photo © 2009 Frames-of-Mind | more info (via: Wylio)
Attitudes determine our destiny, and attitudes are formed by habits. It follows that the habits we have, are going to determine our destiny in the long run.
But for most people, forming good habits has always been the single most difficult task on the road to self development. Everybody wants a better life. But all too often, people try to develop good habits, fail at them and slowly slip into frustration and acceptance of their current sorry state.
Forming good habits
Mostly, it is going to be your persistence and your desire that will determine whether you are able to form the habits and achieve the results you want. If you have the desire and inclination, here are some tips that may help :
1. Focus on one habit at a time. Picking one is important, it gives you focus. Trying too many at the same time causes dissipation of energy. I will repeat an example I have quoted before, sun’s rays can burn paper only when focused at one point through a lense. Keep your focus on one habit at a time.
2. Which one to pick? Look at all the good habits you are interested in. Which one will give you the most excitement and happiness? Don’t think about whether you can do it or how you will do it. Just pick the most exciting one.
The most exciting might seem most daunting too. You may feel tempted to choose an easier one. That can still get results but there is this chance that you will keep looking for easier ones in the future and keep putting off on the most difficult one. I suppose it is best to face what you fear the most. Personally, I wouldn’t enjoy anything as long as I know in my heart there is something else that I would like more and that I have been avoiding out of fear. The sweet feeling of victory and invincibility that comes when we conquer our biggest fear cannot be compared with anything else. Once you have conquered the most difficult one, the rest fall in place almost of their own, without much effort on your part.
3. Use self suggestion. For more, read this link . Everyday, at a pre determined time, repeat silently to yourself how you will feel after achieving your goal, after forming this habit. Imagine it to yourself and enjoy the feeling. Early morning or before going to sleep will be a good time.
This might look foolish, useless or uncomfortable to those who have not tried it, but consider what Shiv Khera says – Motivation is like fire, unless you keep adding fuel to it, it dies. Self suggestion is a very potent fuel for motivation. It keeps reminding you why you are making all the effort and makes you feel enthusiastic about it, every day.
4. The bad days are in fact the good days. There are the good days, when you feel all enthusiastic, full of energy and ready to go. Then there are the bad days, when you feel the least inclined to carry on with your habit. There may be other, more interesting things to do. Or you may be assailed by doubts about your progress and you start asking yourself whether you can make it.
Your response to these bad days determines the result of your efforts, it decides whether you succeed or you fail. Now I don’t think you need to push yourself as much as you do on your regular days. But I do think it is imperative that you show up. Showing up is a necessary part of forming habits. Just hang on and do whatever you can.
Say if it is long distance running you are doing, don’t bother about doing your usual distance. Do whatever you can. Don’t decide on any other, shorter distance either. Just don’t set any limit. Go ahead and run as much as you can and then leave. This is not as intimidating. Habits are about continuity. Continuity here is continuity of effort, not of results. Results cannot be same every time. It is OK to not do your best everyday.
5. Don’t over analyze your progress. Don’t be too serious about your results. Lighten up and try to enjoy.
On your bad days, you will have an urge to negatively analyze your progress. Analysis is important, but it should be done with a cool mind and on a regular basis. Don’t analyze when you are in a low mood. Make a habit of analyzing at a fixed time every day, or at least every week. In this effort, journal writing helps more than anything else. People who don’t use journals don’t understand how much clarity and strength of purpose a journal brings. We have thousands of thoughts a day and we can’t remember all of them. But when you keep a journal, you can track the progress of your efforts and of your thoughts on a regular basis. You can go back to what you were thinking few days back and compare.
6. Keep time for fun. While planning, keep ample time for fun. Don’t set impossible time tables. A lot of people, in their enthusiasm, set a lot of time for their new activity and no time for fun. A plan of this kind can’t last long. Keep ample time for fun activities – follow your hobby, meet your friends… do what gives you pleasure.
Is there any end to forming good habits?
Although this doesn’t seem like a part of the post, I felt like adding it – We were made to learn some good habits when we were kids. We added more good habit later. So is there a point when we stop?… I think we can’t stop anywhere. Once we have formed some good habits, we get used to them and feel the need for a change. I see no point in trying to hold on to the present habits just because they have served me well so far. There is no constant in this world but change. So even good habits have to change some day. There is no use resisting change, it is going to happen anyway. We do better if we allow it and direct this change into more positive habits.
Refine your habits, your ideologies to make them become better. There is no end to improvement. Ask any great master. One common thing among them is they keep improving, keep learning.