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.


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.


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.


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.


Attention to the Detail

Not long ago I was watching a golf tournament on television, and I noticed something I had never really noticed before. I watched the player who was leading the tournament while he was preparing to take his next shot, and I noticed how meticulously he was preparing himself for that shot.

I think most of us have played golf at one time or another in our lives. If not, we have certainly hit golf balls on a driving range. So most of us know what it is like to stand over a golf ball before taking our swing. But this guy was taking a really long time to get set for his shot. He was considering everything from the slope of the green to the speed of the wind and from the bent of the grass to the humidity in the air.

But then it occurred to me why he was taking so much time to hit his shot. Professional golfers are so good that the difference between winning and losing is often one shot. In fact, a tournament can often come down to missing a 30-foot putt by a quarter of an inch. So for that reason, golfers at the highest levels give careful consideration to every little detail of every shot they hit. They don’t even take a one-inch tap-in for granted.

So golfers know what all of us need to know. In the same way that a golf tournament is comprised of about 260 shots, each one extremely important, so life is comprised of all our little deeds that come together to write the storyline of our lives. If our habits cause us to waste “shots” on things that are steering us away from our goals, those habits must be eliminated. Time is too precious to waste on behaviors that rob our potential.


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.


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.

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