Changing Habits

We all have them. Some of them good, some of them bad. Habits are those things we do without too much thought. We kind of go through our day and they just happen. 

We’ve all heard the saying “keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.” We conclude from this quote that we need to change in order to get different and presumably better results. One area to look at is the type of habits you have developed, both good and bad. I’m not just talking about physical habits but also mental habits. Sometimes our thoughts can either get in our way or can propel us forward. So what needs to be changed? Which habits should you stop and which ones should you adopt? This, of course, is much easier to answer than actually implement. But the good news is we all have the freedom of choice. It starts there.

There have been many people that have studied habits. How to stop bad habits and how to adopt good ones. And some have studied those habits that tend to go with success. The popular book that comes to mind is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. If you haven’t read it I strongly recommend it. 

Many experts say it takes, on average, about 21 days to start a new habit or stop a bad one. I would guess it depends on how ingrained (or not ingrained) the habit is. I can tell you that I used to smoke. I quit many years ago. And it was about that three-week mark that my craving for cigarettes started to diminish. It is doable. Determination, discipline and persistence are very important qualities to make it happen.

Mental habits may be more important to consider than physical ones. Most people don’t consider changing their mental habits. Most would agree that if you took some golf lessons from a top professional and had the time to practice every day for two hours for the next month your game would improve ten fold. Yet when it comes to the mental side of training our brains, not too many people think about taking a similar approach.

“So where do I start”? you may be asking. Well, take a look at the people around you. Who is successful? Who should you emulate? What are they doing that you are not? And what are you doing, that may be holding you back, that they don’t do? One exercise is to list some of your most admired individuals from history. Maybe Ronald Reagan, General Washington, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, General Patton or Winston Churchill. Come up with your own list.  Now think about what these folks did and what habits they may have had that propelled them to success. Now make yourself a list of those habits or characteristics. And, just as important, what do you think they didn’t do, that if they did, might have held them back. Write it all down. Then prioritize those things you need to take action on that will get you to the results you desire. You certainly should share your list and action plan with someone so you have some sense of accountability. This will help in your discipline in making the necessary changes. 

Now make a point to review your list daily. This might include daily affirmations to change your thought pattern about certain beliefs you might have or to ingrain new ones. You may want to take a few minutes at the end of every day and review your progress. Give yourself a pat on the back when you are progressing nicely. Have patience when you have some issues and tell yourself you will improve tomorrow. Before you know it you will have stopped some of those bad habits and replaced them with some good ones and with some great mental patterns. 

I won’t say any of this is easy. It’s not. Changing habits and particularly thought patterns are some of the hardest things you might face. But persistence is the key.

As mentioned earlier the good news is you have a choice. You can take control of what you do today that will form the results you get in the future. The sooner you make the choice and take the actions the sooner you will move forward. May I suggest you start RIGHT NOW!