The Power of Habits

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Gandhi

So much of your success comes from the habits you have as a person. Often we don’t even think much about them, for instance the way you brush your teeth, or comb your hair are habits that have been established over the period of many years. Many old habits are good and they are best left the way they are, other old habits are destructive and we know this, but continue this destructive behavior. Why? Well because it is a habit and habits are hard to change. Think about a bad habit you have, maybe it is eating too much or the wrong foods, drinking alcohol, or maybe smoking. Think back, when did this behavior become a habit? Probably a long time ago and every time you repeat this behavior the habit becomes more ingrained and becomes part of  yourself. The more you repeat the behavior the stronger the habit becomes. Most of these habits have triggers, such as a cup of coffee proceeds a cigarette, or Friday night means a trip to the party store to pick up your favorite beverage.

If old habits have a hold over you because they are so ingrained and have been repeated so many times, then why is it equally as difficult to adopt a new habit? To start with it might be that your old habits are occupying so much space in your head and time on your calendar that there is no room for a new habit. Now none of what I have mentioned so far is very encouraging, but for most of us it is true. We are habitual animals by nature, and these habits provide a well known script to live out our days. We also know that by not adopting new positive habits we are stagnating. So what’s the answer here?

My advice is that there is no silver bullet, no easy solution. The only thing that works for me is you become so sick of a bad habit and it’s consequences, that you make some room for a better habit. Sometimes being sick of it is not enough, but you also need a healthy dose of fear interjected into the equation. So I’m sick to death of this stupid behavior and I am afraid of what is doing to my life. Remember I’m not talking about some silly stupid habit, but instead something life threatening. A habit that has it’s own gravitational pull, sucking you into the vortex. This isn’t something that a little will power or well intended affirmations is going to fix.

The power of the habit is immense and well your resolve is usually pretty pathetic, and you know it. If you could use self discipline or some other form of wishful thinking you probably wouldn’t have dug the hole so deep in the first place. I’ve read some people that advocate just replacing the bad habit with a new habit. Great advice Einstein, but that’s like putting a three year old up against a Champion Sumo Wrestler. An old ingrained habit has way more traction with you and cannot be replaced by the new habit of the day. I’m not saying anything you don’t know here, because like me you tried this mismatch and observed the consequences.

When you get to that point where the pain caused by the old habit far exceeds the pleasure, you might be ready to make a change. Here are a few approaches to consider:

  • Triggers – Think about the triggers for your bad habits and consider eliminating the triggers. This at least begins changing your behavior and if nothing else begins to give you some insight into the situations that are facilitating this habit.
  • Not all at one time – Don’t try and fix everything in a day. What I’m really saying is don’t try to conquer Rome until you have laid waste to Venice first. One of the biggest mistakes we make is I’m going to stop all the bad shit, and I am doing it today! This only limits your probability for success and that leads to my final approach.
  • Incremental progress – You took 20 – 30 years to create this not so great habit of yours, and you are going to defeat it in a day. You begin to delude yourself and get all hyped up on David Goggins video’s and you decide I’m done with this shit. Let’s get real about who we are going to do battle with. You don’t want to hear this because we all think we have so much self disciple, but my advice is start small. Begin undermining the beast, bit by bit, step by step, until you are in essence beginning to gain some self control. If you can’t stop a bad habit, at least defer it, start breaking the pattern, begin confusing yourself; remember your taking this thing down by hand, brick by brick. Another incremental technique is to adjust the dosage. Start using less of whatever it is that is fucking you up, and you will not only have some more time on your hands, but you are also chipping away at the beast.

Listen it became a habit because you did something hundreds or thousands of times; all this repetition has made it part of your identify. It has become somewhat powerful and you probably know that. Don’t beat yourself up over it and just accept that you can’t change this behavior, because you can. You didn’t build this habit in a day or week, and you can’t destroy it that quickly, but you can take action.

Namaste

Easy ways for Creating Success

Often we think we need to make radical changes in our lives to create success, when in reality it is the little incremental changes that make the biggest difference. You don’t need to quit your job, abandon everything you know, or put your financial future at risk; you just need to start making changes in your behavior one step at a time.

success is the sum of small efforts repeated

What is Success?

When I talk about success I’m not limiting it to financial gain, but that will certainly be one measure. You might also define success in terms or relationships, health, skills, or peace of mind just to name a few. Another way to look at success is personal growth. Successful people are people that are always growing. Personal growth provides satisfaction and happiness, which ignites a need for more growth. Face it if you are not growing as an individual you are standing still and nothing changes.

Jim Rohn 1

Ways to be more successful

Think of how much you could achieve if each month you made one little change in your behavior. Each time you made one of these seemingly insignificant changes they would begin to propel you towards achieving your goals. One of the reasons you will achieve your goals is that you are building self discipline with each change. Let’s take a look look at some examples:

Health

  • I get up an hour earlier to perform my yoga practice
  • I quit eating foods that contain high amounts of sugar
  • I begin eating more fruits and vegetables
  • I quit drinking alcoholic beverages (OK not such a small thing)
  • I start going to the health club and began lifting weights

Skills

  • I begin studying for a certification related to my job
  • I take a class on something I’m interested in
  • I learned to play a musical instrument
  • I read one new book a month on a topic that will change the way I think

Peace of mind

  • I quit watching the news on TV
  • I meditate for 10 – 15 minutes every day
  • I start watching motivational videos on YouTube (Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins, Les Brown, Eric Thomas, Esther Hicks, Wayne Dyer, or Mel Robbins)
  • I started a blog to write about something I am interested in, not for other people but for myself

Mel Robbins 2

Don’t limit yourself

While I mentioned you can chose one thing each month to change, there is really no limit. Let’s take watching the news in the morning. What a horrific way to start your day. You are feeding your mind politics, tragedy, pain, suffering, and tons of negative things and getting little in return. So instead of watching the news, roll out your yoga mat, and while doing your routine listen to or watch something inspirational on YouTube. Now you have accomplished three things in the same amount of time and do this every day and your whole life begins to change.

We improve by making changes, some small, some bigger, but by changing. As we make these changes we are creating self discipline and it is this very fact that will lead us to great success however you define it.

Choose that one thing today that will move you forward.

Namaste

 

 

 

Right Action

The fourth step in the Eightfold path is Right Action. For followers of the path Right Action guides what we do in this world. Right Action asks us to follow an ethical approach to life that considers how we treat each other. Right Action follows the five precepts of Buddhism:

  1. Do not to kill
  2. Do not steal
  3. Do not lie
  4. Avoid sexual misconduct (adultry, rape, etc.)
  5. Do not take drugs or other intoxicants

So it is not enough to have good intentions towards others, you must also follow through with actual behavior. The five precepts may appear fairly simple, but dig a little deeper and you find that they are not so easy to follow. For instance to not kill is not reserved for humans but for every living being. Have you ever lied about something? Do you drink or smoke marijuana? Most of us must come to grips with the behavioral changes that it will take to truly live a life of Right Action.

noble-8-fold-path

Namaste

Observations about Personality Types – Part 2

In Part 1 of Observations about Personality Types we gave you an overview of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Each person can will be assessed to have some combination of 4 letters, for me this was INTJ. I have also taken the DISC assessment which in my view is less useful, but that is a whole other subject. What the Myers-Briggs assessment does is provide you with some in-depth information about your personality. From my perspective this meant what my natural inclination would be, my preferences if you will. I will use my own personality type INTJ to explain why this is useful to understand. What we are trying to do is get some insight into our preferences and how they affect our behavior. Armed with the information from one of these assessments and the explanation of each personality type you can begin to be more introspective about your own behavior and start playing to your preferences and strengths. Using my own Myers-Briggs Type let’s break it down:

INTJ

“INTJs approach life by analyzing the theory behind what they see, and are typically focused inward, on their own thoughtful study of the world around them. INTJs are drawn to logical systems and are much less comfortable with the unpredictable nature of other people and their emotions. They are typically independent and selective about their relationships, preferring to associate with people who they find intellectually stimulating.”

I – INTJ’s are somewhat introverted and over exposure to people can cause them to withdraw. Here is the lesson; you must make sure you have some alone time as an INTJ, otherwise you may become stressed and angry. When given a choice between going to a party and reading a book the INTJ would prefer to stay home and read a book.

N – INTJ’s need to think a problem through themselves, needing to understand how something works by logically thinking it through. The INTJ wants to understand the logic or principles behind something. As someone with a “N” in the second position of the four letters you will need time to process things, and do not just blindly believe everything you see or that is said to you.

T – Decisions are made logically by the INTJ, not based on emotion. They will weigh the pros and cons of a decision, using logic and analysis to come to a conclusion. A typical INTJ then operates based on logic versus emotion. They may seem a bit distant and unsympathetic, but it is because they are always thinking. The INTJ may have issues with living in the moment, and may appear to be less empathetic than some other personality types.

J – The J in the INTJ personality type indicates that the person prefers order to chaos, organization to the disorganized. When an INTJ is forced to live in a messy home or workplace they will often become upset with the mess, and cannot understand how people can live this way. You will often hear things like “Why can’t you put these things away or if you would just put them in the same place you could find them”.

By knowing your preference you can begin to understand what might be triggering some not so flattering behavior. You should at least begin to see if you can control the stimuli, if not you might be able to offset the impact and lessen your reaction. My example is that for the past year my daughter, son in law, grandson, and their two dogs have been living with us. As you might imagine this gives me very little quiet time, and often impacts my sense of organization. Knowing that this can cause me to become frustrated because I am going against my “I” type, and being for me overexposed to people, noises, clutter, and animals I needed to find a way to get more time to myself. I started doing yoga in the morning before everyone is up, followed by 20 minutes of meditation, and this seemed to help. I would often come home and go upstairs by myself and do strength training, or retreat to my bedroom and watch something on the television. I could then interact like a normal human being during the rest of the day, while still respecting my inclination for quiet and organization. Finding ways to respect your natural personality traits is important but you must first understand what those traits are, and this is why the MBTI assessment is so valuable. This doesn’t mean that you should not challenge those tendencies from time to time, but you must understand that they exist. Once you know your personality type you can begin to make changes in your life that support your personality type. For instance there is guidance on possible careers that can support your personality type. If nothing else you will start to gain some insight into these triggers or events that may be causing you to react in a negative way.

Sources:

http://www.quistic.com/personality-type

http://www.quistic.com/personality-type/intj

Observations about Personality Types – Part 1

You have probably heard about Myers-Briggs and deviations of their analysis of Carl Jung’s personality types. I remember taking the complete Myers-Briggs test during a team working class when I was pursuing my masters degree. It turns out there are 16 distinctive personality types, made up of 4 letters. My type is INTJ, which I’ll explain in some detail later. The breakdown of these letters is as follows with each letter having two possible values:

First letter “Favorite World” indicates if you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world?

E – for extroverted

  • I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people.

I – for introverted

  • I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with.

Second letter “Information” indicates if you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning?

S – sensing

  • Paying attention to physical reality, what I see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. I’m concerned with what is actual, present, current, and real

N – intuition

  • Paying the most attention to impressions or the meaning and patterns of the information I get. I would rather learn by thinking a problem through than by hands-on experience.

Third letter “Decisions” indicates that when making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances?

T – thinking

  • When I make a decision, I like to find the basic truth or principle to be applied, regardless of the specific situation involved. I like to analyze pros and cons, and then be consistent and logical in deciding.

F – feeling

  • I believe I can make the best decisions by weighing what people care about and the points-of-view of persons involved in a situation. I am concerned with values and what is the best for the people involved.

Fourth letter “Structure” indicates that when dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options?

J – judging

  • I use my decision-making (Judging) preference (whether it is Thinking or Feeling) in my outer life. To others, I seem to prefer a planned or orderly way of life, like to have things settled and organized, feel more comfortable when decisions are made, and like to bring life under control as much as possible.

P – perceiving

  • I use my perceiving function (whether it is Sensing or Intuition) in my outer life. To others, I seem to prefer a flexible and spontaneous way of life, and I like to understand and adapt to the world rather than organize it. Others see me staying open to new experiences and information.

Usually you can determine your own type by just looking at the explanations of MBTI types and there are also some pretty good free tests you can take. I would recommend taking the Quistic test if you are unsure from the MBTI types. So why is it important to have some understanding of your personality type? For many of us it will help us understand our behavior and what areas we might want to consider working on. In Observations about Personality Types Part 2 we will look into how you can use this information to your advantage, but for now I ask you take some time to determine your personality type and do a little research. For me the small amount of time invested in understanding my personality type has helped me enormously.

Check out Part 2 to learn more.

References:

The Myers & Briggs Foundation

Quistic 16 Personality Types

Namaste

Are you introspective?

To me the word introspective means realizing your own behavior and actions, in essence analyzing them sometimes even in real-time. The definition of introspection from Merriam Webster is as follows:

“a reflective looking inward :  an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings”

Here are a few synonyms for introspective that are related to this post:

  • inward looking
  • self analyzing
  • contemplative
  • thoughtful
  • meditative
  • reflective

True interpersonal growth is hard to come by without introspection. It is increasingly difficult to change behavior when you don’t even understand its existence. I often observe myself being critical, or engaging in some negative behavior either as it is occurring or immediately after it occurred. These are learning moments, and although it sometimes takes repeated observations, these observations almost always result in a change of behavior. Maybe the the introspection identifies a trigger that is creating the behavior. For instance every-time I come into contact with a particular person they talk about politics or religion and that in turn triggers a critical response from me and I become argumentative. Knowing the trigger that is causing my own undesirable behavior, I now have a choice to either avoid the individual or choose to react differently to them. If I choose not to analyze the behavior, I will repeat it again and again, always with the same result.

Dali Lama Everyone else

Next time you become critical, angry, abusive, judgmental, accusatory, or exhibit any other negative emotion, stop and think about why you feel this way. Analyze your thoughts and determine if these feelings are justified in any way, what is my perception of the events leading to these thoughts, what might be triggering them? If you cannot be introspective you will forever be repeating the undesirable behavior, making yourself and everyone around you miserable. I like the quote above by the Dali Lama as we often seek to blame others for the way we feel, when it is the way we perceive the events and interactions that brings us sorrow.

The question is can we change ourselves by controlling our emotions?

Can we be accountable for the way we feel?

Can we ultimately change our response, perception, and behavior?

Namaste

Define Happiness

In my last post I wrote about how you might bring some happiness into your life with meditation, but I neglected to really define what happiness is. I looked up a number of definitions and they used words like a joy, good fortune, pleasure, contentment, or satisfied to describe the elusive happiness. For me it is probably a more neutral feeling where I am not one of the following: angry, jealous, envious, entitled, critical, or dissatisfied. So is happiness just the opposite of some of these negative emotions or thoughts? I often have issues defining something like happiness through my own experience because I do not possess the intellectual maturity to experience a consistent state of mind for any prolonged period of time, making it difficult for me to be an expert in it.

Happiness is

So if happiness includes joy, good fortune, pleasure, contentment, or simply feeling satisfied with life then I look to those that seem to be in that state of mind on a consistent basis. I only know a couple of people that fit that description, and though I cannot read their mind I can describe some of the behaviors they exhibit.  Someone very close to me is probably the happiest person I know, and frankly they have no more reason than you or I do for that state of mind, but here are a few of the things I have noticed:

  • They seem to start each day the same, calm and positive
  • They do not let little things like traffic and other stuff bother them
  • They rarely complain
  • They spend most of their time helping others and do not feel taken advantage of
  • They don’t think they are better than anyone else, in fact if anything they undervalue themselves
  • They work hard, but they are not ambitious in a classical sense (money, position, power)
  • They feel blessed that they can do what they enjoy for a job
  • Each day they seem to experience joy, pleasure, contentment, and some sense of satisfaction

Now these people are clearly not the majority on this planet, but they seem to be able avoid or minimize times of anger, resentment, envy, and being critical better than the rest of us. As you remember in my last post I advocated meditation as means of acquiring some happiness in my life, and I stand by that recommendation, but there is something different about these happy people I’ve mentioned. They do not necessarily meditate, they are not monks or nuns, instead they walk among us, and I’m not even sure they know why they are so happy. Maybe if we emulate their behavior we too can begin to enjoy some of the day to day serenity that comes with happiness.  From the behaviors listed above let’s see if we can boil them down into some things we can do everyday, maybe even as an affirmation:

  1. I will meditate for at least 10 minutes every morning
  2. I will ignore the  small stuff
  3. I will stop bitching and whining
  4. I will do things for others without feeling they need to reciprocate
  5. I will stop thinking I am better or worse than anyone else
  6. I will find something I love to do and do it every day
  7. I will write down something I am grateful for each day

Again I’m no expert, in fact I need the above list more than most. I have a lot of respect for those people that can lead a happy existence, and I am determined to follow in their footsteps and achieve some sense of satisfaction and contentment myself.  Ready to join me?