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good habit bad habit

We are creatures of habit.

Most of us have a daily routine that we stick to—waking up at a certain time, making coffee, eating breakfast, commuting to work. It’s how we bring order to our lives and make sense of the day. For those of you who follow a set routine, you understand the power of habit. What happens to your day if, say, you’re unable to have your morning coffee? Or you get stuck in traffic on the way to the office? Things tend to feel strange and your day may feel off-kilter.

That’s why bad habits are so hard to break.

A habit, whether good or bad, is comfortable. It’s part of the fabric of your life. If, for example, you begin working through lunch and eating food purchased from the vending machine, after a while that will feel normal and the habit will be hard to break. On the flip side, if you make sure to pack yourself a nutritious lunch every day and take time away from your desk to eat it, you’ll get used to that routine.

Even though you may consciously realize that your bad habits may cause lasting, damaging effects, it’s difficult to break away from them. In their book, The Power of Focus, authors and entrepreneurs Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Les Hewitt strategize on ways to build healthy habits and shed the unhealthy ones. They recommend working on changing one bad habit at a time and replacing it with a new, healthy one.

Here’s how to do it in 4 steps:

  1. Clearly identify your bad or unproductive habits

This is a step that involves a good deal of reflection on your part. You may need to call upon external help (such as assistance from a therapist or life coach) to help you clearly label your bad habits. In some cases, a daily habit may not seem too terrible on its own (i.e. getting 5 hours of sleep at night or working late and missing family dinner), but the long-term consequences might be severe.

  1. Define your new successful habit

Identify a new, healthy habit and envision what that will look like in your life. Canfield, Hansen, and Hewitt advise you to “create a clear picture of what this new habit will do for you. The more vividly you describe the benefits, the more likely you are to take action.” Remember, it’s okay to start small and build up your arsenal of good habits as you go along.

  1. Create an action plan

You’ve honed in on areas in your life you want to improve, deciding to take different (usually opposite) courses of action to beat out bad habits. Now, you’re ready to get the ball rolling. Take the time to “make a decision about which specific actions you are going to implement.”

Visualize each actions. What practical steps do you need to take to form a new habit? What actions will boost your chance of success? The action plan will propel you from visualizing changes you wish to see, to actually feeling empowered to make them. What’s more, having a written copy of your plan (and placing it somewhere where you will see it!) will help hold you accountable.

  1. Set a start date.

Get yourself psyched up for the start of a new chapter in your life. Setting a start date is vital to your action plan and helps you start strong.

Canfield, Hansen and Hewitt use the example of someone who takes too much work home on the weekends. They look honestly at the consequences of this habit (“Family time restricted, feeling guilty, important relationships become polarized”), visualize the benefits freeing up the weekend completely (“more relaxed, reduced stress levels, create unique family experiences”), and make a 3-step action plan to get there:

  1. Design my work better by not overcommitting.
  2. Delegate secondary tasks to staff to free up my time.
  3. Have my family keep me accountable. No golf if I don’t follow through!

Start Date: February 3rd

As with any change we make in our lives, repetition is key. To make better habits, you’ll have to keep fighting the brainless tendency we have to continue the bad habits we’ve created. This may be difficult at first, but if you stick to the action plan and keep your focus toward the future, you’ll soon find that you’re actually doing the good habits without having to think about them. Think about how good that will feel!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

Source: Canfield, Jack, Mark Victor Hansen and Les Hewitt. The Power of Focus. Florida: Health Communications, 2011.

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people-314481_640It’s the thing that holds you back. It stifles growth, discourages you from trying new things, and forces you to stay in a rut, even when you know things should change. It’s the worst 4-letter word of all: FEAR.

Fear is a debilitating force. It pulls you out of the present and into the unknown territory of the future. Don’t waste your time worrying about what might happen. Instead, focus on the present. Look internally and ask yourself some tough questions:

  • How is fear limiting my hopes and dreams? What would I like to accomplish, but am afraid to attempt?
  • Why am I afraid? What’s holding me back from speaking up, making a change, or attempting something new?
  • How can I minimize fear and shift my focus to determination and action?

Acknowledging your fear is the first step to taming it. Confront your obstacles and have confidence that you can and will overcome them.

How can you brush aside your fear and start taking action?

Start small. Do one thing that scares you today–whether that’s talking to a stranger in the grocery line, presenting an idea to a co-worker or boss, or enrolling in a class at your local gym, library, or community center.

Then, as your confidence grows, grow your ambitions. Make an action plan and start mapping out how you’ll follow-through with your goals. Remember to set deadlines for yourself and find an accountability partner (click here for more on effective goal-setting).

REMEMBER: You owe it to yourself to face your fears and work at overcoming them. If you don’t, you’ll never stretch yourself or try new things. You’ll forever wonder, “What if…” Don’t let fear lay claim on your life! Start confronting it today.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Holding on to anger

Fist image (without text) courtesy of Teerapun at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Every day we are given opportunities to forgive. Whether we’re faced with a driver that cuts us off on the freeway, a rude comment from a coworker, or our own lack of preparation for a work presentation, it is often best to let go and learn from our experiences.

It’s tempting to hold onto anger and sadness as protection—to make sure we never feel a certain way again, or to hold as collateral for an apology. But like the analogy of holding a hot coal with the intention of throwing it, we only hurt ourselves when holding onto these negative feelings.

Forgiveness is not forgetting. Practicing forgiveness does not mean you’re a pushover, and it doesn’t mean you accept negative behavior in others. There is a difference between forgiving someone, and opening yourself up to the same hurt in the future.

We can all hope that offenders realize their mistake and feel remorse, but this isn’t always the case. Some people may never apologize, and we’re left harboring ill-will. Forgiveness is for your well being.

Imagine this scenario:

You’re at the office. It’s a busy time of year, and your schedule is packed, but you decide to cut your lunch break short so you can meet with a new client for the first time. You finish your lunch and do some busywork while waiting for her to arrive. Forty-five minutes pass, and you finally see her pull into the parking lot. Right now your breathing is shallow, your fists are clenched and sweaty, your posture is hunched, and you’re angry—angry at her for not respecting your time, angry at yourself for scheduling too much in one day, and suddenly angry at your co-workers for not taking more meetings so you wouldn’t have to. This client may or may not apologize upon entering the room, but you can still practice forgiveness in order to take away a lesson from this experience, while releasing tension and stress.

Forgiveness requires intention and practice, but by lowering stress you are also lowering your chances of a high heart rate, high blood pressure, body aches, depression, and fatigue.

And don’t forget: mistakes are what make us human. Mistakes help us improve: our products, our processes, and our attitudes. Without forgiveness we would still be holding onto hurts from long ago—forgiveness helps us grow.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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5 steps to changing your life

This is the time of year many people start thinking about making major changes in their lives. The New Year is symbolic; it’s a marker that traditionally rings out the old and ushers in the new. For many of my clients, it is a time when they come to me for guidance, looking to overhaul their careers or embark on an entirely new journey.

If you find yourself at a similar crossroads, wondering what direction to choose or what action to take, don’t ignore your impulses. It’s good and healthy to reflect on our lives every once in a while and now is as good a time as any. But reflection is typically not enough. Many people need the right tools to help them sort out the kinks in their lives. With this in mind, I’ve created an exercise to help you think about the changes you might need to make and the steps you could take to make your visions a reality.

NOW is the time to move forward and make positive changes in your career and personal life. Not tomorrow.

Find a Quiet Place to Consider the Following:

1. When we feel dissatisfied, it’s natural to jump to the conclusion that everything needs a major overhaul. Instead of rewriting the entire book, begin by considering what is going well, what is working for you, and what don’t you want to change. List four positive aspects of your life (this could be your family, community, relationship, job, etc.) and explain why you feel they are going well.

2. Consider one area you would like to change. What does that changed area look like? What is the first step for creating this change that immediately comes to mind? Imagine your first step has been accomplished. What are the next three things that have to happen? Now you game plan is starting to take shape, bringing your vision closer to reality.

3. Do you worry you don’t have the time? Fill in your typical daily activities on the timeline below. Where could you reclaim an extra 30 minutes? Does that rerun on television or updating your Facebook page three times each day really deserve your attention?

chart

4. Admit to yourself that none of this is easy. In fact, creating change can seem daunting, and we are tempted to abandon our efforts when faced with obstacles. Jot down at least five challenges you anticipate and a list of people you could call to help. Is there a friend who you consider an expert in developing a business plan, giving professional advice, or writing résumés? Perhaps reaching out to these people are important steps in your creation of change.

5. Throughout our day we talk to ourselves, and this voice is not always positive. Realize that negative self-talk can stall your efforts. What do you say to yourself regularly that is especially debilitating? Try to let go of two negative messages you send yourself this week. Identify your personal saboteur, give your negative feelings a name, and banish them from your space. Once you have successfully banished these two, aim to fend off two more negative thoughts next week. If you get in the habit of thinking about yourself and your capabilities in a positive light, I guarantee you’ll feel a weight lift off your shoulders and you’ll be more energized to make constructive changes in your life.

Interested in some guidance as you make your plan for the New Year? Contact UXL Today!

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