Fun Fact #1: You are the product of your actions.
Fun Fact #2: The habits you maintain will lead to your Success or Failure.
Every one of us stand as the result of the combination of our actions. Now before you argue, let me just say that of course there will always be external factors (some outside of our control) that play a role in our lives. However, in the spirit of free will, I would like to take a closer look at the way we create and shape our own lives.
Let me start with a simple, relatable example: You want to lose weight…
There are actions you know you must take to get from where you are now to where you want to be. In this example, that means actions related to diet, exercise and all the things one would associate as contributing to weight loss.
Plus, in this and many other cases, it doesn’t just take one action, but a series of sustained actions (or a combination of several actions sustained over time) that allow you to arrive at a predetermined result or destination.
The key to your success is the “sustained over time” part.
If you workout a single time, you may lose a pound or two, but you definitely won’t make any significant progress by going to the gym once, or eating one salad. Instead, sustain those actions for a year, and no doubt you’ll be closer to the result you desire than you were when you started… I think we’d all agree on that.
Most of you reading this already know exactly what actions you need to take in order to get to where you want to go. Maybe you’ve even taken an action or two…
Now comes the hard part: CONSISTENCY
In most cases, we fail to sustain those actions for the amount of time necessary to achieve the results we desire. I personally blame this on our “Instant Gratification” society, which tells us that if you do something and don’t immediately get the final result you were looking for, then you should quit because it’s not worth the trouble.
However, it’s specifically those sustained actions, day in and day out, that determine the direction you’re heading and how quickly you’re getting there…
Aristotle said it simply: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.”
The American Heritage Dictionary defines a habit as: “A recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition.”
So, if you can take the actions that you know will produce the results you are looking for, and turn those actions into habits (repeating them until they become their own “unconscious pattern”), then you will inevitably improve the likelihood of achieving the results you desire in any area of your life. You will achieve the “excellence” you seek.
So what is it that stands in our way?
Well of course, it’s that forming a new habit takes time! And our time is precious… Especially when we already use most of it to perpetuate our existing patterns! Who then, has the time to carve out new ones?
And how much time are we actually talking about?
We’ve all heard the myth that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. However, the time it actually takes to go from performing an action to making that action a habit varies widely based on behavior, person and circumstance…
One scientific study on the process by Phillippa Lally, found that it took anywhere from 18 to 256 days to create a new habit (where the behavior became automatic). In this recent study, the average time taken to establish a new habit was 66 days… Nearly 3X the 21 day myth we know and love!
Lally’s study also provided that forming a new habit is not an all or nothing process… For example, when participants missed a day or two while establishing their new habit, it did not have a significant effect on achieving their overall goal of creating that new habit.
Often, we set out with the best intentions, but when we stumble along the way, we perceive it as total failure and quit altogether… Some New Year’s Resolutions ringing a bell??
Well, the good news is it’s not all or nothing! Get back up and continue performing those actions you wish to sustain, and eventually you will achieve the excellence of your habit.
I encourage you to take a good look at your current situation. What goals do you have for the year ahead? What habits do you want to establish to help get you there?
The key is understanding that excellence takes time (plan for a minimum of two months). Don’t stress out if you miss a day! Just get back on track as soon as you can, and embrace the process. Focus on your “big picture” or end goal, and you’ll be better equipped to establish the habits that will help get you there… No matter how long it takes.