Becoming Your Best You—Part 2
From the Roadmap series
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The dictionary defines a habit as an acquired pattern of action that is so automatic it’s difficult to break.
Our daily life is made up of habits and routine, which can greatly help us to be successful and accomplish our life’s goals, provided those habits are good ones. Positive habits are a great asset. Negative habits, however, are like a black hole sucking up productive, innovative, and beneficial assets in our life. We need to learn how to tell if a habit is positive or negative, and have a process for dealing with negative habits, to replace them with positive ones. Here’s a humorous account of how habits can become so engrained that they control our actions, sometimes without our noticing it.
Tiring of the drive from the airport to his country place, a man equipped his plane with pontoons so he could land on the lake directly in front of his cottage.
On the next trip, he made his approach down the runway as usual. Alarmed, his wife cried out, “Are you crazy? You can’t land this plane here without wheels!”
The startled husband abruptly yanked up the nose of the aircraft and narrowly averted certain disaster. Continuing, he landed the plane on the lake without mishap.
As he sat there, visibly shaken, he said to his wife, “I don’t know what got into me. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever done!” And with that, he opened the door and stepped out, falling into the water.—C. Clarke-Johnson
We all have habits, plenty of them. The question is, are they good habits or bad habits? Someone once said, “People don’t decide their future; they decide their habits, and their habits decide their future.”
The progress formula
When dealing with a mathematical problem, you simply follow the formula. Having predetermined formulas helps the process of resolving problems. Can you imagine trying to figure out mathematical problems if there were no formulas to follow?
What we need then is a formula to follow for crushing the bad habits that keep us from making forward progress. Here’s a pretty good formula for this. Let’s call this “the progress formula,” because it can help you when you are evaluating your habits, and help you formulate a plan and strategy for progress.
The elements of this formula are desire, believe you can, examine your surroundings, expose your excuses, create a plan, and monitor your progress.
Do you desire some change in your life? If so, how much do you want the change? Do you want it enough that you are willing to change your life to accelerate your success? Do you want it enough to ditch your negative habits and replace them with positive ones? Do you want it enough to sacrifice whatever is working against the particular change and progress that you desire?
A helpful tip is to imagine yourself where you want to be and imagine how you would feel if you reached that goal. Then ask yourself, “How much am I willing to pay to get there?”
Many people want to change any number of bad habits, but they don’t want the change enough to do what is necessary to get there; thus their desire is superficial and ineffective.
We each can ask ourselves: “How much do I desire the results of the change I seek, and am I willing to pay the price?” If the answer is yes, then we’ll be well on our way to reaching our desired destination.
Believe you can
You might desire a change and feel that you are willing to pay the price for that change, but deep in your heart you might be wondering if you can actually do it. You might feel that others can but you can’t, even though you want the change with all your heart. Or maybe you feel you don’t have the talent, the time, the physical strength, or the endurance to change.
These two Bible verses show us that the human will is a very powerful force. We are “wonderfully and fearfully made,” and the human spirit can survive and change in even the most adverse situations. The deciding factor is often our will and faith.
If you are having a hard time believing you can change, adopt a positive, full-of-faith attitude, even if you don’t “feel” it. Adopt an “I can” attitude. Start saying positive, change-reinforcing statements such as, “By the grace of God, I can change. I will change. With His help, I can do it.”
Examine your surroundings
Many times the desire to change is not enough to complete the change process. We have to honestly and practically look at our surroundings and identify the things we are doing on a day-to-day basis that are working against the progress we seek or that reinforce our negative habits.
We may find that with every habit we are trying to create or break, there are certain physical things that work for or against us. We need to find out what those are and change them or it will be frustrating and much slower for us to make the changes we desire.
Expose your excuses
We also need to take an honest look at ourselves and the excuses we have been using. Be honest with yourself and see what excuses come to mind. Write those down, and then formulate a counterattack. If your excuse for not getting up early is that you went to bed late, then formulate your counterattack of a reasonable cutoff time at night so you can get to bed earlier. If your excuse is that you like your late-night internet browsing, formulate a counterattack to remind yourself of what you will lose the next morning by not going to sleep on time. For every excuse, have a counterattack ready and keep it handy to remind yourself of it often.
Consider this concept: Great achievers create goals; underachievers create excuses.
Each of us might think this doesn’t apply to us, or that we are disadvantaged because our circumstances are difficult. However, there have been countless successful people who triumphed over obstacles, handicaps, or difficulties.
Here is one such example:
[This is] a story about a woman who truly understands what it means to prepare for success. The woman’s name is Laura Sloate, and she is the senior partner of a New York money-management firm that oversees half a billion dollars in assets.
Sloate is phenomenally successful, by the way. During one five-year span, the private accounts she managed averaged returns of 25 percent or more a year!
Needless to say, in Sloate’s line of work, her job is information intensive. She has to constantly monitor international markets, she must assess scores of financial reports every week, and she must stay on top of even the smallest global buying trends.
Sloate’s success comes as no surprise to people who know her, for, according to her friends and family, she has been preparing herself for success ever since she was a little girl.
Even as a child Sloate listened to tapes, attended seminars, and counseled with mentors. Since age six she has sought out every piece of new technology that could help her prepare herself for success. Amazingly, the only thing she did not do was read.
In fact, to this day, Laura Sloate does not read, despite the fact that information is the life blood of her business. That’s not to say that Laura Sloate is undisciplined. Or unprepared. On the contrary, Laura Sloate is a fountain of information on just about any subject you can think of. But as unlikely as it may seem, she didn’t get that information through reading.
You see, Laura Sloate has been blind since age six!—Burke Hedges3
Create a plan
Next, create a plan. Like that familiar saying, plan your work, work your plan. We need to document our goals and how we are going to get there. A plan is not a plan unless it is written down. And a plan is not an effective plan unless it is reviewed often. We might have the most organized plan in the world, but if it is tucked away, never to be seen again, then it was nothing more than a waste of time.
Often we use the excuse that we don’t have the time to stop and write down our plan, or to go back to our plan and monitor our progress. But if we don’t write it down, then we are not really planning; we only think we’re planning. It’s too easy to forget or compromise a plan in our head if it’s not formulated well on paper. Or worse yet, when we don’t write our plan down, we aren’t taking the time and brainpower needed to come up with a good plan, so our plan will likely be mediocre, and our follow-through even worse.
When making your plan, remember to be realistic, because if you are unrealistic, you will get discouraged too soon, and then you may quit and never reach your goal. It’s better to be realistic and reach your goal gradually than never get there at all.
And last of all, don’t allow yourself to get discouraged. We all have times when we slip or have a bad day. This is not a serious problem; in fact, we need to expect that there will be some setbacks and anticipate them so that we are not overwhelmed when they happen.
Monitor your progress
Last but not least,monitor your progress. Regularly evaluate your plan to see if it is working for you; if not, change it! Your plan is a tool for progress. If you find that your original plan was unrealistic, adjust it. If you were too lenient, tighten it.
With every plan we make in life, it’s helpful to have it broken down into three categories:
- Long-term goals (to be reached within two to five years)
- Short-term goals (to be reached within six months to a year)
- Immediate goals (to be reached within 30 days)
Using a fitness example, we could specify goals as follows:
- Long-term goal: Reach my ideal weight and become more fit overall, with more muscle tone and endurance.
- Short-term goal: I will lose 10 kilos over the next year, which is less than one kilo a month, and I will add a weight-lifting plan to my current exercise routine.
- Immediate goals: I will monitor my calorie intake, I will drink more water, I will exercise five times a week, and I will cut down on snacks, alcohol, and sugar.
Having each plan broken down into long-term, short-term, and immediate goals gives structure to our plan and life. This also gives us a yardstick by which we can measure our progress. If our plans are vague, we will not know how to properly gauge our progress. But if we have our goals broken down into these three segments, our progress will be more easily noticeable and tracked.
We can make it a habit to revisit our plans every month. We can measure our progress according to last month’s immediate goals, adjust our plan, create new immediate goals, and then keep going.
If we are faithful to do this each month, we will see tremendous progress. If we take the time to apply the progress formula to our lives, we will know what to do each time a nonproductive hole appears in our day, and we will know how to fill it and what to fill it with because we have a plan!
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.—Jeremiah 29:114
Roadmap was a video series created by TFI for young adults. Originally published in 2010. Adapted and republished on Anchor July 2017. Read by Simon Peterson.