FOCUSING STRATEGY #1|
Your Habits Will
Determine Your Future
“It’s so hard when contemplated in
advance, and so easy when you do it.” —Robert M. Pirsig
Brent Vouri knew he was going to die.
The severe asthmatic attack had deteriorated into adult respiratory distress syndrome. To put it simply, his lungs had completely seized, just like a car engine when it finally runs out of oil.
The last thing he remembered that night was the hospital floor rushing up to meet him, then, total blackness. The coma lasted for fifteen days, during which time his weight dropped by forty pounds. When he finally awoke, he was unable to speak for another two weeks. That was good, because for the first time in years it gave him time to think. Why, at only twenty years of age, had his life almost evaporated? The doctors had done a miraculous job keeping him alive, when others thought he had no chance for survival.
Brent reflected deeply. The asthma had been a part of his life since birth. He was well known at the hospital after numerous visits to stabilize his condition. Despite having lots of energy as a child, he was never able to participate in any physical activities like other kids, such as skating or hockey. At age ten, his parents divorced and all of his pent-up frustrations finally boiled over. The next few years were a continuous downward spiral leading to drugs, alcohol abuse and a smoking habit that consumed thirty cigarettes per day.
He didn’t finish school and aimlessly drifted from one part-time job to the next. Even though his health was steadily getting worse, he chose to ignore it—until that fateful night when his body said, “no more.” With time to reflect, he came to this all-important conclusion: “I brought this on myself through years of making bad choices.” His new resolve was, “Never again; I want a life.”
Brent gradually became stronger and was eventually released from the hospital. Soon after, he mapped out a positive game plan to improve his life. First he enrolled in a fitness program. One of his initial goals was to win a T-shirt for completing twelve sessions. He did it. Three years later he was teaching aerobics. The momentum was building. Five years after that he competed in the National Aerobics Championships. Along the way he decided to further his education—first, completing his high school diploma and then successfully working his way through university.
Next, he and a friend started their own manufacturing business, Typhoon Sportswear Ltd. (www.typhoonsportswear.com), specializing in producing apparel for retail chains. Starting with only four employees, the company recently celebrated its fifteenth anniversary.
Today it’s a multimillion-dollar enterprise with sixty-six people and an international distribution network supplying high-profile clients such as Nike. By deciding to make better choices and create better habits, Brent Vouri turned his life around—from yesterday’s zero to today’s hero!
Isn’t that an inspiring story?
Here’s what’s important: Life doesn’t just happen to you. It’s all about choices and how you respond to every situation. If you are in the habit of continually making bad choices, disaster often occurs. Your everyday choices ultimately determine whether you end up living with abundance or living in poverty. However, life never completely closes the door to opportunity.
Consistent choices lay the foundation for your habits, as you’ll find out in the next few pages. And your habits play a major role in how your future unfolds. This includes the habits you display to the business world every day, as well as the variety of behaviors that show up in your personal life. Throughout this book, you’ll find strategies that can be applied to both work and home. Your job is to review all of them and implement the ones that will give you the greatest rewards. By the way, all of these strategies work equally well for men and women. They are not gender specific. If you haven’t noticed, one of the most exciting developments in the marketplace today is the rapid growth of women entrepreneurs.
In this chapter, we’ve laid out the most important elements about habits. First you’ll discover how habits really work. Then you’ll learn how to identify bad habits and how to change them. This will allow you to check out your own specific habits and determine which ones are unproductive. Finally, we’ll show you a unique Successful Habits Formula, a simple but powerful strategy that will help you transform your bad habits into successful habits. Using this technique will ensure that you stay focused on what works, instead of what doesn’t work.
Successful people have successful habits
Unsuccessful People Don’t!
How Habits Really Work
Your habits will determine your future
What is a habit? Simply stated, a habit is something you do so often it becomes easy. In other words, it’s a behavior that you keep repeating. If you persist at developing a new behavior, eventually it becomes automatic.
For example, if you learn to drive a car with a standard gearshift, the first few lessons are usually interesting. One of the big challenges is figuring out how to synchronize the clutch and accelerator pedals so you have a nice, smooth gear change. If you release the clutch too quickly, the car stalls. If you press down too hard on the accelerator without releasing the clutch, the engine roars but you don’t go anywhere. Sometimes the car jumps down the street like a kangaroo, surging and stopping as the new driver struggles with the pedals. However, with practice, the gear change eventually becomes smooth and you don’t think about it anymore.
We are all creatures of habit. When I drive home from my office every day, there are nine traffic lights along the route. Often I get home and don’t remember any of the lights. It’s like I’m unconscious as I drive. If my wife asks me to make a detour to pick up something on the way home, it’s not uncommon for me to totally forget because I’ve programmed myself to take the same way home every night.
The great news is that you can reprogram yourself any time you choose to do so. If you’re struggling financially, this is important to know!
Let’s say you want to be financially independent. Doesn’t it make sense to check your money-making habits? Are you in the habit of paying yourself first every month? Do you consistently save and invest at least 10 percent of your income? The answer is either “yes” or “no.” Immediately you can see if you are moving in the right direction. The key word here is consistent. That means every month. And every month is a good habit. Most people dabble when it comes to growing their money. They are very inconsistent.
Suppose you start a savings and investment program. For the first six months you diligently put your 10 percent away according to plan. Then something happens. You borrow the money to take a vacation, and you tell yourself you’ll make it up in the next few months. Of course you don’t—and your financial independence program is stalled before it even gets off the ground! By the way, do you know how easy it is to become financially secure? Starting at age eighteen if you invest one hundred dollars per month compounding annually at ten percent, you will have more than $1.1 million tucked away at age sixty-five. Even if you don’t start until you are forty years old, there’s hope, although it will take more than a daily dollar to do it.
This is called a no exceptions policy. In other words, you commit to your better financial future every single day. It’s what separates the people who have from the people who don’t have. (In chapter 9, Taking Decisive Action, you’ll learn a lot more about wealth creation.)
Let’s look at another situation. If maintaining excellent health is high on your list of priorities, exercising three times a week may be the minimum standard to keep you in shape. A No Exceptions Policy means you will maintain this exercise habit no matter what happens, because you value the long-term benefits.
People who dabble at change will quit after a few weeks or months. And they usually have a long list of excuses why it didn’t work out for them. If you want to distance yourself from the masses and enjoy a unique lifestyle, understand this—your habits will determine your future.
It’s that important. Remember, successful people don’t drift to the top. It takes focused action, personal discipline and lots of energy every day to make things happen. The habits you develop from this day forward will ultimately determine how your future works out. Rich or poor. Healthy or unhealthy. Fulfilled or unfulfilled. Happy or unhappy. It’s your choice, so choose wisely.
YOUR HABITS WILL DETERMINE
YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE
Many people today are concerned about their lifestyle. Phrases like, “I’m looking for a better quality of life,” or “I just want to simplify my life,” are now commonplace. It seems the headlong rush for material success and all the trappings of a so-called successful life are not enough. To be truly rich includes not only financial freedom, but developing rich, meaningful relationships, enriching your health, and enjoying a rich balance between your career and your personal life.
The nourishment of your own spirit or soul is also an essential requirement. This takes time to explore and expand. It is a never- ending process. The more you learn about yourself—how you think, how you feel, what your true purpose is and how you want to live—the more your life will flow.
Instead of just working hard every week, you will begin to make better choices based on intuition and instinctively knowing the right thing to do. It is this higher level of awareness that determines your daily quality of life. In chapter 10, Living On Purpose, we’ll show you a unique system that will make all of this possible for you. It’s a very exciting way to live.
The results of your bad habits usually
don’t show up until much later in life
Please make sure you are really alert before you read the next few paragraphs. If you’re not, go splash some cold water on your face so you will not miss the importance of this fundamental concept.
Many people today live their lives for immediate gratification. They buy things they can’t really afford and put off payment as far down the road as possible. Cars, furniture, appliances, entertainment systems, or the latest “toy,” just to name a few. People in the habit of doing this have a sense of playing catch-up all the time. There’s always another payment next month. This often results in working longer hours or taking an additional job just to make ends meet, creating even more stress.
Taken to an extreme, if your expenses constantly exceed your income, you will have an ultimate outcome. It’s called bankruptcy! When you develop a chronic bad habit, life will eventually give you consequences. And you may not like the consequences. Here’s what you need to really understand: Life will still give you the consequences. Whether you like it or not isn’t the issue. The fact is, if you keep on doing things a certain way you will always get a predictable result. Negative habits breed negative consequences. Successful habits create positive rewards. That’s just the way life is.
Let’s look at a few other examples. If you want to enjoy longevity, you must have healthy habits. Practicing good nutrition, exercising and studying longevity play a major role here. The reality? Most of the population in the Western world is overweight, under-exercised and undernourished. How would you explain that? Again, it’s a live-for-the-moment attitude, with little or no thought given to future consequences. There’s a long list when it comes to health. Here are a couple—working fourteen hours per day seven days a week will lead to eventual burnout. When you’re eating fast foods or junk food on the run as a daily habit, the combination of stress and high cholesterol produces a much greater risk of heart attacks and strokes. These are life-threatening consequences, yet many people ignore the obvious and roll merrily along, undaunted by the fact that a major crisis may be looming just around the corner.
Look at relationships. Marriage is in trouble, with almost 50 percent ending up in divorce. If you are in the habit of starving your most important relationships of time, energy and love, how can you expect a happy outcome? When it comes to money, your bad habits may lead you to a never-ending cycle of work in your later years, when you’d rather be enjoying more time off for fun.
Now here’s some really good news:
YOU CAN TURN NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES
INTO POSITIVE REWARDS
Simply By Changing Your Habits Now.
How to IDENTIFY
Be aware of the habits that
are not working for you
Many of our habits, patterns, idiosyncrasies and quirks are invisible, causing renowned author Oliver Wendell Holmes to observe, “We all need an education in the obvious.” So let’s look more closely at the habits that are holding you back. You are probably conscious of a few right away. Here are some common ones we have received from clients in our workshops.
Not returning phone calls on time.
Being late for meetings and appointments.
Poor communication between colleagues and staff.
A lack of clarity about expected outcomes,monthly targets, goals, etc.
Not allowing enough travel time for outside appointments.
Not attending to paperwork quickly and efficiently.
Handling the mail more than once.
Allowing bills to go unpaid, resulting in interest penalties.
Not following up consistently on overdue receivables.
Talking instead of listening.
Forgetting someone’s name sixty seconds (or less) after being introduced.
Hitting the snooze alarm several times in the morning before getting out of bed.
Working long days with no exercise or regular breaks.
Not spending enough time with your children.
Having a fast-food meals program Monday to Friday.
Eating at irregular times of the day.
Leaving home in the morning without hugging your wife, husband, children and/or dog.
Taking work home with you.
Socializing too much on the telephone.
Making reservations at the last minute (restaurant, travel plans, theatre, concerts).
Not following through on time as promised, with other people’s requests.
Not taking enough time off for fun and family—guilt free!
Having your cell phone on all the time.
Answering the telephone during family mealtimes.
Controlling every decision, especially the small stuff you need to let go of!
Procrastinating on everything from filing taxes to cleaning out your garage.
Now check yourself out by making a list of all the habits that keep you unproductive. Block off an hour or more so you can really think through this process. And plan it so you won't be interrupted. It's a worthy exercise and will give you a strong foundation for improving your results in the years ahead. In fact, these bad habits, or obstacles to your goals, really act as a springboard to your future success. Until you clearly understand what is holding you back, it's difficult to create more productive habits. The Successful Habits Formula at the end of this chapter will show you a practical way to transform your bad habits into successful strategies.
Another way to identify your unproductive behavior is to ask for feedback. Talk to people you respect and admire, who know you well. Ask them what they observe about your bad habits. Look for consistency. If you talk to ten people and eight of them say you never return phone calls on time, pay attention. Remember this—your outward behavior is the truth, whereas your inner perception of your behavior is often an illusion. If you are open to good honest feedback, you can make adjustments quickly and eliminate bad habits permanently.
Your habits and belief systems
are a product of your environment
This is an extremely important insight. Understand that the people you hang around with and the environment you live in strongly influence what you do. A person brought up in a negative environment, continually subjected to physical or verbal abuse, has a different view of the world than a child reared in a warm, loving and supportive family. Their attitudes and levels of self-esteem are different. Abusive environments often produce feelings of unworthiness and a lack of confidence, not to mention fear. This negative belief system, if carried into adult life, can produce all sorts of unproductive habits including drug addiction, criminal activity and an inability to mold a steady career path.
Peer pressure also plays a negative or positive role. If you hang around people who are always complaining about how bad everything is, you may start believing what they say. On the other hand, if you surround yourself with people who are strong and positive, you're more likely to see a world full of opportunity and adventure.
In his excellent book, NLP: The New Art and Science of Getting What You Want, author Harry Alder explains further:
Even small changes at the root level of belief will produce amazing changes in behavior and performance. This is seen more starkly in children than in adults, as they are more sensitive to suggestion and changing belief. So, for example, if children believe they are good at a sport, or a particular subject, they will actually perform better. The better performance will fuel the enhanced self-belief and they will go on to excel.
In a few rare cases a person might have an overriding self-belief that says "I'm no good at anything," and this will have a very damaging effect on anything they try to accomplish—if they bother to try. But it is far more common to have a mixture of self-beliefs, some of which are positive or "empowering" and some of which are negative or "disempowering." A man might have a very low self-image in career terms and not see himself, for example, as being a good "manager" or "boss" or "leader". The same person, however, might see himself as a "natural" at sport, socializing, or in some hobby or pastime. Just as commonly, in a work situation, a woman might see herself highly in terms of professional ability —being able to do the job well technically—but be far from happy about handling the "office politics" side of her career. Or vice versa. So we each have a range of self-beliefs, covering the many facets of our work, social and domestic life; and we need to be specific when identifying those that affect what we achieve. We need to replace disempowering ones with empowering ones.
Even if you were unfortunate enough to have a severely disadvantaged background, you can still make changes. And it may only take one person to help you make the transition. An excellent coach, teacher, therapist, mentor or positive role model can dramatically impact your future. The only prerequisite is that you must commit to change. When you are ready to do so, the right people will start showing up to help you. In our experience, that well-known saying, "When the pupil is ready the teacher appears," is true.