The late Jim Rohn often said that the key to success are a few good disciplines practiced daily, and the key to failure are a few bad habits practiced daily. People will often read a book, listen to a motivational speaker, or see a successful person and feel inspired to “change their lives”. For a few days perhaps they do things differently. They really eat healthy foods and exercise and are prudent with their spending (all very good habits). But the resolve is not sufficient, in a short time they falter and a few weeks later they are right back where they started.
Has this happened to you? Chances are it has – it happens to most of us. Many successful people have used habit discipline to succeed on whatever goal they have.
To achieve success in your life follow these six steps to cultivate and maintain good habits:
1. Identify clearly what you want to achieve. Do you want to be healthy? Lose weight? Succeed in business? Improve your friendships? Climb Mt. Everest? It really does not matter what you want to accomplish, just be clear what it is you want to do. If you want to lose weight do not simply say “I want to lose weight”. Be very clear and specific. Let us say you weigh 210 lbs. and you want to lose 20 lbs. Your goal then would be to weigh 190 lbs. and set a deadline. State your goal in present active tense, such as, “I weight 190 lbs. on December 31, 2010”. Write it down, this is crucial, and refer to it daily.
2. Identify why you want to achieve your goal. People are only effectively motivated by certain things. You may want to lose weight to look better, for your upcoming high school reunion, to improve your health or for some other reason. Be sure the reason is a good one and one that you really believe in. Write it down, and refer to it daily.
3. Identify what activities or steps you need to take to achieve your goal. For example if it is losing weight maybe it is joining a weight loss program or keeping a food diary or counting calories or reading good books on proper diet. Make a list of these steps and plan out when each day you will work on them. Write it down.
4. Each day, preferably first thing in the morning, schedule time to work on your goal – to take the steps you have planned. These “steps” become your new habits. For example if one step is to eat a healthy breakfast then identify what healthy foods you like for breakfast and plan on obtaining them and eating them every day. It is crucial that you do this every day for the first 30 days.
5. Each evening look back over your day and assess how well you have performed your new habit. If you did it well give yourself a pat on the back and resolve to do it well again tomorrow. If you failed, do not beat yourself up. Renew your resolve, remember that no one is perfect, and plan to do better tomorrow. Write it down.
6. If you maintain this habit for 30 days you will have established it as a habit. If you have lapsed during your 30 days then start over until you have 30 straight days of consistently practicing your new habit.
For most people consistently practicing something for 30 days ingrains the habit. After that you may not have to be as conscious of writing it down or assessing it on a daily basis but at least weekly you should look back and make sure you are sticking with your new habit. A brief falter now and then will not defeat you as long as you maintain your habit most of the time.
Beware of sliding though. Any good habit can die and be replaced with a bad habit much more easily then cultivating and maintain good habits. A doughnut once a month may not kill you, but if you are eating three of them a week your healthy breakfast habit has now been defeated.
While 30 days of monitored discipline is usually enough to instill a habit if it is a difficult discipline or if you feel tempted to cheat often it may take more than 30 days – just continue your daily discipline of practice and record keeping until your new habit just feels automatic. A good example of this is putting on your safety belt in the car – once it is a habit you no longer have to think about it or keep any records – you just do it, every time.
Faithfully practice these six steps and you can cultivate and instill any good habit you truly want to achieve. And remember, a good habit practiced every day leads to success. Failure to do it every day leads to failure.
Daniel R. Murphy
Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.