Ep. 125 – The Power Of Habit
Steve: Welcome to all of our podcast listeners wherever you may be in the world today, this is Steve Shallenberger – your host with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership and we have an exciting and vital subject that we’re talking about today that I can best introduced by a poem that I heard many years ago. It’s been one of my favorite poems. I’d like to share it with you. I’ve actually committed it to memory and it’s been a powerful and positive influence my life. Here’s how it goes; maybe you’ve heard it before.
I am your constant companion. I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden. I will push you upward, onward or drag you down to failure. I am completely at your command. Half the things you do, you might as well just turn over to me for I will do them quickly and correctly. I am easily managed, but you must merely be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done, then after a few lessons I will do it automatically. I am the servant of all great people; and alas of all failures as well. Those who were great, I have made great and those who are failures, I have made failures. I am not a machine though I work with the precision of a machine plus the intelligence of a human. You may run me for a profit, or run me for ruin, it makes no difference to me. Take me, train me, be firm with me and I will place the world at your feet. Be easy with me and I will destroy you. Who am I? I am habit.
I love it! What a powerful force that habit is in our lives and we are not necessarily perfect, but by being persistent, continuing to try over years and over decades of making mistakes, of blowing it, of continually trying the habit becomes perfected in our lives and you are the recipient of the blessings that good habits bring into your life. The tremendous power that comes into your life as you continue to work on mastering the twelve principles of highly successful leaders of Becoming Your Best and the Transformation Challenge will bless you for the rest of your life. And as we think about the subject of habits, it’s really important to think about, well how do we really put the right habits in our life? And as we reflect on our life, how do we instil those things that bring us the greatest happiness, health, longevity and productivity in the workplace where we can be among the very best. Where we can really make a difference – that is the pursuit that we have. I like what Aristotle said, “Excellence is an art won by training and habitualization. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but rather have those because we have acted rightly. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” I love that that statement made so many thousands of years ago. So, how do you form a habit? And what goes into it?
So today, in this podcast I would like to recommend four things that we can do to help us form the right habits. Now first of all, number one is to know the right things to do. What are the right habits that we want to build into our life? Now I’ve already mentioned that the Twelve Principles of Highly Successful Leaders is a good start. It is built on decades of research of the things that make a difference, of the things that create happiness, of the things that create excellence, that helps set apart those high producing in individuals teams and leaders from everybody else. So we’ve already done a lot of the work and that’s a big umbrella. And what’s interesting is the more you master those, research those, the higher you climb the summit, the more that you see and understand and the more glorious they become in terms of the good that they do. But one of the biggest challenges is we don’t know what we don’t know. And one of the best solutions to solving that problem is humility and a desire to learn. In other words, how do we see what we don’t see today. How do we make that decision of what habits we ought to be sowing into our life and which ones we ought to be rooting out. So when we have this spirit of ‘I need to understand or ‘I really don’t understand at all, it is what allows us to have the desire to surge forward. In other words, I need to see things more clearly. My happiness and success in the future, my ability to make a difference depends upon it. I need to gain new skills so reading, listening, attending conferences, having experiences with others all give of us a greater vision to be able to see and help us through that refining process. I’ll never forget this great comment by my friend Charlie Jones he shared thirty five years ago, “You will be the same person you are today in five years except for two things; the people that you meet and the books that you read,” and indeed those are the things that help us get to a better place. Now there are couple components here that are really important. I talked about sowing habits, knowing the right things to sow in our life and continue to work on but it’s also rooting out, its weeding out, pulling out the habits that don’t serve us well. Then we are the makers of our future. I liked what Miguel de Unamuno said in his work The Tragic Sense of Life. He said, “To fall into a habit is to begin to cease to be.” I’m going to repeat that. That is one profound quote. “To fall into a habit is to begin to cease to be.” In other words we want to be discerning about those forces that direct our life. And so we want to do away with the bad habits and build upon a sure foundation of good habits. So for example, I recently did, this is the example of going deeper on the good habits and taking out the bad habits. I recently did a podcast on Principle 11 of the 12 Principles which is: Live in peace and balance. It’s doing those things that bring goodness in our life that allow us as we move through the journey to be highly productive at a high level but do it at a rate that sustainable, that’s happy, that brings us peace and balance in life doing the right things and so I shared in that podcast that I’d had some recent experiences in the last 60 days on health and longevity. And also it reminded me at the same time of an experience I had 35 years ago. This involves four doctors, Dr Jaffe; the one I met 35 years ago, Dr Mao, these last three in the last 60 days – tremendous experience, Dr Oz and Dr Fotuhi. These revealed to me a whole new area of perspective and understanding that will help me have greater fitness, health, longevity and vitality which in turn then provide me with a greater peace and balance. So this is an example of taking these habits that we’re developing and working on them so they become a vital part of our life, but they’re the right things. We root out the things that don’t work, the things that may actually put our health at risk. We take these things out and we put the others back in, so this is an example of this. So number one is know the right things. Number two is to do the right things and how do you do the right things? In other words once you know all the right things, how do you take these and make them part of your life? Well this is where having a clear and inspiring vision, clear and motivating annual goals that are smart goals; that are annual goals, in other words it’s a repeatable process, with accountability and then finally the execution piece where the rubber meets the road with pre-week planning. These three powerful forces help us do the right things. This is where we repeatedly do something that creates this excellence in our life, so for example let’s take a part of our vision, and you can do this, a good way to think about your vision is the different major roles of your life; so personal, your health, your finances, your mental part, spirituality. Another would be your relationships with your partner, your spouse, your family, with your teams, another professional, these are examples. What is your vision look like of what you’re going to do, that defines your direction. Well, under personal, where I’ve just shared about this experience with these Docs I’m thinking a lot more about well how do I have health and longevity? So part of my vision is to be fit and healthy! It is also to have a healthy diet. So this is the head water if you will. These are the seeds of ideas and thoughts we sow in our mind. Number 2 then, what are my annual goals? So, some of my annual goals would be to exercise a 1,000 miles during the year. Another is to do 7,500 sit ups and push ups. Another is to weigh in the range of 175. Now I am not in that range, I’m a little above that right now but that is the goal, that’s what I’m working on. And finally then, pre-week planning where we take a few minutes during the week and we get set for a great week by thinking about these very same the lense of these very same roles and what actions will I take this week that are in harmony with my vision goals and how I want to live. This is the execution piece so every single day it’s already planned out in a very busy schedule that we all have. So this is how you make it part of your DNA, how you make it part of every cell. You’ve heard us mention this that we either live a life by design or you will live a life by default. This is how we create the life that we hope to live. I love this quote by Colin Powell:
“If you were going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception- it is a prevailing attitude.”
And so, as we set up our vision, goals and the implementation piece, pre-week planning, it literally is this prevailing attitude. So there’s two points right there; number one, is to know all the right things to sow into our life. One of the things we hope to become our habits. Number two is do the right things and this is how they start becoming habits and the number three, is to never give up trying to do the right things. In other words, just keep on trying! Like I’m telling you, I don’t know what your experience is, but as I’m focused on my vision and annual goals and particularly the pre-week planning part, I blow it regularly! Like all the time! Like every week! For example, my pre-week planning, I put down under my personal role; these are some of the acts: no sweets, no dessert, so have a healthy diet right? I also put specifically exercise 5 or 6 times depending on the week. It might have to do with kindness or writing three thank you notes and so then I put it down on when I will do it on a stand. I sketch out my week and I see it – I mentally create this week which is the prelude to the physical reality. So many times I do these things that I’ve set up, but most weeks I miss an exercise to two, or I eat a cookie or maybe six of them, but the vast majority of time, I do most of the things on what matters most on my pre week planning. So don’t be hard on yourself because the fact is if you’re forming habits of doing the right things, the vast majority of time they become habits. And you’re getting better and better by and by and with getting better, you are becoming your best. I love the Spanish proverb:
“Habits are at first cobwebs, and then cables,” and this is how they become. I am better today really I think, then at any time in my life overall. I may not be at the peak of my physical vitality, but I feel that way. I feel is as good as I’ve ever felt and it’s not just been for months has been for years and it’s ever improving. But in perfect, but it’s a trend line of moving upward. I appreciate what Thomas Edison said when he was interviewed by the press one time. They asked them “How many times have you failed while inventing the light bulb?” And he said, “I really haven’t failed at all” is his response, “But I can tell you ten thousand ways the light bulb won’t work.”
In other words, it’s this process before you finally arrive at the glory of where it is sustainable and where these habits are really helping your life become much more automated, where you don’t have to think about your exercise or fitness because it’s something you do. You don’t have to worry about it’s not as big an issue of working on a healthy diet because it’s what you do. Or being patient with another person because you finally gone through the refiner’s fire and you’ve worked on it so much that you’re in a better place. That’s number three.
- Know all the right things to do.
- Do the right things
- Never give up. Keep trying.
- I’d like to recommend that I think is something that may be of immense help for you and that is shared the things that you want to do with an accountability partner.
In our seminars we invite people at the end of the seminar to think about something they’d like to work on, that would have a significant impact for good on their lives, that we reviewed that particular day and so that is if it were part of your life that you would be happier, healthier, more productive. Doing the things that you want and then set a plan to work on it and then team up with an accountability partner right then, right in the room. Somebody next to you or somebody you been sharing with throughout the day. And then get it on your calendars that you’re going to report in 30 days on how things have gone. Now this is an extremely powerful experience. I realize that most of us do not do this regularly in our lives. Would that be right? Do you have somebody that you set a specific thing and say okay let’s set a date on our calendar in thirty days, let’s report to each other how about you? Well I know that is something that I haven’t always done. It’s not something that I see, but when this happens, this is a game changer. It really creates a fun accountability. So about three or four months ago, I decided to go to a seminar that Rob, my son, who’s the CEO Becoming Your Best, was giving with outstanding financial institution – one of our great clients that we’re fortunate to be able to work with. In the back, while I was observing, one of the individuals there, one of the key executives in the human resource group, didn’t have somebody to share their ideas and assignments with during the day and so we were working together. But at the end of the day we needed, she needed, I was the observer an accountability partner and so I volunteered, there I was. It was fabulous! We both decided something that based on these wonderful inspiring principles that we’ve been talking about that we wanted it become habit in our life, second nature part of our DNA. So we each picked something that was related to them that would be of great help to us. We set a date 30 days later and then I called Shelly and we had a great accountability visit. I’ve got to tell you was an enormous help for me and I think Shelley said the same thing for her – that was very helpful. This is how we can help one another in the process. So these four things will help us develop the type of habits that we want and to root out the type of habits that aren’t helpful.
So if you’re doing something, for example you have an addiction, that you just know isn’t helpful this is a way forward and so as we think about this I like this great quote by Samuel Johnson:
“The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”
And so let us be determined and if we see a habit that is hurting us, that we will have the courage and the fortitude, the endurance to break the habit. That we will break that chain and we will replace it with things that will become just a strong in our life and you will reap the happiness and joy and peace that comes along with it. I love this particular thought and it is at the very basis of Becoming Your Best.
It is this: The best races not been run, and the best song is not been sung, and the grandest deeds have not been done. The best lies in front of us the very best of life and as we go through this process, you become a light to everybody else in your life. You help change your community, those around you, by the very virtue of your influence for good. It helps us create a better world. It’s been great visiting today about this powerful force in our lives. Remember every single day you are making a difference. That is why it is such an honor to be able to work together with you wish you all the best in this course. May you have a great day. This is Steve Shallenberger with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership.