What Could You Do With Six Months?

29 June 2012

Six months.. a short enough time. Long enough, however, that six month goals don’t grant instant gratification. That makes it tough to keep working towards those goals every day- it’s tough to keep working when you don’t notice much change right off.

What are your goals? What could you do with six months, just doing a little each day? Much?

Imagine you’d read this six months ago and decided that day to start doing a little thing each day.. what would your life look like now? Let’s say I decided to become better at chess and played one hour a day for six months.. Depending on how long each game is that would be 1-4 games a day for a hundred eighty days. One game might not make much of a difference. Ten games might help. A hundred games.. you’re going to be better than where you started. After an average of two games a day for six months I’d have played over three hundred and you’d better believe that I’m going to be head and shoulders over where I began.

Find something you want to be better at and try to find some time to work on it every day! Short post today, I’m off to play some chess.

How Can I Reforge Negative Habits?

21 June 2012

Often the struggles I face feel like they are permanent, and I’m going to suffer from them endlessly without hope of overcoming them. I’m getting better and better about working through them however, and I’d like to share some of the mindsets and techniques I’ve changed or begun implementing that have helped me the most. I’m sure my readers are problem-free and this won’t apply to any of them at all. Who really knows though, maybe I had a twin and we were separated at birth and he’s facing these same problems. Don’t worry, Evil Twin, we will get through this together.

When I speak of ‘struggles,’ I’m referring to the habits and behaviors that hurt us that we may not even realize we have. Habits like constantly putting yourself down, or procrastinating, or even something like sleeping through your alarm every day. Everyone has their own obstacles they face and whether they are big or small, they can be incredibly challenging to overcome. It’s a rare person who can wake up in the morning and decide “From this day forward, I’m never going to procrastinate again.” The reason these habits are so tough to break is that we do them without thinking (duh, habit) and so we often don’t even realize the habit is there in the first place.

I still have plenty of bad habits to work through but I have already defeated quite a few! Looking back through my experiences, these are some common changes I had to make to my thoughts, feelings and actions in order to alter my habits once and for all. In these examples I’ll use the next habit I plan to break and reforge- stop sleeping in every day.

Consider What I Want to Change-

You can’t change anything if you don’t know what it is you’re changing, right? This can be as deep or shallow a process as you want to make it. If you were to tell me “I want to wake up on time every day,” that’s great! You have a goal, and we can work with that. If you have the time or energy you could dig deeper and find out WHY you want to make this change. Using this example, it could be “I want to wake up on time every day BECAUSE my business depends on me starting my work when I say I will- when I start my day late, I miss calls and appear unreliable.” This method of assigning a reason (a WHY) gives your goal more relevance to everyday life than it otherwise might. If you’re following along with your own habit, jot down what you’re wanting to change and your WHY.

Mindset and Thoughts-

Consider the habit you wish to make or break. How do you feel about it? What are your thoughts when you think on it? If that’s confusing then think about the first thing someone else with your habit would say if you asked them to change it tomorrow. Continuing my sleeping-in example; When I think about waking up at six a.m. every day my first thoughts are “That’s so EARLY!” or “There is no way I could do that.” My initial feelings are that of anxiety as I imagine the mental battle I know I’m going to fight tomorrow morning, and fear at the thought of losing that battle.

Once you’ve figured out how you feel and think about your habit and have written those down, take a good look at them and wonder why you feel or think that way. “That’s so EARLY!” Who says it’s early? Early compared to what, to whom? Early in the day, sure- but if you worked graveyard and sleep 3-8, would waking up at 8.p.m be considered ‘sleeping in?’ Of course not- you only slept five hours. So clearly “early” is not a time in the day, but more likely the assumption that seven-eight hours of sleep is not going to happen. When my first thought is “That’s so EARLY,” I’m not talking about the time my alarm goes off. I’m mostly just admitting my intention of not going to bed before 10-11 at night. Now I take my objection ┬áturn it into a phrase that absolutely commits me to a course of action yielding results. “In order to wake up at six a.m I am committing to going to bed at 10pm each and every night.” If you’re following along, take notes. In addition to the “early” objection, you’ll recall I mentioned thinking “There’s no way I could do that.” This one is easy- take any statement that is just generically negative and reword it to be positive and add “Because I’m awesome.” In this example- “I can absolutely do that, because I’m awesome.”

Actions and Behaviors-

These are easier, you’ve already done the hard part. Consider where you are, and what your goal is. What are three things, no matter how small, that you could do each and every day to build towards your new habit? Habits are formed over time and with repetition, so a small change you repeat every day will be much more helpful in the long-term than a big change you make a few times a week. Your actions can be words you say to yourself out loud, emailing yourself a reminder each day, rewarding yourself for your actions yesterday, etc. For my case, I’ve decided my three things are

  • Say out loud “I am going to bed at ten, and waking up tomorrow at six” (Announcing my intent out loud makes me feel more accountable to myself).
  • Set an alarm on my phone to go off at 9:30p.m (to give myself enough time to wrap up what I’m doing).
  • Prepare my morning’s coffee in advance, so only the ‘on’ switch lies between me and the living world (Turns morning coffee into a more instant gratification).

 

Repetition and Consistency-

Once you’ve dialed in a new mindset and thoughts, decided on some actions and have targeted new behaviors, the next step is application. Repetition and Consistency are your biggest allies here my friends, this is what makes and breaks habits. If you have your own system for applying then kudos, but this is the method I’m planning on using myself: Look over your notes, if you have them. Find a few note cards and label them “Mindset and Thoughts” and “Actions and Behaviors.”

On your “Mindset and Thoughts” card, write out your corrected objection and positive statement that we went over earlier. If you’re my Evil Twin, it should read “In order to wake up at 6a.m every morning, I am committed to going to bed at 10p.m each and every night. I can absolutely do that, because I’m awesome.” On your “Actions and Behaviors” card, write out the action steps you’ve committed to taking every day in a bullet format just as I’ve done above. Use these cards to remind yourself of your goal, the reason for your goal, and the steps you’ve put into place to reach that goal. Stick them to your bathroom mirror, glue them to your forehead, whatever- but look at these cards as often as possible to cement in your mind what you are doing and why you are doing it. Do these things every day without fail (remember, you’re absolutely committed) and while it will be hard at first, it will get easier and easier over time until your old negative habit is reforged into a new positive one.

You may not think a habit is hurting you. So what if you sleep in an hour every day? ‘Who cares’ you think, ‘It’s not like anyone is going to think less of me for it.’ Well my dear reader, that’s probably true. Staying up an hour later to watch TV and waking up an hour later every morning may not change the world. But how do you feel when you wake up when you said you would? I can’t speak for you I suppose, but I certainly feel much less groggy and a much more pleased with myself than if I lounge in bed for another hour after my alarm goes off. What would you do with that hour? What could you do with an extra hour a day for the next six months? A hundred eighty hours could go a long way.

Just Don’t Have Time?

19 June 2012

If you haven’t read the Slight Edge, you should probably get on that. It’s an incredible book written by one of my favorite authors and people in general, Jeff Olsen. I don’t want to spoil the book by any means as I can’t possibly explain the Slight Edge theory better than the book itself can- but one of the biggest take-aways from the material is to BE CONSISTENT. Do something every day to get closer to your goals, no matter how small. It’s something I’ve struggled with in the past, as I’m sure 95% of everyone else does too. As I read the book I became more and more aware of how inconsistent my efforts have been to reach goals that I have set for myself, and I became more and more aware of how important it was that I START being consistent. Motivation comes after you begin.

Because I’d like you to read the book I won’t go into the obvious and un-obvious benefits of consistency. Instead, I’ll discuss a few struggles I’ve had when trying to be consistent and the best solutions I’ve found for ME to overcome these struggles. I capitalized ‘me’ so that you understand I’m not telling you what is going to work best for YOU. You’ve got to carve your own path.

Not enough time- If you’re anything like the hefty majority of the population who works a 9-5, you may struggle with time. Add on top of your normal job things like soccer practice, date night, dinner with the folks, overtime work and whatever other things you people with a life do and you’ve got quite the busy schedule! “Not enough time” is easily the number one objection I get when I talk about this sort of thing with people throughout the day. I ask someone what their goal is and they tell me.. then when I offer up something they could do every day to begin to reach that goal they immediately shut it down with “I don’t have time for that.” If pressed, I might even get a “I work forty hours a week, I don’t have time to do such-and-such, you wouldn’t understand.” (I work from home on my own schedule now.)

If “I don’t have the time” is your first answer then ask yourself, why not?

Recent studies suggest the average American watches around 34 hours of television a week. There are enough of those reports that I don’t even need to cite my source, I trust you can Google well enough. 34 hours a week comes to just under five hours every night.. and people tell me they “don’t have the time.” If you are one of those people who tell me “I don’t have a TV” or “I never watch more than one show a night” then you’re just like me! I don’t watch TV either! It doesn’t make me all that much more productive however, as I spend those five hours in front of my laptop screen instead… I’m sure there are folks out there who don’t watch that much TV or sit on the computer so long, but out of ten people I talk to, probably seven or so (that’s estimating low) will tell me they have no time. That means at least seven out of ten people I talk to are outliers or normal liars (That was a pun!) who are lying to themselves just as much as they are lying to me. If you aren’t willing to take an hour of your day, or even half an hour, to consistently move toward your goals because you “don’t have time” then maybe pause and reflect.. Do you not have time? Or is it easier to pretend you don’t?

I wonder how long it took you to read this far.. what else could you have been doing with that time? … “Man this Tyler is a smartass.”

Next item! – Genuinely not having time. This is for those of you who don’t have electricity and don’t have to worry about distractions like television or Facebook or Angry Birds. You’ve got six kids and each one is on a different soccer team. You have a full time job and a graveyard part-time shift. You have to commute an hour and a half each way, not even counting traffic. If you are one of those sunup-to-sundown folks, then you really may be desperate for time. If you only have half an hour to yourself at the end of the day and you’d prefer to spend that with your kids than anything else I’d feel silly persuading you to spend that time otherwise- so lets brainstorm creative ways to multitask and make something out of nothing.

Audiotapes or books can go on any Cd or iPod or iPhone (or Android) and usually can be played in any car with the help of an adapter. Tony Robbins’ Personal Power II, the audio program I’m listening to right now, is one that I have on my laptop, iPad and Android phone so I can listen to it when I’m driving. Lots of audio can be found for free at Amazon or Itunes, and others can be very cheap. In addition to making better use of your commute, sometimes you really get into what you’re listening to and the drive seems to take no time at all! Maybe that hour long commute doesn’t stress you out so much on your way home at night, and you’ve got that much more energy to spend time with your kids.

You might be on your Bluetooth the whole drive, talking to clients- no time for audio (again, do you have no time because you have to, or because its easier not to?). If that is the case then I encourage you to listen to it as you’re showering and getting dressed for the day, or when you’re in bed trying to get to sleep but can’t because your mind is too active. Listening to another voice may either 1. help you become a better person or 2. bore you and knock you right out. Both of those seem like winners to me.

If you think audio is dumb or if singing in your car is what really does it for you (I rock the mic when I’m on the road) then think about other areas in your life you can multitask. I don’t know what your goals are so I picked mine (Be better than I was yesterday).. maybe personal development audio will not further your goals in any way (I suggest this is not the case). If your goal is to become the county Knitting King/Queen, see if you can find an audio book on knitting! .. “Man, this Tyler is a smartass..”

I literally picked the silliest thing I could(I have friends who knit so I can make those jokes) and then googled ‘audio books knitting’. You know what came up? Tons of audio books about knitting. I’m tempted to buy the one called “Stitch N’ Bitch,” it sounds right up my alley.

The point of that example is that LOTS of people commute. I don’t want to search that number, I’ve already done an exhausting amount of research for this article (four minutes or so). If you happen to be someone who spends even just a half hour in the car every day ,odds are good there is audio you can listen to relating to your goal. Want to earn money? Think and Grow Rich is available in audio.Want to live a more fulfilled life? I recommend the Slight Edge. What if your goal is less about you or involves other people- say, your kids? If you drive your kids to school or to practice or anywhere for that matter, maybe you can find an audio book that you and your kids can listen to together and talk about later at dinner? Just throwing ideas out.

I only covered two pieces of a subject that I could probably talk about forever, but I don’t want this post to get too long.. I didn’t realize I’d have so much to say. I’ve used both of these examples myself as reasons to not work out in the morning or not do what I promised. If either of these time excuses are relevant to you I hope you spend some time considering what you’ve read. Before you get all up on me over the word ‘excuse’, let me admit that some excuses can be valid.. but they are still an excuse. Can you benefit from this? Could a spouse, or your kids?

The next time you tell someone “I just don’t have the time,” ask yourself;

1) Do I really not have time, or is it easier to say that instead of taking responsibility?

2) What creative way can I find to maximize the efficiency of the time I spend getting ready for work or for bed? Traveling in the car, on the bus, on a train, with a fox, in a box?

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