Several people have emailed me lately about my transformation from a man of reluctance and procrastination to a person of definitive action. I am not going to go into examples of what made me a procrastinator, simply accept that I was. The principles to change any habit are transferrable so keep that in mind as you read.
My transformation started with reading Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit. It was this book that made me understand how important habits are in life and how to change my habit set.
Prior to reading Duhigg’s book I looked at my habits as things I needed to stop doing, rather than things I needed to start doing, followed by struggle. In my mind changing a habit was a multiple step process. And if I needed to change 5 habits, then:
change=multiple steps X the number of habits needing changed=too many steps=impossible
What I learned was that my thoughts were incorrect. It was not required of me to stop doing, then replace, struggle and experience change. What was required of me was to find one keystone habit that I could install into my daily routine that would work to encourage other side-effect changes without me realizing. <Read about Keystone Habits here>
I will use two examples to make my point: living a healthy lifestyle and making the bed.
In 2010 I came back off of a Caribbean vacation realizing I needed to get my health back in order. I had ballooned to 210 pounds and was a shadow of the athlete I had once been. I decided on an exercise program and began immediately! From February to April 2010 I lost approximately 25 pounds.
My initial habit change I instituted was to exercise each day after work without fail. I am a creature of habit and like things to occur at scheduled times so working out every day in the afternoon worked perfectly for me.
After a couple of weeks I started getting outside a little more to run and enjoy some outdoor time. This was a result of me generally feeling better about the way I looked and wanting to expand my exercise program so I didn’t get bored. Getting outside also cut down on my television time.
Accomplishing weight loss goals throughout the exercise program elevated my confidence which had a huge impact on my willingness to try new things.
And lastly, exercising each day made me much more aware of what I put in my body. I did not initially set out to become a clean eater, but it did happen as I took responsibility for my health.
In this example, exercising was the keystone habit. The habits that developed as a secondary effect were: cleaner eating, less television, more outdoor time, dressing more confidently, carrying myself more confidently, expecting more of myself, willingness to try new things, etc.
Fast forward to January 2015. I read an article about making the bed on Yahoo which I found very interesting. The premise was that making the bed each and every morning first thing could change your life. The thought intrigued me so I quietly adopted the habit.
Every morning for weeks I would make the bed without hesitation as soon as we would wake. Weeks turned into months and I found some startling side effects. Over a period of time I had developed the mentality that things needing to be done should be done right now without hesitation or delay. My mindset had moved from a person that easily put things off to that of a man of action.
I no longer spent time mulling over tasks and working to talk myself into doing them. Along the way, I developed the use of a To Do list and effectively worked through my list each day with precision and definitiveness.
The keystone habit was making the bed. The habits that developed were to attack tasks needing to be done with a viciousness, the use of a To Do list and the elimination of any procrastination.
I find that people make similar mistakes as I made in how they think about habits. First they think there are things they need to STOP doing. Then they must determine which good habits to begin practicing. Then they must go through the pain of developing said habits.
This is a misconception!! The beginning of changing any habit is to change the way you think about habits! The next step is to pick one habit that you think will have a positive impact on your life. Then implement the habit in baby steps. Determine your level of commitment and begin.
For instance, if someone decides to implement the habit of walking for exercise each day, I recommend committing to 5 minutes of walking every day for a period of 1 week. After all, just about everyone can commit to something for 5 minutes. Make this commitment with the promise that if you make it 1 week then you will commit to walking 5 minutes each day for 1 month and continue for life.
The only habit change is to walk each day for 5 minutes. But I promise that there will be an extensive side-effect habit change list after a period of walking for 6 months!!
This process is what started my thinking about compiling a list of <Habits of Successful People>! I thought that if I could emulate those that had gone before me that I too could change my life and live my dreams. And my thinking was right!
I decided to watch less TV, live within my means, have little to no credit card debt, spend time networking every month, never gamble, read non-fiction, learn to listen before speaking, have written goals, avoid toxic people, have a mentor, develop a single life purpose, exercise daily and believe that good life habits produce “good luck” while bad life habits produce “bad luck.”
Once I figured out that “changing” habits was more accurately defined as “implementing” the right habits I was off and running. I didn’t have to change anything, I just had to start doing the right things. And it was so much easier than I ever imagined. My problem as I realized was that I had never compiled a list of habits I needed to follow to get me to my destination. I was simply living life randomly and out of control as my habits were concerned!
I am not one to say that other’s journey will be like mine, but I know enough about humans to know anyone can develop an effective habit list if they take the time to compile the right set necessary for the desired outcome. This is what I often refer to as “Designing One’s Life!”
If your need is to get more organized then your keystone habit might be to start using a very short To Do list each and every day. Make a list of 4 simple items needing to be accomplished each day. The key is to commit to the To Do list each and every single day. It should become your life focus!
Or if disorganization is an issue you can try making the bed each morning first thing, that is, if you do not already. Making the bed represents taking something that is disheveled and taking immediate action to make it neat and tidy.
You can also make it a habit to straighten one room in your house each and every day. I did this for a period of time with the bathroom. Each morning I put Evelina’s makeup, brushes, mirrors, wash clothes back where they belonged. I folded the towels and hung them neatly and placed my toiletries back under the counter. I organized disorganization each morning for months.
All of these habits set the mind on taking action to be organized and are great places to start. Make sure to do them every day without fail for one week with the promise to yourself that after 1 week your next commitment is 1 month, then life.
The important factor is to determine what keystone habit will work for you; this might take some experimenting! Remember, if I can do it anyone can do it! I hope this helps!