Our habits are the little actions we perform every moment of every day. While most of them aren’t what we would define as ‘bad habits,’ the question is: Are they habits of excellence?
If your intention is to compete with the top 1% in your chosen career, sport or discipline, then it all starts with reforming and refining daily habits so that they meet the criteria of excellence.
What’s the best way to make this happen?
Here’s how not to do it. The inefficient method is to try and grab bad habits by the horns and force them into submission. It usually doesn’t pay off.
Let’s say you have a habit of routinely flicking on ESPN every night, and end up wasting an hour (or hours) channel surfing. This adds up to a considerable loss of time that could be used for healthier, more productive uses in line with your goals and responsibilities. It could be time you use for training, or studying, or spending quality time with your family. Instead, it’s just time blown passively awash in digital stimulation, with a rampage of commercials selling everything from Viagra to potato chips.
The first step in changing a bad habit is being mindful about what the habit is and what it’s costing you. With the television habit, it’s fairly obvious. Others might be more insidious but still take a toll on your desire to be operating at a 20X level.
Next is to consider the reward that sucked you into a bad habit loop in the first place. For the television, this is fairly easy to identify. It’s can be a stress relieving distraction, an escape, that basically gets you nowhere.
Then consider the cues. What leads to turning on the television, or eating a donut, or constantly checking your email? What are the circumstances that trigger the bad habit? What the emotional state, or time of day, or situation? What are the cues trip you into the bad habit loop?
Then begin experimenting by subbing in different actions when you’re hit with the cues. In other words, rather than trying to overhaul the bad habit itself, you pave over it with a new one. A great example is a cigarette smoker. Let’s say that when it’s time for his lunch break, he’s stuck in a habit loop of getting out of his office to smoke his cigarette. He replaces this action by implanting a new action. When noon hits and it’s time for a break from work, he uses that as a cue to go to the gym or go for a walk. Both offer the reward of a mental break from work, but with a completely different and more productive action. If he does this consistently over the course of time, he will have wired a whole habit loop into his brain.
Our habits define us. Solid character habits define a solid character. As part of our working on implanting a good time management system, I want you to start putting your mind to developing the character habits of discipline, drive and determination. This starts with paying attention to those dozens of habit loops that are part of how we operate every day.
Don’t wait until New Years to begin this work. The time to start is now.