We die a little every day at the hands of our bad habits. I don't mean this in a judgmental way because you have to decide if a habit is indeed "bad". My meaning of a bad habit is something that keeps us from achieving a goal that we have set for ourselves. Our habits present themselves in the form of things we do (or don't do) each day which could also be called our activities. These activities represent our efforts and as Aristotle said, "Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit"
The kicker is that you have to define excellence and ensure that you are not defaulting to someone else's idea.
- What is your definition of success?
- What do you aspire to achieve?
- Why does it matter?
Once you answer these questions for yourself, you might have a shot at changing your activities (behaviors) and start moving in the direction of your dreams. Knowing "why" is probably the most important piece of the puzzle. If you don't believe me, watch Simon Sinek as he is much more entertaining and also has a great accent!
Once you understand your why, then you might have a shot at changing your habits. The reason you need your why is because inertia is a bitch! It takes nearly Herculean effort to change our habits and that means it has to be very important or else we will fail. It's like driving a tractor in a rut. When you are in a rut, it is so much easier because you don't have to steer at all. It is hard work to get out of the rut and harder yet to stay out. That's how powerful our habits become. Imagine if F. Matthias Alexander was right when he observed that, "People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” Are we now at the mercy of our younger self and just riding the ruts we carved out years ago?
We can make a change but that means we have to tackle our head trash. Those beliefs we have that tell us what we can or cannot do, should or should try, and why it's not worth the effort. This is probably so ingrained that you don't even realize it's optional because you take it as something you "know" versus something you "believe". Makes it easier that way because we are powerless to change it.
I am not saying any of this is easy. In fact, it is one of the hardest things anyone can tackle because it takes place between our ears and our mind is a dangerous neighborhood to go into alone. If you decide you are going to be in that small percentage of folks who actually own their lives, here's a short list of ideas:
- Start small and build momentum. Your willpower is a muscle that must be developed.
- Do one habit a time and ensure the new habit is "set" before you move on to something new. This means you will feel the "pull" of doing it and probably takes 60-70 days of repetition.
- Understand how your energy ebbs/flows and create systems to help you.
- Don't try it alone...we all need help and support. That's smart, not weak.
- Don't make it an all or nothing proposition. If you fail one day, begin again the next.
- Always ensure you are tied to your "why" because, as Friedrich Nietzsche said, "S/He who has a why to live can bear almost any how."
As the Pogo cartoon famously said, "We have met the enemy and it is us." The quickest and best way to avoid the death of a thousand cuts is to put down the knife!