Monday, May 28, 2007

Dismantling Bad Habits

We're almost halfway through 2007. What have you achieved so far? Now is the time to assess success, and dismantle a few bad habits that are going to tie you up in knots before you even start.

1. Why worry?

Worrying tends to drive a number of negative responses or reactions. When we get locked into it, when we've really got our teeth gnawing on the bone of worry, what happens is this: nothing. Most often, worry paralyzes us. Almost as often, when worry actually gets us to do anything, it's often the manifestation of a bad habit: comfort eating is a prime example.

When we sit around and worry begins to overwhelm us, the simplest way to feel better -- without doing anything -- is to eat something. It has the added bonus of feeling like we're doing something, and what we're doing is changing how we feel. Except, when it's done, we know we're not changing anything (not in a good way), and there are yucky side-effects like additional weight gain, mood swings and self esteem and motivation levels that slide down another few notches.

Another side effect of worry is insomnia. This is an extremely damaging side-effect, and its perniciousness is grossly under-estimated. Lack of sleep on a day to day basis severely erodes our ability to enjoy life, to effectively do the simplest tasks, and we run the real risk of endangering ourselves and others when we're in our cars or handling sensitive equipment.

So here's a rule of thumb this year. The moment you sense something is bothering you, go and do something. Develop the habit of instant response to worry, and you'll wipe worry out.

2. Time Management

Research has indicated that some families watch up to 40 hours of television a week. That's a working week! If you want to release up huge quadrants of time in your life, limit TV time, and whenever a social engagement conflicts with what's on TV, pass up the TV. At the end of your life you're going to evaluate the quality of your time on Earth by the nature of relationships you shared with others. You're not going to fondly remember a single TV program.

On weekends, get out of bed early and go out and celebrate the day. If you really need the sleep, sleep on a Sunday afternoon, and if you must, Saturday afternoon as well. The best way to ruin the perfect day is to sleep until lunch time and then feel too gloomy to emerge until the day is just about done. Give yourself the time to live, and it starts first thing in the morning.

3. Move -- get light

If you're heavier than you should be, cultivate an attitude where you are done feeling uncomfortable in your own skin. When you attempt to lose weight, do so aggressively, but in a way you can sustain for at least a month or more.

Combine exercise with a modified diet. The sooner you get yourself lighter, the sooner you're going to enjoy yourself more, and the more you're going to bask in better esteem, yours and others. Each day you delay is a day in the shadows of who you could be, so get going.

4. Find a paradigm

The beginning of the year is not the only time to think about your identity, but it's a great time to do a thorough checklist of your life. Think about who you are, your identity, your values, what you’re doing with your life. Evaluate the long term results you’re seeing in your friendships, in your health, and wealth, and make some changes.

5. Anticipate change

If you intend to shape the direction of your life this year, one skill matters more than most. Anticipation. Anticipation is the opposite of worrying. It's not reactionary, it's what? Yes, it's about being proactive. Because of course it's more than merely knowing what is about to happen, or finding a problem before it manifests. It's a matter of anticipating the future, which means letting go of the precious present momentarily for long enough to grasp what's immediately about to happen. And with that knowledge, you'll change your strategy, change what you’re doing. It's easier to ward off a small problem that's about to happen, than clean up the mess once the pot smashes onto the kitchen floor.

The above five points represent a broad theoretical dimension. Make sure you internalize these 5 points, and learn to practice them now, and on a daily basis, going forward. The first four are fairly simple, but if you're not there yet, you need to burn a lot of energy and find the discipline to at least get yourself through the starting gates. Then, when you're ready, get into the habit of anticipating. And when you anticipate, think laterally instead of linearly; think in circles rather than straight lines.

Now, here are a few practical suggestions. While the above mindsets present a governing psychology, you'll still need miniature goals, models and patterns to move your life along. You apply the governing psychology to these goals. It's important to remember that setting goals is crucial, but goals are not:

-Be more social.

Those are merely thoughts, hopes and wishes. Without specifying quantity or quality and a date, goals are merely daydreams. So, make your goals specific, and don't make the timeframe in the far future, make them immediate, and revise them often:

-Exercise: run easy every 2nd day in January, starting with 30 minutes a day
-Save: save 10 percent of my salary this month
-Be more social: drinks every Wednesday at X, with Y, swim with Jane every Friday at 4 p.m. in the gym

Without specifying quantity or quality and a date, goals are merely daydreams.

Now set a new set of goals for 2007, and make them worthy goals. That way you'll emerge at the end of the year basking in your own glory. Enjoy your success.

©2007 Nick van der Leek

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