Consciously cultivate the most authentic habits you can. For each habit you consider, ask yourself: Is this really me? Is this consistent with the person I most want to be? If any part of your life feels phony and inauthentic to you, it needs to be replaced with a more genuine alternative. This won’t be easy, but it is correct.
Your ultimate goal in this area is to create a set of mutually supportive habits that synergistically increase your alignment with truth, love, and power. Good habits enable you to remain in a positive flow state while you focus on creative self-expression. You consciously make the high-level decisions, and your habits take care of the low-level details. When your habits work together so congruently, the result is both beautiful and elegant. You may never reach this ideal within your lifetime, but every step you take in this direction is worthwhile.
Use a variation of the heart-centered question to evaluate your habits. Which habits put you on the path with a heart? Which ones lead you astray? Don’t wait for good habits to install themselves or for bad habits to die on their own. You must take the initiative and create the changes your desire. Cultivate behaviors that keep you on the heart-centered path, and drop habits that don’t have a heart.
To build your courage, make a habit of doing something that scares you. In my (Steve Pavlina) Toastmasters club, we do impromptu speaking at every meeting. Someone will ask a random question such as “If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be and why?” Then you must immediately get up and give a one- to two-minute speech on that topic in front of the group. Your goal isn’t to give a perfect presentation off the top of your head. Instead, the idea is to build confidence speaking in front of people. When you can summon the courage to speak in front of a group with no preparation, it makes prepared speaking that much easier. The courage you build in one area of your life will also spill over into other areas.
Remember that you’re the commander-in-chief of your life. You must decide which habits you’ll abandon. Conduct personal experiments to discover which habits produce the best results for you. Which habits increase your effectiveness? Which ones get in your way?
Here’s a list of 66 habits that can help boost your personal effectiveness. Scan these items to see if any of them appeal to you. Then use 30-day trials and/or stair-steeping to make the changes you desire.
01. Daily goals. Set targets for each day in advance. Decide what you’ll do; then do it. Without a clear focus, it’s too easy to succumb to distractions.
02. Worst first. To defeat procrastination, learn to tackle your most unpleasant task first thing in the morning instead of delaying it until later. This small victory will set the tone for a very productive day.
You don’t live in a void. For better or worse, your habits impact the lives of others. Take a moment to consider the social consequences of your actions. Do your habits help others align themselves with truth, love, and power, or does your behavior lead people astray? Your actions have a conditioning effect on other people, subtly influencing them to adopt similar behaviors. This is especially true of children, who frequently look to adults for guidance.
Oneness teaches us that we’re all role models. As we interact with others, we teach them how to behave, whether we realize it or not. Our interconnectedness means that individual habits can’t be considered in isolation. One person’s bad habits can create serious consequences for others, and sometimes those consequences are severe, as in the case of a drunk-driving accident. Consequently, we must not only be responsible to ourselves, but also to the community in which we live.
Power is perhaps the most important principle when it comes to habit change. In order to change your habits, you must focus on your desired outcome and exert a serious effort. The more disciplined you become, the easier it is to change your habits.
Remember that you’re responsible for how your life turns out. Whether your habits make you or break you, you’re the one who must deal with the long-term consequences. Since habits wield power over your results, you must wield power over your habits.
In the game of chess, it’s generally a bad idea to try to attack your opponent’s king right out of the gate unless your opponent is a complete beginner. If you want to win, you must be smarter than that. Chess has an early game, a middle game, and an endgame. In the early game, you want to get off to a strong start and try to gain a slight advantage. In the middle game, you employ tactics to capture your opponent’s pieces and put yourself in a superior position. It’s only in the endgame that you go after the king directly, and even then you may need to continue weakening your opponent for a while before you’re ready to declare checkmate.
A common mistake people make when seeking to change entrenched habits is assuming that they must tackle such challenges alone and in private. That simply isn’t true. The principle of love reminds you to take advantage of your ability to connect. Enlist the help of others to dramatically increase your changes of success. Don’t let pride get in the way of results. Reach out and ask for help!
It’s a virtual certainty that other people have already navigated the changes you wish to make in your life. Instead of painstakingly figuring out your own solutions from scratch, take advantage of the collective wisdom of others. Seek out role models who’ve already achieved what you desire, and request advice or mentoring. Look for good books on the subject, and apply what you learn from them. Ask for help and support from friends and family. Find someone to coach you through the process of change, even if you have to pay for their time.
To apply truth to your habits, take a moment to assess the habits you’re already running. What are your best habits? What are your worst? Do you have any addictions? Do these habits serve you well or hold you back? Do they help you align with truth, or do you feel compelled to lie about them? What habits are you hiding? What habits are you most proud of?
Grab a piece of paper and brainstorm two lists: a list of your positive habits and another list of your negative habits. How do you know if a habit is positive or negative? Use your mind’s predictive powers to imaging what long-term, cumulative effect each one will have if you maintain it for the rest of your life. How will it benefit you? What will it cost you? What does the long-term outlook suggest? If you could snap your fingers and change this habit immediately, would you do so? Be brutally honest with yourself. Then accept any unpleasant truths you discover, even if you feel powerless to change them.
Habits are memorized solutions. When your mind figures out how to get something done, it saves the solution, which is reinforced whenever you apply it. Driving a car, eating a meal, and reading written text are all memorized solutions. It took you a lot of effort to learn these skills, but today you can replay these known patterns instead of starting from scratch every time.
Habits are your mind’s approach to time management. It would be extremely inefficient for you to consciously decide how to spend every minute of every day. Your conscious mind has better things to do than solve the same problems over and over, so it delegates known problems to your subconscious mind in order to recall and apply the memorized solutions.