You’ve heard it before, change is inevitable – except from a vending machine! What isn’t inevitable is whether we lead change, or change leads us. Charles Darwin didn’t say the strongest or fittest of the species will survive, he said those who most responsive to change will survive. I say those who lead change will do more than survive, they’ll thrive.
To develop any area of your life you need to master the mechanics of change. Sometimes change will be dictated from the outside it will force itself on you. Like an illness, that you may have been able to prevent now that it’s happened all you can do is respond. Life mastery requires that we do more than adapt to change. Life mastery requires that we create change. This process of creation begins inside you but it manifests in what you do. The way to change your life is to change your behaviour. Yes it may start with our thoughts, beliefs and emotions but ultimately change is spelt – ACT, you’ve got to take action.
If you don’t have what you want it’s because of what you’re doing or more likely, not doing. Nobody ever climbed Everest just by visualising, believing, thinking or conceiving it. That might be a start but you can’t finish something with a start. I don’t care if you can bend spoons with mind until you get up and do something, all you’re going to have is bent spoons.
So action is essential but it’s not enough. If you only brushed your teeth once you would soon have rotten teeth. You’ve got to brush your teeth every day for the rest of your life. That goes for most success behaviours. They have to become habits. Aristotle famously said: ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.’ Our habits are responsible for more than our accomplishments; our habits are the basis of who we are. The word ‘habit’ comes from the Latin; Habitus meaning ‘Character’. Our habits aren’t determined by the quality of our character; our character is determined by the quality of our habits.
What I love about habits is that they’re automatic. Sure replacing a habit can be a challenge but once you have, you don’t need to think about it. Habits are the brains own autopilot system. When they kick in, what a pleasure, you can sit back and enjoy the ride.
Excellent artists, sportsman, scientists and business people have simply acquired excellent habits. From my early studies in Academic Psychology I learnt that genius was largely innate. From this there is a sad conclusion: why aspire to greatness if its something you can’t acquire. The latest research is turning this notion upside down. Anders Ericsson, professor of Psychology at Florida State University has spent the past 20 years studying exceptional individuals in all fields. His conclusion: ‘Nothing shows that innate factors are a necessary prerequisite for expert-level mastery in most fields.’ The only exception Anders has found is in the correlation between height and athletic achievement in sports, most clearly for basketball and volleyball. So what does determine success? In Anders words: ‘extended, deliberate practice.’ In just one example Anders found that the top classical musicians practice on average double the amount than their less accomplished counterparts. As a writer when I go back to my early essays I always cringe at how bad they are. Today I write for a living, so if ability was fixed I’d be homeless. Every book I’ve written has been easier, quicker and if sales are any indication, better. The best way to learn is to do, not once but regularly. Greatness is a habit. Here are seven steps to turning an act into a habit:
1. Define the behaviour that you want to transform into a habit.
2. Be clear about how the habit will improve your life. For example
cutting down your spending will help you secure a comfortable
3. Make the habit as pleasurable as possible. For example exercise
to uplifting music.
4. Diarise specific times and days to perform it.
5. Get a buddy to hold you accountable.
6. Keep a habit record. Each day check whether you have performed
the behaviour or not.
7. Manage your slip-ups. If you miss a day don’t beat yourself up.
Figure out what you need to change to make sure you do it next
Control your habits and you control your destiny!
© Justin Cohen
Justin Cohen is an international speaker, trainer and author. For more personal development resources go to www.justinpresents.com .