Welcome to Success on the Far Side of Fifty. To start off todays post I have a serious question to ask you. How will 2017 look for you? Will it be the year that you move toward the lasting success that we all want, or will it be another year of disappointment? The choice is yours.
The great philosopher Aristotle was quoted as saying:
“We are what we consistently do. Excellence is therefore not an act, but a habit.”
The secret to living a fantastic life is based on the actions we consistently take, not the actions we intend to take or the things we do once in a while. Therefore the true secret to success is finding ways to consistently do the things that make our lives better and to avoid consistently doing the things that make our lives worse.
A quick personal story
A couple of months ago a friend of mine invited me to take part in a 20 day meditation challenge. After the challenge she invited all participants to a final guided meditation that included a small social event.
At the start of the social event the instructor went around the room and asked everyone how often they meditated as well as when and where. The responses were varied; one or two people said they meditated every day with the majority of folks saying they meditated a few times per week. Even the people who meditated daily said they only did it when the instructor sent them an email reminder.
Later in the conversation she asked us if we gained any benefit from meditating. Everyone replied that they had.
Finally she asked if each of us intended to continue with meditation. Every person said they were committed to making meditation a regular part of their lives.
Although 20 out of 20 people said they were going to continue meditating I knew that in all likelihood 19 of them were wrong.
19 out of the 20 were probably not going to sustain the change because, even if they were doing it daily, they hadn’t established a consistent daily routine. In that moment, there was not one person who lacked desire or the commitment, but they did lack the process they needed to make their new habit stick.
The people in my meditation group are absolutely normal people in every regard. They are no different from the millions of people across the world who are desperately trying to make change in their lives.
They don’t lack willpower, or motivation, they simply lack the support and strategy they need to be successful.
The creation of a great life is actually fairly simple, but rarely easy. Bringing about change in our lives usually requires a combination of willpower and process. In fact, the better the processes that we put in place to support the change, the less willpower we actually require and the more likely it is that we will succeed in bringing about the change we seek.
A fantastic life is built one day at a time. Consistency isn’t a suggestion it is a requirement.
The real trick to living a fantastic life is ensuring that we install the systems and processes to ensure we consistently do the things we want and need to do. Then we actually need to the things that need doing, and we can’t do them every once in a while, we need to do them daily.
Following are some of the techniques that I acquired when I learned;
How to create a fantastic life one day at a time.
Creating a new life can be difficult but certainly not impossible. All you really need to do is to create a simple plan that follows a few rules.
1.) Take it one day at a time
Changing long-standing habits takes time and effort, and setbacks are inevitable.
The only way to succeed is to take it a day at a time. If your goal is to quit smoking, don’t plan to stop smoking forever, start by planning to quit for the next day, or even the next 10 minutes. You might not have the willpower to quit for a year but I get you can stop for the next 10 minutes.
Breaking tough goals down into small achievable steps gives yours the ability to create small victories.
The great thing about approaching all of your big goals on a day by day basis, is that failure no longer feels permanent. When you mess up, (which you will), just look at it as a learning opportunity. Figure out what was wrong with the process and try again.
To enjoy massive success you don’t have to change your life; you just have to change your day.
2.) Use your daily rituals
Every one of us has our own daily rituals and routines. In fact it is said that anywhere from 50% to 80% of our actions are habitual. We tend to do the same things, at the same times, in the same places. Therefore it makes sense for us to incorporate any new habits we want into our pre-existing daily routines.
Getting back to my meditation buddies; the reason I know that at least 19 out of 20 will fail to continue on with their practice is that, after 21 days, not one of them had incorporated meditation into their daily routine.
Activities that we don’t include into our daily routines get pushed out by our pre-existing daily routines.
If you want to make lasting change make sure that you carry out your new routine in the same time, at the same place every day.
For example if any of the meditation people had said they meditated in their bedrooms as soon as they woke up every morning I would have said they stood a pretty good chance of making that habit stick. In fact about 10 years ago that’s how I started my meditation practice.
3.) Never miss your activity twice in a row
I see people make this mistake all the time.
They start off a new habit just fine, they do a number of days in a row and then something happens and they miss a day. They get back on their routine and then they miss two days. From that point things go downhill. Two days turn into 3, 4 and 5 days. In a few weeks their new habit is nothing more than an unfulfilled wish.
If you want to sustain change in your life, you simply can’t miss two days in a row.
4.) Start small
Once again the research is unequivocal. In order to create lasting change start small. Start so small that success is virtually guaranteed.
When I first started meditating I didn’t start with 20 minutes I started with two minutes. I started with a commitment that I knew I could manage.
Most people go too big, too soon; they fail and then they give up. You are far better to start small and succeed then to start big and fail.
If you want to take 18 minutes check out THIS Ted Talk from Stanford Professor BJ Fogg.
5.) Don’t do things when you feel like it, do them when you schedule them
By and large people are creatures of routine, and we love the path of least resistance. This means that we struggle to permanently incorporate new activities into our lives, particularly if those activities require an effort.
When creating a new habit you will always encounter internal resistance and most often that resistance shows up as a vague sense of “not feeling like it.”
This happens to me all the time, the harder something is for me to do the less I “feel” like doing it.
I rarely “feel’ like writing, running, meditating, lifting weights or studying. But I do those things anyway.
One thing that has made me great at creating new habits for myself is the fact that I create schedules and once a thing is scheduled it it gets done.
EVERY MORNING I follow the same routine. I get up at 6:05, I then journal, meditate, go through my yoga poses, engage in strength and cardio training, and then I have a great breakfast.
Every night I read, write and take notes.
If, for some reason I have to shorten my schedule I just go through my routine quicker. I may not be able to meditate for 20 minutes but I can always find two minutes. AND I NEVER miss anything two days in a row.
I don’t always feel like going through my routine, but I do it anyway.
6.) Find an accountability partner
We all need some support from time to time. An accountability partner is one of the best resources we can possibly have in our lives and is backed by science.
The role of an accountability partner is simple, easy and extremely critical.
All you need to do is to create a simple agreement with a trusted person. You simply agree that you will report on your new activity to them on a daily basis, seven days per week, for as long as it takes to groove the habit.
If your accountability partner does not hear from you at the agreed upon time they follow-up with you and remind you of your commitment. They don’t criticize, chastise or belittle. They merely follow-up.
Both the reporting and the reminders can be in person, by phone, or by text or email.
For an extra kicker try adding a penalty of a dollar or two every time you don’t follow through on your commitment.
An accountability partner is a great asset for any goal that you want to achieve. If you are planning on writing a book, starting a business, or running a marathon getting a trusted accountability partner is a great place to start.
To learn more about the value of an accountability partner check out THIS article from Businessinsider.com
7.) Celebrate every success
If you really want to start a new habit you need to remember to celebrate your successes,
People are hard-wired to achieve goals, and the achievement of even small goals causes your brain to release a feel good chemical called dopamine. By taking the time to celebrate our own small wins we can intentionally cause the release of dopamine, which then strengthens the success pathways in our brains.
Accomplishing our goals is a good thing that should make us feel awesome. Make sure you take the time to enjoy it.
Creating lasting habit change is really quite a simple process. If you persistently follow the seven rules I have provided you should be able to create any new habit that you desire.
To enjoy massive success you don’t have to change your life; you just have to change your day.
If you need help in kick starting your new routines let me know, I am here to help.
I would also like to suggest checking out THIS post called My 5 favorite tricks to make habit changes stick
As always thank you for reading Success on the Far Side of Fifty and please feel free to shoot me an email or to leave a comment if there is ever anything I can assist you with.