A FLIGHT TO LONDON

Pursuing Your Destiny

What is your destiny? That is probably the ultimate question regarding your earthly life. God created each person for a reason, so each individual has a purpose that he (or she) was designed to fulfill in this world. And happy is the person who understands the destiny he is designed to pursue.

But if you are among the fortunate few who have already answered the most important question regarding your earthly life, you need to ask yourself just one more question: What habits are you going to develop to help you achieve the destiny God created you to fulfill?

Your destiny in life is no more guaranteed that your destination on any journey. A flight from Washington to London, for example, is never guaranteed to land on time in the right location. It takes a lot of planning to get from Washington to London by air. And the pilots, the ground crew, the flight attendants, the ticket agents, the security personnel, the flight controllers, the mechanics, the service staff, and the runway team have to perform all their various tasks with precision and expertise so your flight can land at Heathrow Airport at the time they told you it would.

So if a simple flight takes that much planning and that much coordination, the course you have set for your life will take just as much effort. Your success won’t happen by accident. And the primary key to your success will be the habits you nurture along the way, because your habits will determine which direction you go and the speed with which you travel. Good habits will lead to a successful journey; bad habits will lead to a lot of unexpected detours and mechanical failures along the way.

So create good habits today in order to guarantee your arrival tomorrow. Success is the byproduct of your repetitive actions.

A GOOD THING

Habits That Enrich Our Lives

The word “habit” has a negative connotation in our world today. Everybody knows that it is a bad thing to have a “smoking habit” or a “drug habit,” and nobody wants to be known as a “habitual offender.” But habits don’t have to be bad. If our brains can compel us to learn bad habits and to practice them subconsciously without even thinking about them, our brains also can be utilized to help us learn good habits that can enrich our lives.

If you don’t have the good habits you want in your life, you will have to nurture those habits. And that is relatively easy to do once you understand the process that your brain goes through in order to make a behavior habitual. In fact, the same brain that led the way in the formation of those bad habits you wish you could eliminate can also help you create the kind of good habits you admire in others.

Habits don’t have to be unpleasant, and they don’t have to be destructive. The right kinds of habits can actually improve your life and contribute to your health and happiness. And while you may be painfully aware of how difficult it is to eliminate a bad habit, the good news is that a good habit, once formed, can be just as persistent and just as reliable in your life.

So rather than despising the way that God made you, take advantage of it. Learn how to harness the natural inclinations of your own body and brain in order to form the kinds of habits that can make your life better. Eating healthy is a habit, not a discipline. And exercise is a habit, not a chore. Likewise, thrift and courtesy and industriousness and good parenting are habits a person acquires over the years. Good habits await those who will make them.

AND THE GOOD NEWS IS...

Self-discipline & Habits

What is the role of self-discipline when it comes to habit formation? Self-disciple must play some role in the development of new behaviors, because the apostle Paul said, “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so … I will not be disqualified for the prize” (I Corinthians 9:26, NIV).

Self-discipline, therefore, is the fuel that drives the formation of new habits, because nothing new is ever established in our lives without the initial surge of energy that comes from self-discipline. Whether it’s a highly desired personal achievement, virtuosity in the arts, or an outstanding performance in school or in one’s chosen sport, the journey toward any worthy achievement can only be initiated through self-disciple.

The bad news of course is that self-discipline only goes so far. Our experience teaches us and scientific research confirms that self-discipline is a powerful tool when it comes to making personal changes. But a person’s sense of self-discipline is designed to run dry rather quickly, because we humans just aren’t equipped with the ability to force ourselves to do things long-term that we really don’t want to do.

The good news, however, is that by utilizing principles of habit formation, we can use self-discipline to get a new habit started in our lives. Then, after a few weeks, that behavior can become habitual for us. It can become subconscious and “automatic,” requiring no effort on our part.

So instead of laboring to make yourself do what you know you ought to do, learn to use the “habit loop” to your advantage so you can create a permanent regimen of good behaviors in your life. In Make That, Break That, I will teach you how to do this. For now, however, just know that positive behaviors are easier when they become habits in your life.

BAD COMPANY

Who's Your Friend?

When you want to relax and have fun, what kind of people do you spend your time with? When you go out to dinner with friends, what kind of friends do you choose? Our friends tell us everything about us, because people tend to choose friends who reflect their own values.

No man wants to feel uncomfortable when he is playing golf with another man, and no woman wants to feel uncomfortable when she is shopping with another woman. So when a person wants to relax, that person will instinctively select a companion who wants to talk about the things that interest him and wants to do the things that make her happy. To look at your friends, therefore, is to look in a mirror. We choose friends who reflect our personal interests.

This is why, in the Bible, the apostle Paul could say, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” Two things happen when we spend lots of time with other people. First, we choose people who already reflect most of our priorities and morals. And second, we adopt the remaining priorities and morals of those with whom we spend our time. We become like them.

So one of the best habits you could develop to make your future brighter is the habit of spending time with people you want to emulate. Obviously, you don’t get to pick your coworkers or your neighbors. All of us have to learn to get along with difficult people. But when it comes to those friends that you choose to draw close to you, start looking for ways to bring admirable people into your inner circle. Seek out friends who are doing the things you want to do and succeeding in those areas of life where you want to succeed. Your friends will dictate your future in a very big way.

BEING IN A RUT

The Course You Travel

Have you ever driven on a dirt road that had two ruts for the tires on your car or truck? If so, have you ever noticed how deep those ruts can get when the same cars drive on them day after day? Well, our habits are a lot like those ruts. The more we give in to our habits, the more deeply entrenched they become in our lives. And when it seems like our lives are going around in circles and we are making no progress toward our goals, we refer to this as “being in a rut.”

So habits, like ruts, tend to become more permanent as time goes by. And habits, like ruts, are hard to get out of once we get into them. Habits take you where they want you to go instead of where you want to go. Habits have the power to determine the course you travel in life. A friend of mine once said, “Men do not decide their future. They decide their habits, and their habits decide their future.” And he said this because the habits you form today have the power to determine the outcome of your life tomorrow the same way that those ruts have the power to determine the destination of your vehicle.

So if you know where you want to go with your life, you need to start developing the kind of habits right now that will write the storyline of your future success. You need to pave the way for a smooth journey forward instead of allowing your bad habits to direct you where they want to take you.

The best way to neutralize the bad habits in your life is to form better habits in their place. So get out of your rut. Build a new future and a new life by creating some better habits.

BOUNCE BACK - BALANCE

Have You Ever Watched the Winter Olympics?

If so, you have probably watched the figure skating competition, because this event is one of the most popular at the winter games. This event lasts a couple of days because the participants are required to go through two grueling competitions, both of which are designed to test different aspects of the skaters’ skills.

BOUNCE BACK - CONTACT

Life Is a Contact Sport

But what do I mean by that?

All of us know the difference between a contact sport and a non-contact sport. Golf is a non-contact sport, as is tennis, bowling, archery, and swimming. In these sports and others like them, the participants perform certain actions that require great skill, and their success is compared with the success of the other competitors by means of a point system that determines the winner.

BOUNCE BACK - CONTROL

Pivot Points

A lifetime is filled with many experiences that become “pivot points” in a person’s destiny. Sometimes these “pivot points” can take a person down a pathway of blessing that he could never have imagined when he started the journey. But at other times, life can take a person down a highway that leads to disappointment and tragedy. That is why all of us need a second shot at life. In some area of your life, you need an opportunity to make something right that has gone wrong.

BOUNCE BACK - POSITIONING

IT’S AMAZING HOW MANY SPORTS DEPEND ON POSITIONING.

Basketball is an obvious example, because a player who gets loose for a shot beneath the basket is in a far better position than the player who is double-teamed at mid-court, and the player who is positioned for a rebound following a missed free throw is in a far better position than the player who is ten feet from the basket when the shot is missed.

BOUNCE BACK - STRENGTH

HAVE YOU EVER COMPETED IN A MARATHON?

If not, have you ever attended a marathon or watched footage of a marathon? If you have ever been associated with a marathon—even remotely—you know that very few participants express any hope of winning the race. Most participants in a marathon simply want to finish the course.

BOUNCE BACK - TEAMWORK

“NO MAN IS AN ISLAND.”

This famous saying dates back to the seventeenth century, but the thought that it conveys is as relevant today as it was when it was first written. No person can achieve anything meaningful in life without the contributions of other people. To succeed at reaching your goals, therefore, you must learn to appreciate the people God has placed in your life.

BOUNCE BACK - TIMING

Do You Have a Good Sense of Timing?

Think about all the wonderful things that have happened in your life. Think about the day you found your job. Think about the day you met your husband, your wife, your boyfriend, or your girlfriend. Think about the day you met your best friend or the day you bought your house.

FEARLESSNESS

COURAGE IS FEAR HOLDING ON A MINUTE LONGER.

—GEORGE S. PATTON

Have you ever noticed what really frightens you? Is there anything that really makes you stop in your tracks. shutting you down mentally? Most people have numerous fears, both identified and unidentified. It’s a miracle that we function at all sometimes.

FUNCTIONING ON “AUTOMATIC”

Handling Multiple Demands

God created you to be able to form habits, because the multiple demands of life won’t allow you to consciously think about all the little things you must do each day just to function in this world. So once your brain learns to connect a certain behavior with certain stimuli in your environment, that behavior becomes “automatic.” You perform it subconsciously without even thinking about it.

An example of a good habit would be the way you get ready each morning. Whether you go to school or to work, you go through the same routines. These routines may vary slightly from day to day. But basically you will turn off your alarm and then proceed to the next routine without thinking about what you are doing. When you brush your teeth, you will do it the same way you did it yesterday. When you eat breakfast, you will reach for a cereal bowl, and you will know exactly where to find it. In fact, you can carry on an intense conversation while fixing your breakfast, because you don’t have to give a single thought to what you are doing. All your actions are pre-programmed in your mind, and they have been reinforced through years of repetition. So you will get dressed without having to search for your socks. You will drive to work without thinking about the route you are taking.

Because so many of our actions are habitual, the bad news is that we can get locked into the kinds of behaviors that are detrimental to our lives. In fact, we can have habits that we don’t even realize we have. But the good news is that we can develop good habits just as easily. And once we know how habits are formed, we can circumvent the habit formation process in order to purposely develop the kinds of habits we desire.

HOW HABITS ARE FORMED

A Required Response

How do bad habits arise, and why do we seem to have more bad habits than good ones?

Bad habits arise when we find ourselves in difficult situations that require a response. To deal with these situations, we will do whatever is necessary to minimize the discomfort and put an end to the dilemma. In a difficult social situation, for instance, we might tell a “little white lie.” Or during a difficult yet important test at school, we might take a quick glance at another student’s paper. And when we are a tiny bit short of having the cash we need to pay for the pizza we ordered, we might “borrow” a little money from a roommate who keeps his wallet in his desk drawer.

But the problem with these socially acceptable compromises is that they teach the brain a shortcut to solving that particular problem. So when a similar situation arises in the future, the brain will remember the action that got you out of hot water the last time, and the brain will prompt you to engage in a similar activity. Whether you know it or not, your brain remembers the connection between the problem and the solution that brought you immediate relief. So the brain will “write” that solution to its hard drive. And when you repeat the action a few more times, a habit will be formed, a habit that will become subconscious, spontaneous, and automatic.

We rarely think about it while it is happening, because habits are formed gradually over time. But habits are habits, nonetheless, and they can dictate the course and the outcome of our lives. So our habits can appear to be “innocent” while they are taking shape. But the things we do routinely and with little thought are the things that will define us unless we change them.

I DIDN’T KNOW THAT

The Habit Loop

Did you know that up to 90 percent of your behavior is habitual? That’s right! Up to 90 percent of the things you do are behaviors you perform habitually. In other words, you do them without even thinking about them.

The “habit loop” is the process we undergo to develop all our habits. Our brains start attaching a particular behavior to certain circumstances in our lives, and then, when we reap a physical or psychological reward from performing that behavior, the brain remembers those nice feelings and prompts us to perform the same action the next time the circumstances are similar. So over time this process becomes subconscious and starts to impact every aspect of our lives. It is vital, therefore, for a person to develop good habits, because habits shape a person’s daily experiences. Then all those days run together to define that person’s life.

Most of us are aware of our bad habits, because our bad habits cause problems for us. But the habitual nature that God gave us when he created us is not intended to be a bad thing. It is intended to be a good thing, because, if a person can develop bad habits, that person can develop good habits too. So the hopeful news is that the habitual nature God gave us can be utilized to help us form the habits we need for success.

You probably already have as many good habits as bad ones, but you probably don’t notice your good habits because you perform them without realizing what you are doing. But if you were able to develop those good habits, you can develop more good habits. You can trick your own brain into helping you nurture the kinds of behaviors you want in your life, behaviors that will lead to health and happiness, behaviors that will lead to a fulfilling life.

NEW PERCEPTIONS ON LIFE

How's Your Attitude?

Generally speaking, are you an optimist or a pessimist? Do you see the glass half empty or half full? All our lives, we have been taught that attitude is a choice. Attitude is not a matter of genetics or a matter of upbringing or a matter of the circumstances impacting our lives; a person’s attitude is a choice that he makes regarding the way he will respond to the world around him.

But I would actually go a step farther. I would propose that a person’s attitude is a habit. It is something that is learned through a repetitive response to inner feelings and the external world, and it eventually becomes an automatic reaction to everything in life.

Did you know, however, that your attitude is more than just an attitude? It is more than just a way of thinking or behaving. Your attitude actually affects your health. People with positive attitudes have a higher tolerance for pain than people with negative attitudes, and positive people have less stress in their lives than people with sour dispositions.

Just like any good habit, therefore, the habit of a good attitude can be learned over time. In real life, good experiences and bad experiences tend to balance out. But because our attitudes are based on perceptions, not reality, those perceptions can be reshaped if we will follow the simple steps that are necessary for creating a new habit.

In Make That, Break That, I explain the simple steps for forming a new habit, including the habit of a better attitude. And while the bad news is that these steps will take time to implement in your life, the good news is that they can make a lasting difference. A new habit, once acquired, can truly change the trajectory of your life and the perceptions that shape it.

POUNDING THE BOARDS

No one plays this game or any game perfectly. It’s the guy who recovers from his mistakes who wins.
—PHIL JACKSON

All my life, I have been struck by the countless similarities between sports and life. Both sports and life require know-how, both demand talent and skill, and both can lead to glorious and fulfilling victories. However, sports and life are marked with obstacles and setbacks too, with mistakes and with crushing defeats. They are each marked with opposition, competition, and failure. And they offer us challenges, as well as opportunities to correct our mistakes and to rise above our failures. In athletic competition, there is always the next game or the next season. In a basketball game, there is always the chance to rebound a missed shot. And in life, we must create the same opportunities to turn failures into successes. We must keep “pounding the boards.”

PREPARATION

NOT LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP, BUT
LEARN BEFORE YOU LEAP

If you were standing on a diving board, preparing to jump into the pool below, you would at least glance at the pool to make sure it was filled with water before making your dive. But it’s amazing how many people attempt great feats in life without investigating the risks and rewards associated with those ventures, and that is why so many people fail.

STRONGER THAN SUPERMAN

A New Beginning

Bad habits are easy to acquire. They are obtained slowly over time, and they usually remain “invisible” throughout our lives. Most of the time we aren’t aware of them, because they are manifested on a subconscious level. Nevertheless they exist, and they impact every area of our lives. They affect our health, our relationships, our finances, our careers, our hygiene, our physical mannerisms, and even our reputations. Bad habits shape our lives in more ways than we can imagine.

What bad habits do you recognize in your life? Worse yet, what bad habits do others recognize in you that are hidden from your view? A bad habit is any activity that is performed routinely and without thought that can negatively affect your life. But while all of us have a few bad habits, most of us would like to overcome them. Most of us would like to grow and achieve the destiny that God designed us to achieve. We want tomorrow to be better than today. But we know that we are powerless to shape the future unless we can gain control over those pesky habits that rob us of our potential and plague our lives with mediocrity.

So take heart in the fact that bad habits can be overcome once we are able to recognize them. Utilizing the principles that I explain in Make That, Break That, you can replace your bad habits with good ones, and you can write a new script for the rest of your life.

Your bad habits have the power to destroy you, but good habits have the power to overwrite the bad ones and propel you toward greatness. So make an effort to learn how habits are formed in your life and how you can circumvent that process to develop the habits you want. Don’t settle for the status quo.

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