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Building Effective Habits: Why Your Daily Routine Deserves a Scorecard

    If you’ve ever ridden a train in Tokyo, you might have noticed a curious routine among conductors. As they operate the train, they engage in a ritual of pointing and calling out commands. When approaching a signal, they’ll point and declare its status, saying, “Signal is green.” Similarly, they announce the exact speed as the train moves in and out of stations, and when it’s time to depart, they point at the timetable and state the time.

    The Power of Pointing-and-Calling

    This process, known as Pointing-and-Calling, may seem odd but serves as a safety measure, reducing errors by up to 85% and cutting accidents by 30%. The New York City subway system even adopted a modified version, witnessing a significant drop in incidents within two years of implementation.

    Heightened Awareness and Habitual Behaviour

    Pointing-and-Calling’s effectiveness lies in elevating awareness from unconscious to conscious levels. When operators engage their senses—eyes, hands, mouth, and ears—they become more vigilant, spotting issues before they escalate.

    Applying the Concept in Daily Life

    Similar practices can benefit personal habits. The Habits Scorecard, for instance, allows a simple way to analyse behaviours. Listing daily habits and marking them as good, bad, or neutral based on personal goals reveals patterns and areas for improvement.

    Here’s a sample of where your list might start:

    • Wake up
    • Turn off alarm
    • Check my phone
    • Go to the bathroom
    • Weigh myself
    • Take a shower
    • Brush my teeth
    • Floss my teeth
    • Put on deodorant
    • Hang up towel to dry
    • Get dressed
    • Make a cup of tea
    • . . . and so on.
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    Once you have a full list, look at each behaviour, and ask yourself, “Is this a good habit, a bad habit, or a neutral habit?” If it is a good habit, write “+” next to it. If it is a bad habit, write “–”. If it is a neutral habit, write “=”.

    For example, the list above might look like this:

    • Wake up =
    • Turn off alarm =
    • Check my phone –
    • Go to the bathroom =
    • Weigh myself +
    • Take a shower +
    • Brush my teeth +
    • Floss my teeth +
    • Put on deodorant +
    • Hang up towel to dry =
    • Get dressed =
    • Make a cup of tea +

    The way you judge a habit depends on what you want and where you are in life. For instance, eating a toast with peanut butter every morning might not be great if you’re trying to lose weight, but for someone aiming to gain muscle, it could be a good move. It’s all about what you’re aiming for.

    Rating your habits can be tricky. Calling something a “good habit” or “bad habit” isn’t always accurate. There aren’t really “good” or “bad” habits, just effective ones—those that solve problems. Even the habits that seem not so great have a purpose; that’s why we stick to them. In this exercise, consider how your habits will benefit you in the long run.

    Typically, good habits result in positive outcomes, while bad habits lead to negative ones. For example, smoking a cigarette might relieve stress momentarily, but it’s not healthy in the long run.

    If you’re still unsure about how to judge a habit, ask yourself: “Does this behaviour align with who I want to be? Does it support the person I aim to become?” Habits that match your desired identity are usually good, while those conflicting with it are often not so great.

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    Embracing Awareness Without Judgment

    The primary goal isn’t immediate change but self-awareness. The Scorecard encourages observing habits without criticism or praise, merely acknowledging actions as they occur.

    Leveraging Awareness for Change

    Recognizing bad habits is the initial step to transforming them. Utilizing techniques like Pointing-and-Calling in personal life involves verbalizing actions and their consequences, adding weight to decisions and interrupting habitual routines.

    The Power of Acknowledgment

    Simply verbalizing intentions, whether related to habits or tasks, significantly increases the likelihood of follow-through. This acknowledgment creates a sense of accountability, propelling action towards desired outcomes.

    Initiating Behaviour Change Through Awareness

    Strategies like Pointing-and-Calling and the Habits Scorecard focus on heightening awareness of habits and their triggers, empowering individuals to respond more intentionally, leading to positive outcomes.

    Harnessing Behavioural Awareness

    The process of change always starts with heightened consciousness. Approaches like Pointing-and-Calling and the Habits Scorecard focus on recognizing habits and acknowledging the cues that prompt them. This awareness enables more deliberate responses, fostering positive results.

    Unveiling Habits’ Impact

    Understanding the impact of habits is pivotal. While there aren’t inherently “good” or “bad” habits, each serves a purpose or solves a problem, even if it’s not immediately apparent. The Scorecard categorizes habits based on their alignment with long-term goals, delineating between net positive and negative outcomes.

    Embracing Identity-Aligned Habits

    Identifying habits that align with your desired identity signifies their value. Habits reinforcing this identity tend to be beneficial, while those conflicting with it often pose challenges. Evaluating habits through this lens guides the process of behavioural change.

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    Nurturing Non-Judgmental Observation

    Observing habits without judgment is key. The goal isn’t self-criticism or accolades but understanding behaviours as they unfold. Recognizing habits, both favourable and unfavourable, helps lay the foundation for change without attaching emotional weight.

    Empowering Change Through Vocalization

    Verbalizing intentions amplifies accountability. Techniques like Pointing-and-Calling can be applied in personal settings, where articulating actions and their consequences brings added weight to decisions, interrupting the cycle of autopilot behaviours.

    Amplifying Action with Acknowledgment

    Merely verbalizing intentions significantly boosts the likelihood of follow-through. Acknowledging the need for action creates a sense of responsibility, elevating the likelihood of desired outcomes.

    Leading Change With Conscious Choices

    By leveraging strategies that heighten awareness, individuals can recalibrate habits toward more intentional and positive directions. Similar to the precision of the Japanese railway system, these methods foster conscious choices, leading to personal growth and fulfilment.

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    As we navigate our daily routines, it’s vital to understand the impact of our habits. Judging these patterns isn’t merely about labelling them as “good” or “bad.” Instead, it’s about recognizing their effectiveness in shaping our lives.

    By redefining our perspective on habits, we uncover their true nature—tools that either serve our goals or hinder our progress. Every habit, even those that seem detrimental, fulfils a purpose. The key lies in understanding how they align with our long-term aspirations.

    Let’s embark on this journey of self-discovery, assessing habits not by societal labels but by their ability to sculpt our desired identities. By nurturing awareness and embracing intentional choices, we pave the way for personal evolution and fulfilment. Remember, the power to shape our lives lies within the conscious decisions we make each day.

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