Habit forming

The past three months have been amongst the most difficult days of my life. I’ve learned a lot – most of it the hard way. Mistakes were made, often out of exhaustion and good intentions gone awry. I’ve reached a point in my life and career though where I can look at my actions with a measure of objectivity. What I see when I look back is that I was totally unprepared for the onslaught that my company and I were about to go through.

Unprepared is a broad term. Not knowing the future, it’s impossible to be prepared for all situations (insert collective duh here). Even knowing the future, one may not possess the resources (financial or otherwise) to prepare adequately. That being said, I could have better handled the stress and pressure had I developed certain habits prior to opening the floodgates.

Habits are incredibly important, especially during periods of high stress. Habits come naturally – one needn’t think about a behavior that’s become habit – that’s what they’re all about. That being said, habits can be consciously set. Do something, anything, with regularity over a long enough period, and it becomes an ingrained behavior.

So what behaviors would I set in place, if I had the ability to go back 120 days? There are three in particular that stand out. All are incredibly easy, and incredibly helpful.

1. Write a journal entry every day. I initially developed this behavior years ago, after reading “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”:http://www.drawright.com/. Writing for 20 minutes to half an hour every day is possibly the single most powerful tool I have ever encountered. How’s that for a statement? I write with nothing other than the love of the *action* of writing in mind. My rules are these: I write with the specific intent that no one would ever read my words (ie there is no need for proper grammar, spelling, or even legibility), and I start each entry with no particular topic or direction. I just write what comes. And what comes is ultimately whatever is most important to me at that moment. Writing my thoughts as they occur, watching the stream of words flow from my fingers gives me perspective on the issues that doesn’t exist when the thoughts exist only in my head. I’ll write more about this in the next couple of days.

2. Wake up early. As my work load increased, I stayed up later and later, and woke later and later. Until it became a habit to wake at 9am and go to sleep around 2am. Just last week I made the decision to change this habit, and the effect has been pronounced. I’m getting up at 7 now, and my productivity and sense of well being has soared. I’m blogging again. And thinking again. I have a couple of hours to myself every morning to meditate, read, and set the tone for my day. After only a couple of days, I’m finding that 7 isn’t early enough. I’ll be setting the alarm for 6 tomorrow. It’s early, and I am *so loving it*.

3. Read. Go to “change this”:http://www.changethis.com. Print any one of the manifestos. Read a couple of pages before bed. Feel empowered. Rinse. Repeat.

These three changes are barely a week old, yet their impact cannot be overstated. Be aware that your behavior is mostly a series of habits. Know that you can change your habits by simply deciding to do so. And do it. More on this to come.

3 thoughts on “Habit forming”

  1. I commented a couple months ago about starting a company, when you first posted. I’m 4 years in and ready to take breadth #2. As you communicated then, perhaps we find a way to talk, even just through email. Not sure why I’m compelled to communicate, but perhaps we can learn a bit from each other. I’m looking for excuses to travel with my wife to Toronto in the spring (she has a conference to attend).

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