How Long Does it Take to Change a Habit?

June 12, 2018

I’ve learned from experience that a lot of what I was told by seminar leaders turned out to be. . . well, wrong. I realized that some (though not all) trainers oversimplify a process so that it is more marketable. For instance, I had read/heard that I could change any habit in 21 days or 30 days, depending on the trainer—sound familiar? If you have heard these or any other “magic” time frames, they are about as useful as a steering wheel on a dirt bike. In fact, they are worse than that. If you expect to experience a change in behavior in 21 days and nothing happens, it can be very disappointing – make you wonder what you did wrong – lead to guilt and disillusionment.

The truth, in my experience, is that a habit or belief of any kind can be changed in an instant, a week, month, year or perhaps never. The time it takes to alter a habit depends on many factors: your desire to change, your belief in your ability to change, how many and how strong the conflicting old beliefs, and your commitment to diligently work the transformation process, just to list a few. In general, I recommend a healthy level of skepticism when it comes to personal growth trainers—including me. If you are drawn to a philosophy or program, experiment with it, test it out. If it works, great. If not, eject and keep searching. No program fits all, but there is always a way if you know what you want and expect to find it.


Go To The Window!

May 31, 2018

Window scream

Self-Examination: Are you willing to look within and ask whether you are doomed to lead an ordinary, mediocre life, or meant for something better, something special? Do you want to change? Are you willing to change?

I’ve been to a few AA and Al-Anon meetings: they are wonderful organizations where attendees describe “hitting bottom” as a primary catalyst for their recovery. The basic idea is that, for things to get better, they must first get worse. Only then can they admit they have a problem and seek help.

We need not fall to rise, but it does seem to strengthen the resolve to change. Whether you’ve hit bottom or not, you must at least get pissed off enough with your current state that you will do almost anything to change.

Hitting bottom doesn’t have to come in the form of your 4th DUI or your spouse walking out on you with the UPS delivery person. Your bottom might be when you realize that your favorite chair is the one you constructed out of old pizza boxes and duct tape, or perhaps when you notice that you have dedicated an entire drawer in your kitchen to little packs of parmesan and red peppers. It doesn’t matter what your bottom looks like (unless you’re into yoga) if it creates a reaction as we saw in the 1976 Oscar-winning film, Network:

“I want you to get MAD! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot: I don’t want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first, you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say: ‘I’m a human being, god-dammit! My life has value!’ So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND AM NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

Ah, go ahead, do it. You know you want to; who cares what the neighbors think. They’d like to do it too. Maybe you’ll start a trend in the hood. Go to the window!


Mediocrity is Like Gravity

May 22, 2018

LIfe is GoodThe world is overrun with people living mediocre lives, just getting by (or not), and mediocrity is like gravity – it attempts to pull down everyone it encounters. Just listen to some of the banter between check-out clerks and customers at your local grocery store.

Clerk: “How you doing?”

Customer: “You know, different day, same shit,” or “Fine, but it’s still morning, give it time,” or simply, “Don’t ask.”

Since my awareness became focused on these shared-misery conversations, I’ve made a habit of answering the clerk’s query with something like, “Just great. How are you?” I’ll usually get a slightly confused, non-committal response like, “fine.” Sometimes nothing, like my excited, positive response does not even register it is so unexpected – now that’s sad. Occasionally, though, the clerk will look up and beam, “You know, I’m pretty great myself.” Good to note that:

Excited, positive attitudes are just as contagious as grumpy ones.

I now challenge myself to positively affect at least one person each day. It is a precious gift to them, to me, is easy to do and feels great! Make a commitment make at least one stranger smile today: you can thank me later.


All Things are Created Twice

May 12, 2017

“All things are created twice,” is a quote by Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

cute-twin

The first creation is what Stephen Covey calls the vision we form of the thing we wish to create. The second creation is the physical manifestation of that vision. The second creation is a matter of choosing the behaviors, the actions that will lead to the manifestation of your vision. The true creation is the forming of your vision. This can be tricky. If we do not take responsibility and consciously create our first creation, we empower others to do it for us – parents, friends, teachers, or societal influences such as magazines, movies or T.V. commercials.

To truly fulfill your personal wants and needs, and to assure that your goals are congruent with your fundamental (core) values, it is critical that your vision is selected by you. History is filled with individuals who successfully manifested someone else’s dream at the expense of their personal values. Success in this circumstance is hollow, leading all too often to some form of self-destruction – drugs, alcohol or other risky behaviors – even suicide.

According to Covey, “Personal Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success. Personal Leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” To assure that your ladder is in the right place, maintain an awareness of your fundamental values and make them the criteria by which you create your vision. That achieved, you can manage your second creation, choosing behaviors and actions that are congruent with your vision.


Expect the Unexpected

April 19, 2017

Banana

One of the traits I have observed in highly successful salespeople is their ability to anticipate change, adjust their work practices accordingly and continue to thrive. They do not waste time fighting change, wondering who is to blame, or feeling sorry for themselves that life seems to be battling against their goals.

If we can agree that the quick absorption of change is a positive, productive trait, what can we do to react in a more efficacious manner when things do not work out precisely as planned? It boils down to expectation. Change is difficult for those who expect reality to continuously match their vision. There is, I have found, a delicate balance between the power of visualization and the acceptance of results.

Visualizing what you want is an important step on the path to success. However, it is important to understand that our desired vision will not necessarily manifest exactly as we picture it in our mind’s eye. Acceptance comes when we realize that we are not alone on the planet. And, while some people may share our vision there are almost always those who do not. This mix of disparate desires and expectations act together to create a result – the result. Sometimes that result will be exactly what you wanted. At other times it may be a compromise version of your dreams or even the exact opposite of what you thought you wanted.

It is when results do not match expectations that successful people move ahead of the pack. They anticipate the unexpected, adapt quickly and continue to thrive in the new, changed environment, leaving those less skilled in the art of acceptance to struggle in confusion, anger and denial.

Please don’t see this as an indictment of visualization. It is your desires and expectations that drive your actions and move you “confidently in the direction of your dreams,” as Thoreau taught us. I am only suggesting that you adopt a more realistic expectation of results. See life as a process, not a destination. Enjoy when you take a step forward. But also expect to take some steps back, re-evaluate your strategies and then … take another step.


Dream a New Dream

December 29, 2013

Dream New

December is a great time to review what you accomplished during the current year and consider what you might accomplish in the year and years to come. Without this process, we tend to simply repeat history. That is, we continue with the same goals, the same actions and the same results.

Our discomfort with change can anesthetize us against thoughts of what we could accomplish if we just dreamt a new dream, set a new goal. We are all capable of amazing things, much more than we can possibly know while sufficiently anesthetized. So, the first step toward building an exciting, adventurous, prosperous and gratifying new life is to embrace change. But just talking about it is not enough. Becoming comfortable with change requires a plan. Don’t just wait for changes to happen and then remember to embrace them—make change a part of your daily life. Take a different route to the office each day, try foods you thought you’d never eat, change your wardrobe, your hair. Notice your unconscious habits and vary your actions. If you go to bed the same time each night, change it up. Shop at a new grocery store. Drive on the wrong side of the road (actually, forget that—bad idea). But you get the point. The more you begin to enjoy change the freer your mind will be to dream new dreams, to imagine a brighter, happier future. It is all within your grasp once you clear out the obstructions and open yourself to the world of possibilities.


Try Just One More Time

November 27, 2013

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”  Thomas A. Edison

Here’s some tough love for you: Who ever told you that life would be easy, that it would unfold exactly as you think it should be? The truth is, that rarely happens. Understanding that  will set you free!

Here is how it really works (in my experience): You set a goal. That goal leads to a set of actions. You take those actions while focusing on the achievement of your goal. You don’t worry about whether or not your goal will be realized or how soon it will materialize. You let go with faith that you HAVE achieved it. Now, at the same time there are a few billion other people in the world with their own goals some of which, by the way, may be in conflict with your goal. There are environmental issues of which you may not be aware that will alter the final nature of your goal.

In the end, the essence of your goal is achieved even though it may take a very different form than what you originally pictured in your mind.  Example: You decide that you will sell 50 houses this year by holding 20 open houses. Your first 19 open houses result in one small sale. But even though your plan is not unfolding as you imagined you stay the course. While holding your 20th open house you meet a woman who owns 50 rental properties and asks you to help her sell them all. In the end your plan did not unfold as you envisioned but your one new contact results in the achievement of your financial goal.

So, if your plans don’t seem to working out; if your action plan does not appear to be bringing you any closer to your goals, don’t give up. As long as you have a passionate belief in the ultimate achievement of your dreams and refuse to give up, your goal will find you. If you give up, if you stop taking action, all is lost. Keep your nose to the grindstone and one eye on the prize. With your other eye, keep a lookout for shortcuts, helpers, new information. A quicker, better way to the finish line can be revealed at any moment!