Whether it’s smoking cigarettes, being late, drinking soft drinks, blaming others or biting our nails, we all have personal and professional bad habits that we would like to break. As much as we despise our bad habits, it can be challenging to make these habits things of the past. So, what is the solution? I have found the best way to erase a bad habit is to replace it with a positive habit.
First, think of our habits as a cycle. A habit is something you do without thinking. And, there are two kinds of habits: Those that serve you and those that do not serve you. Brushing your teeth is a habit that serves you; biting your nails is one that doesn’t. Thinking things through for yourself serves you; blindly accepting everything you read online or hear through the gossip grapevine doesn’t serve you. Be aware of your philosophy, which creates your attitude, which creates your actions, which creates your results, which create your life. A positive philosophy turns into a positive attitude, which turns into positive actions, which turns into positive results, which turns into a positive lifestyle. The small decisions are easy, and when you add them up, they can have an enormous effect on your life. This cycle is hard to maintain, but I go into more depth in my book, The Slight Edge.
The cycle to create positive habits can be accomplished through these seven powerful actions:
1. Show up.
If you’ll just commit to showing up, that’s half the battle right there. By simply showing up you can rise above half of the population in any circumstance.
2. Show up consistently.
Keep showing up when others fade out. According to Woody Allen, 80 percent of success is showing up. That’s a philosophy I subscribe to wholeheartedly — but I would add two words: 80 percent of success is showing up every day. As essential as it is to show up, it is consistency that greatly multiplies its power. Showing up consistently is where the magic happens.
3. Cultivate a positive outlook.
See the glass as overflowing. There are days when I wake up and I’m in a funk. I might not even know why, but life feels heavy and depressing, and I just don’t want to get out of the funk. When this happens, the first thing I do is take inventory of my blessings. According to positive psychologists, a habit of gratitude is one of the most common traits in consistently happier people.
4. Be committed for the long haul.
You’ve probably seen those weight loss and workout programs that promise to change your life and create “a better you” in 90 days. I’m not saying that you don’t get results, but here is the problem with a 90-day program: It doesn’t give you enough time to build up a new belief level in yourself that you can continue once the 90 days are over. Instead, think of farmers. They know they have to wait a full season to reap their harvests. In our post-industrial world, where so much of everyday life is accessible through the click of a mouse, it’s easier than ever to forget that.
5. Cultivate a burning desire backed by faith, not hoping or wishing, but knowing.
A burning desire backed by faith simply means deeply, passionately wanting to get somewhere and knowing — not hoping, not wishing, but knowing — you’re going to get there. In other words, there has to be congruence between your desire and your faith.
6. Be willing to pay the price.
Whatever the dream or goal, there is a price you’ll need to pay. Sometimes that means giving something up. It may be something as simple as giving up a type of junk food you’re attached to, for the sake of your health, or something as subtle as giving up your right to be right, or your habit of exerting control over conversations for the sake of a relationship.
7. Do the things you’ve committed to doing, even when no one else is watching.
I have found the best way to erase a bad habit is to replace it with a positive mental or physical habit. So, the next time you find yourself wanting to partake in that same bad habit remember you can change your negative habit into a positive one and the result will be a happier life for you and those around you.
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