You know those lists of ‘things successful people do’ that are ALL over the internet and clogging up your Facebook feed? They usually include something about building good habits, and the older I get the more convinced I am that good habits ARE one of the most critical keys to success in life.
You can run away from that knowledge but you can’t hide 😉
Habits and routines might sound a little boring, but they’re the essential ‘secret of success’ for seeing results in whatever area of your life it is you’re wanting to create change. Chances are, it’s bad habits, that you may not have even recognised as such, that have caused you to feel stuck in a certain situation.
Avoid negative self-talk if you want to become successful
It’s the habitual negative self-talk that sees us limiting our dreams. It’s the habitual reaching for the cookie jar in the afternoon that has contributed to those extra pounds you’re not comfortable carrying.
The thought of switching out bad old habits for good ones sounds like a helluva lot of work, so most of us, and I’m no exception, feel like it’s all just too hard, and we stay stuck. This is an area I reallllly struggle with and I’ve noticed it happens in all areas of my life at once.
When I’m in the zone, I’m eating well, exercising well AND I’m committing time to the things I love, that are important to me, like writing. A lot of the motivational habit-forming things that I read are actually about writing and creativity, rather than exercise or healthy eating, but they all come back to the same central message: Perseverance is the key to your success.
The key to success? Good habits!
Here are some of the tips I’ve gleaned about the secrets of success from other people who are far better at this than I (mainly because they’re consistent in putting out material people can actually read and be inspired by!):
It doesn’t matter what the habit is, you just have to be consistent. Show up, at the gym, in the kitchen, ‘on the page’ every single day. Don’t want for motivation or inspiration to strike, because even if it does, it is an unreliable friend who will ditch you as soon as things get tough.
Don’t strive for excellence. Let yourself produce crap. The only way to get good at anything is to practice. Do a bad job at something consistently day after day and slowly you will start to see improvements. Five years ago I couldn’t do a real push up to save myself. Now? Easy. Creative people create. Fit people work out. There’s no magic bullet here. Just be willing to put in the work.
Remember to start small
Similarly, there’s no shame in being a beginner. Laugh at yourself and your clumsy efforts (without resorting to negative self-talk) and remember that everyone started small. JK Rowling’s first chapters were probably rubbish, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger was a skinny little boy once upon a time.
Brainstorm your new habit
Brainstorm wildly about what your new habit could be. When we think of exercise or nutrition I think too often people jump straight to the big stuff: “I’m going to do a 5km run every morning at 6am” or “that’s it, I’m cutting out all carbs starting today” – it’s too much, too soon, and we fail. Then we’re discouraged and don’t want to try again for fear of failure and that whole vicious cycle reinforces itself.
Using writing as an example, I just read these suggestions for how to be successful with writing on Chris Guillebeau’s Facebook page (a writer I really admire). He says: “You can write first and edit later (or “write drunk, edit sober” as the saying goes).
You can use a timer and write for 50 minutes every morning or you can plan to write 500 words before going to bed. Whatever works for you is what matters”. Genius! Why? Because half of those suggestions I had never thought of.
Ironically, I am entirely uncreative in the way I think about creativity. I assume a writing habit means “writing a professional quality blog post of at least 1000 words twice a week”. Big goal, too big for a (very busy) novice like me, so I end up going way too long between blog posts.
And because I haven’t given myself permission to practice my writing in other ways in between time, what I produce invariably isn’t of the quality I desire (unless I’m writing in an inspiration-fuelled frenzy, which as I said rarely happens for most people) and I’m discouraged. Even knowing that perseverance is one of the keys to success isn’t enough sometimes to make me get on with it.
How to be successful at exercise? Build an exercise habit!
Following on from number 4, here are a number of completely off-the-top-of-my-head ideas for how you might be able to build an exercise habit:
- Choose a Youtube exercise video (I like the FitnessBlender ones) and do it at the same time every day until it starts to feel easy, then move on to the next one.
- Join a hiking club, or something else activity based, and commit to doing one activity a week.
- Buy yourself a Fitbit or another activity tracker and see how many steps you can push out during your lunch break.
- Walk or cycle with your kids to school Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (for example).
- Dance while you’re doing the housework.
- Go for a super long walk along the beach a couple of times a week.
- Commit to a jog around the block each morning before work. Seriously – one block, and if you feel like going further once you’re outside and have warmed up, then great!
- Get off public transport a stop or two sooner than you need to, and walk the rest of the way.
- If you need to run an errand within a mile or two radius of home, then commit to walking or cycling there.
There are HEAPS more ideas online – Nerdfitness has a cool list.
Don’t let fear hold you back from success
A further irony is that the more important a goal is, on a personal level, the more likely we are to let fear hold us back from being a success in life. We never really start, so we never get anywhere.
The fear, certainly speaking from my experience, is that we won’t be good enough or we ‘just can’t do it’ and so it’s better to never really try rather than invest all your faith in something that may not pay off.
Except that that’s crap. It will pay off, because you’re actually not a unique little snowflake (sorry…) and your body is subject to the same laws of physics as everyone else’s. True story.
The good news here, which I know most people really struggle to believe, is that nothing is impossible. If you practice hard enough at anything, that’s the real key to success, and you’ll get there. And some things actually take far less time to master than you might think.
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PPS. All images sourced from Bigstock.com.