The Habit is the Result

I knocked a big goal out of the park this last weekend – and didn’t keep it much of a secret… anyone who follows any of my social media will have seen my running photos being thrashed to death!  

Something I did differently in my marathon that I haven’t done in other, shorter, runs was spend the first couple of hours in a pacer group. (A ‘pacer’ is someone who runs at a certain, even speed that targets a specific finish-time. They carry a flag or a balloon, and people tend to cluster around or near the pacer, knowing that sticking around them will bring them in about a minute or so before the paced time.) 

The best part of spending time in the pacer group is the conversation and encouragement. I formed a lovely friendship with a pacer named Jeanne, who spoke passionately to me about running and its place in her life. She gets a real kick out of supporting others to do well – especially newbies like me. 

One thing she said that stuck with me was about how she approaches running. She runs a few marathons a year, mostly as a volunteer pacer so she can enjoy the free entry. She can run speedy times – but that’s not what she’s there for. She said to me “I just love running. I feel so lucky to be able to run, and I want to be able to do it for as much of my life as I can. Every time I run I just enjoy it and count it as a blessing.” 

For Jeanne, regular running isn’t a means to an end – it IS the end. The habit is the result.  

This is true of so many other things. How many books and articles have you seen about how to cultivate the habits of successful people? Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits springs to mind here. The assumption here is often that taking on the habits will produce the results – except, I think we are missing the point a bit. There is no finite point. When it comes to change, resilience and success – oftentimes the habit IS the result. 

“If we keep doing what we’re doing… we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting” – Stephen Covey

In a session I facilitated down south last week, we talked a lot about the role of organisational culture in strategy success and the things that need to change to create a better one. Organisational culture is a great reference point for this discussion because culture is something that is never really ‘done’. It lives and dies daily on the attitudes and behaviours of those that exist inside in the organisation. 

Change resilience is the same – actively cultivating habits that serve us will establish this resilience, but like a muscle, if we don’t use them often, they will weaken. It’s taken me a while to realise this, but the habits that are required to successfully achieve a big goal (like running a marathon), are often more rewarding than the goal itself. I now eat well, go to bed earlier, create space in my schedule for wellness, and exercise daily. Marathon or not, those habits serve me in every aspect of my life – and discontinuing any of them will have a noticeable negative impact. 

I talk a lot about how change is hard to pull off, and this is true for personal and organisational change. One of the main reasons is making it ‘stick’. Identifying the habits that you and your team need to cultivate to do that is critical – and you will find they are a worthy result in themselves! 

To close our workshop session last Thursday, each participant stood in front of the group and proclaimed a new habit they were going to cultivate. The habit could be something to start or something to stop. This is a useful practice because it promotes targeted change (identifying one specific change is much more actionable than a whole suite, which is overwhelming). It also creates an environment of accountability – once you’ve made a promise to your colleagues, you are far more motivated to make it happen! 

What habits do you need to cultivate to get where you’re going?

Here’s Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits:

  • Be proactive

  • Begin with the end in mind

  • Put first things first

  • Think win-win

  • Seek first to understand, then to be understood

  • Synergise

  • Sharpen the saw

How To...  Cultivate Habits That Serve 

  • Identify behaviours and habits that stand between you and your goal 

  • Select between one and three new ones that will take you in the right direction (less is more

  • Say them out loud or visibly make them a target for accountability.

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