Developing good habits is the key to success is any area of life. Be it personal, financial or otherwise, without setting good habits, we will fail. But through proper habit setting, we can achieve all the success we’ve ever wished for.
“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavour.”
– Henry David Thorea
Habits are the small steps we take every day that lead to our destiny – be it fortune or failure. They are the choices we make or don’t make each day that have the power to take us to a destination of our choosing. It’s only through taking conscious control of the habits we are developing and by committing to setting good habits, that we can completely ensure our success.
Why is it so hard to keep good habits?
We’ve all done it. We set our mind on something we want to achieve. We read the books. We join the clubs. We talk about it to everyone around us. Heck, we even manage to do it for a while. But sooner or later, our motivation takes a nose dive. We no longer feel the wind at our back or see the light at the end of the tunnel and we slow our run to a walk, eventually stop, shrug our shoulders and decide what to do next. Then months later, the desire comes back around and we kick ourselves for giving up all that time ago. Why couldn’t we just stick at it? Well…
We live in a short-sighted society
Our attention spans are shrinking quicker than the polar ice caps. Merely a few decades into the Information Age and we’re already struggling to sit down and read a whole book or watch a whole news report. We want headlines, articles, bullet points, summaries, even short sentences and plenty of white space in our text. We’re getting lazy. All this technology to make life easier than it ever has been and we complain that we don’t have enough time!
This mindset translates into our inability to stick to our good habits. If you take a look at the way video games are designed, you’ll see that the most effective method of keeping a player engaged is a reward system. We need very bright lights at the end of extremely short tunnels to keep us moving forwards.
Now all of this might sound negative, but I don’t mean it to – it’s just a truth that needs to be understood so that we can move beyond it. When we break our goals down into daily disciplines or habits, it becomes harder to see the light at the end of that tunnel. When we accomplish something big, we celebrate and feel accomplished and this motivates us. But it’s much harder to notice the small success we make each that will eventually lead us to success. It’s because we get such little percieved reward for the daily habits that we find them so hard to stick to.
So how can we stick to the good habits we create?
We begin by consistently reinforcing the value of the daily habits in our mind. If we acknowledge just how powerful these habits can be when added up over a year or five years, then we can celebrate them as we should. A good technique I use is to congratulate myself EVERY TIME I perform a good habit that I wish to keep. But before we can do this we must refine and select our habits…
Let’s say my goal is to be fit and healthy and in five years I wish to run a marathon. Well, I might break this down into several habits that I need to develop in order to reach my goal. They could be healthy eating habits and workout habits, along with the habit of saying no to things that will work against my goal, such as smoking, drinking, procrastination, unhealthy eating or too much recreation.
Once I have decided which habits I need to develop, I can break them down into daily and weekly habits. For example:
- eat 2500 clean calories
- run 2 miles (every other day)
- sleep 8 hours
- drink 6-8 glasses of water
- chart and check my progress
- have a rest day
- read motivational literature or immerse myself into the culture of health and fitness
- do a full body workout
- attend a yoga or stretching class
Now that I have decided on my habits for the next few months, I’ll get to work on them. However, each time I complete something on the list I will visualise myself completing the marathon and acknowledge in my mind that it will become possible only because I have just completed that habit. This alone will massively increase your self-esteem and self-confidence. You go for a run one day and you feel pretty good right? But when you go for that second run a few days later (or whenever your decide) you feel amazing! Why? Because you’re on your way! You stuck to your word! You should be proud. You said you’d do it and you did! It doesn’t get better than that. Then when you go for that third run, well, there’s nothing stopping you but you!
Chart your progress and reassess your habits. Just as an airplane is off course for most of its journey, by charting your progress and reassessing your habits you can make continual course corrections to keep you on the right track.
Also, by recording your progress, you’ll be able to get a clearer image of the progress you’re making. The light at the end of the tunnel will seem closer and you’ll be motivated to carry on.
This is one of the most important. Well, it was for me. In fact, it was life changing.
There’s going to be times when life comes at you hard and knocks you down and your habits slip away from you. This can be utterly demotivating. We feel like quitters. All of sudden, we’re beating ourselves up. That voice in our head is saying, “I knew you couldn’t do it. Who were you to even think you could do it?” And we believe it! We nod our head silently and think, “That’s right, I’m a failure.”
Stop right there. It’s ok that you’ve had these thoughts and it’s even ok that you broke your habit. It’s going to happen. Accept this as a fact. But the most important truth is this: This tiny insignificant failure to complete a habit does not make you a failure as a person, nor does it move you any further away from your goal.
Just take the small break you need, collect yourself and continue where you left off as soon as you can. Remember, you’re only competing against yourself. There’s no rush.
Do not identify with the fact that you didn’t stick to your habit. Just pick it up again as soon as you can. It’s fine, we all do it. You can’t fail if you don’t quit!
And that’s it! Set your habits, try your best, and if you fall off, get back on.
I wish you the best of luck and perserverance in the pursuit of your goals.
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