The formation of positive habits

In the zone (curry, wines, & videotape)

One summer evening in Birmingham in 1997, English cricketer Nasser Hussain retired early to his hotel room, ordered a curry and a glass of wine, and watched videotape of the Australian bowlers he would face the next day.

Little did he know that after the opposition was dismissed next morning he would blitz a majestic double century, including 38 blissful boundaries, demonstrating total command of the game for the only time in his career.

Striving to scale these heights again, for the remainder of his Test Match career he repeated the same evening routine: curry, wine, and videotape, alone in his hotel room.

Dropping anchor

I wish I’d heard of this concept in my amateur cricketing days, because it makes sense: prepare with a routine that’s comfortable for you and has worked before, and stick with it. Plus I love a curry!

I very much doubt there’s any scientific evidence linking Indian food & hotel room service with sporting outperformance, but of course the familiarity of the routine acted as an anchor, reinforcing self-belief.

Test cricketers can be a strangely superstitious bunch.

Gooch swore by a cup of tea before his turn at the crease, Waugh always batted with a lucky red rag in his left pocket, while Stewart was known to eat chicken breasts – no skin – with mashed potatoes & broccoli for 43 consecutive days while touring the subcontinent (possibly to avoid food poisoning risk…or maybe he just didn’t like spicy food).

Habit formation

To heighten the level of your performance over time, consistency of behaviour is key.

If you’re anything like me, you might all too easily forget to do the good stuff, so the most effective way to encourage positive behaviours is often simply to jot them down as a reminder.

If you then experience reward from a positive action, you’ll naturally be keen to repeat the routine next time you’re reminded of it, and in time a habit is formed. Cue, action, benefit.

A fruitful way to cement the formation of new habits is to celebrate milestones and successes.

Daily success habits

Those ‘my kind of day’ articles sometimes sound a bit hollow in my experience, but here are 4 daily success habits that really do work:

(i) Early starts – early rising is not for everyone, but successful people often love to get a head-start on the world, possibly because they’re so passionate about what they do that they can’t wait to start the day. There are fewer distractions in the wee hours, too;

(ii) Short to-do list – many of us get overwhelmed because we attach an equal importance to each job and task that comes our way. Listing just 3 things that you must achieve in the day ahead is a powerful remedy;

(iii) Exercise – movement & exertion have known health benefits, and this also fires you up mentally into a more productive state; and

(iv) Do the important stuff first – argh, procrastination! You know what I’m on about. I’ve done it too – it sucks!

Aristotle said that ‘quality is not an act. It is a habit.’

That is, we become what we do repeatedly.

To be successful & improve performance, then, craft for yourself a positive daily routine!