Do your habits chain you to failure or slingshot you to success?
“Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables.”
This Spanish proverb highlights a key attribute of habits: They’re a very sharp, double-edged sword. Good habits make life run smoothly, easily, and effectively. Bad ones effortlessly screw you up.
So what can you do to end the year with better habits than you started it with? Here are three steps to get your changes rolling.
Identify, with ruthless honesty, habits which are sabotaging your success.
An easy way to identify your counterproductive habits is to pay attention to your complaints. Here are two of my personal favorites.
• “Boy, I’m so tired!”
Are you eating mostly junk food? Are you stuffing yourself when you eat it? Do you keep working on your electronics until you (try to) go to sleep? Is your idea of exercise getting up to change the channel instead of using the remote? Then chances are, poor habits in the areas of nutrition, sleep hygiene, and physical activity are prime candidates for change.
• “There just aren’t enough hours in the day.”
For scrambling after every notification chime your devices send out? For tumbling into the black hole of YouTube? For getting updated on Facebook “friends” whose names don’t actually ring a bell with you?
When you consider what you complain about, chances are good that those irritating or frustrating situations have been caused, at least in part, by some counterproductive habits you’ve developed without even realizing it. So big congrats on becoming aware of and clearly identifying those habits; you’ve taken that crucial first step to changing them.
Electronics, people, or simple inertia can easily drive your day and determine how you spend your time; this equates to lousy task management. On the other hand, intentionally choosing which tasks get priority treatment based on what you choose to accomplish is great task management. It’s your choice which you develop into a habit.
Identify, with no false modesty, what habits you currently have which enable you to kick butt in your life and business.
Sometimes it’s easy to view positive habitual activities as “no big deal”, simply because you have already turned them into habits. This pooh-poohing is itself counterproductive; celebrate yourself, for pity’s sake!
For example, Sarah Else, owner and principal of Clearly Compliant, has developed a routine in which she spends just five minutes each morning meeting with her assistant to ensure both of them are on the same page for the day’s activities. Neither of them has to think about the meeting, because it’s a habit; basically, it “just happens.” This one small addition to Sarah’s routine has hugely increased focus, productivity, and results for both her and her assistant.
Thinking about what enabled you to develop one positive habit can provide insight into developing others.
Habits can lead to failure. Or success. Your choice.
Challenge yourself and be realistic about what you’re willing to commit to.
You’ve probably heard it scores of times: Growth occurs when you work through discomfort. (Yeeha.)
So to grow your effectiveness, productivity, satisfaction, and profitability, you get to do the uncomfortable work of dropping old habits and replacing them with new ones. Voilà! An easily defined, growth-enhancing challenge.
At the same time, you don’t want to kid yourself and, in the process, set yourself up for failure.
For example, I’m a morning person who really, really, really hates the cold. For me to claim I’m going to start the new year on a really healthy note by running first thing in the morning, every morning, is (a) a big, fat lie and (b) a habit that I know I’ll fail at building. Why do that to myself?
It makes a lot more sense to set myself up for success by challenging myself realistically. For me, that means doing yoga in a nice, climate-controlled house right after I’m done meditating.
So what are some of the results-sucking habits you’ve fallen into that you’re ready to break? And how about your success habits – how have you developed them? Share your comments (especially the wins!) in the Comments section below; the rest of us who are struggling with our personal challenges appreciate all the help we can get!
(BTW, thanks to Wapster for posting the slingshot image in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)This entry was posted in choice, productivity and tagged effectiveness. Bookmark the permalink.