everyday success

Habits

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.


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.


I Blew my New Year’s Resolve

It’s an unintended demonstration – and a pretty public one.  I blew one of my most important New Year’s resolutions, to blog three times a week.  What happened?  I failed to succeed because I failed to plan.  Well, I planned to write, I just didn’t plan what I would write.

To make change happen, to take your goal or resolution from an idea to the real thing, means you need to think ahead, you need to figure out what actions to take before you even start.

What can I do about it?  I can sit myself down at my computer and PLAN.  It’s time to dust off my disappointment and the embarrassment.  It’s time to start again.  But first, the plan. 

In my particular case, I didn’t break my goal into small easy steps – I didn’t make a list of the specific blogs I planned to write over the next few weeks.  Instead, I wrote a lot of stuff at the start but without a plan, none of it took shape into real blogs. 

What happened next?  It’s what happens to so many resolutions, I stopped writing.

Does it sound familiar?  It’s much like starting a diet or an exercise program.  It takes more than just a decision to make the change happen; first you need to plan how you’ll make your change happen.  Otherwise, it is so easy to stop.

I’ve worked out a plan.  Every week, I have to imagine blog subjects and make a list of the blogs I won’t even start for another two weeks.  Every week, I’ll think up three or four ideas for blogs a couple weeks down the road.  That way, I’ll have time to think about them before I write.  And, when I sit down to write, I’ll know what I’m supposed to write about.

It’s exactly the same as deciding to prepare for a marathon.  You’ve got your running shoes.  You plan to start running four days a week.  But did you plan on that storm?  Are you going to run in snow and ice?  What’s your back-up plan for a rainy day?  To make it still harder, what will you do to make sure you get your runs in and keep up your demanding work schedule?  With a plan, you can make it happen.  If you don’t have a plan, then what will you do when you open your door and all you see is an icy cold? 

It’s the same for a diet.  Have you planned what your family will eat while you are making changes?  Have you planned for diet boredom?  What will you do when you go out to eat with friends?  If you ask yourself these kinds of questions, if you think ahead, you’ll be ready to take on the world.

The weird thing is, it’s so easy.  Once you work out how you are going to make change happen, all you have to do is work your plan.  It’s time to get back on track.


Before Another Year: Planning for Reality

We’re wired.  We like things that are instantaneous.  We’re in a world where we want whatever we want right now. 

That makes resolutions pretty difficult.  Often, our resolutions are for goals that take time.  But, darn it, we want it right now.  Instead, we’re faced with doing it again and again week-after-week and month-after-month and that can be tough.  Making resolutions happen can get pretty boring.  That is why many resolution-makers give up by mid-March.

Making resolutions happen means you’ll embrace the reality of your goal.  When we lose weight, it’s two pounds a week – if we’re lucky.  If we’re training for a marathon, it takes months of running to grow our stamina.  If we’re saving for a down payment, it can take a year or two or three. 

All of this means that to win at resolutions, to get to your goal, you need a plan, a timeline and check-points.  Change can happen; count on it.  We’ll start with the plan and over the next few days, we’ll cover the timeline and ways to keep to your plan.

The Plan. 

Rather than dive into a huge goal, remember that there’s more to your goal than a decision.

Break your goal into small, seemingly easy steps.  Small goals are so much more achievable than one huge goal.  If it’s twenty pounds you seek, then look at it in five pound increments.  If it’s a marathon, start with 3 or 5 mile sprints.  If it’s a down payment, celebrate each and every $1,000 you set aside.  That’s right, the  other benefit from taking small steps to your goal – you congratulate yourself for every single success along the road to your goal. 

Plan for the gazillion details that get between you and your goal.  The devil is in the details.   It’s a quote we’ve long heard and it absolutely relates to goal-setting.  There’s so much more than the actual goal.  So, start with a list of all the things you’ll have to do to make it happen. 

For example, if you are planning weight loss, there’s much more than naming a diet.  You’ll want to create menus, figure out shopping lists, decide which restaurants will allow you to stick to your plan. 

Decide whether to tell others.  That may seem a strange consideration but social scientists have uncovered counter-intuitive data.  It turns out that those who are most successful at achieving change in their lives have not shared their plans with many.

Prepare for naysayers.  What will you say?  Count on it, there will people who will tell you that you won’t make it, that it is just too hard.  Prepare your dialog.  What will you say to those who try to throw cold water on your plans.

With a plan, you’ve greatly increased your chances for success.  On the next posts, we’ll look at setting a timeline and ways to check in on your progress.


Before Another Year: What Matters Most?

Happy New Year!  Here’s to one mighty terrific year for you and yours.

It’s natural to be reflective as we turn the calendar, as we move on to another new year.  How many New Years have you celebrated?  Do you celebrate the same way each year?  Is 2014 somehow different?  What will make it different?

It’s natural for our thoughts to turn to resolutions, to decisions about what we’ll do differently in the year ahead.  It’s very human to look back and then look ahead and sometimes modify our path.  It’s also easy to simply name the same old resolutions and leave it at that. 

Same Old Resolutions

But, wait!  Before going with the same old resolutions, stop and think about them.  Are you in a resolution rut?  Do you name the same ones each and every year but never quite make them happen?

Instead of going with the same old, ask yourself a few questions.

  1. What kinds of changes or resolutions work in your life?  In other words, what can you make happen?
  2. Why haven’t you succeeded with some of your resolutions?  It’s true.  Most of us do not succeed with our resolutions.  By March, most of the diet and fitness resolutions have fallen aside.  Instead, let’s make 2014 the year that works for you.  Be honest and remind yourself why you haven’t succeeded with past resolutions.
  3. Using your strengths, how can you craft resolutions you can actually make happen?
What Matters Most to YOU in 2014?

What will make the year ahead a special year for you?  Perhaps there is already something special about 2014 in your life.  If not, do you want there to be something different about this New Year?

Write a sentence or two – or, instead, draw a picture.  What resolutions will get you to your goal AND what resolutions can you actually make happen?  Imagine; what will be different at the end of 2014 if you make these resolutions happen?  With those images in mind, name the changes or choices that matter most to you.

For example, I’m naming 2014 my Tina Turner Year.  Why?  Because I’m in sort of good shape but my legs could get stronger and I could be leaner.  She has incredible legs and she is fabulously fit – who at her age can perform the way Tina Turner does?  Other reasons?  Because she is mentally disciplined and knows how to satisfy her fan base.  I can picture my physique at the end of 2014 and I can also imagine working to make Everyday Success a place that is good for my audience.

That’s what matters to me.  It's not necessary to pattern your resolutions on another person.  I use it as an example that shows the process of identifying the things that matter most for one person. 

What about you?  What matters most for you in 2014 and how can those things be translated into resolutions?  

What Can YOU Make Happen?

That's right, it is all about you and the resolutions that are right for you.  As you create your resolutions, be sure you are naming those things you can actually make happen.  Over the next two blogs, we’ll look at creating a plan and timeline plus we’ll develop ways to check in on you over the year.  Let’s make 2014 the year when we make our resolutions happen.


Before Another Year: What are Your Strengths?

Before starting on resolutions, it helps to first look at your strengths and weaknesses.    Take a look back over 2013, to remember your best moments, your greatest successes?  As you do so, take note of your greatest strengths.

To help your recall, make a chart with two columns on which you’ll take notes as you look back.  It doesn’t have to be a paper chart – it could be in your mind or notes on your tablet.  One column is your strengths column.  The other column is for your vulnerabilities.  Or, you could use the word weaknesses – we all have one or two.

Under the strengths column, list the things you’ve undertaken that worked, that gave you the most satisfaction, those that you consider successful.  Still under the strengths column, add the details of each success, especially how you made it happen.  As you do so, highlight your strengths, those special aspects that are uniquely you.

For an even deeper look at your strengths, you might take the Character Strengths Profile.    It only takes twenty minutes and at the end, you’ll receive an analysis of your core strengths.

Under the vulnerabilities/weaknesses column, take note of those things that didn’t work out as well as in your last year.  Perhaps you started a diet but didn’t succeed.  Or, you may have tried out for a promotion and didn’t succeed.  What might have stood in the way of reaching your goals?

Sometimes we are overly critical of ourselves.  Be sure to give yourself credit where it is due.  That means recognizing the successes in your life.  If you are unsure about your successes, ask a friend to help you enumerate your successes and your strengths. 

On the other hand, be sure you don’t inflate your strengths.  The goal is to make our resolutions happen and that means we have to rely on our strengths not our weaknesses.
Make 2014 the year you use your strengths.
 


Before Another Year:  What About 2013?

We’re still shopping and writing cards and checking things off our holiday lists. It all comes quickly at this point in the year.  Holiday celebrations are immediately followed by the start of a new year. 

We’re pretty good at buying gifts and wrapping them.  We can pick up the groceries and prepare holiday feasts.  We know all the words to most of the songs of the season.  What we don’t always prepare as carefully is our plan for the New Year. 

Often, we don’t plan for our own self.  It’s so easy to race through our every day with little time to reflect.  When pressed for a resolution, it’s easy to name a couple of really big things we know we’d like to get done.  But, is there a plan, the thing that actually makes them happen?

Before naming resolutions this year, take a bit of time to figure out which are the ones that would be most meaningful to you – and, how you’ll make them happen. 

Looking Back to See Ahead

The New Year is two weeks off.  You don’t have to have the answer this afternoon.  To begin, it helps to look back. 

What were your successes in 2013?  In fact, what are your lifelong greatest successes?  What have you done that brought you the greatest pride?  What have you done that made you the happiest?  What have you done that gave you an inner sense of fulfillment?

After that, think about what you did to accomplish those successes.  What actions did you take that made the difference?

Next, what didn’t happen in 2013 that you wish had happened?  Are those things still important?  Were they failures?  Did you try to make them happen but didn’t succeed?  Or, did they not happen because the steps weren’t taken to make them happen?

There’s no reason to feel downhearted about your answers.  Instead, over the next week or so, we’ll create a plan that allows for the realities of life and gets you to your goal.  Over the next week or so, we’ll:

  1. Look at what’s worked and what hasn’t worked in the past. 
  2. Decide what matters most for the year ahead. 
  3. Create a realistic plan and a timeline. 
  4. Develop ways to make sure you are successful over time.

But first things first.  Before looking forward, take a realistic look back to measure your strengths.  You’ll use those strengths to make your next successes happen.


Here’s to A Lucky Friday the 13th

Black cats, broken mirrors and Friday the 13th lead the long list of ominous omens that bring fear to the hearts of the superstitious.  We don’t even have to be very superstitious.  We learned these omens in childhood which means they’ve been with us for our lifetime.  That is likely why each omen seems to take on a life of its own.

We think of Friday the 13th as an inauspicious day, a day fraught with risk, a dangerous kind of day.  In doing a bit of research, I discovered that Friday has long been considered a day of misfortune.  Did you know?  I did not.  The truth is, many of us find Fridays to be happy days as they signal the end of our work week and the start of our playtime.

There are some among us, however, who won’t begin a new project or even embark on travel if it’s a Friday.  In Christianity, Good Friday represents the crucifixion, the lowest point on their religious calendar.  Fridays for some signify misfortune.

Then there is the number.  We do not associate 13 with good fortune.  The number 12 has all sorts of good luck attributes but 13 does not. Some among us even worried about our calendar year – 2013.  Would it bring good fortune or not?  What’s your answer, was it a year of good fortune for you?

Not everyone agrees on the day or the number.  In Spain, it’s Tuesday the 13th that sets off shivers.  The Greeks, too, fear Tuesday the 13th.  In Italy, it’s Friday the 17th that is fraught with anxiety. 

In 2008, a Dutch organization looked at Friday the 13th accident rates and discovered that there are fewer accidents, fewer fires and less theft on that date.  Their conclusion?  That people are generally more cautious on those days and that prevents accidents, fires and robberies.

There’s at least one Friday the 13th each year but never more than three.  Today’s is the second Friday the 13th for 2013.  Next year we’ll only have one – in June.

There’s a long list of superstitions that keep the superstitious busy throughout the year.  Other bad luck signs are walking under a ladder, opening an umbrella indoors and that old bugaboo, breaking a mirror brings on seven years of bad luck.  Oh yes, and the kids will remind us that to step on a crack breaks our Mother’s back.

May your Friday the 13th be a day of good fortune!


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?


How Old Are You - - In Your Mind?

I wakened one morning last week, turned on the radio and sleepily nodded as they announced the birthdays of three really famous people.  Each was celebrating a big birthday that very day. 

“Wow, that’s old,” I thought, “I didn’t remember they were that old.”  That’s when my sleepy morning reverie was lost to a horrifying thought.  “That’s how old I’m going to be on my very next birthday!”

Chronology is a crazy thing.  In our head, we feel young; we feel as if we’re as cool and up on all that is current.  But that’s in our heads, our brains, our minds.  We look out at our world from inside our minds.  Our mindset tells us what we see.  Do we remember to remind our mental vision that we put on a couple of years?  No.  That’s okay, a lively mental spirit helps keep us young.

Whether your next birthday is 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 or another number, whatever the number, we’re as young as our mind and body allows.  A vibrant outlook allows us to live our days fully.