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Starting New Habits or Disciplines

Starting New Habits or Disciplines

The Men and Mental Health Blog features some curated content from online resources. This post originally appeared on the Tim Elmore website and was not written by Good Dads staff.

Entering a new year is a natural time to push “reset” and launch new habits. I have four ideas that immediately come to mind that I thought might be good reminders for you.

First, I wholeheartedly bought into Steven Covey’s statement years ago: When it comes to living by our values, the issue is not prioritizing your schedule but rather scheduling your priorities. Long ago, I began placing in my calendar at the beginning of each year the most important activities when the dates were still blank. If I fail to do this, that calendar will fill up with all kinds of activities that represent someone else’s priorities. For instance, I have a writing day on my calendar every week. If I am traveling on that day, I ask my executive assistant to see about replacing it with another day or two half-days. This is one way I boss my calendar instead of letting it become my boss. I also have a planning time and a thinking block of time in my calendar. The key is for me to recognize where I am weak and ensure I place items I most needed accountability with on that calendar. I even have a rule to eat one salad a day which is now ingrained into my habits. I am a “creature of habit” and these reminders in my calendar help me to be a good creature.

Second, each year I begin a few new habits. In order to do this, I place the new one next to an old habit that’s already become part of my subconscious. For example, when I began a regular habit of reading, I placed a book next to my toothbrush. It served as a daily reminder since I always brush my teeth each day. I am a “doer” by nature, so I am prone to naturally go do something before I would tend to read. In fact, “action” habits are far more natural for my personality than “still” habits. This means I must pay more attention to the habits I wish to start that would push me to be quiet and still. Most people act from “nudges.” We buy chewing gum often because it’s at eye level at the checkout counter in the grocery store. So, I give myself the nudges I need to do what I must do. This goes for food, reflection, listening to podcasts, etc. I either ensure a podcast is cued up when I hop in my car, or I choose to be quiet to think or to pray on my way to work, but it’s a predetermined activity.

Third, I constantly ask myself why I am doing something in order to stay motivated. I check my motives at least once a week. I am a bit nerdy and obsessed with that. The best leaders in history, including Jesus, spoke much about motives, so I concluded this is an important part of my discipline. I must be concerned about my “why” even before my “what.” I want to serve and lead for the right reasons. When I ask and answer my “why” questions about my habits, it re-motivates me to keep on keeping on in the right direction. Most new year’s resolutions are lost because we forget our why, not because we have no discipline. The tyranny of the urgent takes over and we can drift into a fog.

Fourth, accountability from someone or something has made a difference in whether I sustain a good habit or fail. I experimented one year with this reality. I listed two habits I wanted to start in January—both about self-improvement. One was about keeping my blood sugars in a certain window since I am a type one diabetic. The other was about fitness and exercise. I didn’t share the first goal with anyone; I told a close friend about my second goal. It won’t surprise you that I didn’t do as well with the first goal as I did with the other. When we ask respected friends to hold us accountable to commitments, we tend to succeed more often, even if it’s because we dread the conversation we’ll have about our failure. Accountability can be implemented through intentional discussions with a person and by writing goals or standards down and keeping them in front of us. In both cases, it’s about reminding ourselves of the person we wish to be.

I will never forget the time I first read this piece below about habits. It always reminds me of their power and their influence on my life.

 

Habit

 

I am your constant companion.

I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden.

I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.

 

I am completely at your command.

Half of the things you do you might as well turn over

to me and I will do them, quickly and correctly.

 

I am easily managed, but you must be firm with me.

Show me exactly how you want something done

and after a few lessons, I will do it automatically.

 

I am the servant of great people,

and, alas, of all failures as well.

Those who are great, I have made great.

Those who are failures, I have made failures.

 

I am not a machine, though I work

with the precision of a machine,

and the intelligence of a person.

You may run me for 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.

 

– Anonymous

Tim Elmore is “pracademic,” down-to-earth, and research-based. As a best-selling author and international speaker, Dr. Tim Elmore creates unforgettable leadership experiences for the world’s top brands.He’s authored more than 30 books and trained thousands of leaders in nationally-renowned organizations such as Delta, Home Depot, the National Football League, and the U.S. Department of Justice. Find more of Tim’s work, including more articles like this one, at timelmore.com. The views and opinions expressed by guest writers outside of this blog do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Good Dads.

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