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Culture Change

Form a Habit

Chris Harrison

May 1, 2024

Recently I explored the differences between IQ and EQ and suggested that EQ matters more than IQ for so many areas of life. I also revealed that Emotional Intelligence skills aren’t simply innate. In fact, with the correct stimulus and practice, any of us can improve our so-called ‘soft skills’. I happen to know this from personal exposure to Mygrow -  a proven EQ development platform pioneered in South Africa a decade ago.

Through Mygrow, I have adjusted many of my self-perceptions and learned the science behind the long-held belief that ambitious people are their own harshest critics. I have developed greater optimism through the ability to pause, take stock and be grateful for the good things that happen around me every day. And I have learned to make better decisions … something I didn’t think I would need to work on in my sixth decade!

But there’s no doubt that it takes practice. You can’t read an article on EQ and change your abilities any more than you can pump your biceps by reading Men’s Health magazine. So, why is ‘soft’ so hard?

The writer Malcolm Gladwell explored this in his book ‘Outliers’ (2008).

He looked at what makes people successful, trying to identify patterns in hundreds of stories of individual merit. And he came to the conclusion that highly successful people usually dedicate around ten thousand hours to mastering something new. It is this dedication (practice over time) that creates success. But Gladwell never explained what enables some people to have that kind of self-discipline.

The scientific reality is that developing new behaviours requires something else: the ability to form habits. A habit is a great way to overcome any impulse that might distract you.

This was famously illustrated by an experiment run in 1970 at Stanford University to examine delayed gratification. A group of children were taken into an empty room, one at a time. The researcher showed each child a marshmallow and told them they could eat it whenever they wanted to. But, if they waited until he came back, they would get a second marshmallow as a reward. Then he left the room. Some kids waited, others just gobbled it up, forfeiting the reward. The Stanford team then tracked the lives of these children into adulthood and what they found was amazing.

Those who were able to control their impulses as children were more successful later in life: In their relationships, academic performance and career success. Even in their health and wellbeing. They flourished in many different areas of life.

As the entrepreneur and writer Jim Rohn said: “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”