Emotion isn’t everything, but everything starts with emotion. I try to remember this every time I need to change my habits. Sometimes I have to change a bad habit, but most of the time I have to build a new habit because my circumstances have changed. The more experience you have changing your habits, the easier it is to be positive. That’s why I suggest practicing with small habits.
Every big change starts with a single step. Keep reading to learn more about how to take that first step, and what to expect along the way.
Start a Winning Tradition
“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” Vince Lombardi said that, and it was central to his success as a football coach. When you want to create a new habit in your life, it can be tempting to tackle something really big and hard. My advice is to start with something small. In fact, you don’t even have to finish (at first).
Tell yourself you want to be a little bit better every day. Make a list of all the things you want to change about your life. Pick something on your list that you’re already good at and are confident you can change. Make a small effort every day, and check your progress after a week. If you didn’t reach your goals, set them smaller and try again. Once you reach your one-week goal, make a small adjustment. Make it a little harder, or add another task, and keep going.
This is how you start your winning tradition, and how you will learn how to be positive.
Keep repeating this pattern for a few weeks, and you will get a better idea of what you are capable of accomplishing. Knowledge is power, and this knowledge will help you make better plans.
You can make your work easier based on the way you think about yourself. Positive attitudes can create positive behaviors, and your mental game is an important part of your plan.
You don’t have to be a genius to be a winner. The most successful people I know are often smart, but they aren’t geniuses. Good habits are the most important part of success. 80% of life is showing up. Make the habit of changing little things on a regular basis, and you may be surprised how far you go.
Make Habits Fun and keep your Eye on the Target
When you have your winning tradition started, take a look at the other habits in your life. Some of them will be more effective than others. You’ll probably find little ways you can improve most of them.
Take doing the dishes, for example. Most people don’t do the dishes right after eating. They let it wait a little while, sometimes until the next day. They usually get them clean within a day or so, but the longer you wait, the harder they are to clean. Dishes are easiest to wash right after dinner, so find a way to motivate yourself to do them. I suggest saving dessert until after the dishes are done. That way, you have something good to look forward to. When you start with the end in mind, it’s easier to stay positive and motivated.
If you keep track of your activities with a planner or a diary it is easier to change your habits. Getting more organized is one of the main benefits of journaling, and these skills will help you set your daily routine and stick with it.
Being a self-starter is something you can learn. In fact, you can turn it into a habit. This is an important part of what I call the ownership mentality. When you own something, you’re more likely to take care of it, so I suggest owning every part of your life. It’s a powerful way to stay positive and focused on building a better world, and a better life.
Starting is the Hardest Part
A new task can be difficult to start, especially if it’s unfamiliar or difficult. I like to follow the advice of Mark Twain and Admiral McRaven. Twain said that if he knew he had to swallow a frog today, he’d do it as early as possible. And if he had to swallow two frogs he’d tackle the biggest one, first.
McRaven takes a different approach. He’s a military man, like me, so I like his style. He says you should make your bed first thing in the morning. I did that for years in the Marines, and it makes a lot of sense. If you work hard all day, the last thing you want to do is come home to a messy bed.
Get in the habit of making your bed in the morning and swallowing your frogs early and the rest of your day will go easier. I actually get excited to start hard tasks early. I know that no matter what, my day will be better if I’ve started it with a strong challenge. I’ll either beat the challenge and have the glow of victory for the rest of the day, or I’ll have a better idea of what needs to be done. And once your hardest task is done, it’s easier to be proactive for the rest of your day.
Be Consistent. Small Changes Over Time Make Good Habits Great
Retirement accounts can grow to millions of dollars if you just save a little money from every paycheck. Good habits are the same. If you are constantly putting in a little bit of effort to make your habits better, over time you will find them grow into powerful tools that shape your life and make you more successful.
I recommend The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey to all of my clients. It is a great resource to help you along the way, and one of the best organizational books I’ve ever read.
What are your habits like? Write up a list of your good and bad habits, and make a small change in one of them right now. Keep it up for a few weeks and I guarantee, you’ll like the results.
Combining all of these skills will help you learn how to be an effective leader and a happier person.