220. Attitude is a habit.

 

Question!

If at birth you were given an amazing ability that would help guide you to make better decisions, build better relationships and feel an enviable sense of peace would you

a)      Be grateful?

b)      Use it every day?

You were born with that gift and how you have chosen to use that gift is reflected back to you each day in the quality of your life.

That gift is called the Power of Choice and we use it every moment of every day to shape our perspective and select our attitude.

Dictionary.com defines attitude as a noun meaning:

1. manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc., with regard to a person or thing; tendency or orientation, especially of the mind:

a negative attitude; group attitudes.

2. position or posture of the body appropriate to or expressive of an action, emotion, etc.:

a threatening attitude; a relaxed attitude.

The funny thing about attitude is that it is learned and often repeated which means the attitude we present to the world each day is of our choosing. It is a habit we have formed and which we hold on to.

We’ve all met people who are perennially in a bad mood, or those who see and find fault with everything. We know those who see the glass as half empty and those who see it without any water in it.

And we know those whose smiles never leave their faces, who see the best in everything and everyone, who view adversity as a challenge to be overcome and hardship as merely an obstacle on the pathway to success.

And they all have one thing in common. They have become the way they are through constant practice. They have repeated these behaviours so often, and for so long that they have become their default.

In other words, it is habituated in them to conduct themselves this way. Their view of the world – their perspective – is such that it drives them to be the way they present themselves to us.

If what we describe as personality, or attitude, is simply learned behaviour that has been repeated so often as to have become an unconscious habit, then surely we can look deeply inside ourselves and, if we do not approve of what we see, we can create new ways of looking at the world which would then lead to new ways of conducting ourselves in it.

Of course, we can.

We were not born to be who we have become. We have taught ourselves to be who we are. An introvert was not born with body parts any different than an extrovert. The introvert has simply taken a belief he/she has of himself/herself and by consistently practising the behaviours of introversion have formed lasting habits to keep themselves there.

As we have discussed, we are, for the most part, the product of the habits we have acquired over the course of our lifetime.

That wonderful gift we were all born with – Power of Choice – allowed us to choose and hold on to every belief we have of ourselves. Those beliefs, and views of the world, drove us to behave in a certain way and by constantly behaving that same way we developed the habits that today are responsible for the vast majority of the results we produce in our lives.

I take great pride in my role as a Habits Coach for this enables me to truly guide my clients into the habits that bring them the lives they’ve long dreamed of.

And seeing the excitement in people exhibiting, and enjoying the rewards of, new habits is gratifying beyond words.

It’s not easy to acquire a new habit, but it is simple.

And simple but not easy, easily beats difficult and not likely.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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219. Habits, habits everywhere.

 

What is a habit?

For the past three weeks we have deviated from our custom of discussing a particular habit for three weeks and then moving on to a new one.

Instead, we have used of this space to reflect on the ever-present influence habits play in our everyday lives.

If we define a habit as a series of behaviours we exhibit each time we are presented with a certain – real or imagined – stimulus, then we can safely assume we each hold dozens of habits as our very own.

If it is true that all behaviour is learned then it follows that habits too are learned which means we have within ourselves the ability to transform debilitating habits into powerful, pleasure-inducing ones.

Let’s take a few moments and explore behaviours common to many of us.

The word stress is one that is commonly bandied about. We use the word to describe how we feel when confronted with certain situations that life has dealt us.

For example, if we find ourselves feeling stressed over a looming deadline, and previous deadlines have involved similar feelings within us, we can agree that we have taught ourselves to feel this way and, by virtue of having done so repeatedly in the past, we have created the habit of feeling stressed when facing pending deadlines.

What do you do when driving if another driver that cuts you off in traffic by swerving in front of you?

Do you become angry, furious, ballistic? Do you honk your horn in anger and proudly gesture towards that vehicle with the same finger that has two fingers to the left of it and two to the right of it?

If this is you, where and how did you learn to do this. Did you pick this up by modelling one, or both of your parents? Perhaps a friend introduced you to this response?

Regardless of the origin of your behaviour, if this is your pattern, and it recurs each time another vehicle cuts in front of you, you have habituated yourself to this behaviour.

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

And by repeatedly responding the same way to the stimulus you have proven him right.

We have all imbued ourselves with dozens of these types of habits and I invite you, over the next little while to pay close attention to yourself and to list your habits as you become aware of them.

I recently attended my seventh meeting with the senior management group of one of my client companies. And just as on the previous six occasions, each person was seated precisely on the same chair at the table.

Coincidence? No, habit.

From the obvious ones – brushing our teeth – to the less obvious ones – putting the same arm first into a sleeve each time we put on a shirt – to the ones that are most often take place completely outside of our conscious awareness, our lives are driven by the many habits we have developed.

As a Habits Coach, I share this with each of my clients as it is important to acknowledge that whenever we wish to bring positive and sustainable change into our lives, we must first recognize that the behaviours we wish to change are really habits we need to replace.

And when you know how to change habits, life just gets better and better.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

218. Wear your watch on your other wrist.

 

I was recently asked about the extent to which habits play a central role in every facet of our lives.

And I began thinking about how much we are governed by the unthinking, autonomic, almost robotlike behaviours that we repeat throughout each day.

We may call these actions a routine, or a pattern or a process but in the end our every day is filled with hundreds upon hundreds of things we do that are easily classified as habits.

Walk yourself through a typical day.

You wake up and what is the first thing you do? Almost certainly it is the same first thing you did yesterday and the day before and will most likely do tomorrow.

Perhaps you take a shower? Whatever routine you follow in he shower is the same as always.

Then you get dressed. Wearing a shirt? Which arm goes in the sleeve first? Pants? Which leg first?

Socks? Shoes? I think you get the drift.

Which wrist do you wear your watch on? Try moving it to the other side. Feels weird, doesn’t it?

What about your daily commute. Always take the same route?

These routines have become habituated within us. Most of these, being somewhat simple and innocuous, are easily changeable if we so desire. And yet they are, nevertheless habits and count among the hundreds we have all acquired.

Most of the results in our lives come from the habits we have developed or purposefully adopted and if we wish for any long-term and meaningful change we need to examine the habits we wish to change and then acknowledge that those behaviours we constantly repeat are not how the habits were formed, but are the result of a process that begins with a decision or a belief that resides in our heads.

In my day job as a coach I spent many years working with clients in improving the behaviours they thought were contributing to the long-term results in their lives and I constantly shared in their frustration as they struggled to sustain new behaviours.

It was only when I began to understand the extent to which habits drive results that I truly became a coach.

I have spent many years studying and learning everything I could regarding habits: what they are; how they are formed and how they can be changed.

Today I present myself as a Habits Coach for I have learned that the greatest benefit I can bring to my clients is to help them learn and practice the tried-and-true formula that goes into the formation, maintenance and sustaining of habits.

By recognizing that we repeatedly allow the same thoughts to cycle through a heads and that the first habit to work on is the one that changes the daily messaging we present to ourselves, I have been able to spare many clients the stress and frustration that comes when we try and change habits by placing all of our focus and attention on new behaviours.

What we call habits in our personal lives is what we call culture in our business and professional lives and in my role as a corporate consultant I utilize almost identical methodologies to change organizational culture as I do to assist my individual coaching clients in acquiring new habits.

If you find yourself irritated at the difficulties of adopting and sustaining long-term change in your personal life you are almost certainly running up against the steep challenges that go with changing habits.

If this is true for you, let me help. I will guide you through the process and you will never again have to experience the frustration that comes when we find ourselves going back to our old ways.

I am in the habit of always answering my phone. Call me

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

217. First things first.

Whenever we try and change something about ourselves – quit smoking, lose weight, getting in shape, overcome our fear of public speaking – we invariably begin the journey of change by placing all of our focus on the new behaviours we believe will bring us the outcome we are striving for.

And, as so many of us have learned through repeated attempts, this method does not work.

It is interesting when our TV watching is interrupted by commercials and all of the big name weight loss organizations take over the screen to inform us of how they can help us realize our dreams by making our extra pounds disappear into the annals of history.

These commercials are all the same. They trot out their success stories and parade them in front of the cameras for all to see. “This is Jeff. He lost 106 pounds eating delicious meals.” “This is Belinda. Belinda lost 92 pounds following our cutting-edge, revolutionary new program.”

I have no doubt that Jeff and Belinda are real people and all the commercials for the weight loss organizations have their own Jeff’s and Belinda’s proudly showing off their new bodies.

 Here’s an interesting question: why are they not showing us are Jeff and Belinda from five, six or 10 years ago?  My guess would be because Jeff and Belinda, like the 97% of people who do achieve large weight loss, will have regained every ounce – usually with a bonus – well before the five-year anniversary of their accomplishment.

Changing behaviours does not lead to sustainable, long-term habits.

Let me repeat that – changing behaviours alone will not lead to sustainable, long-term habits.

There is an established pattern that must take place if we are to have any hope of ever establishing new habits. Behaviours are the very last step in the process, not the first.

New habits begin first and foremost with the choices we make. And the choice we must make is to create a new belief about who we are, what we are and what we do repeatedly.

A belief can take many forms: it may be a long-held viewpoint of something we believe to be true, it may be a short-term viewpoint of something we believe to be true or it may be a thought that occupies our awareness in the moment. The beliefs we hold profoundly influence our feelings, and it is our feelings – our emotions – that drive our actions or behaviours.

What this means is that if we are sincere in desiring new long-term, sustainable habits for ourselves, then rather than focusing on the behaviours necessary for those habits, we must first choose the belief(s) that will help us experience the emotions necessary to repeatedly choose the behaviours we wish to become part of our long-term being.

Almost all of the work I do as a Habits Coach is focused on helping my clients develop the habits that will take them from where they are to where they want to be.

If I am working with a salesperson who wishes to increase their sales, we do not even talk about the behaviours and practices needed to achieve this goal. Rather, our early time is spent building the story (a belief) that validates who that person wishes to become and then learning how to create the emotions that will drive and sustain the requisite successful selling behaviours.

Similarly, when a client wishes to lose weight our immediate focus is not on nutrition or exercise. It is intensely focusing on who or what that person believes  to be true of themselves, how they see themselves and how they feel about themselves.

Sometimes we don’t even discuss weight loss until the third, fourth, fifth, even sixth session or, third or fourth month into the process.

I know this is contrary to traditional thinking. The conventional wisdom encourages so many people to go down the pathway to despair by embracing the huge high that always accompanies great accomplishment, only to have that experience change to an overwhelming sense of failure and disappointment when the non-sustainability of their accomplishment returns them to their original starting point.

In the same way that habits don’t die easily, we don’t acquire good ones without serious intent and dedicated effort.

My job – one I have become exceptionally good at – is working with clients to achieve just that.

And if it’s true that our habits do indeed ultimately determine our destiny and shape the results in our lives, then investing wisely to develop the capacity to ensure you are living as purposeful and sculpted life as possible ought to be everyone’s number one priority.

Call me – I can help you achieve this and so much more.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

216. How you became you.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, it is a habit.” Aristotle.

These immortal words speak forcefully to a series of behaviours we constantly repeat and which, because of that repetition, have come to shape and mould us into who we are.

I have chosen to reshape one of my habits in the writing of this blog. Since the beginning 216 weeks ago, the format has been to discuss a particular habit for three consecutive weeks before moving on to the next one.

We have explored more than 70 different habits and for the next few weeks I would like to use this space to discuss how our habits shape our lives and therefore essentially forecast how we will behave in any given environment.

Aristotle said it best, “We are what we repeatedly do.” And by repeatedly doing the same things we skillfully sculpt ourselves into exactly who we are, whether intended or not.

There is an old saying that reminds us “old habits die hard.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Old habits do not die hard. In fact, they never die. When we work very diligently trying to change them, they simply shrink down in size and bury themselves deep within the recesses of our brains waiting for an opportunity to pounce and regain the power they once held over us.

If you take time to become a people watcher you will see habits repeating themselves with everyone you meet. You will see recurring facial expressions, gestures, body language, voice tones and even use of language.

One of the many reasons we struggle to bring long-term and sustainable change to our lives is because to do so we inevitably have to replace deeply entrenched, and comfortable, habits with new ones.  The challenge is those pesky old ones will always put up a heckuva fight.

Habits extend far beyond our expressions and gestures for they drive our every thought and influence our every decision.  Until we learn the mathematical equation that goes into forming habits, the change we seek in the long term will continue to be elusive and frustrating.

In my job as a Habits Coach, I work with my clients to shift the thinking that got them to where they are to the thinking that will take them to where they want to be, and once there, enable them to thrive.

In short, this means I help my clients develop new habits, for it is these habits that that help them forge the pathway to a new and improved life.

To do this each client must come to the realization that habits begin first and foremost in our heads and therefore, this is the place where we must begin if we wish to acquire new ones.

Mostly we try and acquire new habits by repeatedly attempting new behaviours. Those of us who have joined a gym only to stop attending after a few weeks or those who have gone through the painful process of weight loss only to see it creep back in record time, know only too well the sense of disappointment that accompanies our attempts to change habits by changing behaviours.

We are what we repeatedly do, which really means before we do it, we need to consciously choose to do it and then decide to do it.  The reality is if the habits aren’t in place, we will not continue to do it.

Habits are fascinating because humans are fascinating.

If you want to create meaningful and sustained change in your life, it takes work, lots of work.

One way or the other we all have more habits than we are even aware of and, like it or not, they have sculpted the person you have become and will continue to become.

If they are great, empowering habits, please keep them.  However, if they are not, you have the power to change them.

Your habits will always make or break you, choose wisely.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.