Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Post #61: Challenging Our Challenging Habits

Last week, we began looking at the importance of employing focus in our lives, and how we can learn to tune in to what's important and tune out what's not. I asked you to take a look at your crazy old habits, and get clear about which ones serve you, and which do not.

I started doing this myself, with the help of a great book, The Power of Focus by Canfield, Hansen, and Hewitt. (Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen are the authors of the super-successful Chicken Soup for the Soul series). According to these organizational gurus, the first step in learning to focus and become successful in any area of life is to acknowledge that your habits determine your future.

Of course, when we refer to "habits" we're talking not only about what you do and how you do it, but also what thoughts and feelings repeat over and over (and over) again. This can be humbling to contemplate because so much of what we do, think, and feel is automatic, and often we don't really fathom that there are other, better ways to function (that are available to us). When we are unconscious about our habits, they run out lives, but taking an honest look at them can help us turn things around.

Canfield, Hansen and Hewitt provide a great hands-on formula for changing the habits that are getting between you and your happiness. They recommend that you sit down with a pencil and paper (or whatever you use to write) and do the following exercise:

1.   Clearly Identify your "Bad" or Unproductive Habits
What is it that you're doing or not doing, and what are the likely future consequences of your habit? (example: smoking).

2.   Define your Desired New Habit
This may simply be doing the opposite of what you are currently doing (example: stop smoking). Explore what the benefits will be.

3.   Create a Three-Part Action Plan
Decide on three concrete action steps that will help you achieve your goal (example: read how-to-stop-smoking literature, use nicotine patch, enlist a buddy to act as your sponsor).

This formula may seem obvious and mundane, but when I took the time to sit down and write out the steps (for a few habits I wanted to change), I was surprised at how helpful the process was. It took the big, amorphous "energy" of the issue(s), and broke it down into bite-sized pieces that I could relate to and work with. I have to say that doing this exercise really helped me focus and take action. .

So, what habits challenge you?