My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
So it is with life. Take it one step at a time. Nothing changes overnight … not even you (even cosmetic surgery takes days).
Have you noticed how difficult it is to keep your New Year’s resolution about studying better, playing video games less, etc.? That’s because most of us have these grandiose plans (like “I’ll lose 35 pound this year” or “I’m going to get straight A’s this quarter”) and find it very hard to follow through.
That’s because we’re creatures of habit. We gain weight or hold our weight steady because of our eating habits. Our grades in school are a reflection of our study habits. We cannot expect a different result if we keep doing the same thing — by force of habit.
Unfortunately, habits don’t change overnight. People say, it takes 21 days to form a habit, but that’s a misinterpretation of the originating study. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonselk/2013/04/15/habit-formation-the-21-day-myth/#6160c47debc4.
Most people believe that habits are formed by completing a task for 21 days in a row. Twenty-one days of task completion, then voila, a habit is formed. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. The 21-day myth began as a misinterpretation of Dr. Maxwell Maltz’s work on self-image. Maltz did not find that 21 days of task completion forms a habit. People wanted it to be true so much so, however, that the idea began to grow in popularity.
Tom Bartow, who successfully started advanced training for Edward Jones and has since become a highly sought after business coach, developed the following model of what habit formation really looks like:
The 3 phases of habit formation:
Phase 1: THE HONEYMOON
This phase of habit formation is characterized by the feeling of “this is easy.” As all married people will tell you, at some point even the greatest honeymoon must end. The honeymoon phase is usually the result of something inspiring. For example, a person attends a highly motivational conference, and for the first few days after the conference the individual is making positive changes in his or her life.
Phase 2: THE FIGHT THRU
Inspiration fades and reality sets in. A person finds himself struggling with the positive habit completion and old habits seem to be right around the corner. The key to moving to the third phase of habit formation is to win 2 or 3 “fight thru’s.” This is critical. To win the fight thru, use the following techniques:
- RECOGNIZE: Recognition is essential for winning the fight thru. When you have entered the fight through, simply say to yourself, “I have entered the fight thru, and I need to win a few to move past this.” Winning each fight thru will make it easier to win the next. Conversely, when you choose to lose a fight thru, you make it easier to lose the next one.
- ASK 2 QUESTIONS: “How will I feel if I do this?” and “How will I feel if I don’t do this?” Bring EMOTION into the equation. Let yourself feel the positive in winning the fight thru and the negative in losing.
- LIFE PROJECTION: If the above 2 techniques haven’t moved you to action, then imagine in great detail how your life will be in 5 years if you do not begin making changes. Be totally honest with yourself, and allow yourself to feel what life will be like if the changes are not made.
Phase 3: SECOND NATURE
Entering second nature is often described by feelings of “getting in the groove.” Once in second nature, the following are 3 common interruptions that will send a person back to the fight thru:
- THE DISCOURAGEMENT MONSTER: An individual allows negative results discourage him or her into thinking, “This isn’t working, and there is nothing I can do.”
- DISRUPTIONS: An individual experiences significant change to his or her current pattern (e.g., vacations, holidays, illness, weekends).
- SEDUCTION OF SUCCESS: An individual begins to focus on positive results and begins to think, “I’m the special one. I have finally figured out how to have great results with not so great process.”
If a person experiences an interruption that sends him or her back to the fight thru, winning 2 or 3 fight thru’s will bring him or her back to second nature.
Most people want positive habits to be as easy as brushing their teeth. HELLO…LET’S BE ADULTS HERE…being great isn’t easy. In fact greatness requires sacrifice. It requires doing things that others won’t or can’t do. GREAT HABITS ARE FORMED DAILY. Truth be told, good habits require consistent commitment. Highly successful people have learned to develop good habits. Make the commitment to make it past the fight thru, no matter how many times you go back to it, to reach new levels of success.
I like that: “greatness requires sacrifice. It requires doing things that others won’t or can’t do. GREAT HABITS ARE FORMED DAILY.”
There is a concept out there that might help. It’s contained in the title of this blog. It’s called the Kaizen method. In essence, it’s the power of continuous incremental improvement.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. You’re more likely to follow through if your goals are simple and achievable. For example, if you want a stronger core, have it a goal to hold a plank position for 30 seconds. Do it tomorrow when you first get out of bed. It’s only 30 seconds. Then, increase that pose by 30 additional seconds everyday. It’s only 30 seconds more.
Likewise, if you want better grades, for example, start by spending 5 minutes everyday (1) thinking about the (a) main points of your readings, (b) what the teacher wanted you to get out of that reading, (c) what the key points of the reading was, and (2) making good notes. Being able (1) to extract the (a) important points from your readings and (b) how those points relate to the overall goal of the class or the body of knowledge you’re trying to learn and being able (2) to retrieve that information are more important how much time you spend reading or how fast you read.
Make it a habit to spend more time THINKING about what you read instead of the mindless process of reading and highlighting without real comprehension of what the material says and how it relates to other things you’ve studied. Every subsequent day, make it a goal to increase the amount of thinking time by 5 minutes. You’ll find that, over time, you’ll understand more about what you read, and that you remember more about what you read. I guarantee that there have been times when you have highlighted a significant portion of a page only to discover that you remember nothing about the highlighted portion: you had to reread it. That is inefficient.
Learning requires engagement. Think. Use your head. Ask yourself what the point of each paragraph was about. What was the topic and what was the author trying to convey about that topic in that paragraph? How did that paragraph relate to the preceding paragraph? How did that paragraph relate to the author’s thesis statement or overall argument?
Use the Cornell method to take notes. It will help guide you. I promise that if you keep working to improve a little bit everyday, you’ll look back one day and be amazed at how far you had progressed.
Be better today than you were yesterday with respect to that one thing you’re trying to change. What do you have to lose? It’s only 30 seconds or 5 minutes. But, if you follow through, the results will be amazing!
All my love, always,