everyday success


New Year’s 2017 - Day 4

Breaking Deep-Rooted Habits

It wouldn’t be a habit if it weren’t something you’ve done over and over and over again without ever thinking about it.  Habits become ingrained.  We repeat them mindlessly.  Sometimes we call our habits routines – really?  Our routines become habitual.

We get up each day – some of us pop right into the shower, others pull on their sweats and work out, others race to the coffee pot.  It’s rare we vary our routine except for holidays.  Our favorite foods, our beverages, our daily activities – all the ones we repeat each and every day, these are habitual.

Habits and their routine are not bad things – in fact, they’re super helpful in this crazy, busy world we live in.   Otherwise, we’ d spend lots of time planning the same things over and over again.  So, habits are good and helpful.  Except when they’re not.  Here’s where we run ourselves into a challenge – repetitive can sometimes run us into hard to break habits.

If you are thinking about breaking a habit, start by thinking about what you are doing when you put that habit into action.  Is there a particular time of day or a particular social situation that means it’s time for your habit?  Pull the entire experience apart to find what drives you to the habit.  For example, when I wanted to quit smoking, I realized that I identified myself as a smoker and that I didn’t like the idea of saying I could never smoke again.  What did I do?  I decided to put smoking off; twenty years later, I continue to think of myself as a smoker though I haven't had a cigarette for over twenty years.  You can read more about how this worked at 15-minute wins.

Habit guru, Charles Duhigg, tells about his afternoon cookie habit that he wanted to change.  With thought, he figured out that his purpose for going to the cafeteria for a cookie was to chat with others – he needed a break and human contact!  His result, instead of stopping to chat with a friend in the cafeteria, they do it in a meeting room not laden with food.  And, he brings an apple!

This, of course, is just the first step.  And, it isn’t as easy as these two examples might imply.  Still, if you begin to pull apart what reminds you to practice your habit, you’ll likely find some clues that will help you to break that habit.

New Year’s 2017 – Day 3

By now, you’ve likely decided where you’ll focus your energy in this year ahead.  Or, you’ve decided to pursue a resolution or goal.  To make this happen, to keep your promise to yourself, here are a couple of tips to help you on your journey.

  • Take your big goal and divide it into small, manageable chunks.  If you want 2016 to be the year of fitness but haven’t worked out in a while, try three 20-minute sessions a week for the first month and grow from there.  If you want to lose a total of 15-pounds, start with your focus on 5-pounds.  Once you’ve lost those 5, you’ll be proud and energized to take on another 5 whereas if you lost 5 and you still have 10 more to go, it may seem just too hard.
  • Congratulate your successes, encourage yourself if you slip.  That’s why small goals are so much more powerful – you get to congratulate yourself a whole lot and feel proud of what you’ve achieved.  Besides, smaller goals allow you to prove to yourself that you can do it, whatever you’ve decided ‘it’ is.
  • Plan for slippage.  Think about all the things that can get in your way of getting to your goal.  Decide how you will foil the demons that want to stand in the way of your success.  If a battle pursues inside your head with old habits trying to combat your new you, decide what you want to say to those old habits.  Plan for this.  Or, it could be a friend won’t be as encouraging as you’d expected; plan how to handle that.  Also, don’t be surprised when you encounter inertia – you just don’t want a salad tonight . . . or, you can’t face the gym today . . . or, you think, “I’m just too tired to go to that job fair”.  Making a change is a big decision and you will experience internal resistance.  Rather than let your mind and old habits win, decide how you will manage all the affronts to your New Year Goal.
  • Tackle one thing at a time.  Yes, you’ll likely be successful if you combine fitness and nutrition but your success will rest on taking on those small goals, not an earth-shifting massive goal.  On the other hand, if you want to focus on a new job, finding a new partner and making nutritional or fitness changes all at once, your chances of success are diminished.  Aside from the fact that our brain likes to keep things orderly, very few humans are able to make a lot of changes all at once.

Yesterday, on New Year Day 2, we discussed planning and action as the steps to your goal.  Today, on New Year Day 3, we’ve added a few success tips to get you to your goal.  Make 2016 your year of success.

New Year’s 2017 - Day Two

It’s the second day of your new year, have you decided what kind of year it will be for you?  Or, have you named some goals or resolutions?  If you’ve done either of these, then it’s time to make sure your promises to yourself really happen.                                                                                                                                                                                      

This is where it gets hard.  It’s easy to decide on something, it’s a lot harder to make that something happen.  Whether it’s physical fitness or finding a new romance, everything takes a plan.  You have an idea for the year-ahead but without a plan, it won’t happen.  You’ll need a plan and once you have a plan, you’ll need to take action. 

Here’s where lists come in.  What actions of yours will make your year-ahead, your goals or resolutions happen?  Open a memo page on your phone or take out a blank piece of paper.  Write down everything you might do to make your goal happen – what steps do you need to take to make it happen?  Write for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, an hour.  Write til you’ve uncovered all the ways you can bring your goal to life.

If you are thinking fitness, you might list your favorite ways to exercise, the time of day you like to exercise, how much time it takes to do your favorite exercises and how many days a week you want to work -out.  You might even make an exercise calendar for the next two weeks.   Could be you’ll want to add a few nutrition ideas.  Write out every action you can think of that will improve your fitness. 

Don’t forget to plan for your lazy days, the ones where you don’t want to make the effort.  Before you even start, have a plan for inner resistance, the desire to chuck the whole idea.  Figure out what will make you get to work and get you to your goal.

If you’d like to meet a romantic partner in the year ahead, remember that organizations are a great way to meet new people.   Add friends who like to fix people up to your list. 

While making the list, don’t forget to plan your conversations with new people.  That’s right, if you join a sailing club for their great single’s events, will your conversation include sailing stories?  If you ask a film-buff for fix-up suggestions, be prepared for the possibility of meeting others who love the cinema.  Write down all the actions you could take that would lead to meeting a possible romantic partner and include the dialog.  Build your plan for your success.

It takes planning and then action.  Once you’ve made your plan, then you’ll put that plan into action.  Today, on the second day of the year, write your plan describing the actions you will take to make the year-ahead the one you choose it to be.

What Are We Waiting For?

It turns out, I’ve been waiting for the sun.  With the days a bit longer and the sun a tad brighter, suddenly my diet seems pretty easy.  Since New Year’s, I’ve struggled, trying to diet but have managed to fail at each start.  In the week since we changed to daylight savings time, my diet has seemed easy.

This is my ‘learning moment’.  In the future, I’ll not start a diet mid-winter.  I’m a sunny-day person so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

Are you waiting for “the right moment” to start something?  Can you name what that right moment is?   Does it make sense or is it a delay tactic?  Maybe you can’t even figure out why you are not making the change you actually want to have happen. 

Is there something in the back of your mind, something you are holding out for?  Is your change something you could actually be doing today?  Perhaps you are waiting for permission to make the change.  Who would give that to you and why wouldn’t you be the person to decide?

Why not make today the first day of whatever it is you wish to be?

Making Change Happen - That Uncomfortable Feeling

You can see it in your mind, the you who has taken time to be calm, the you who is fit and ready for action, the you who is climbing that ladder at work – in every case you are winning the day.  You’ve made your plan, you are set for action.  You are ready for the change that will take you to that new place.

But, wait!  Did you remember to plan for the fact that you are changing you?  That’s right, the you who is a jangle of nerves from overload, you are going to make a change.  The you who is at her desk all day at work and when home munches on popcorn in front of the tube, you are going to make a change.  The you who sells herself short at work, you are going to make a change.

This is the hardest part of change.  We all know what we “should” do to be fit or calm or get promotions, even to save that down payment.  The hard part is that YOU ARE CHANGING YOU.

What to do?  First, don’t start with too big a goal and pay close attention to yourself with your first steps.  Did you forget to do what you wanted to do?  Or, did it just feel not quite right?  If you are known as the ‘yes’ person people can count on, how do you learn to say no?  If it’s your habit to diminish your value at work, you may stumble over the words or actions that change that. 

It feels uncomfortable

Whether you seek 5 little minutes of daily calm or a promotion or to stop playing computer solitaire, change takes you outside your comfort zone.  It’s new and it often doesn’t feel quite right.   Certainly not at the start.

That brings us right back to the fact that to make a change means you are changing you.  Your goal, then, is to make it become “right” and the only way for that to happen is to practice your change enough, to make the change you seek yours.  Yes, you’ll feel uncomfortable or squirmy or even testy.  But that won’t last.  If you let yourself move through, you’ll get to the other side where your change becomes your reality.

Start small and accept that your change won’t feel like you at the beginning.  With practice, you’ll likely surprise yourself, you’ll make it yours. 

Charles Duhigg in his book, The Power of Habit, tells of his personal effort to replace an afternoon cookie.  To begin, he kept a watchful eye, noticing his physical and emotional sensations when it neared the time for his daily cookie.  He realized he wasn’t just hungry for food, there was something more.  Ultimately, he replaced that cookie with an apple and a brief chat with a friend.  He ended up fulfilling both the physical and emotional need.

Find the things that fulfill you as you make your change.  Day by day, practice the new and distance yourself from the old.  Soon, you’ll find you are becoming more and more comfortable with the new.  Still, keep an eye out for those old ways, they’ll keep coming after you.  Use the strength you gained in making the change to foil any challenges to your success.

Making Change Happen – When Will You Get There?

Today, we are connected and in control.  That’s just the way it is and that’s also one reason change can be difficult.  We want things to happen now not six months from now. 

Successful change, however, means you’ve been systematic - you've gotten to your goal a step at a time.  That’s not always easy; a slow march to a goal can make us impatient.  Instead of impatience, shoot for a lot of small successes. 

Setting timelines

Some goals come with a date attached.  Your goal may be tied to a special event like a wedding or a marathon.  Maybe it’s a trip you are planning.  Or, you may be saving to buy a home.

Whether you have a specific date in mind or not, setting a timeline will help you as you get to your goal.  This is where you begin to move your imagined goal to your reality.

For many goals, there’s likely a number involved.  How many pounds you want to lose, how much you want to save for your trip or down payment, those are easy numbers to imagine.  But, what about quitting smoking?  It’s easy; you can name the number of hours, days and weeks you go without smoking.  Getting to a career can even be translated into a timeline.

With an event deadline, your timing is obvious and comes down to a simple formula:

Divide your goal (number of miles, pounds, dollars, etc.) by the number of weeks or months to the event.

If you want to lose twenty pounds in five months, that’s

20 pounds / 5 months = 4 pounds a month

Simply divide your goal (20 pounds) by the amount of time you have to achieve your goal (5 months).  The result?  To lose 20 pounds in 5 months, you’ll want to lose 4 pounds each month. 

To take it further, 5 months is 20 weeks.  Dividing 20 pounds by 20 weeks shows that at 1 pound each week for 20 weeks, you’ll reach your 20 pound goal.

If you need $2,000 for your trip and you’re leaving in 6 months, you’ll want to save about $80 a week or $335 each month. 

$2,000 / 6 months = $355 in savings each month

If your goal is to quit cigarettes, you’ll look at your timeline just a bit differently.  In fact, you don’t even need math to use numbers when quitting smoking.  You just need to count.  It’s been fifteen minutes since I had a cigarette.  It’s been 15 hours since I had a cigarette.  It’s been 15 days . . . and on and on. 

Why a timeline?
  1. With a timeline, you’ll quickly see whether your goal is too big or too small.  If you’re training for your first marathon, you can’t start with a 5-mile run.  Rather, you’ll build your endurance over time.  The same is true for savings.  You may want to have a down payment by the end of the year but can you save enough each month to get you to your goal?
  2. By breaking your big goal into smaller actions, your likelihood for success grows.
  3. With a timeline, you’ll reach lots of smaller goals/successes - each one to be celebrated.  That’s right, make getting to your goal fun.  With plenty of smaller successes, you are creating a strong foundation for longer-term success.
  4. With a timeline, you’ll build your confidence that you can reach your goal.
  5. With a timeline and multiple smaller goals, should you slip-up and miss a small goal, you can get back on track without blowing your big goal.

With a timeline, you can allow for a moment of failure without failure becoming a habit.  Small steps are the building blocks of success.

What’s Your Number?

Today I’m blowing the whistle on me and my number.  It’s a number I’ve carried in my mind for a couple decades.  My number represents the ideal weight I wish for. That’s right, while I’ve wished it would happen, I haven’t made it happen.

Do you have a number in mind – the number that represents an ideal for your life, your nirvana?  Some of us carry our “perfect weight” in our head.  We imagine ourselves as our lighter, leaner selves.

Others of us have a salary or bonus number in mind.  They know exactly what they’ll do the very moment they hit their mark.  Once they’ve achieved that number, they think, life will be incredible.  That’s when they’ll really start living.

My number stopped me from feeling good about myself.  It made me put off buying some great outfits because in my mind that lighter weight is right around the corner. 

If you are someone who sets a goal and gets it done, then it is terrific to carry a goal in your head.  For those of us, however, who’ve set a goal but have taken no action, it may be time to stop and reassess.  That bliss we felt about setting our goal may have gotten in the way of actually making our goal happen. 

There is a fine line between working towards a goal and putting life on-hold til you “get there”.  If you’re one of the people whose life is on hold til you get to your number, think about what will really happen when you get to your number?  How will your life be different?  Will it really?

Some of us commit so fully to our “number” that we fail to enjoy our days.  Somehow we put parts of our life on hold.  That’s how we miss out on whole days of living.

Life won’t really change on the day you reach your goal.  Yes, you’ll probably be healthier or wealthier but you’ll remain the same person.  Instead of holding out for an ar arbitrary number, I choose to live today fully.  How about you?

Can You See It?

It’s the final day of the Olympics.  Over these days of competition, we’ve watched exceptional athletes performing at their peak. 

Repeatedly, commentators have told the stories of the athletes.  It’s never a surprise to learn of long and arduous physical training but the story never stops there.  Many commentators go on to tell about another side to training – the athlete’s ability to visualize, to see themselves performing every nanosecond of a winning performance. 

Alongside the physical training, each athlete plays out every moment of a performance in his or her mind’s eye – over and over and over again.  They anticipate every possible challenge to an exceptional performance and then they see in their mind exactly how they will respond to that challenge.    

Olympians do not visualize the gold medal.  They might dream about it but dreaming doesn’t get them to the win.  Instead, athletes visualize every step of the performance that they see as their best.  They see themselves performing at a winning level and they practice their performance at a winning level.  That is what gets them to the gold.

When you visualize a goal in your future, are you visualizing only the outcome or do you see yourself taking the steps necessary to make your goal happen?  Those who reach their goals, see themselves taking all the steps that will get them to their gold.  In your mind’s eye, can you see yourself “in performance”, taking the actions that will lead you to your goal?