Monday, November 1, 2010

The Power of Habit

How do you feel when you are hounded by unfinished tasks?

The feeling of leaving things undone can be a stressful one. The thought of a growing pile in the laundry basket, a couple of delayed projects, some long-overdue bills and many more undone tasks can cause a nervous breakdown.

"No time" is often cited as the main reason for undone tasks. This is not entirely true. Most of the time, you leave things undone out of habits, bad ones of course.

We are creatures of habit. Day in day out, you carry out countless habitual actions to fulfill your needs: You scratch your head when it itches, you bang the table when you are angry or you walk to the kitchen when you are hungry. Usually you have very little unawareness of these actions.

An action done out of habit requires very little effort.

For example, when you reach home at the end of the day, you habitually place your keys in the key bowl. On the next day, without giving it a thought, you reach out to the bowl and retrieve the keys before leaving the house. All these actions are done effortlessly.

In this example, your habit helps you to save time looking for the keys and thus saving much agony during the morning rush hours. In fact, high achievers have loads of good action habits which enable them to accomplish more. These people are not necessarily more talented or more intelligent than others.

"Our character is basically a composite of our habits." (Stephen Covey)

If you can translate what you need to do into habits, you can reduce the effort needed and therefore the time taken to do them.

"It is not easy!", I hear you.

I wish I can tell you to just pop a 'good habit pill' but no, it obviously does not work that way. It is indeed not easy to acquire good habits or kick bad ones. However, it is definitely well within your ability to do so.

Before you can benefit from the power of habits, ponder over these few pointers first:

"The shortest answer is doing." (Lord Herbert)

1. Don't say "I will do it when..."

Sometimes, you set things aside because you are waiting for the right moment. You tell yourself that you will bring your children to the park when your project is over. Very often, it does not turn out that way.

Get this in your head: There is no such thing as the perfect time. The best time to start something is always NOW.

"Habit, if not resisted, soon becomes necessity." (St. Augustine)

2. Be a thinker AND a doer

How often do you say "I have been thinking about..." and find yourself still chewing on the same idea some time later? Many good ideas fizzle out over time because they are not acted upon.

Your achievement depends on results, not mere ideas. You would need to translate your thoughts into immediate actions.

"We are all inclined to judge ourselves by our ideals; others, by their acts." (Harold Nicolson)

3. Think outcome, not process

You would be motivated to do something if the endpoint is attractive enough. Very often, you do not lock your target within view. Instead, you are distracted by the immediate discomfort and inconvenience.

Keep in mind what you want to achieve and remind yourself that the trouble you face now is only transitional.

"Sometimes the path you're on is not as important as the direction you're heading." (Kevin Smith)

4. Focus on things within your control

You can do much on things within your control and hardly any on those outside. Interestingly, many people tend to focus on things they cannot do much about. They whine and complain and the outcome can only be worse.

Learn to recognize your 'circle of influence' and work within it.

"Circumstances are beyond human control, but our conduct is in our own power." (Benjamin Disraeli)

5. Learn from the achievers

So, you intend to do something but do not know how?

Many people have realized the power of good habits and have benefited from it. Learn from them. Adopt and adapt their good practices and see how you gradually transform into a high achiever too.

"It's not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently." (Tony Robbins)

6.  Get that habit

When you begin to build a good habit or kick a bad one, you will not succeed immediately. Constantly remind yourself of what you have set out to do and do it. You would find yourself slipping backwards occasionally. Accept that and move on.

Habit building is like a dialysis process. It takes time. You gradually remove unwanted behaviors and acquire desirable ones. During this time, accept that you would still have some traces of your 'old self'.

"If I must be a slave to habits, let me be a slave to good habits." (Og Mandino)

7. Realize the power of NOW

Do you tend to live in the past because it is known and requires no imagination? Do you try to deny the present because it can bring real and immediate pain?  Do you hesitate to visualize the future because it is filled with uncertainties?

If you do you are not alone and you are missing out the power of NOW. In fact you may find yourself joining many others in the 'Procrastinators Club'. Get out! Your chance to influence tomorrow exists NOW. See "Procrastinaton is Best Left Till Tomorrow"

"There are so many things that we wish we had done yesterday, so few that we feel like doing today." (Mignon McLaughlin)

Finally, I will wrap up with two things which you can do:

1. Believe that you CAN acquire the right habits; and
2. Sign an agreement with yourself that you WILL commit to do it.

That's it, you CAN and you WILL. What are you waiting for? Do it NOW.

"If you keep doing what you've been doing, you'll keep getting what you've been getting." ~ Zig Ziglar ~

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1 comment:

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