If you have been reading my previous blogs you know what I have been through. The last thing I want to do is stick in the past and act like a victim, but it was important to me that I introduced myself properly so that you can understand where I’m coming from. I’m fine with the past, as a matter of fact, I am grateful for the past.
This blog is about the things you know you should do, the things you are currently doing and the things you know you shouldn’t do. I want to challenge you to look at yourself and think about the results you are presently getting. Are you getting the results that you desire? What are the areas in your life that you want to improve? How can you do so, and where do you start? Do you ever ask yourself these kinds of questions?
For the last five years, these questions have been the focus of my attention (consciously and subconsciously). In the past three years, I have been trying to relate the behavior of successful people with my own behavior. “What makes successful people successful?” Isn’t that an interesting question.
What do successful people do that brings them such success? What can we learn from them? This subject really consumes most of my thoughts, where did they start and what did it take?
My first blog was about knowing what you want and my second blog was about keeping your dream alive and never give up on them. But, what if you don’t really know what you want and you go through life just doing what you do? What if you – for whatever reason – don’t have any goals? What if your current situation is so stressful that you ‘can’t afford’ to have any dreams?
My situation has been stressful, I have known a lot of stress in my life. Circumstances were consuming me and I never really set any goals for my life. The way I grew up it was basically about survival, living from day to day, thinking that this is all that life is about.
But I have always asked many questions. “Why are we on this planet?” “What is the meaning of life?” “Why does life always seems to be against me?” “Why am I so scared?” To almost all questions I have an answer now, but the question that has kept me busy for many many years was…
Where do I start changing my life? When is a good time to start and what do I need to make this change? By asking these questions and looking for an answer, an interesting cycle started (this already started years before I have been focusing on this). – “Next Monday I will start going to the gym and eating healthy.” I thought this was a good place to start.
But life happened and I went to the gym for two weeks and lost interest. “When I have saved some money I will allow myself to be happy” – Life happened and I never saved any money. “After I move out of my mom’s house I can create the circumstances I want” – Life happened and for a while, I was ‘in control’ but I fell back in the same behavior that made me ask these questions in the first place.
The promises I made to myself to make my life better were not backed up by any level of dedication. Since a kid, I have been hungry to change my circumstances and live a better life, but now I see that I always allowed my circumstances to take over. It was a cycle I could not escape from.
There was always some excuse to why I could not do it, but now I know the answer to most of the questions I have been asking myself. I’m writing about this because I think that a lot of people experiencing the same.
A small change started another cycle for me. I wrote about this in my previous blog, it was a small change with big consequences. I was able to figure out that my smoking habit got in the way of the goals I wanted to reach. Back then I had simple goals like gain some self-confidence and changing my physic. Although the path towards those goals is not easy, they are artificial goals most people have.
But I was so addicted to my lifestyle that I needed to hit rock bottom and say to myself “ENOUGH”. And that really was the key to my success in breaking with that habit.
Now let’s talk about you. Do you have any habits that you know you should break with but they are just so tenacious? Do you ever say to yourself “Monday I will stop smoking” or “Monday I will start going to the gym and eating healthy” or do you say (like I used to do) “After this box of cigarettes I stop smoking”? Does this sound familiar to you?
Can you find yourself in any of the examples I have given? Many people have these patterns of making promises to themselves of living better and improving themselves but often end up with disappointing results. Why?
Habits are really what our life is all about. It determines our results in life. In the Dutch language a habit is called a ‘gewoonte’ – ‘gewoon’ can be translated to normal. It’s the things that are normal to us, the things we are used to. The question then becomes why, why are these things normal to us?
It is my conclusion that a habit (or a ‘gewoonte’) comes from either one of two factors. The first one: conditioning. The habit it taught, you have copied it from someone at some point in your life – either consciously or unconsciously. Second: it is self-taught. You can teach yourself new habits and unlearn any habit you currently have. Self-taught habits come from a desire to change, the motivation to change come from either comfort or discomfort.
Take a look at yourself. What are your habits? This is a really important subject, the habits you currently have may not produce the results you want. Think about it. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Brushing your teeth is a habit. You have probably been taught by your parents that you should brush your teeth every day. Setting your alarm and hitting the snooze button is a habit. This one is self-taught, it is more comfortable to stay in bed for a couple more minutes.
Going to the gym is a habit – so is giving up on it. This is also self-taught. A person usually decides to take on this habit from a place of discomfort. They are not satisfied with their body (being overweight or being skinny can both be motivational) or the person may have a desire to increase their energy level. A disease (read disease) can be the motivation to stop a habit and take on a new (healthy) habit.
Do you need more examples?
Smoking is a habit. Rushing off to work without having breakfast is a habit. Driving too fast in traffic can be a habit. Cursing is a habit, being too late can be a habit. Drinking enough water during the day can be a habit. Drinking on the weekends can be a habit. Starting your day with coffee is a habit. Using your smartphone way too much can be a habit.
Also in your thinking, there are habitual patterns. Do you think of other people as evil? Are you unworthy? Are you better than others? Do you think that every person has a positive intention?
The way you speak is a part of your habits. Are you using rude language? Are you confident? Do you speak soft or loud? are you respectful to others? Do you not say things that you know you should say?
In all areas of your lives, there are habits. Thinking, speaking, and behavior. When you really start to think about it, can you recognize these patterns for yourself? If so, are your current habits producing the results you desire? If not, are you willing to make a commitment to change?
As I said, many times I asked myself, where do I start? Looking back, this question developed out of a place of discomfort. I was not comfortable with my way of living and this developed in a fierce desire to make change my life. Now I know how.
Start here. If you are, like I was and you are not comfortable with your way of living, I want to challenge you to really dig deep and get your habits out on paper so you can see them in front of you. There are certain things of which you know you should or should not do. Start with those, make a decision to change.
It does not matter what day it is or what you think you need, start right now with whatever you have. That is the golden rule for a change. Do you want to finish that book that you have wanted to read for so long? Stop making an excuse and start doing it. It is really that simple. Do you forget it one day or are you occupied with daily stuff, it’s okay, pick up the book and get back to it.
What habits do you need to get the results you want? Make it a habit to get started. After you get started the desire to keep going will grow. Keep feeding this desire – you can do that by writing down your goal and keep repeating it to yourself. It will become your way of living.
My hunger for a better life keeps growing and growing. Especially now I am discovering what it is that successful people are doing differently than 97% of the population. They are aware that their habits determine their success. The most frequent habits I have stumbled upon are these:
These are just some examples I picked up, there are much more and they differ among all people. Now – do get excited and get going, but don’t try to change all your bad habits at once. Believe me, because of my hunger for a change I have tried this and wrote down all that I wanted to change, but ended up being disappointed and unmotivated because it was too big of a challenge.
Start small, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” – Lao Tzu. Start with an easy habit to learn (when you learn a new habit you automatically replace it with an old habit) like brushing your teeth every day, if you are not currently doing that. Or wake up an hour earlier to start your day. Or dedicated to having breakfast every morning. If going to the gym is a big step start with taking a walk (or a run) every day.
Don’t make any excuses for why you can’t do it. If I can do it, so can you.
Until next time.