A word from Superintendent Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.

Closing thoughts: Forming habits

A word from superintendent Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.

I sometimes listen to Podcasts in the morning as part of my wake-up routine. Several months ago, I happened upon the Huberman Lab Podcast and found it fascinating. Andrew Huberman, Ph.D., is a neuroscientist and tenured Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Over the summer, I caught an episode where he spoke briefly about creating and maintaining habits.

From that episode, I became aware of the book, “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. If I were to capture the entire book in one sentence, it would be an atomic habit is a regular practice or routine which is small and easy to do and is also the source of incredible power for compound growth. Habits are essentially the compound interest of self-improvement. Our environment is like an invisible hand that shapes our behavior.

What Huberman and Clear agree on is if you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Instead, we should focus on our system (or environment, if you prefer). Focusing on goals is a bit of a lost cause because you have quite literally designed your entire life (your system and your environment) around the life you are currently living. Setting a goal that is anywhere outside of your current life is destined for failure because your entire life is set up against it. Here is the most important part – the most effective way to change our habits is to focus not on what we want to achieve, but on who we wish to become. By doing this, we are more inclined to change the environment.

This information would have been really helpful to me years ago when my girls were very young. We set goals. We set bedtime goals, eating goals, reading goals, math goals, swimming goals, etc. We were goal driven. Looking back, I don’t think all these goals harmed them, but I do think I made my job a lot harder than it needed to be. My girls were much more driven and successful when they had identity habits above any goal habits. We were also much more successful when we focused on the environment and creating systems. As a parent, I didn’t know this language and thus, didn’t make the distinction. It is powerful (and more effective) for a parent to have a conversation with a son or daughter to talk about their identity as a reader and design a home environment around reading. If someone is a reader, how often do they read, what do they read, why do they read, where and when do they read? Kids seem to do this somewhat naturally around athletics or fine arts. I believe if a student has an identity where they picture themselves as a mathematician or reader, they are more likely to find success along the way. Instead of setting big goals (telling a 9th grader to focus on winning the Super Bowl), focus on the environment and success will follow.

By  Supt. Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.