Good Habits Are Hard To Break

If you work out regularly at a health club, you may notice an interesting phenomenon. Every January you’ll see a big influx of newcomers. Suddenly you may have to wait a while for a treadmill to become available. Sometimes you may have to dodge metal weights coming at you from odd angles by novices attempting to invigorate atrophied muscles!

The annual surge in fitness fanatics is the result of people fulfilling New Year’s resolutions to get in shape. Is there anyone among us who hasn’t made this vow at some point in our life? “This is the year I will create a new me,” we say to ourselves. And we really, really mean it!

Then as the weeks pass in a new year the crowd gradually thins out. By February or March you’ll see hardly any of the new faces anymore. The spirit may be willing but the flesh is weak, or vice versa.

It takes willpower to sustain a fitness program of regular workouts. The key is to make it habit forming. Experts say you need to set aside an hour a day for exercise and assign a high priority to that hour. Some days you may get real busy and time eats into the exercise hour. But if you’re serious about working out you’ll take an hour away from something else – sleep, lunch, entertainment – and substitute physical activity. If you make exercise a habit, you’ll find the mental anguish of a ruptured conscience more painful than the physical discomfort of losing sleep or forgoing a meal. If you are tired and feel like doing nothing but lay on the couch watching TV, you’ll be roused out of your stupor knowing you’ll hate yourself the next day.

Bad habits are hard to kick, we all know that. But so are good ones. If we really want to shape our behavior for the better, we have to make it habit forming.

At Dutton Plumbing, we apply this principle to the way we run our business. Our people are drilled endlessly to make a habit of what we call “non-negotiable behaviors.” On every service call, for example, our technicians are required to put on plastic booties to avoid tracking dirt and debris before entering a home – no excuses. In a short time it becomes as much of a habit as putting on their shoes and socks in the morning. They also are required to obtain a signature from home owners authorizing work at the agreed price before beginning work. Another of their non-negotiable behaviors is to leave a workplace cleaner than they found it.

Likewise, our office staffers are required to answer phones in a certain way to make customers feel comfortable even when stressed out over a plumbing problem. Another non-negotiable behavior obliges them to drop whatever else they are doing to assist a customer in need. Office chores can always be performed later.

Once our people realize we won’t tolerate violation of these non-negotiable behaviors, they fall in line pretty quickly. They acquire good habits that take place without supervision, and a guilty conscience if they let one slip.

What good habits have you developed to help you enjoy a better life?