فصل 03کتاب: اثر مرکب / فصل 3
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A wise teacher was taking a stroll through the forest with a young pupil and stopped before a tiny tree.
“Pull up that sapling,” the teacher instructed his pupil, pointing to a sprout just coming up from the earth. The youngster pulled it up easily with his fingers. “Now pull up that one,” said the teacher, indicating a more established sapling that had grown to about knee high to the boy. With little effort, the lad yanked and the tree came up, roots and all. “And now, this one,” said the teacher, nodding toward a more well-developed evergreen that was as tall as the young pupil. With great effort, throwing all his weight and strength into the task, using sticks and stone he found to pry up the stubborn roots, the boy finally got the tree loose.
“Now,” the wise one said, “I’d like you to pull this one up.” The young boy followed the teacher’s gaze, which fell upon a mighty oak so tall the boy could scarcely see the top. Knowing the great struggle he’d just had pulling up the much smaller tree, he simply told his teacher, “I am sorry, but I can’t.” “My son, you have just demonstrated the power that habits will have over your life!” the teacher exclaimed. “The older they are, the bigger they get, the deeper the roots grow, and the harder they are to uproot. Some get so big, with roots so deep, you might hesitate to even try.”
Creatures of Habit
Aristotle wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Merriam-Webster defines habit this way: “An acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.”
There’s a story about a man riding a horse, galloping quickly. It appears that he’s going somewhere very important. A man standing along the roadside shouts, “Where are you going?” The rider replies, “I don’t know. Ask the horse!” This is the story of most people’s lives; they’re riding the horse of their habits, with no idea where they’re headed. It’s time to take control of the reins, and move your life in the direction of where you really want to go.
If you’ve been living on autopilot and allowing your habits to run you, I want you to understand why. And I want you to let yourself off the hook. After all, you’re in good company. Psychological studies reveal that 95 percent of everything we feel, think, do, and achieve is a result of a learned habit! We’re born with instincts, of course, but no habits at all. We develop them over time. Beginning in childhood, we learned a series of conditioned responses that led us to react automatically (as in, without thinking) to most situations.
In your day-to-day life, living “automatically” has its definite positives. If you had to consciously think about every step of each ordinary task—making breakfast, driving the kids to school, getting to work, and so on—your life would grind to a halt. You probably brush your teeth twice a day on autopilot. There’s no big philosophical debate; you just do it. You strap on your seatbelt the minute your butt hits the seat. No second thoughts. Our habits and routines allow us to use minimal conscious energy for everyday tasks. They help keep us sane and enable us to handle most situations reasonably well. And because we don’t have to think about the mundane, we can focus our mental energy on more creative and enriching thoughts. Habits can be helpful—as long as they’re good habits, that is.
If you eat healthfully, you’ve likely built healthy habits around the food you buy and what you order at restaurants. If you’re fit, it’s probably because you work out regularly. If you’re successful in a sales job, it’s probably because your habits of mental preparation and positive self-talk enable you to stay optimistic in the face of rejection.
I’ve met and worked with many great achievers, CEOs, and “superstars,” and I can tell you they all share one common trait—they all have good habits. That’s not to say they don’t have bad habits; they do. But not many. A daily routine built on good habits is the difference that separates the most successful amongst us from everyone else. And doesn’t that make sense? From what we’ve already discussed, you know successful people aren’t necessarily more intelligent or more talented than anyone else. But their habits take them in the direction of becoming more informed, more knowledgeable, more competent, better skilled, and better prepared.
My dad used Larry Bird as an example to teach me about habits when I was a kid. “Larry Legend” is known as one of the greatest professional basketball players. But he wasn’t known for being the most athletically talented player. Nobody would have described Larry as “graceful” on the basketball court. Yet, despite his limited natural athletic ability, he led the Boston Celtics to three world championships and remains one of the best players of all time. How did he do it?
It was Larry’s habits—his relentless dedication to practice and to improve his game. Bird was one of the most consistent free-throw shooters in the history of the NBA. Growing up, his habit was to practice five hundred free-throw shots every morning before school. With that kind of discipline, Larry made the most of his God-given talents and kicked the butts of some of the most “gifted” players on the court.
Like Larry Bird, you can condition your automatic and unconscious responses to be those of a developed champion. This chapter is about choosing to make up for what you lack in innate ability with discipline, hard work, and good habits. It’s about becoming a creature of champion habits.
With enough practice and repetition, any behavior, good or bad, becomes automatic over time. That means that even though we developed most of our habits unconsciously (by modeling our parents, responding to environmental or cultural associations, or creating coping mechanisms), we can consciously decide to change them. It stands to reason that since you learned every habit you have, you can also unlearn the ones that aren’t serving you well. Ready? Here goes… Start by Thinking Your Way Out of the Instant Gratification Trap
We understand that scarfing Pop-Tarts won’t slenderize our waistlines. We realize that logging three hours a night watching Dancing with the Stars and NCIS leaves us with three fewer hours to read a good book or listen to a terrific audio. We “get” that merely purchasing great running shoes doesn’t make us marathon-ready. We’re a “rational” species—at least that’s what we tell ourselves. So why are we so irrationally enslaved by so many bad habits? It’s because our need for immediate gratification can turn us into the most reactive, nonthinking animals around.
If you took a bite of a Big Mac and immediately fell to the ground clutching your chest from a heart attack, you might not go back for that second bite. If your next puff of a cigarette instantly mutated your face into that of a weathered eighty-five-year-old, chances are you’d pass on that, too. If you failed to make that tenth call today and were immediately fired and bankrupted, suddenly picking up the phone would be a no-brainer. And, if that first forkful of cake instantly put fifty pounds on your frame, saying “no thank you” to dessert would be the true piece of cake.
The problem is that the payoff or instant gratification derived from bad habits often far outweighs what’s going on in your rational mind concerning long-term consequences. Indulging in our bad habits doesn’t seem to have any negative effects at all in the moment. You don’t have that heart attack, your face doesn’t shrivel up, you’re not standing in the unemployment line, and your thighs aren’t thunderous. But that doesn’t mean you haven’t activated the Compound Effect.
It’s time to WAKE UP and realize that the habits you indulge in could be compounding your life into repeated disaster. The slightest adjustments to your daily routines can dramatically alter the outcomes in your life. Again, I’m not talking about quantum leaps of change or a complete overhaul of your personality, character, and life. Supersmall, seemingly inconsequential adjustments can and will revolutionize everything.
The best illustration I can give you to emphasize the power of small adjustments is that of a plane traveling from Los Angeles to New York City. If the nose of the plane is pointed only 1 percent off course—almost an invisible adjustment when the plane’s sitting on the tarmac in Los Angeles—it will ultimately end up about 150 miles off course, arriving either upstate in Albany or in Dover, Delaware. Such is the case for your habits. A single poor habit, which doesn’t look like much in the moment, can ultimately lead you miles off course from the direction of your goals and the life you desire. See Figure 6.
Most people drift through life without devoting much conscious energy to figuring out specifically what they want and what they need to do to take themselves there. I want to show you how to ignite your passion and help you aim your unstoppable creative power in the direction of your heart’s dreams and desires. Uprooting bad habits that have grown into mighty oaks is going to be arduous and difficult; to see the process through will require something greater than even the most relentless determination—willpower alone won’t cut it.
The power of small adjustments: a 1 percent change in course results in being 150 miles off course.
Finding Your Mojo—Your Why-Power
Assuming willpower is what you need to change your habits is akin to trying to keep a hungry grizzly bear out of your picnic basket by covering it with a napkin. To fight the bear of your bad habits, you need something stronger.
When you’re having trouble doing the hard work of achieving your goals, it’s common to believe you simply lack willpower. I disagree. It’s not enough to choose to be successful. What’s going to keep you consistent with the new positive choices you need to make? What’s going to stop you from falling back into your mindless bad habits? What’s going to be different this time versus the times you’ve tried and failed before? As soon as you get the slightest bit uncomfortable, you’re going to be tempted to slide back into your old, comfortable routine.
You’ve tried willpower before and it’s failed you. You’ve set resolutions and you’ve let them go. You thought you were going to lose all that weight last time. You thought you’d make all those sales calls last year. Let’s “stop the insanity” and do something different so you can get different and better results.
Forget about willpower. It’s time for why-power. Your choices are only meaningful when you connect them to your desires and dreams. The wisest and most motivating choices are the ones aligned with that which you identify as your purpose, your core self, and your highest values. You’ve got to want something, and know why you want it, or you’ll end up giving up too easily.
So, what is your why? You’ve got to have a reason if you want to make significant improvements to your life. And to make you want to make the necessary changes, your why must be something that is fantastically motivating—to you. You’ve got to want to get up and go, go, go, go, go—for years! So, what is it that moves you the most? Identifying your why is critical. What motivates you is the ignition to your passion, the source for your enthusiasm, and the fuel of your persistence. This is so important that I made it the focus of another book, Living Your Best Year Ever: A Proven System for Achieving BIG GOALS (SUCCESS Books, 2011). You MUST know your why.
Why Everything’s Possible
The power of your why is what gets you to stick through the grueling, mundane, and laborious. All of the hows will be meaningless until your whys are powerful enough. Until you’ve set your desire and motivation in place, you’ll abandon any new path you seek to better your life. If your why-power—your desire—isn’t great enough, if the fortitude of your commitment isn’t powerful enough, you’ll end up like every other person who makes a New Year’s resolution and gives up too quickly and reverts to sleepwalking through poor choices. Let me give you an analogy to help bring it home: If I were to put a ten-inch-wide, thirty-foot-long plank on the ground and say, “If you walk the length of the plank, I’ll give you twenty dollars,” would you do it? Of course, it’s an easy twenty bucks. But what if I took that same plank and made a roof-top “bridge” between two 100-story buildings? That same twenty dollars for walking the thirty-foot plank no longer looks desirable or even possible, does it? You’d look at me and say, “Not on your life.” See Figure 7.
However, if your child was on the opposite building, and that building was on fire, would you walk the length of the plank to save him? Without question and immediately—you’d do it, twenty dollars or not.
Is your why-power great enough?
Why is it that the first time I asked you to cross that sky-high plank, you said no way, yet, the second time you wouldn’t hesitate? The risks and the dangers are the same. What changed? Your why changed—your reason for wanting to do it. You see, when the reason is big enough, you will be willing to perform almost any how.
To truly ignite your creative potential and inner drive, you have to look beyond the motivation of monetary and material goals. It’s not that those motivations are bad; in fact, they’re great. I’m a connoisseur of nice things. But material stuff can’t really recruit your heart, soul, and guts into the fight. That passion has to come from a deeper place. And, even if you acquire the shiny object(s), you won’t capture the real prize—happiness and fulfillment. In my interview with peak-performance expert Anthony Robbins (SUCCESS, January 2009), he said: “I have seen business moguls achieve their ultimate goals, but still live in frustration, worry, and fear. What’s preventing these successful people from being happy? The answer is they have focused only on achievement and not fulfillment. Extraordinary accomplishment does not guarantee extraordinary joy, happiness, love, and a sense of meaning. These two skill sets feed off each other, and makes me believe that success without fulfillment is failure.” Well said. That’s why it’s not enough to choose to be successful. You have to dig deeper than that to find your core motivation, to activate your superpower. Your why-power.
The access point to your why-power is through your core values, which define both who you are and what you stand for. Your core values are your internal compass, your guiding beacon, your personal GPS. They act as the filter through which you run all of life’s demands, requests, and temptations, making sure they’re leading you toward your intended destination. Getting your core values defined and properly calibrated is one of the most important steps in redirecting your life toward your grandest vision.
If you haven’t already clearly defined your values, you may find yourself making choices that conflict with what you want. If, for example, honesty is a big thing for you, but you hang out with liars, there’s a conflict. When your actions conflict with your values, you’ll end up unhappy, frustrated, and despondent. In fact, psychologists tell us that nothing creates more stress than when our actions and behaviors aren’t congruent with our values.
Defining your core values also helps make life simpler and more efficient. Decision-making is also easier when you are certain of your core values. When faced with a choice, ask yourself, “Does this align with my core values?” If it does, do it. If not, don’t, and don’t look back. All fretting and indecision are eliminated.
Find Your Fight
People are either motivated by something they want or something they don’t want. Love is a powerfully motivating force. But so is hate. Contrary to social correctness, it can be good to hate. Hate disease, hate injustice, hate ignorance, hate complacency, and so on. Sometimes identifying an enemy lights your fire. Some of my greatest motivation, determination, and dogged persistence came when I had an enemy to fight. In history, the most transformational stories and political revolutions came about as a result of fighting an enemy. David had Goliath. America had the British. Luke had Darth Vader. Rocky had Apollo Creed. Twenty-somethings have “The Man.” Rush Limbaugh has the Liberals. Lance Armstrong has cancer. Apple has Microsoft. Microsoft has Apple. We could go on and on, but you get the point.
Enemies give us a reason to stand tall with courage. Having to fight challenges your skills, your character, and your resolve. It forces you to assess and exercise your talents and abilities. Without a motivating fight, we can become fat and lazy; we lose our strength and purpose.
Some of my mentorship clients worry that their why-power derives from less-than-noble goals. They feel guilty for wanting to prove the naysayers wrong. Or wanting to get back at the person who said they’d never amount to anything, or beat the competition, or finally one-up a sibling who always dominated them. But, really, it doesn’t matter what the motivation is (as long as it is legal and moral); you don’t have to be motivated for great humanitarian reasons. What matters is that you feel fully motivated. Sometimes that motivation can help you use a powerfully negative emotion or experience to create an even more powerful and successful end.
This is certainly true of one of history’s most celebrated football coaches, Pete Carroll. When we featured Carroll in SUCCESS magazine in September of 2008, he explained his early motivation like this: “When I grew up, I was a little dink. I couldn’t do much because I was just too small. It took me a couple years to get in a place where I could be competitive. All that time, I was living with the fact that I was much better and I needed to fight to prove it. I was frustrated because I knew I could be special.” Carroll’s need to fight ultimately brought out his greatness.
Our March 2010 issue of SUCCESS magazine featured an interview with acclaimed actor Anthony Hopkins. I was surprised to learn that his extraordinary talent and determination blossomed from anger. Hopkins admitted to being a horrible student, burdened with dyslexia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder before such diagnoses existed. He was shackled with the label “problem child.” “I was a source of worry for my parents,” Hopkins revealed. “I had no apparent future because schooling and education were important, but I didn’t seem to have the ability to grasp what was being taught to me. My cousins were all brilliant; I felt resentful and rejected by a whole society and was very depressed.” Hopkins harnessed his anger. At first it propelled him to fight to achieve success outside of academics or athletics. He discovered he had a glimmer of talent in acting. So, he used his anger toward the belittling labels he’d been given to fuel his commitment to the craft of acting. Today, Hopkins is considered one of the greatest actors alive. As a result of the fame and fortune he’s acquired, Hopkins has been able to help countless people in the fight to recover from substance abuse, in addition to supporting important environmental work. Though, initially, it wasn’t grounded in a “noble” cause, his fight was clearly worthwhile.
We can all make powerful choices. We can all take back control by not blaming chance, fate, or anyone else for our outcomes. It’s within our ability to cause everything to change. Rather than letting past hurtful experiences sap our energy and sabotage our success, we can use them to fuel positive, constructive change.
As I mentioned before, the Compound Effect is always working, and it will always take you somewhere. The question is, where? You can harness this relentless force and have it carry you to new heights. But you must know where you want to go. What goals, dreams, and destinations do you desire?
When I attended the funeral of Paul J. Meyer, another mentor of mine, I was reminded of the richness and diversity of his life. He achieved, experienced, and contributed more than dozens of people combined. His obituary made me reassess the quantity and size of the goals I set for myself. If Paul were here, he would tell us, “If you are not making the progress that you would like to make and are capable of making, it is simply because your goals are not clearly defined.” One of Paul’s most memorable quotes reminds us of the importance of goals: “Whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon… must inevitably come to pass!” The one skill most responsible for the abundance in my life is learning how to effectively set and achieve goals. Something almost magical happens when you organize and focus your creative power on a well-defined target. I’ve seen this time and again: the highest achievers in the world have all succeeded because they mapped out their visions. The person who has a clear, compelling, and white-hot burning why will always defeat even the best of the best at doing the how.
How Goal Setting Actually Works: The Mystery ‘Secret’ Revealed
You only see, experience, and get what you look for. If you don’t know what to look for, you certainly won’t get it. By our very nature, we are goal-seeking creatures. Our brain is always trying to align our outer world with what we’re seeing and expecting in our inner world. So, when you instruct your brain to look for the things you want, you will begin to see them. In fact, the object of your desire has probably always existed around you, but your mind and eyes weren’t open to “seeing” it.
In reality, this is how the Law of Attraction really works. It is not the mysterious, esoteric voodoo it sometimes sounds like. It’s far simpler and more practical than that.
We are bombarded with billions of sensory (visual, audio, physical) bites of information each day. To keep ourselves from going insane, we ignore 99.9 percent of them, only really seeing, hearing, or experiencing those upon which our mind focuses. This is why, when you “think” something, it appears that you are miraculously drawing it into your life. In reality, you’re now just seeing what was already there. You are truly “attracting” it into your life. It wasn’t there before or accessible to you until your thoughts focused and directed your mind to see it.
Make sense? This isn’t mysterious at all; it’s, in fact, quite logical. Now, with this new perception, whatever your mind is thinking internally is what it will focus on and all of a sudden “see” within that 99.9 percent of remaining space.
Here’s a well-worn example (because it’s so true!): In shopping for or buying a new car, you suddenly start to see that model and make everywhere, right? It seems like there are tons of them on the streets all of a sudden when they weren’t there yesterday. But is that realistic? Of course not. They were there all along, but you weren’t paying attention to them. Thus, they didn’t really “exist” to you until you gave them your attention.
When you define your goals, you give your brain something new to look for and focus on. It’s as if you’re giving your mind a new set of eyes from which to see all the people, circumstances, conversations, resources, ideas, and creativity surrounding you. With this new perspective (an inner itinerary), your mind proceeds to match up on the outside what you want most on the inside—your goal. It’s that simple. The difference in how you experience the world and draw ideas, people, and opportunities into your life after you have clearly defined your goals is profound.
In one of my interviews with Brian Tracy, he put it this way: “Top people have very clear goals. They know who they are and they know what they want. They write it down and they make plans for its accomplishment. Unsuccessful people carry their goals around in their head like marbles rattling around in a can, and we say a goal that is not in writing is merely a fantasy. And everybody has fantasies, but those fantasies are like bullets with no powder in the cartridge. People go through life shooting blanks without written goals—and that’s the starting point.” I suggest that you take some time today to make a list of your most important goals. I recommend considering goals in all aspects of your life, not just for your business or finances. Be wary of the high price of putting too much focus on any single aspect of your life, to the exclusion of everything else. Go for whole-life success—balance in all the aspects of life that are important to you: business, finances, health and well-being, spirituality, family and relationships, and lifestyle.
Who You Have to Become
When most people set out to achieve new goals, they ask, “Okay, I have my goal; now what do I need to do to get it?” It’s not a bad question, but it’s not the first question that needs to be addressed either. The question we should be asking ourselves is: “Who do I need to become?” You probably know some people who seem to do all the right things, but still don’t produce the results they want, right? Why not? One thing Jim Rohn taught me is: “If you want to have more, you have to become more. Success is not something you pursue. What you pursue will elude you; it can be like trying to chase butterflies. Success is something you attract by the person you become.” When I understood that philosophy, wow! It revolutionized my life and personal growth. When I was single and ready to find my mate and get married, I made a long list of traits I desired in the perfect woman (for me). I filled more than forty pages of a journal, front and back, describing her in great detail—her personality, character, key attributes, attitudes, and philosophies about life, even what kind of family she’d come from, including her culture and physical makeup, down to the texture of her hair. I wrote in depth what our life would be like and what we’d do together. If I had then asked, “What do I have to do to find and get this girl?” I might still be on that butterfly chase. Instead, I looked back at the list and considered whether or not I embodied those same attributes myself. Did I have the very qualities I was expecting in her? I asked myself, “What kind of a man would a woman like this be looking for? Who do I need to become to be attractive to a woman of this substance?” I filled forty more pages describing all the attributes, qualities, behaviors, attitudes, and characteristics I needed to become myself. Then I went to work on becoming and achieving those qualities. Guess what? It worked! As if she were peeled off the pages of my journal and appeared in front of me, my wife, Georgia, is exactly what I described and asked for, in almost eerie detail. The key was my getting clear on who I’d have to be to attract and keep a woman of her quality, and then doing the work to achieve that.
Alright, let’s map out your process for achieving the goals you’ve decided upon. This is the doing process—or, in some cases, the STOP-doing process.
What stands between you and your goal is your behavior. Do you need to stop doing anything so the Compound Effect isn’t taking you into a downward spiral? Similarly, what do you need to start doing to change your trajectory so that it’s headed in the most beneficial direction? In other words, what habits and behaviors do you need to subtract from and add to your life?
Your life comes down to this formula:
That’s why it’s imperative to figure out which behaviors are blocking the path that leads to your goal, and which behaviors will help you accomplish your goal.
You may think you’ve got a handle on all your bad habits, but I’d bet good money you’re wrong. Again, that’s why tracking is so effective. I mean, honestly, do you know how many hours of TV you really watch every day? How many hours do you spend tuned to news channels or keeping up with the goals and accomplishments of others on the sports or style networks? Do you know how many cans of soda you drink? Or how many hours you spend doing nonessential “work” on the computer (Facebook, reading online gossip, etc.)? As I emphasized in the previous chapter, your first job is to become aware of how you’re behaving. Where have you fallen asleep on the job and developed an unconscious bad habit that’s leading you astray?
Not long ago, a successful executive with whom I serve on a nonprofit board hired me to mentor him on improving his productivity. He was doing well, but knew he could optimize his time and output further with some coaching. I had him track his activities for a week, and I noticed something I see too often: He spent an incredible amount of time reviewing the news—forty-five minutes in the morning reading the newspaper, another thirty minutes listening to news on his morning commute, and an equal amount of time tuning in again on his drive back home. During his workday, he’d check Yahoo! News several times, spending at least twenty minutes in total. When he got home, he’d catch the last fifteen minutes of the local news while greeting his family. Then he’d catch up on thirty minutes of sports news and thirty minutes of the 10 o’clock news before going to bed. In total, he was spending 3.5 hours with the news each day! This man wasn’t an economist or a commodities trader, or in any profession that lived or died by the latest news. The time he spent with the paper and news programs on radio and TV greatly exceeded what he needed to be a knowledgeable voter and contributing member of society, or even to enhance his own personal interests. In fact, he was getting very little valuable information through his programming choices—or, rather, his lack of choices. So why did he spend nearly four hours a day consuming it? It was a habit.
I suggested he keep his TV and radio off, cancel his newspaper subscription, and set up an RSS feeder so he could select and receive only the news he deemed important for his business and personal interests. Doing so immediately cleared out 95 percent of the mind-cluttering and time-sucking noise. He could now review all that mattered to him in less than twenty minutes a day. This left the forty-five minutes in the morning (his commute time), and that hour in the evening for productive activities: exercise, listening to instructional and inspirational material, reading, planning, preparing, and spending quality time with his family. He tells me he’s never felt less stressed (constant negative news has a tendency to make you anxious), and more inspired and focused than he does now. One small, simple change in habit, one giant leap forward in balance and productivity!
Okay, now it’s your turn. Get out your little notebook and write out your top three goals. Now make a list of the bad habits that might be sabotaging your progress in each area. Write down every one.
Habits and behaviors never lie. If there’s a discrepancy between what you say and what you do, I’m going to believe what you do every time. If you tell me you want to be healthy, but you’ve got Doritos dust on your fingers, I’m believing the Doritos. If you say self-improvement is a priority, but you spend more time with your Xbox than at the library, I’m believing the Xbox. If you say you’re a dedicated professional, but you show up late and unprepared, your behavior rats you out every time. You say your family is your top priority, but if they don’t appear on your busy calendar, they aren’t, really. Look at the list of bad habits you just made. That’s the truth about who you are. Now you get to decide whether that’s okay, or if you want to change.
Next, add to that list all the habits you need to adopt that, practiced and compounded over time, will result in you gloriously achieving your goals.
Making this list isn’t about wasting energy by getting judgmental and regretful. It’s about taking a clear-headed look at what you want to improve. I’m not going to leave you there, however. Let’s uproot those sabotaging bad habits and plant new, positive, and healthy ones in their place.
Game Changers: Five Strategies for Eliminating Bad Habits
Your habits are learned; therefore, they can be unlearned. If you want to sail your life in a new direction, you have to first pick up the anchors of bad habits that have been weighing you down. The key is to make your why-power so strong that it overwhelms your urges for instant gratification. And for that, you need a new game plan. The following are my all-time favorite game changers: 1. Identify Your Triggers
Look at your list of bad habits. For each one you’ve written down, identify what triggers it. Figure out what I call “The Big 4’s”—the “who,” the “what,” the “where,” and the “when” underlying each bad behavior. For example:
• Are you more likely to drink too much when you’re with certain people?
• Is there a particular time of day when you just have to have something sweet?
• What emotions tend to provoke your worst habits—stress, fatigue, anger, nervousness, boredom?
• When do you experience those emotions? Who are you with, where are you, or what are you doing?
• What situations prompt your bad habits to surface—getting in your car, the time before performance reviews, visits with your in-laws? Conferences? Social settings? Feeling physically insecure? Deadlines?
• Take a closer look at your routines. What do you typically say when you wake up? When you’re on a coffee or lunch break? When you’ve gotten home from a long day?
Again, get out your notebook or use the Bad Habit Killer Worksheet here (which you can also download for free at www.TheCompoundEffect.com/free) and write down your triggers. This simple action alone increases your awareness exponentially. But, of course, this isn’t the whole enchilada, because as we’ve discussed, increasing your awareness of a bad habit isn’t enough to break it.
- Clean House
Get to scrubbin’. And I mean this literally and figuratively. If you want to stop drinking alcohol, remove every drop of it from your house (and your vacation house, if you have one). Get rid of the glasses, any fancy utensils or doo-dads you use when you drink, and those decorative olives, too. If you want to stop drinking coffee, heave the coffee maker, and give that bag of gourmet grounds to a sleepy neighbor. If you’re trying to curb your spending, take an evening and cancel every catalogue or retail offer that flies in through your mailbox or your inbox, so you won’t even need to muster the discipline to walk it from the front door to the recycle bin. If you want to eat more healthfully, clean your cupboards of all the crap, stop buying the junk food—and stop buying into the argument that it’s “not fair” to deny the other people in your family junk food just because you don’t want it in your life. Trust me; everyone in your family is better off without it. Don’t bring it into the house, period. Get rid of whatever enables your bad habits.
- Swap It
Look again at your list of bad habits. How can you alter them so that they’re not as harmful? Can you replace them with healthier habits or drop-kick them altogether? As in, for good.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love something sweet after a meal. If there is ice cream in the house, the something sweet turns into a triple-scoop banana split with all the fixings (1,255 calories). Instead, I replace that bad habit with two Hershey’s Kisses (50 calories). I’m still able to satisfy the sweet tooth without having to spend the extra hour on the treadmill just to get back to even.
My sister-in-law started a habit of eating crunchy and salty junk food when she watched TV. She’d crunch through a whole bag of tortilla chips with little actual awareness. Then she realized that what she really enjoyed was the crunchy sensation in her mouth. She decided to replace her bad habit with crunching on carrot and celery sticks, and raw broccoli spears. She got the same joyful sensation, and her FDA-RECOMMENDED vegetable servings at the same time.
A guy who used to work for me had a habit of drinking eight to ten Diet Cokes a day (that’s a BAD habit!). I suggested he replace them with low-sodium, carbonated water, adding fresh lemon, lime, or oranges. He did this for about a month before realizing he didn’t need the carbonation at all, and switched to just plain water.
Play with this, and see what behaviors you can replace, delete, or swap out.
- Ease In
I live near the Pacific Ocean. Whenever I get in the water, I get my ankles acclimated first, then walk in up to my knees, then it’s my waist and chest, before taking the plunge. Some people just run and dive in and get it over with—good for them. Not me. I like to ease my way in (probably residual trauma from my childhood, as you’ll see in the next strategy). For some of your long-standing and deep-rooted habits, it may be more effective to take small steps to ease into unwinding them. You may have spent decades repeating, cementing, and fortifying those habits, so it can be wise to give yourself some time to unravel them, one step at a time.
A few years, ago my wife’s doctor required she cut out caffeine from her diet for several months. We both love our coffee, so if she was going to have to suffer, I decided it was only fair that we do it together. We first went to 50/50—50 percent decaffeinated and 50 percent regular for a week. Then 100 percent decaf for another week. Then Earl Grey decaf tea for a week, followed by decaf green tea. It took us a month to get there, but we didn’t suffer even a moment of caffeine withdrawal—no headaches, no sleepiness, no brain fog, no nothing. However, if we had gone cold turkey… well, I shiver at the thought.
- Or Jump In
Not everyone is wired the same way. Some researchers have found that it can be paradoxically easier for people to make lifestyle changes if they change a great many bad habits at once. For example, pioneering cardiologist Dr. Dean Ornish found he could reverse people’s advanced heart disease—without medication or surgery—with dramatic lifestyle changes. He discovered they often found it easier to say goodbye to almost all their bad habits at once. He enrolled them in a training session where he substituted a very low-fat diet for their fat-and cholesterol-rich fare. The program included exercise—getting them off their couches and walking or jogging—as well as stress-reduction techniques, and other heart-healthy habits. Amazingly, in less than a month, these patients learned to let go of a lifetime of bad habits and embrace new ones—and they went on to experience dramatic health benefits after a year as a result. Personally, I find this to be the exception, not the rule, but you’ll have to figure out the strategy that works best for you.
When I was a kid, my family camped at a little-known spot called Lake Rollins. The lake, situated not far from the Sierras in Northern California, is fed from glaciers that melt from atop the mountains of Lake Tahoe. The water’s ridiculously cold. Every day we were there, my dad insisted that I water ski in the polar pond. All day I would be quietly anxious about the dreaded call to go in. I loved to water ski; I just hated getting in the water. A slight conflict of interest, because of course, there was no separating one from the other.
Dad made sure that I never missed my turn, sometimes by actually physically throwing me in. After a dozen or so excruciating seconds of near-hypothermia, I always found the water refreshing and rejuvenating. My anticipation of getting in the water was actually worse than the reality of just jumping in. Once my body acclimated, water skiing was a blast. And, yet, I went through this cycle of dread and relief each and every time.
That experience isn’t unlike that of suddenly dropping or changing a bad habit. For a short while it can feel excruciating, or at least quite uncomfortable. But just as the body adjusts to a changing environment through a process called homeostasis, we have a similar homeostatic ability to adjust to unfamiliar behavior changes. And usually, we can regulate ourselves physiologically and psychologically to the new circumstances quite quickly.
Sometimes wading in just won’t do. Sometimes you really do have to jump in. I want you to ask yourself now, “Where can I start slow and hold myself accountable?” And, “Where do I need to take that bigger leap? Where have I been avoiding pain or discomfort, when I know deep down that I’ll adapt in no time if I just go for it?” One of my former partners has a brother who was a beer-guzzling, bar-brawling, life-of-the-party alcoholic. He drank at lunch, with dinner, after dinner, and all weekend long. One day he was at a wedding for a former college roommate when he saw his friend’s brother, who was ten years older than both of them, but looked ten years younger! He watched the man dance, laugh, and play during the wedding, exuding a vitality he hadn’t felt in many years. He made a decision on the spot that he would never touch a drop of alcohol again. Cold turkey, that was it, never again. And he hasn’t in more than six years.
When it comes to changing bad habits at home, I’m a toe dipper. But in my professional life, I find that taking the big plunge is far more effective. Whether committing to a new business or dealing with potential new clients, partners, or investors, toe dipping usually doesn’t cut it. Each time, I think of Lake Rollins and know it will be painful at first, but I remember that within little time, it will be exhilarating, and well worth the temporary discomfort.
Run a Vice Check
I’m not suggesting you cut out every “bad” thing in your life. Most everything is good in moderation. But, how can you tell whether a bad habit is becoming the boss of you? I believe in testing my vices. Every so often I go on a “vice fast.” I pick one vice, and check to be sure I’m still the alpha dog in our relationship. My vices are coffee, ice cream, wine, and movies. I already told you about my ice cream obsession. When it comes to wine, I want to be sure I’m enjoying a glass and celebrating the day, not drowning a bad mood.
About every three months, I pick one vice and abstain for thirty days (this probably stems from my Catholic Lent upbringing). I love proving to myself that I’m still in charge. Try this yourself. Pick a vice—something you do in moderation, but you know doesn’t contribute to your highest good—and take yourself on a thirty-day wagon run. If you find it seriously difficult to abstain for those thirty days, you may have found a habit worth cutting out of your life.
Game Changers: Six Techniques for Installing Good Habits
Now that we have helped you eliminate the bad habits that are taking you in the wrong direction, we need to create new choices, behaviors, and ultimately habits that will finally take you in the direction of your grandest desires. Eliminating a bad habit means removing something from your routine. Installing a new, more productive habit requires an entirely different skill set. You’re planting the tree, watering it, fertilizing it, and making sure it’s properly rooted. Doing so takes effort, time, and practice. Here are my favorite techniques for putting good habits in place.
Leadership expert John C. Maxwell said, “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” According to research, it takes three hundred instances of positive reinforcement to turn a new habit into an unconscious practice—that’s almost a year of daily practice! Fortunately, as we talked about earlier, we know we’ve got a much better chance of cementing a new habit into our lives after three weeks of diligent focus. That means that if we bring special attention to a new habit daily for the first three weeks, we have a far better chance of making it a lifelong practice.
The truth is, you can change a habit in a second, or you can still be trying to break it after ten long years. The first time you touched a hot stove, you instantly knew you’d never make that a habit! The shock and pain was so intense that it forever changed your awareness; you knew you’d be conscious for the rest of your life around hot stoves.
The key is staying aware. If you really want to maintain a good habit, make sure you pay attention to it at least once a day, and you’re far more likely to succeed.
- Set Yourself Up to Succeed
Any new habit has to work inside your life and lifestyle. If you join a gym that’s thirty miles away, you won’t go. If you’re a night owl but the gym closes at 6 p.m., it won’t work for you. Your gym must be close and convenient, and fit into your schedule. If you want to lose weight and eat healthier, make sure your fridge and pantry are stocked with healthy options. Want to make sure you don’t binge on vending machine snacks when you get midday hunger pangs? Keep nuts and healthy snacks in your desk drawer. The easiest thing to grab when you’re hungry is empty carbs. One strategy I use is to have protein on hand. I cook up a bunch of chicken on Sunday, and package it and have it ready for the week.
One of my most distracting and destructive habits is my e-mail addiction. Seriously, this is no laughing matter. I can lose hours of focus every day with the massive amounts of e-mail flooding my inbox if I’m not vigilant about staying organized and focused. To set up the discipline of my new habit of only checking e-mail three times a day, I turned off all alarms, all automatic-receive functions, and shut the program down when I’m not in one of those three windows of allocated time. I have to build the walls around that time vortex, lest I keep falling in all day.
- Think Addition, Not Subtraction
When I interviewed Montel Williams for SUCCESS, he told me about the strict diet he maintains because of the disease that afflicts him, multiple sclerosis. Montel has adopted something called “The Add-in Principle,” and I think it’s a wildly effective tool for anyone with any goal.
“It’s not so much what you attempt to take out of your diet,” he explained to me. “It’s what you put in instead.” This has become his analogy for life. Instead of thinking that he has to deprive himself, or take something out of his diet (e.g., “I can’t eat a hamburger, chocolate, or dairy”), he thinks about what he can have instead (e.g., “Today I’m going to have a salad and steamed vegetables and fresh figs”). He fills his focus and his belly with what he can have, so he no longer has attention or hunger for what he can’t. Instead of focusing on what he has to sacrifice, Montel thinks about what he gets to “add in.” The result is a lot more powerful.
A friend of mine wanted to break his bad habit of wasting too much time watching TV. To help out, I asked him what he’d like to do with three hours of free time if he had it. He said he would play with his kids more. I also asked him to pick a hobby he’d always wanted to explore. His choice was photography. A total techie, he went out and got all this high-tech editing equipment, which he happily toted along on more family outings so he could take great photos of his kids. Then he’d spend hours in the evening editing and putting together slide shows and photo albums for the whole family to enjoy. They ended up spending time together, laughing and remembering how much fun they’d had. Because he was so focused on his kids and photography, he no longer had the time nor the desire to sit around and watch TV at night. He realized he’d been zoning out on it because it was an easy mental escape from his workday. By replacing TV viewing with his new habit of playing games with his kids and working on his photography hobby he discovered passions with far more power and far bigger payoffs.
What can you choose to “add in” so you can enrich your life experience?
- Go for a PDA: Public Display of Accountability
Picture any public official taking the oath of office. “I do solemnly swear…” and then comes the speech on how she’ll turn her campaign promises into boots-on-the-ground realities. Once she puts it out there on the public record, she knows that she’ll be held responsible for any action that rolls back on her promises and praised for any progress toward her goals.
Want to cement that new habit? Get Big Brother to watch you. It’s never been easier with all the social media available. I heard about one woman who decided to get control of her finances by blogging about every penny she spends every day. She’s got her family, friends, and plenty of colleagues following her spending habits, and as a result of the many eyes of scrutiny, she’s become far more responsible and disciplined in her finances.
I once helped a co-worker quit smoking by telling everyone at the company: “Listen up! Zelda’s decided to stop smoking! Isn’t that great? She just smoked her last cigarette!” I then placed a huge wall calendar on the outside of her cubical. Every day she didn’t smoke, Zelda got to draw a big fat red X on the calendar. Co-workers took notice and started to cheer her on, and the parade of big red X’s started to fill up the chart, which took on a life of its own. Zelda didn’t want to quit on that chart, quit on her co-workers, or quit on herself. But she did quit smoking!
Tell your family. Tell your friends. Tell Facebook and Twitter. Get the word out that there’s a new sheriff in town, and you’re in charge.
- Find a Success Buddy
There are few things as powerful as two people locked arm and arm marching toward the same goal. To up your chances of success, get a success buddy, someone who’ll keep you accountable as you cement your new habit while you return the favor. I, for example, have what I call a “Peak-Performance Partner.” Every Friday at 11 a.m. sharp, we have a thirty-minute call during which we trade our wins, losses, fixes, ah-has, and solicit the needed feedback and hold each other accountable. You might seek out a success buddy for regular walks, runs, or dates at the gym, or to meet to discuss and trade personal-development books.
- Competition & Camaraderie
There’s nothing like a friendly contest to whet your competitive spirit and immerse yourself in a new habit with a bang. Dr. Mehmet Oz once told me in an interview, “If people would just walk a thousand more steps per day, they would change their lives”. VideoPlus, the parent company for SUCCESS, held a step competition using shoe pedometers to count steps. Employees organized into teams and competed to see which team could accumulate the most steps. It was amazing to me that people who didn’t previously exercise for their own health or benefit suddenly started walking four, five, or six miles a day! At lunch, they walked in the parking lot. If they knew they had a conference call, suddenly they were out doing it on their cell phones while they walked! Because of the competition, they found ways to increase their activity. Everyone’s steps were tracked, and the whole office could see who was slacking off and who was stepping up. People’s step tallies increased every day.
Yet as soon as the competition was over, I was fascinated to observe that the step count completely dropped off the cliff—by more than 60 percent just one month after the competition. When the competition was reorganized again, the step count shot right back up. All it took was a little competition to keep people’s engines revved—and they got a wonderful sense of community and shared experience and camaraderie in the bargain.
What kind of friendly competition can you organize with your friends, colleagues, or teammates? How can you inject fun rivalry and a competitive spirit into your new habit?
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy, and it’s a recipe for backsliding. There should be a time to celebrate, to enjoy some of the fruits of your victories along the way. You can’t go through this thing sacrificing yourself with no benefit. You’ve got to find little rewards to give yourself every month, every week, every day—even something small to acknowledge that you’ve held yourself to a new behavior. Maybe time to yourself to take a walk, relax in the bath, or read something just for fun. For bigger milestones, book a massage or have dinner at your favorite restaurant. And promise yourself a nice big pot of gold when you reach the end of the rainbow.
Change Is Hard: Yippee!
There is a one thing that 99 percent of “failures” and “successful” folks have in common—they all hate doing the same things. The difference is successful people do them anyway. Change is hard. That’s why people don’t transform their bad habits, and why so many people end up unhappy and unhealthy.
What excites me about this reality, however, is that if change were easy, and everyone were doing it, it would be much more difficult for you and me to stand out and become an extraordinary success. Ordinary is easy. Extra-ordinary is what will separate you from the crowd.
Personally, I’m always happy when something is hard. Why? Because I know that most people won’t do what it takes; therefore, it will be easier for me to step in front of the pack and take the lead. I love what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said so eloquently: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge.” When you press on despite difficulty, tedium, and hardship, that’s when you earn your improvement and gain strides on the competition. If it’s hard, awkward, or tedious, so be it. Just do it. And keep doing it, and the magic of the Compound Effect will reward you handsomely.
When it comes to breaking old bad habits and starting new ones, remember to be patient with yourself. If you’ve spent twenty, thirty, or forty years or more repeating the behaviors you’re now trying to change, you’ve got to expect it’s going to take time and effort before you see lasting results. Science shows that patterns of thoughts and actions repeated many times create what’s called a neuro-signature or a “brain groove,” or a series of interconnected neurons that carry the thought patterns of a particular habit. Attention feeds the habit. When we give our attention to a habit, we activate the brain groove, releasing the thoughts, desires, and actions related to that habit. Luckily, our brains are malleable. If we stop giving attention to the bad habits, those grooves weaken. When we form new habits, we drive new grooves deeper with each repetition, eventually overpowering the previous ones.
Creating new habits (and burning new grooves into your brain) will take time. Be patient with yourself. If you fall off the wagon, brush yourself off (not beat yourself up!), and get back on. No problem. We all stumble. Just go again and try another strategy; reinforce your commitment and consistency. When you press on, you will receive huge payoffs. Speaking of payoffs, the next chapter is where we really start breaking away from the herd, where the multiplying effect really takes shape. With all the disciplined effort you’ve applied from the fundamentals of the first three chapters, here’s where you get rewarded—big time!
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