Habits are key to getting where you want to go in a shorter amount of time. Everything we do is about the habits and the standards that we create. Those habits can be productive or unproductive habits. They run on autopilot, and that can be a good thing if you don’t have to think about doing the right thing at the right time. However, if it’s automatically doing what keeps you from getting to where you want to go, it’s inhibiting you from what you really want. Karen Huller, founder of Epic Careering and author of Laser-Sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint Your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days, talks about creating purposeful habits so you can get more focused on your goals, reset your priorities, and gain greater fulfillment. She says it may feel overwhelming to take make changes and adopt new habits, but it really doesn’t have to take a large investment of time and you can take it as a challenge and start with minimal incremental changes that can make a huge impact.
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Creating Purposeful Habits: Getting More Focused On Your Goals with Karen Huller
On this show, we focus on ways to get you back to regain your focus, to reset priorities and to take back time, not literally but in the ways that we approach our time management in our thinking systems. I’m super excited to have Karen Huller with us. She is the Founder and Owner of Epic Careering. They help corporate professionals to gain greater fulfillment and improve their impact at work. That means productivity. I’m super excited to have you here.
Thank you so much.
I like people to tell us more about themselves directly from your perspective because we can all read your bio, but we want to know a little bit more of how did you decide to get into this background and to help corporate professional.
I was a recruiter. I did IT recruiting, executive recruiting, clinical recruiting, and I love being able to put people into jobs that were a fit, but I found myself saying no more than saying yes. I found myself more inclined to want to teach people how they could get the yes. One fateful day, I decided to do that with the help of a coach. What I was finding and how this practice has evolved is I wanted to help people with the pragmatic step of finding that next level of fulfillment in their careers. What I found that was true of them and was also true for me, especially after I had kids and was working from home with the kids, that habits are the key to getting where you want to go in a shorter amount of time.
I don’t know why we call it time management because it’s a positive habit creation and management. Everything we do is about the habits and the standards that we create. Those habits can be productive habits and they can be unproductive habits.
We have to first be aware that habits are working or not working. That’s why we can’t do anything about them because they run on autopilot, that’s what habits do. They just sit there running on autopilot and that can be a good thing if you don’t have to think about doing the right thing at the right time. It’s inhibitive to what you really want if it’s automatically doing what keeps you from getting to where you want to go. Unfortunately, our brain is just like any strengths. Any strength can become a liability. It’s the same with that part of our brain because if we can adopt a good habit, then we don’t have to think about it. It is not a decision point that we have to make at our day. It’s just something we automatically do. If you ever change a habit like fitness, you get into a habit where you’re exercising daily and then you don’t have to think about it, it actually pulls you into it.
Habits are key to getting where you want to go in a shorter amount of time. Click To Tweet You don’t have to push it anymore. In beginning, you have to push and then eventually when the habits adopted it pulled you into doing it. Most of us experienced that with fitness, but it’s true of how we manage our time. It’s true of even our mindset, the things that we need to think about that will pull us into action. If you have to look at your milestones and break them up and then meet your milestones in order to get where you want to go, then you need the habit to pull you into that action. The brain is protective of us, which is a good thing, it will keep us in what’s comfortable and safe. That’s a primitive instinct so we have to override that somehow. There are ways that we can leverage our brains, override that compulsion to want to stay where we are and the habits that we have, so we can create the change that we want to see and then get different results.
I want to just highlight some of the things that are really important. Creating habits is the hard part. It’s once you get in rhythm and it’s become a habit and I call it a ritual like when it’s graduated from habit, which is maybe unconscious and unpurposeful to a ritual, which is a purposeful habit. It’s hard at first. Help us train our brain. How do we do that? We know we want something different, but our impulse is to say, “Don’t do it. That’s going to be painful. Go the other way.” How do we do that? How do we take that first step and work through the pain that happens when we’re creating new habits?
There are two things that you need to know about yourself before you start a habit. One is what do you want? Sometimes we’re up to goals that aren’t our own, somebody else assigned them to us. If that’s the truth, then we’re going to wind up sabotaging ourselves at every point. Our brain is not going to be on our side. Somewhere deep inside your subconscious, it’s like, “You were told you want it, but we don’t want this. We want that.” The first thing to do is to be self-aware of where you want to go and then be clear about that vision and that focus. Tony Robbins has this saying that I used to have on my whiteboard right across the shop, “Action without a high level of focus is the drain of your fortune.” You have to first make sure that you are adopting a habit that’s in alignment with what you want so that when it does become a habit, you’re pulled into it and it’s for the right reasons, it’s going to get you where you want to go.
The other one is understanding your tendencies. Gretchen Rubin wrote several books, one that particularly introduces these Four Tendencies of forming habits. There is the obliger, which is somebody who will do something for you. They are inclined to do with externally what other people keep them accountable to do and neglect what they want for themselves. If that’s you then you need an accountability partner, because you’re going to be more inclined to do it for somebody else than you’ll be inclined to do it for yourself. There’s the questioner, who needs to understand exactly how this works before they’ll buy into it. The upholder, who will do it just because they believed that it’s right based on what other people have said and who they want to be for those people. Then there’s the rebel who’s not going to do it because they think it’s your idea. That awareness will help you create a system that will help you adopt the habit more easily.
With the clear vision, that a lot of people, they don’t write down their goals so they get caught up in what’s happening and they’re not thinking what are they creating. Really understanding what they want for their life one year, three years down the road and so forth can make a huge difference because people don’t spend the time to reflect, to be clear of what they want and what their path is. I totally get that. In terms of the tendencies, you are saying that one needs to understand which kind of person you are, whether you’re an obligor and you just do it because other say or whether you don’t know how yet, so you’re not taking the move, is that what you’re saying?
It helps to understand what your challenges are going to be in adapting habits beforehand. You can strategize with them, for them.
One thing that is clinically proven to help the area of your brain that is responsible for focus is to spend time to let your thoughts flow. Click To Tweet Something you said struck me as important for people is accountability. You said that in some cases, you might need an accountability partner and I would argue in all cases you need an accountability partner. We suck at holding ourselves accountable even when we want something. I know when we have a clear vision and we’re connected to it and we feel passionate about it, that it can be something that holds us accountable because it’s a part of who we are. It would be painful for us not to achieve whatever it is that we’ve set forth. I’m a firm believer that an accountability partner ups the game. It means that you’ve created a level of commitment outside of yourself because you know that stuff’s going to come up and that you need that. I believe it helps you to focus as well. What’s your opinion on that?
If your accountability partner is aware as you are of your tendencies, then they can be a much more powerful accountability partner. If your accountability partner, for instance, doesn’t know that you’re a rebel, then you’ll wind up getting ghosted. You don’t understand why, but it’s because they don’t want to be accountable for you. They don’t want it to be your idea. They don’t want it to be doing it for you. They want to be doing it for them and they’ll sabotage themselves just because they don’t want to be accountable to anyone. If you’re an accountability partner for somebody who is a rebel, then what you need to understand how to do is to make sure that they remember that it’s their idea, it’s what they want and they’re in charge. If they let a bad habit stay in place and keeps them from where they want to go, then ultimately they’re letting the bad habit have control.
In the case that you’ve got a rebel personality type, that person and I think any accountability partner is best off, you never tell somebody what to do. If you’re my accountability partner, I’m telling you this is my goal and then that person’s job is to ask questions and just to support me to reach the goal and not to tell me what to do.
That’s a good clarification for any accountability partner.
I don’t even know if you have to be a rebel. I wouldn’t like it if my accountability partner is starting to tell me, “You said you were going to work out two times a week, but I think you should work out four times a week.” I probably would get myself a new accountability partner. Although that would be a coach. We pay people to push us harder than we push ourselves, but that’s another story.
I can see there being some hesitancy to be an accountability partner because of what it might do to relationships should the accountability fall through.
That’s why it’s always important to get an external, somebody who’s not connected in your life that doesn’t have any skin in the game, so to speak.
With your question, you want your accountability partner to keep reminding you why this works and how it works so you won’t forget.
I never thought about that in terms of the different roles that an accountability partner could play based on your personality type. That’s valuable in saving your time and picking the right accountability partner or letting know this is who you are and this is the thing that you need. One of the things that a lot of people talk about in terms of bad habits, if we’re talking about habit change, is being able to get away from distractions. People are just completely distracted all the time. I have on my website the statistic that 59% of the people feel distracted and depleted all the time. What are some tips to help people to avoid distraction and to get more focused?
One thing that is clinically proven to help the area of your brain that is responsible for the focus is to spend time. It doesn’t have to be every day and it doesn’t have to be a significant investment of time. It could be ten minutes, three times a week, but just to let your brain defrag. Let your thoughts flow, let it calm you, let your mind achieve focus. There are over 1,500 studies on meditation and a lot of them are in the last several years and there are so many more that I forget what percentage of the Fortune 500 are adopting meditation now. 44% of Fortune 100 companies have meditation programs.
This is not a fad, this is real.
This is proven by many independent studies that are doing this meditation, whether it be mindfulness meditation. You don’t have to do a particular type of breathing. It’s just letting your mind calm down will help your mind focus throughout your day. It wasn’t even an experiment. They implemented this in Aetna and what they found was that for every ten minutes of meditation, they were creating twenty more minutes of productivity. You spend a minute meditating, you get two minutes back in time. That’s pretty tremendous.
Every habit that you start is going to push until it becomes something that you do as a compulsion. Click To Tweet That’s a great example because it’s a concrete study that was done at Aetna.
Not only will you get extra focus, you’ll be able to fend off those distractions, but you’re going to be able to make decisions better. You’re going to find that the things that were stressing you out, that inhibit all the centers of your brain that operate at a higher level are operating much better. While you’re in the work, you’re getting more work done.
Karen, don’t you hear this, “I don’t have the time to meditate?”
That’s why I love the study because nobody has time to get done everything they want to get done, but the actual practice that was implemented, the fact that they were finding these people were taking ten minutes of meditation three times a week, who doesn’t have ten minutes three times a week? When you first get in, if you just replace something you’re doing like social media or talking at the water cooler or whatever it happens to be, that ten minutes of meditation, they were producing 62 extra minutes of productivity.
I hear what you’re saying and I believe in this but I know that a lot of the readers are going, “But.” There’s a big, “But” in their head where there are a lot of things that we know, but we don’t do what we know. How do we get people to take action to get started with this so that they can experience it themselves and get out of their, “But?”
Let’s go back to the focus because it all depends on what you want for your life and nobody else should be able to dictate that to you. What you want is to be able to go to work and be clearheaded, to fend off distractions, to be productive, to get more done in less time. If that’s what you want, then that ten minutes of meditation can also turn into a visualization and the visualization can pull you into a meditation, it can be a loop that you create. The loop is what will move you from making a new habit, a push and more of a pull. That’s the transition point. At first, every habit that you start is going to feel like a push until it’s a pull, until it’s something that becomes something that you do as a compulsion to do it.
It’s on your mind. It’s like you automatically wake up and say, “What am I going to fit this in?” or you automatically just do it. The great thing is that this can be something that you set your alarm ten minutes earlier. You set your alarm ten minutes earlier, you decide to lie in bed for ten minutes and do this. You literally don’t even have to get up out of bed to do it. If you understand, you play through your head in the first few days you are finding those challenges and you’re like, “What is stopping me?” Even the meditation that helps you become more self-aware, where you are just sitting and you’re thinking about, “What did I do today? Why wasn’t I able to take this action?” That is this habit that I want to create.
A self-awareness that comes through the meditation, that area of time that you set apart just to think about, “Why am I not adopting this new habit?” is going to help you see where you need to set up systems that will help you overcome those challenges. If you’re like, “I’m going to do this the first ten minutes before getting to work.” You get into work and you find that first ten minutes instead of being able to meditate you find that emails are pinging or people are stopping in your office or whatever those tendency distractions have to be. You can either decide, “I’m going to walk in and shut my door right away?” Or you can say, “I’m going to sit for ten minutes in my car before I walk into the building and do it.” You have to create that awareness first.
You have to see what works for you. I always suggest to people, you don’t start by saying, “I’m going to do this from now on.” Just do it for one day and see the difference, build some experience and then go to the next day. You can take it one day at a time with the clear intention that you’re going to do it because some people get overwhelmed to think that they’re building this new habit.
The reinforcement of having a positive outcome with anything new that you try is going to be one more thing that helped you make it a habit. If that’s what you ultimately look for.
Lots of different techniques. Each person is different, so they have to figure out which techniques work best for them. We’re talking about taking back time. We’ve talked about how the power of mindfulness and meditation can be a huge investment in taking back time and changing habits. Is there anything else before we close out the show that you wanted to share with the readers about changing habits or just about a tip to take back time?
I want to stress that even though it may feel overwhelming to take on a change, that’s our brain protecting us from something that it might perceive as scary because it’s new. It doesn’t have to take a large investment of time and you don’t have to commit 100% from the get go. You can see it as an experiment, you can see it as an invitation or challenges excite you, you can see it as a challenge. I encourage people to try it. If you need guidance, engage your coach or engage your accountability partner.
A recent Aetna study showed that every 10 minutes of meditation creates 20 minutes more productivity. Click To Tweet Thank you so much for some great insights. It’s so simple and that Aetna study hit home for me. I haven’t heard that and that’s a simple, huge value to see that for every ten minutes of meditation, you get back twenty minutes of productivity. That was a highlight for me. How can people get a hold of you?
People can get a hold of me through my website at EpicCareering.com. They can also send me a direct email at Karen@EpicCareering.com. I’d love to interact with people who are interested in leveling up their productivity, level up fulfillment and people who want to make a large contribution. Even if what you’re up to is a change in your organization, for your organization, it’s your organization or within your organization, we can talk about things that you can do individually. We can talk about things that you can do with your staff that can little minimal incremental changes that can make a huge impact.
Thank you so much, Karen, for being here.
Thank you, Penny. Thanks for having me.
Thank you to the audience for being here and for taking away that nugget that’s going to support you in the future to take back time.
- Epic Careering
- Four Tendencies