60. Habits rule.

Yesterday morning my friend Condredge Dole, an enormously talented young man who builds amazing websites, was sitting across from me in my office when he asked me a rather interesting question.

He pointed out that for the past year I have been writing a weekly blog on habits. Much time has been spent discussing some 19 different habits and isn’t it time to chat about how we acquire, sustain, are controlled by, and change habits?

A long time ago Mark Twain helped us understand the power that habits have in our lives when he famously said, “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times”

Many of our lives are governed by our rituals – those things we do repeatedly – and when we make the decision to change those rituals, we soon learn the lesson Mark Twain was teaching us.

The old saying that “Old habits die hard” is, somewhat misleading is I don’t think we ever quite get rid of the habit but rather, what it does is disappear from our consciousness and lies dormant, patiently waiting for the slightest opening through which to re-enter our lives.

This was brought home to me a few months ago when I was walking across the street to meet a friend for coffee in a restaurant. As I was in the crosswalk I noticed a man standing outside the restaurant, smoking.

I recognized him – someone I’ve known casually for several years – and have never known him to smoke.

I greeted him and, naturally out of curiosity, pointed to his cigarette and asked, “What’s up with this?”

He looked at me sheepishly and it’s replied, “Yeah, I know. I started again after 17 years.

I have come to the conclusion that is not possible to get rid of a habit. The best we can hope to do is exchange one habit for another and do so with enough conviction and repetition that the old habit stays out of our lives forever.

I have studied habits for a long time and I believe that habits do not form of themselves but rather there is a three-step process that is essential in the formation of a habit.

Firstly, there is a foundation upon which all habits are built. That foundation is called our beliefs  – those things we uniquely and individually believe to be true.

What we believe to be true is the base from which we choose or decide to take action. Most of the things we do are driven by something we believe to be true in the moment we make the decision.

The second part of the formula kicks in once we take action. We tend to do the same things over and over again. Dictionary.com defines a habit as, “An acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.”

It further describes a habit this way, “Customary practice or use: Daily bathing is an American habit.

In Canada, of course, we only do this once or twice a year so while clearly bathing is a habit for Americans, in Canada it is, fortunately, only a semi-annual annoyance.

Aristotle told us that “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, it is a habit.”

Our habits stem from those things we believe to be true which drive us to do the same actions over and over again.

I believe this formula goes a long way to explain why we experience such difficulty in changing habits. It is because when we set out to change a habit we focus all our attention on our behavior – and not on our beliefs driving the behavior.

Next week we will re-examine this formula and see if we can shed some light on making habit changes a little easier for us all.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

P.S. My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours now has its very own website. Please visit us at  www.lifesinksorsoars.com  and let me know what you think.

My company, Strategic Pathways, recently introduced our newest Personal Coaching experience called Boot Camp for Your Brain. Please click here and take a peek at our Ebrochure

http://raelkalley.com/pdf/60-day-coaching.pdf

59. Pool your resources.

I recently met a man who is a professional pool player. He travels the world playing in tournaments and has been able to provide a very comfortable lifestyle for his wife and three children.

Unlike many of his profession, his childhood was not spent in pool halls and it was not until he was in his early-twenties that he first encountered a pool table.

He was immediately hooked. He was fascinated by the challenge of using a cue ball to command the other balls to do your bidding and soon found himself stopping at a local pool hall on his way home from work to get in some practice.

As time progressed his confidence rose and he began competing in (and winning) local tournaments progressing through the ranks to the point where he is among the top 40 ranked pool players in the world.

He told me he took an enormous risk several years ago when he made the decision to commit himself full-time to the sport and knew that in doing so there would be no going back. Not winning tournaments meant not feeding his family and not feeding his family was simply not an option.

He is a living example of the power of The Habit of Keeping Your Eye on the Prize. At the start of each year he evaluates all the tournaments around the world to which he has been invited, determines his financial needs for that year and then chooses which contests to enter.

On his non-tournament days he spends an average of six hours “at the table”, practicing. He places a photograph of the venue for the next competition on the wall so that he can stare at it and experience the feelings that he anticipates will be his to enjoy once he has won that particular tournament.

His entire focus is on the prize and what it means to himself and his family and every stroke along the way is an activity moving them closer and closer to attaining their prize.

He knows, of course, that he will not win each and every tournament and that on some occasions he won’t even finish “in the money.” But his preparation, training and focus on the prize never wavers as he prepares himself to do battle at each new tournament.

He told me that he first heard of The Habit of Keeping Your Eye on the Prize when he was a teenager and was competing in a martial arts tournament. His only goal was to win – not for the trophy but for the sense of accomplishment – and he focused every waking moment on winning the competition.

He found himself daydreaming about the prize while in class at school and spent every available moment in training.

On the day of the tournament he put everything into his activity and didn’t even make the third round. He was crushed, but only momentarily. Undeterred he immediately enrolled in another tourney to take place four months later and threw himself into preparing for that event all the while focusing unblinkingly on the prize.

On that occasion he fared far better and finished sixth in his category. He allowed himself to be disappointed for a few days and then sought out yet another tournament, redirected his focus and this time he placed second.

Clearly this man is competitive and yet he will tell you when questioned that he really only competes with himself and that The Habit of Keeping Your Eye on the Prize is what motivates him to push himself further and harder in preparation for each tournament.

Even on those occasions when he doesn’t win, he still believes he takes home the prize because to him the prize is to have performed to the absolute best of his capability, and on some occasions his best is simply not good enough to beat an opponent’s superior performance.  He leaves with his head held high because he knows he has done everything to the best of his ability.

Overall The Habit of Keeping Your Eye on the Prize consistently helps my new friend be the best he can be and to push yourself as hard as necessary be in order to win the prize. He explained that there is no greater feeling than the one that comes from knowing you did your very, very best – and that is the only prize he focuses on.

And his family will tell you his dedication to The Habit of Keeping Your Eye on the Prize has provided them with everything they want out of life.

The Habit of Keeping Your Eye on the Prize is crucial if you don’t want to end up where you don’t want to end up.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours now has its very own website. Please visit us at  www.lifesinksorsoars.com  and let me know what you think.

P.S. My company, Strategic Pathways, recently introduced our newest Personal Coaching experience called Boot Camp for Your Brain. Please click here and take a peek at our Ebrochure.

58. Marathon Man.

“When I was lying in that hospital bed three years ago I made a promise to myself.

“Through the intense skill, dedication and discipline of living a horrendously poor lifestyle for many, many years I had brought myself (actually an ambulance brought me) to the cardiac care unit where I was now recovering from a heart attack at age 49.

“I promised myself that from this moment on I would dedicate myself with equal intensity and discipline to ensuring that I never return to this place again.”

That was three years ago and since then my friend Craig has worked exceptionally hard to keep that promise.

The day he was discharged from the hospital he set a goal for himself. He was going to complete a marathon within the next 30 months.

And what he set his sights on was not completing a marathon itself but rather the incomparable feeling of accomplishment that he knew he would feel once he, exhausted, crossed the finish line.

And that image in his head of him doing so, along with the feeling of triumph in his heart became the focus of his attention every day for the next 2 ½ years.

He described in detail both his embarrassment in frustration on his very first day in the cardiac rehab program that his physician had enrolled him in. He had barely been able to walk around the track before his breathlessness brought him to his knees. Two minutes later he found himself in the locker room, throwing up.

His immediate thought was to go home and forget this nonsense and then he remembered the image of himself crossing that line and he went back out and walked another circuit of that track.

Over the following months his walks around the track became interspersed with short, thirty second runs. Over time they became forty-five second runs and then one minute and then two.

And as he labored his way around the track he kept pretending that this was a marathon and he was on his way to that glorious feeling that awaited him on the far side of the finish line.

And one day he ran an entire circuit of the track without needing to slow down to a walk. Soon he was running two circuits, then three and then a half-mile and a mile and two miles all while basking in the anticipation of the feeling he knew would be his to enjoy at some point in the future.

Craig’s journey to the marathon was far from easy. Not only did he commit himself to track-time, with the help of a nutritionist he made massive changes to his eating habits and “went to the gym three times each week so that I could pick up heavy things and put them down again.”

Many times along the way Craig wanted to quit. His body fought back as hard as it could resisting the changes he was making, yet Craig never wavered from The Habit of Keeping Your Eyes on the Prize.

He began thinking of “crossing the line” the moment he set foot in a locker room and put on his track gear, and it was all he focused on during those many long miles on the indoor track and then on the streets around his neighborhood.

And as each day brought him closer to the marathon date the anticipation of the great feeling that would soon be his grew stronger and stronger.

And finally the moment he had worked so hard for, arrived.

On the morning of the marathon Craig woke up an hour and a half earlier than planned simply because he was “too excited to sleep.”

He had visited the finish line the day before and had created a perfectly accurate image of what it looked like. He spent the evening picturing himself crossing that line, his hands raised in victory and that feeling he had waited so long for, bursting out of his body.

He replayed the scenario so many times that he just knew that there was not a force on the planet powerful enough to prevent from achieving his goal the next day.

And he did. It took him nearly 7 and half hours to complete all 26 miles and 385 yards of the race and the exhilaration that he had waited so long for was everything he thought it would be – and so much more.

As he described the feeling of being on his knees with tears of joy pouring down his face and the look of pride on his wife’s face as she hugged him, the tears flowed again.   I would be lying if I denied that some of the flowing tears were mine.

Craig used the incredible power granted us by The Habit of Keeping Your Eyes on the Prize to change his life in ways that most of us could never imagine.

He still runs every day, and lifts up and puts down heavy things at the gym, and makes a point of taking time to reflect with gratitude on all the great things in his life.

He explained it this way: “If you don’t keep your eyes on the prize, you will gaze at precisely the very place you don’t want to be.

“And that’s where you’ll end up.”

Powerful words from a man who truly walks (runs) the talk.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours now has its very own website. Please visit us at  www.lifesinksorsoars.com  and let me know what you think.

P.S. My company, Strategic Pathways, recently introduced our newest Personal Coaching experience called Boot Camp for Your Brain. Please click here and take a peek at our Ebrochure

 

57. The more you watch the prize, the closer it gets.

For many years’ participants in my goal setting workshops have discovered that what they set as goals for themselves – e.g. lose 40 pounds – is not what they want.

What they want is what we call “The Prize.

Generally speaking when we identify a goal in our lives – we are really just identifying the means by which we believe we will arrive at what we really want.

The prize’s is what we win for achieving our goal. For example what a person who says “I want to lose 40lbs,” really wants is what they believe losing 40 pounds will do for them.

When they think about losing 40 pounds their thoughts drift to how they will feel once they have lost the weight: how they will look – healthy sexy; what others will say/think about them; how they will feel about themselves etc. That is what they really want.

It is an enormously important distinction – the goal versus the prize. Generally, there is little about most goals that is inspiring or motivational. Most goals – those things we say we want – represent hard work. We are inspired and motivated by what we believe realizing our goals will reward us with.

This was really reinforced for me recently when I asked a friend, who is extremely successful in the insurance and financial planning industry, to describe his early years in the business. He talked at length about the challenges he faced right from the day he announced to his friends and family that he was leaving the security of a high-paying job to pursue a new career.

He recalls with great clarity their efforts to dissuade him. He described these people as “well-intentioned but ill informed” and while he understood that they had his best interests at heart, he also knew that they didn’t know much about the power of ambition and the indomitability of resolute determination.

He knew exactly what his prize was. His prize was freedom. Freedom to choose when to get up in the morning.  Freedom to not have a boss to answer to. Freedom to come and go as he pleased. Freedom to live his life each day according to his wishes.

He wanted this freedom more than anything else in the world. When he thought about it and focused his attention on it, exhilaration coursed through his body and filled him with excited anticipation.

So he embarked on this very challenging “Journey to Freedom.”

 And, “it took me 9 years to become an overnight success.

For all those years he struggled to build a client base and to retain the clients he had. He went through nerve-wracking ups and downs, many moments (hours/days/weeks/months) of despair and endless dry periods.

And despite the struggle, he never once lost sight of his prize – freedom.

He fully grasped the significance of the Habit of Keeping Your Eyes on the Prize.

Each time those same well-intentioned friends and family members sat him down and urged him to “quit this silliness and get a job,” he immediately turned his focus to the day when he knew he would have all these freedoms and bathed in the feelings that only such freedom can bring.

He forced all his concentration into feeling that he was already enjoying his prize of freedom and his determination to get there grew by leaps and bounds.

And he went back to work and worked harder than ever before all the while reminding himself that each and every setback was simply a minor detour on the path to freedom.

He lived the Habit of Keeping Your Eyes on the Prize until one day when he woke up and realized that he had won the prize.

He was there.

He had achieved his goal.

And was living the life he had worked so hard to sculpt for himself. He had paid the price and owned the prize.

The Habit of Keeping Your Eyes on the Prize helped propel this man through a thick wall of adversity into the arms of the freedom he craved that lay on the other side.

Adopting The Habit of Keeping Your Eyes on the Prize will ensure you will eventually reach your destination.

Taking your eyes off the prize will ensure you won’t.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours now has its very own website. Please visit us at  www.lifesinksorsoars.com  and let me know what you think.

P.S. My company, Strategic Pathways, recently introduced our newest Personal Coaching experience called Boot Camp for Your Brain. Please click here and take a peek at our Ebrochure