Seth Godin blogs today about habits. I’d probably add another category — that of the routine. Starbucks in the morning is a routine (OK, for some of you, it’s a habit). Brushing your teeth is (I hope) a habit. Your route to work is a routine. Pusing glasses back on your nose when you start to speak is a habit.Presenting is a lot more habit than it is routine. And most folks have developed more bad habits than good. But habits are actually relatively easy to make, as Seth notes. I’ve seen people with habits/ticks that masked their message so completely it was impossible to hear what they had to say. One speaker I first saw 10 years ago had a little tickle laugh after EVERY sentence. People who took the class this person taught will imitate the laugh the moment you mention the name. Most can’t remember a single point from the 5-day class, but can imitate the laugh without a moment’s hesitation after 10 years. What does that say about the message given and received?Our challenge as speakers is to make good habits. The problem with habits is they must first start as awareness. And that awareness rarely comes from our internal fortitude — it requires an external influence. It’s usually painful to realize our shortcomings. And it’s frustrating to realize how hard it is to turn awareness into a habit. But with refinement, practice, continual improvement, and opportunity, wallah! We have a new habit.Perhaps the most noticeable habit is just non-words like “um”. It’s certainly not the worst thing to do, but it’s the easiest to notice (and correct). When I took my first speaker class that turned me on to this passion, I had 19 “ums” in a 90-second introduction. And I was a professional trainer with more than 10 years of experience at the time, got great reviews from my students, and generally felt that I was in the top tier of my field. That DVD of my initial effort is something I like to watch periodically to remind myself of the need for continual improvement and external influence. Within just a few weeks, I had the problem licked and developed a new habit (the pause). I now am so aware of my ‘ums’ that I can count them myself and they usually can be counted on one hand — in a WEEK. It’s just a habit.What are you doing to get better? What habit have you developed in the last week? Month? Year?
Habits take an external influence, a concerted effort, and repetition.