IN, OUT, UP, and DOWN

The month of December is the perfect time to prepare for 2019. You are already in prep mode. You are preparing and thinking ahead about gifts, travel plans, menus, activities, family outings, and so much more. So, while you have a preparation mindset, I believe this is the best time to do a quick look ahead and position yourself for an outstanding 2019. In the four weeks of December, we will discuss four ways to prepare for your best year yet. Of course, you should start these now, so you can have the benefit of getting a jump start on these plans and habits.

I want to make this easy to remember, so we will be looking at IN, OUT, UP, and DOWN.

- Looking IN at our mind, our goals, our vision. We’ll save this one for the last week of December. After we talk about the other three ways to prepare, we will be in a better position to set goals and have a vision for the New Year.
- Looking OUT at our health and healthy relationships. I believe this conversation would be best the week before Christmas, when most of us will have a relaxed schedule and will also be with family and friends. That week we’ll discuss carbs and conflicts!
- Looking UP at both the reason for the season and our purpose in life. Next week, we will camp here for a bit and talk about the heart of life.
- Looking DOWN at our movements and the habits that direct us to either growth or to a repeated cycle of stagnation. Today we will discuss how good habits can set us up for success in 2019.

So… let’s get started. Vince Lombardi said, “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”

Your HABITS can make you or break you. Your habits indicate whether or not you will be successful with relationships, with your health, with your finances and with your personal growth. I cannot emphasize enough the need for success habits in your life. I believe that developing beneficial habits is a critical key to success and each one of us can use a good habit strategy.

Psychologists tell us that up to 90% of our behavior is habitual. From the time you get up in the morning until the time you go to bed at night, there are hundreds of things you do the very same way every day. These include the way you shower, dress, eat, brush your teeth, drive to work, and clean your house.

Unfortunately, for most people, the word habit has a negative connotation, mainly because we’ve been conditioned to concentrate on the difficult to break part of the definition. That’s what we think of when we use phrases like… smoking habit… drug habit… habitual offender.

But we need to remind ourselves that habits don’t have to be bad or unproductive. It’s obvious that people who acquire productive habits are more likely to become successful, and fulfilled, and in control than people who acquire unproductive habits.

Let me paint a picture for you that will give you a better understanding of how our habits determine the direction of our lives.

A friend of mine used to love to go hunting in the Canadian Northlands. They would jump in a four-wheel-drive truck and head out. He often said the Northlands were so cold they only had two seasons - winter and July.

There’s not a lot of traffic there, so the roads are narrow and unpaved. In July, the dirt roads begin to thaw and so the traffic picked up, and each passing vehicle would dig a deeper rut in the muddy road. By the end of the short summer, the mud ruts would be several feet deep. Once the long winter set in, the ruts would freeze as hard as cement.

The frozen ruts on one of the back roads got so deep that the Park service posted the sign at the entrance to the road; “Driver, please choose carefully which rut you drive in, because you’ll be in it for the next 20 miles.”

Well, our habits are like those ruts in the Northland roads. They are easy to get into…but very hard to get out of. In fact, don’t we sometimes refer to our repetitive, unproductive behavior as “being in a rut”?

Whatever habits you currently have established are producing your current level of results.

More than likely, if you want to create higher levels of success, you’re going to need to drop some of your habits (not returning phone calls, staying up too late, eating fast food every day, being late for appointments, spending more than you earn) and replace them with more productive habits (returning phone calls within 24 hours, getting eight hours of sleep, exercising four times a week, reading for an hour, going to bed on time, and saving 10% of your income.)

I’ve got to believe that if you were to examine the day-to-day lives of history’s most productive people, you’d find people who chose habits that encouraged productivity, rather than interfered with it.

If Lincoln, Ford, and Addison were alive today, for example, do you think they would make a habit of coming home, flopping down in front of the TV, and then channel surfing until they fell asleep in their recliners?

Bad habits are hard to break. Breaking a habit will require your total focus… and a reason and benefit for doing so. That’s why I don’t recommend that people focus their time and efforts on breaking a bad habit. Instead of suggesting that people quit a nonproductive habit, I encourage them to replace their nonproductive habits with productive ones!

Take action to develop better habits now.

There are two action steps for changing your habits. The first step is to make a list of all the habits that keep you unproductive or that might negatively impact your future. Ask others to help you objectively identify what they believe are your limiting habits. Look for patterns. Here are a few of the most common unsuccessful habits.

  • Procrastinating
  • Paying bills the last minute
  • Letting receivables go overdue
  • Arriving late for appointments
  • Forgetting someone's name within seconds of being introduced
  • Answering the telephone during family time or spouse time
  • Choosing work over time with your children
  • Having fast food more than two days a week

Once you have identified your negative habits, the second step is to choose a better, more productive success habit and develop systems that will help support them.

For example, if your goal is to get to the gym every morning, one system you might put in place is to go to bed one hour earlier and set your alarm ahead. If you’re in sales, you might develop a checklist of activities so that all prospects receive the same series of communication.

Think about what you could achieve if you took on 4 new habits a year?

If you use the strategy of developing just four new habits a year, five years from now you’ll have 20 new success habits that could bring you all the money you want, the wonderful loving relationship you desire, a healthier, more energized body, plus all sorts of new opportunities.

  • Start by listing four new habits you would like to establish in the next year.
  • Work on one new habit every quarter.

If you work diligently on building one new habit every 13 weeks, you won’t overwhelm yourself with an unrealistic list of New Year’s resolutions. And research now shows that if you repeat the behavior for 13 weeks - whether it is praying for 20 minutes a day, flossing your teeth, reviewing your goals, writing thank you letters - it will be yours for life. By systematically adding one behavior at a time, you can dramatically improve your overall lifestyle.

Here are a couple of hints for making sure you follow through on your commitment to your new habits.

1. Put up signs to remind you to follow through on the new behavior. When I learned that even a little dehydration can decrease your mental acuity by as much as 30%, I decided to develop the habit that all of the doctors have been advising… drink ten 8- ounce glasses of water a day. I put signs that read ‘drink water’ on my phone, my office door, my bathroom mirror, my refrigerator. I also had my secretary remind me every hour.

2. Another powerful technique is to partner up with someone and hold each other accountable. Check in with each other at least once a week to make sure you’e staying on track.

I encourage you to be very serious about the development of positive habits every day. You have the power to create your own habits and thereby your own life. Begin immediately to implement good habits and never stop. Remember, your habits will make or break you.

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