It was a trip to South-East Asia in her twenties, and a sabbatical to Harvard Business School in her forties, which prompted Julie Bishop’s idea for an initiative now supporting more than 30,000 Australians studying abroad. It was teaching herself to kitesurf, which got Melanie Perkins the investment for her company Canva, now worth a casual US$1 billion. It was burning out during her first startup, one she sold at 23, which sparked Yunha Kim’s second hugely successful app, Simple Habit. The one constant throughout these three successful women’s stories is the innovation created from an unexpected situation. It is the way in which one responds to a situation which defines their success, but it is their habits which create their response.
Habits play such a powerful role in our lives because they make up such a large sum of it. A 2006 Duke University paper revealed 40 percent of the actions people performed daily were not decisions, but in fact, habits. So it is no surprise habits can build up or break down careers. The influence of habits in our lives extends in both directions and while the brain creates habits as an energy-saving mechanism, it cannot tell the difference between good habits and bad habits. While habits often appear unconsciously they cannot be removed with force. They can, however, be reshaped and new habits can be created, so people have the ability to consciously design their habits in line with their ideal lives. As author and entrepreneur Seth Godin writes, “The difference between who you are now and who you were five years ago is largely due to how you’ve spent your time along the way. The habits we groove become who we are, one minute at a time. A small thing, repeated, is not a small thing.” Here, former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, former Elle Australia editor-in-chief Justine Cullen, PR maven Lynette Phillips, and entrepreneurs Cyan Ta’eed, Melanie Perkins and Yunha Kim reveal the habits they’ve instilled in their successful careers, to not only create efficiencies in their day-to-day tasks but help them operate effectively as leaders.
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