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Home » Productivity

Guest post: 5 Secrets to Changing Any Habit

Regular readers will be aware that from time to time on a Friday we feature a guest post from cool people changing the world one step at a time. One such person is Jill Chivers the creator of www.Imlisteningnow.com a writer on communication and a recent guest writer over on copyblogger. Jill, is our Friday Follow #FF.

Over to you Jill:

Sometimes your life changes course before your brain, heart and behaviour have a chance to catch up. This has happened to me on at least two important occasions. My life has changed, but my habits didn’t. Not for a while at least, 6 or 12 months later. And the really ironic thing is I thought I was paying attention – to my feelings, my self-talk, my state of mind, my life situation. Maybe I wasn’t really paying attention after all? Or maybe I was paying attention to the wrong things.

So I started to pay attention on a different level. And here’s what I discovered about how to make a new habit stick:

1. You gotta be you. It’s great to be inspired and gather ideas on how to change your life. Many of us need that input. What I’ve learned is that sometimes this inspiration can be overwhelming, especially if you compare yourself to others. I was reading an article about 5 habits you can learn from Gandhi. I agreed with every one of them. And I found myself feeling bad – I fell short on all of the 5 points. Especially the one about dressing simply. Gandhi was – is – an inspiration to millions and the way he lived his life every day is a testament to sound habits, applied daily. But I’m not Gandhi. And you know what? I reckon Gandhi would encourage me to be me, to be my best self. Not a poor copy of him. So, start where you are with who you are. Not only is it good enough to be you, it’s perfect. As Tallulah Bankhead quipped “Nobody can be exactly like me. Some days even I have trouble doing it

2. Get help – but not from just anyone. No one who ever achieved anything did it solo. If you are seeking to change a habit which has you in its iron grip, don’t do it alone. When I started my year without clothes shopping, I asked a circle of about 8 or 9 friends what they thought of the idea. These are people who know, love and want the best for me. I knew I couldn’t be objective about myself, so I proxied that out to these people and used their feedback to inform my choices. The most important voice to listen to was my own, for sure. But I also knew that the support of others was going to be critical in staying on the challenge. But be careful about who you seek help from – you want people who are in your corner, not people who’ll white ant. In the words of those modern philosophical poets, Lennon and McCartney: I get by with a little help from my friends”. Get a little help from your friends!

3. Start from where you are. If you were giving directions to a friend, you’d start with where they are now. That’s why directories in shopping centres and national parks have a big colourful arrow that says You Are Here. The map may be the most amazing cartographical masterpiece, but unless you can pinpoint your location on it, it’s useless. You can’t start from next week or 10 miles away – you can only start from today and where you are now. Don’t worry if you see other people further up the road. There’ll always be people ahead you (and there’ll always be those travelling behind you). And resist the temptation to try and jump ahead on the map. Where you are now is where you are now. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s not wrong or right. It just is. Acknowledgement is all that’s required. You Are Here.

4. Walk your own path. This is probably one of the worst mistakes we can make – comparing ourselves to others, comparing our progress to others, comparing our success, our friends, our possessions, our degree of enlightenment, our simplicity, our peace of mind, our subscription lists, our compost heaps – it doesn’t matter what you compare to others, it has the same effect. You end up feeling inferior, or superior. You play a ‘one up, one down’ game where someone’s assessed as being better than someone else. It’s addictive, and insidious, this comparison game. You can’t know what other people’s journey are like, and sometimes we can have an idealised view of how someone else is travelling – we imagine their journey to have greater comforts, better views, less challenges. No journey is ever static, so even if another person’s journey is ‘better’ than yours now, it could be ‘worse’ tomorrow. Whatever is going on in someone else’s journey, the more important point to remember is that’s their journey and you have to live your own. Your own journey will be full of adventure and challenge and joy and excitement and boredom and heartbreak and whatever else it’s going to contain. But the one thing we know for sure – it’ll be yours, and yours alone. What if your journey were the most exciting journey on the planet? It is, you know. At least, it could be, to you. Walk your own path.

5. Make up your own rules. I just made these up. They work for me. Writing this was a powerful exercise to help me discover my own truths and guides. If I wrote this 10 years ago or in 10 years time, they may be different again. Your truths and guides will be different to these. Sure, you can borrow these, but use them to jump off into your own.

Read more about Jill and her fascination with the power of listening at I’m Listening Now. You can also learn more about the challenge Jill is putting out to women everywhere to take a year without clothes shopping.

10 Comments »

  • Ray said:

    Those are fine rules to use for life. How about the rule to just get started? Don’t just think about it…do it. As Yoda said, “There is no try, there is just do”…or something like that.
    .-= Ray´s last blog ..Productivity or Procrastination? =-.

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Ray, that’s definitely a Ben quote. With thanks to Yoda!

  • Jean Sarauer said:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that gets that “not quite measuring up” twinge when I read things like that Gandhi article. It’s really easy to lose sight of the fact that we’re all different and have our own talents, interests, etc. Life was never meant to be a one-size-fits-all deal.
    .-= Jean Sarauer´s last blog ..How to Live With Your Inner Critic =-.

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Absolutely right Jean! All too often we feel we aren’t measuring up, when in reality we are doing just fine!

  • Farouk said:

    interesting post Matthew, if a person managed to get over his bad habits, life would be way better

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Thanks Farouk. Hopefully we might get some more articles from Jill!

  • Ben said:

    This is a really nice Post Jill. Thank you Matthew for sharing it.

    I completely agree. We have to take what we need and walk our own way.

    When I’m speaking, I often refer to a Jim Rohn idea when talking about Self Development; treat it all like going shopping. When you go shopping you don’t go and buy everything in the shop. You only get the things you need or want in that moment in time.

    If we can take our own journey in this way, we can easily learn while we go.
    .-= Ben´s last blog ..Friday’s Personal Development Homework – A Twist =-.

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Thanks Ben for sharing the example. That’s really nice insight. I’ve only recently come across jim, but I do like what I’ve read/heard.

  • Steve Scott Site said:

    Information and advice from friends can be helpful, but some of my friends would probably just give me the answers they think I want to hear, not their true opinions. I also have some relatives who think I’m nuts for “working on the internet,” but I still try to listen to what everyone tells me.
    .-= Steve Scott Site´s last blog ..Steve’s Sunday Selections – May 23rd, 2010 =-.

  • Matthew Needham said:

    That, to be fair, is a big problem with friends. You need to cultivate the ‘critical friend’ or explain to them up front that you want them to tell you what they don’t like about it. Not what they do.