Most people think of habits in a negative way, especially at the beginning of January when they are setting their New Year Resolutions. Smoking, drinking too much, eating too much between meals. These are the bad habits many of us focus on when setting resolutions, and we determine to break these habits, often without much success.
The reason most New Year Resolutions end in failure is because we are trying to break deeply embedded habits.
But I am not a “glass half empty” person. Mine is a “glass half full”. I don’t set New Year Resolutions focusing on trying to break bad habits. I set Goals which I then turn into Successful Habits.
In his book “Psycho Cybernetics”, Maxwell Maltz informs us that if we repeat the same action every day for 21 days it becomes a habit. Once it becomes a habit it is very easy to maintain. Just think about some of the bad habits you have or someone you know has, and imagine how powerful it would be if the actions you need to take to achieve your goals were as deeply embedded! Well they can be!
Take a look at some of the goals you want to achieve this year. Maybe they are business goals, for example expanding your client base. Maybe they are personal goals, for example learning a new skill unconnected with work. Pick one that really resonates, that excites you and makes you want to achieve it. Now think about the regular actions you would need to take in order to achieve that goal. Try to quantify those actions on a daily, or at least weekly, basis. For example “speak to 3 new prospects every day”, or “spend 30 minutes studying every day”.
Notice the element of reality I put in those examples. If I had said “speak to 30 new prospects every day” or “spend 3 hours studying every day” it is unlikely I would consistently achieve this. Speaking to 3 new prospects a day, perhaps just on the telephone, should be achievable for me on a regular basis so I am happy with this. You may find even that is more than you can manage with everything else you have on your plate, and that is fine. Perhaps a realistic target for you would be “speak to 5 new prospects every week”. If so, that should be your target. Or maybe you already speak to 3 new prospects every day, in which case your target might be “speak to 5 new prospects every day”. The key here is to find a regular target that you can easily achieve and which you are not currently achieving.
Once you have your regular target, stick with it. It is ok to over-achieve when you are “on a roll”, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that excuses you from the target for the next few days or weeks! The idea here is to create a “Success Habit”, and it will not easily become a habit if you do not keep doing it. It is ok, though, to have certain days you deliberately do not work on your new habit. If, for example, it is a business habit such as talking to new prospects, you may only want to do this Monday to Friday. In that case, using the Maxwell Maltz formula it will take you three weeks to establish this as a habit. Or maybe you will set two days a week when you meet new prospects, in which case it will take two or three months for it to become a habit. If it is something you can only do once a week, for example take a flying lesson, it will take you about 5 months before it becomes a habit.
With your new “Success Habit” properly established after the 21 days you will find it so much easier to keep it going, even if from time to time other things come up which prevent you from achieving it. Keep an eye on it, as habits can be broken, especially new ones, but it should certainly not be the struggle you perhaps found it in the first few days. And once it is really fully embedded you can decide on the next “Success Habit” you are going to create. After you have created 21 new “Success Habits” you will find creating “Success Habits” is itself a habit, and you are now on the home run to ultimate success!