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6 tips for breaking bad habits

02/27/13

written by jeff haden for time.com:

book-cover

Want to change an old habit? You probably should: One study determined that over 40% of the “decisions” we make every day aren’t really decisions.

They’re habits.

Much of the time we don’t really make decisions. We do what we’ve done before, and that makes us less productive, less effective, less healthy and fit—less everything—than we could be.

So what can we do? Change an old habit into a new habit.

While changing a habit isn’t easy, it is simple—especially if you follow the process described by Charles Duhigg, the author of the bestselling book The Power of Habit. (Definitely worth a read, especially if you want to harness the power of habits to improve not just yourself but also your team or business.)

The key is to understand that you can’t extinguish a bad habit, but you can change that habit—and still get the same “reward” you currently get from your old habit.

Here’s how:

1. Redefine “must.”

Think about your typical day. Very little of what you think you “have” to do actually must be done that way.

Think you need that cup of coffee? You don’t. Somewhere along the line you started drinking coffee, decided you like it, decided you liked the caffeine kick… and now it’s an “indispensable” habit. But it’s not—you do need to drink liquids but you don’t need to drink coffee. (Don’t feel bad; I have a huge Diet Mountain Dew habit.)

The same is true with almost everything you do during your workday. Maybe you call distribution to “check in” every day even though you already get incredibly detailed reports. Maybe you send an email instead of making a call when you’re afraid of a confrontation. Everything you do is based on some amount of reasoning…but how often is what you’re doing the best way to accomplish the goal?

Rarely, if you’re like the average person—otherwise we’d all be extremely healthy, wealthy, and wise.

“Must” is a feeling that results from a habit. The only way to change a habit is to first decide that “must” can actually be negotiated or even eliminated.

As an example, let’s assume your habit is to check your email first thing. You want to change that habit because you tend to get bogged down by a flood of correspondence and you would prefer to hit your workday running in a different direction.

2. Determine the cue.

Every habit is based on a simple loop: cue, routine, and reward. The cue is the trigger that, based on some craving, shifts your brain into autopilot and initiates the routine.

Since your habit is to check your email first, you may be craving a sense of immediate control, to know what fires may have started, what issues may have popped up, or even what good things occurred overnight. Or you may be craving a reconnection with employees, customers, or even friends.

Whenever you feel an urge for a habit, that urge is the cue.

3. Determine the routine.

The routine is easy to determine. Your routine is the manifestation of the habit. It’s the cookie at break time or the Web surfing at lunch or, in this case, checking email right away.

4. Determine the reward.

The reward isn’t always so easy to determine. Maybe the reward you get from your habit is a feeling of control. Maybe it’s an, “Oh good… nothing awful happened overnight,” feeling of relief. Maybe it’s the, “I’m the captain of my universe and it feels good to mobilize the troops,” feeling you get from firing off a bunch of emails to your staff.

Think about what craving your habit is really satisfying. Going to the break room for a cup of coffee might not really be satisfying a coffee urge; what you really may be craving is the chance to hang out with other people and getting coffee is just an excuse.

Work hard to identify the reward, because to change a habit the reward has to stay the same. You won’t deny yourself the reward—you’ll just make the way you get that reward a lot more productive or positive..

5. Change the routine.

Now that you know your cue and your reward, “all” you have to do is insert a new routine—one that is triggered by your cue and that also satisfies your current reward.

Say you check email right away because of an urge to immediately know about any overnight disasters… but you also don’t want to get bogged down by all the less than critical emails.

Simply find another way to accomplish your status check. Walk the floor instead. Make a couple quick phone calls. Check in with key employees. Get your status-check fix the old-fashioned way: in person.

Of course that doesn’t work if you manage remote employees. In that case, you could do what a friend does. He set up a separate email account, critical@hiscompanyname.com. Employees only send emails to that account if an issue is truly an emergency. He checks that account when he gets to work (and a bunch of times at night, since he’s admittedly a worrier) and saves his “regular” email for later in the morning.

6. Write it down.

According to Duhigg, studies show that the easiest way to implement a new habit is to write a plan. The format is simple:

When (cue), I will (routine) because it provides me with (reward).

In this example, the plan is:

When I get to work, I will check in with key employees first because that lets me take care of any urgent issues right away.

Do that enough times, and eventually your new habit will be automatic—and you’ll be more productive.

Then move on to another habit!

related: why stress makes it tough to break a habit (and what you can do about it) | an approach to ending chronic procrastination

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7 reasons why you’re not maxing out your potential

02/17/13 3 Comments

written by marc from marc & angel:

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will.
Vince Lombardi

Feeling down about your forward progress lately?  Do you feel like you’re running in place?  Need some motivation and tough love to help you reinvigorate your success rate?  Well, here you go – seven reasons you’re not the great success story you could be:

1.  You do a lot of thinking without acting.

Too often we think without acting.  We do nothing with our ideas.  Everyone who has ever taken a long, hot shower has had many great ideas.  I’m sure you can relate.  But you will only make a difference in this world if you get out of the shower, dry off and do something with them.

The only way to conquer your dreams and doubts is with action.  Wondering about them will not get anything done.  Avoiding challenges will only make them grow bigger.  If you wait until all conditions are perfect, you will spend the rest of your life waiting.

Great achievements are made by starting from exactly where you are right now with exactly what you have right now.  Stop wondering and start doing.  Once you’ve made a little progress you’ll always know, without a doubt, that you can make even more progress if you try.  Read 1,000 Little Things.

2.  Your creative mind is completely unfocused.

Constraints nurture productive side of the creative mind.  At first it might seem as though complete freedom makes all creative ventures more attainable, but this isn’t the truth.  Complete freedom makes the possibilities endless, but keeps your efforts scattered and unfocused.

Often, self-imposed constraints, or boundaries, force you to think differently about challenges, leading to more practical ideas and innovations.  Instead of thinking ‘outside the box’ and looking in every possible direction, get inside one box – a specific problem that needs a resolution, a smaller space where big changes can be made, etc. – and focus your creative attention on making a difference.

These boundaries create the foundation from which to launch a productive, creative effort.  It’s like pushing off from the ground when riding a skateboard, or from the wall of the pool when you’re swimming laps – having something solid to push against allows you to move forward with greater ease and more power.  And over time, as you test these boundaries by pushing against them, you figure out which ones can be broken and expanded, and which ones need to remain fixed in place.

3.  You are focusing too much on fears and defeats.

Your problems are really your blessings if you use them to grow stronger.  Never quit just because you feel temporarily defeated.  You have not been beaten – this is not a competition.  Keep working to be the best you can be.  It doesn’t matter how slow you go so long as you don’t give up on yourself.

In the long run, it usually isn’t what you have or where you are or what you’ve been through that makes or breaks you; it’s how you think about it all and what you do next.  Focus your conscious mind on things you desire, not your fears and defeats.  Doing so brings dreams to life.  Read Awaken the Giant Within.

4.  Your expectations are crushing you.

Drop the needless expectations.  Appreciate what is.  It doesn’t matter if your glass is half empty or half full.  Just be thankful that you have a glass and that there’s something in it.  Choosing to be positive and having an appreciative attitude influences everything you do.  The magnitude of your happiness and success will be directly proportional to the magnitude of your thoughts and how you choose to think about things.

Nothing ever works out exactly the way you want it to.  Hope for the best, but expect less.  Appreciate reality, don’t fight it.  Don’t let what you expected to happen blind you from all the goodness happening around.  Even if it doesn’t work out at all, it’s still worth it if it made you feel something new, and if it taught you something new.

5.  You have become distracted from your core goals.

People might tell you it’s impossible, but it’s not.  Though the challenges may be great, you can make things happen.  The odds may not seem to be in your favor right now, but you can change the odds.  When something difficult you want to achieve connects deeply with your purpose, it becomes possible.  When you are driven and committed and persistent, you will get yourself there step by step.

So look within yourself and unearth the values and goals that you most earnestly feel a deep connection with.  In the end, it’s the things that are genuinely important to you that will power your greatest achievements. Read The 52-Week Life Passion Project.

6.  You are playing it too safe.

Pain is a pesky part of being human but it’s vitally important.  It strengthens the mind, heart and body.  You can’t grow strong, brave, or successful in this world if you’ve only had good things happen to you within the safe boundaries of your own little comfort bubble.  You need real life experiences, and nothing ever becomes real until you experience it firsthand.

No matter how long you train yourself to be strong, brave, or proficient at something, you never know if you are or not until something real happens to you.  So get real, experience life and let it teach you what you need to know to conquer your wildest dreams.

7.  You have been resisting forgiveness.

Alexander Pope once said, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.”  Nothing could be closer to the truth.  Your willingness to forgive yourself and others is the greatest sign of your emotional and spiritual maturity.  It’s a process of acceptance and understanding that allows you to let go of a situation that’s over so you can move on with your life.

The key is to be thankful for every experience – positive or negative.  It’s taking a step back and saying, “Thank you for the lesson.”

Take a moment and imagine if every person (including yourself) who owed you an apology apologized today, and imagine if you accepted these apologies.  What a weight lifted.  Now imagine if everyone, everywhere did this.  How many problems in the world would evaporate?

10 tips to become a master hater

02/01/13

silkyjohnson

via mental floss:

In the 1930s, William B. Pettus, the president of the College of Chinese Studies in Beijing, came across a strange little Chinese essay. It began by arguing that, “having a desire to revile, should you persistently restrain it you will sooner or later develop some malady or infirmity. Therefore, having this desire, it is right to give it vent, and there is no harm in so doing.”

However, the essay continued, most people lacked the skill that great reviling required. What followed was a list of tips and techniques for becoming a master reviler, “one who enjoys reviling and meets with no rebuff.”

at its worst, you might view the tips below as a how-to on being a more effective jerk.  in a more positive light, this will help you become more adept at spotting & handling the ploys of the “master revilers”/haters/internet trolls in your life.  either way though, the essay’s author had some satirical leanings so don’t miss the humor in this.  also, share any of your own “reviling suggestions” in the comments:

1. YOU MUST KNOW YOURSELF AND KNOW YOUR MAN.

“If another person has shortcomings, and you yourself are guilty of the same, in reviling him it is well to avoid mention of these.”

2. DO NOT REVILE THOSE WHO ARE YOUR INFERIORS.

“You should select a person at least slightly superior to yourself…as soon as he replies…this brings you on a parity with him, as one pays no heed to inferiors…If, on the contrary, you revile a person of no reputation, the more you revile, the more pleased he is. The rule is that by reviling a man of no reputation you create one for him. Is this not a distressing sequence?”

3. IN REVILING, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH AND THERE ONE SHOULD STOP.

“When you are reviling a man of standing and he has replied, this is the place to stop. Should you continue you cannot carry the bystanders with you.”

4. USE THE METHOD OF INDIRECT ATTACK.

“The more severely you wish to revile one, the more important is it to begin with expressions of pity & appreciation & even of respect and regret…the listeners feel that you are only speaking the truth and regard you as a person of poise & dignity.”

5. PRESERVE A PLACID EXTERIOR.

“In ordinary street reviling the crowd regards the one whose voice is the louder and demeanor the fiercer as being in the right. But one who can truly revile is able to conceal his weapon until his antagonist’s is wearied…when all energy is expended, he can retort in a few words, every one of which will draw blood.”

6. IN REVILING USE CHASTE AND ELEGANT LANGUAGE.

“Prevent your antagonist from perceiving, at first, that he is being reviled…the more polite your expressions the sharper will be the sting. It is a good rule in reviling to incorporate in your retorts favorite expressions of your antagonist.”

7. CONQUER BY RETREATING.

“When about to revile and you remember that you yourself have shortcomings, it is wise at the start boldly to acknowledge these in a thorough manner…You must bring yourself down to the humblest position. This prevents your opponent’s bringing you down to a lower level.”

8. LAY A TRAP FOR YOUR ADVERSARY.

“One experienced in reviling carefully notes his antagonist’s every expression for those which can be returned with telling effect…by dropping an insignificant expression he will grasp at it and shoot his arrow…show him that it has lodged in a sandbank and that no injury results.”

9. MAKE MUCH OF LITTLE.

“If a person deserves reviling, but the offense is of minor significance & scarcely worthy of reprimand…lead him into deeper water. Point by point use correct logic and endeavor to lead him to make illogical statements…When this is accomplished you can turn & severely revile him.”

10. MAKE WAR ON THAT WHICH IS NEAR AND CULTIVATE FRIENDSHIP FOR THAT WHICH IS REMOTE.

“At one time revile only one person, or, if need be, only one class of men, or you will have too many adversaries. Attack your opponent, but do not involve the listener. If it is absolutely necessary to include a large number of persons, under these circumstances you should declare that in so doing you have the interest of all at heart. If you fail in this you will have an avalanche of reviling descend upon you which will be troublesome to withstand.”

related: imagine getting this in the mail

ice t’s 10 rules of public speaking

06/11/12

few people are more equipped to teach public speaking than rappers.  whether it’s competing in a local freestyle battle, impressing a single record exec to get a deal or rocking a stage in front of thousands, true emcees are able to control their audience by knowing what to say and how to say it.  such skills translate to places outside of music including boardrooms, classrooms, courthouses and churches.

in a recent nypost article, ice t and some other hip-hop pioneers use their knowledge and experience to offer some great advice for the next time that you find yourself in front of a mic.  check out their tips below and also ice t’s new documentary “from nothing to something: the art of rap” which hits theaters this weekend:

1. Know your material.

Don’t flap your gums about partying with hot girls in the Hamptons if you’ve never even driven through Long Island. You can’t lie about real-life experiences, especially if you’re giving a speech. “A crowd can smell a fake from a mile away,” explains Ice T. “People relate to personal stories — it pulls them in and makes them feel special.”

2. Practice. Then, practice some more.

“Before concerts I would put on instrumental versions of songs and push the melodies to the front of my mind,” says Ice T. “Rehearsing out loud is key.”

Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian found a perfect tool for rehearsing on the B-side of Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks.” The instrumental track, “Do It Yourself,” was a wide-open sonic canvas on which emerging emcee’s could practice wordplay, delivery and working with a deejay.

3. Know the audience.

“Identify who you’re going to be addressing and tailor your words accordingly. You can’t address the Hells Angels the same way you would fans at a Garth Brooks concert,” says Ice T, laughing. “Greet the audience. Use humor. Do whatever you can to make a connection.”

4. Know the room.

Get familiar with the acoustics, just as rappers do in the studio. “This is where mike skills come in,” Ice T. says. “A great emcee knows how to command the crowd with their voice — get them to applaud, speak, stand up and sit down on cue.”

Sadly, your speaking gig probably won’t include Cristal, weed and groupies. “Man, that’s what I need to get going,” Snoop Dogg says.

5. Be descriptive.

“When you talk, paint vivid pictures with your words,” Ice T says. “When I rhyme about the hood, I want a white kid who lives in Omaha to feel like he’s living there.”

The legendary Rakim agrees: “When Slick Rick raps about running through the park, you can actually smell the grass,” he says.

6. Be confident.

There’s a fine line between confidence and boasting — and only the best emcees can toe it. “Kanye [West] and Jay-Z are perfect examples. They know people are hanging on their words, but they never come across as arrogant,” says Ice T. “Whether you’re running a seminar or a meeting, you need to grab people’s attention by showing confidence — even if you have no idea what the hell you’re talking about. People will believe almost anything that comes out of your mouth once they detect confidence.”

7. Never apologize.

“State your opinion and roll with it no matter what,” says Ice T. “Once you win over a room, they won’t turn their back on you. Saying I’m sorry over and over again makes you look nervous and weak.”

8. Put in the hours — and learn to love them.

“You have to live in your work environment,” says veteran Nas. Adds the iconic Dr. Dre, “I’ve been in the game for 27 years and only been out of the studio two weeks — that’s how much I love my business.”

9. If two of you are presenting, pick the right partner.

“Make sure people have character, instincts and a real interest in what you’re about,” says Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest. “It’s the same when rappers choose partners to collaborate with. Big names don’t always mean it will work. The right person must have a solid grasp of who you are and your style. It’s no different in the business world.”

10. Pump up the volume.

Avoid boring people to tears during the next big boardroom meeting. “If you’re planning to discuss a hostile takeover of a company put on ‘Fight the Power’ by Public Enemy and get everyone fired up,” says Ice T. “Then, celebrate the acquisition that will make the company a lot wealthier by blasting Ice Cube’s ‘It Was a Good Day.’ ”

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