too difficult and you’ll need to make it easy. And sometimes, you won’t feel like sticking with it and you’ll need to make it satisfying.
This is how I applied what I learned about the four laws of behavior change:
I used the statement: When I do _______, Then I’ll do ____________.
After (CURRENT HABIT), I will (NEW HABIT).
This required me to think about what I wanted to do and when I’m going to do it.
One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top ~ Habit Stacking
The key is to tie your desired behavior into something you already do each day. Once you have mastered this basic structure you can begin to create larger stacks by chaining small habits together. This allows you to take advantage of the natural momentum that comes from one behavior leading into the next.
Habit Stacking allows you to create a set of simple rules that guide your future behavior
Exercise Example: WHEN I see a set of stairs. THEN I will take them instead of using the elevator.
The secret to creating a successful habit stack is selecting the right cue to kick things off.
Habit Stacking works best when the cue is highly specific and immediately actionable.
The two most common CUES are time and location
Creating an Implementation Intention Strategy pairs a new habit with “I will (BEHAVIOR) at (TIME) in (LOCATION).”
With our bad habits, the immediate outcome usually feels good, but the ultimate outcome feels bad. With good habits, it is the reverse: the immediate outcome is unenjoyable but the ultimate outcome feels good.
“The cost of your good habits are in the present. The cost of your bad habits are in the future.”- James Clear
When the moment of decision arrives, instant gratification usually wins.
KEY: “The most effective form of motivation is progress”
The first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. Once is an accident. Twice is the start of a new (bad) habit.
Anyone can have a bad performance, a bad workout, or a bad day at work. But when successful people fail, they rebound quickly. The breaking of a habit doesn’t matter if the reclaiming of it is fast.
Too often, we fall into an all-or-nothing cycle with our habits. The problem is not slipping up; the problem is thinking that if you can’t do something perfectly, then you shouldn’t do it at all.
You don’t realize how valuable it is to just show up on your bad (or busy) days.
KEY: Lost days hurt you more than successful days help you.
Sluggish days and bad workouts maintain the compound gains you accrued from previous good days. Simply doing something – ten squats, five sprints, a push-up, anything really – is huge. Don’t put up a zero. Don’t let losses eat into your compounding.
It’s not always about what happens during the workout. It’s about being the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts. It’s easy to train when you feel good, but it’s crucial to show up when you don’t feel like it – even if you do less than you hope.
Atomic Habits gives five ways get out of road rut
1. Start with an incredibly small habit.
“Make it so easy you can’t say no.” —Leo Babauta
When most people struggle to stick with a new habit, they say something like, “I just need more motivation.” Or, “I wish I had as much willpower as you do.”
This is the wrong approach. Research shows that willpower is like a muscle. It gets fatigued as you use it throughout the day. Another way to think of this is that your motivation ebbs and flows. It rises and falls. Stanford professor BJ Fogg calls this the “motivation wave.”
Solve this problem by picking a new habit that is easy enough that you don’t need motivation to do it.
Rather than starting with 50 pushups per day, start with 5 pushups per day. Rather than trying to meditate for 10 minutes per day, start by meditating for one minute per day. Make it easy enough that you can get it done without motivation.
2. Increase your habit in very small ways.
“Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.”—Jim Rohn
One percent improvements add up surprisingly fast. So do one percent declines. Rather than trying to do something amazing from the beginning, start small and gradually improve. Along the way, your willpower and motivation will increase, which will make it easier to stick to your habit for good.
3. As you build up, break habits into chunks.
If you continue adding one percent each day, then you’ll find yourself increasing very quickly within two or three months. It is important to keep each habit reasonable, so that you can maintain momentum and make the behavior as easy as possible to accomplish.
Building up to 20 minutes of meditation? Split it into two segments of 10 minutes at first or four segments of five minutes
Trying to do 50 pushups per day? Five sets of 10 might be much easier as you make your way there.
4. When you slip, get back on track quickly.
“The best way to improve your self-control is to see how and why you lose control.”—Kelly McGonigal
Top performers make mistakes, commit errors, and get off track just like everyone else. The difference is that they get back on track as quickly as possible.
Research has shown that missing your habit once, no matter when it occurs, has no measurable impact on your long-term progress. Rather than trying to be perfect, abandon your all-or-nothing mentality.
You shouldn’t expect to fail, but you should plan for failure. Take some time to consider what will prevent your habit from happening. What are some things that are likely to get in your way? What are some daily emergencies that are likely to pull you off course? How can you plan to work around these issues? Or, at least, how you can bounce back quickly from them and get back on track?
You just need to be consistent, not perfect. Focus on building the identity of someone who never misses a habit twice.
5. Be patient. Stick to a pace you can sustain.
Learning to be patient is perhaps the most critical skill of all. You can make incredible progress if you are consistent and patient.
If you are adding weight in the gym, you should probably go slower than you think. If you are adding daily sales calls to your business strategy, you should probably start with fewer than you expect to handle. Patience is everything. Do things you can sustain. New habits should feel easy, especially in the beginning. If you stay consistent and continue increasing your habit it will get hard enough, fast enough. It always does.
I want you to define Two MAJOR Categories of your habits:
Keystone Habit – this is the game-changer habit. When you do this habit, everything else gets better.
Tombstone Habit – this is the game-killer habit. When you do this habit, everything else gets worse.
Let me give you personal examples:
My Keystone Habit is SLEEP – when I sleep and really protect and optimize my sleep, it dramatically affects the following:
- I make better food choices
- I workout more consistently and have better workouts
- My Energy Hour in the morning of reading
- I’m more motivated to connect with those back home
My Tombstone Habit is DRINKING – when I drink without strict boundaries, it dramatically affects the following to the bad:
- I stay up later and the quality of my sleep is affected big time
- I make lousy food choices – usually ends in something sweet and I always overdo it since I don’t eat sweets much anymore
- I’m sluggish in the morning and my workouts always suffer
So, what is your Keystone Habit? What is your Tombstone Habit?
What’s the difference between the best athletes or top performers and everyone else? What do the really successful people do that most don’t? – beyond genetics, luck, and talent, they must be able to handle the boredom of training every day, doing the same things over and over.
Really successful people feel the same lack of motivation as everyone else. The difference is that they still find a way to show up despite the feelings of boredom.
Mastery requires practice but the more you practice something, the more boring and routine it becomes.
The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom. We get bored with habits because they stop delighting us. The outcome becomes expected. And as our habits become ordinary, we start derailing our progress to seek novelty.
On your next trip or possibly the one you’re on right now, observe your road habits. Do you have more good habits than bad? Which of your habits can improve?
Your Road Habits will make or absolutely break you on becoming an Elite Road Warrior. The best performers have the best habits. They know their Keystone and their Tombstone Habits. And so do you.
Now, wherever you are on the road, do something, anything, just not nothing to master the business travel life.