Successful Habits Can Only Lead to Success

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

I slept a little later than normal today. That’s what happens when you don’t use an alarm clock. Most days I wake up within five minutes of the same time, a time when most sane people are still sound asleep. It started two days after I quit smoking, and that was almost 22 years ago. I have an alarm clock, but I don’t know if I could set it to go off because I’m pretty sure I threw away the instructions.

I used to be the guy who was late for everything. Dad always used to say I’d be late for my own funeral. He said it like it was a bad thing. Personally, I don’t want to arrive early for that one. The later the better. But if being somewhere relied on my ability to wake up in the morning, all bets were off. If I had to catch an early flight, I stayed up all night because I knew I’d never wake up on time.

But as I said, two days after I quit smoking, that all changed. I woke up that morning rested and ready for the day, with a level of energy I hadn’t seen in more than 20 years. There’s something to be said for giving your lungs the ability to exchange oxygen. And in the months that followed, I became more rested and more energetic by the day. That, alone, was worth the price of admission.

Habits can be hard to break. I smoked for 24 years. And it’s not like I picked a date on the calendar and mentally prepared for it. The date chose itself. I didn’t even taper off. The day before I quit, I smoked almost three packs. I had no thought of giving it up until that morning when my body said, “Enough!” As I spent the first two hours of my day hyperventilating, the choice was made for me.

I’d tried to quit before, but never made it past the first couple of days. And I was a grumpy SOB the entire time. Everybody around me paid for my begrudged decision to quit something I should never have started in the first place. Normally, by the third day, my wife would buy a pack for me.

But something happens when you make the decision to do something because it’s what you want to do. Not because you know you should, or even because you know the consequences of not doing it. Those reasons are forced on us, and we naturally fight back. Even if we know what we’ve been doing is unhealthy or destructive. “I’ll change when I’m good and ready!” Sound like anyone you know?

That was the first element in my success – I quit because I decided it was time. It was a decision I made on the spur of the moment. I’m not really even sure I decided to quit for good that morning. I just made a decision not to smoke that day. And then I made that same decision again every day. I never really quit. I just said, “I won’t smoke today.”

It’s been suggested that it takes 21 days to change a habit. I’ve quoted that a few times in my posts. But in researching that topic (yes, I really do such things), I’m learning that three weeks is just the beginning. Depending on the source, it can take anywhere from 66 to 90 days to make a behavior so automatic that you no longer even think about it – you just do it.

But it’s during the first 21 days that you establish the behavior that will eventually become a habit. That’s when you figure out how you want things to go, and how to get back on track when you stumble. By the end of that time, you know what you’re doing and any discomfort with the new behavior is gone. It’s become a natural part of your life. Now, it’s just a matter of repetition.

There’s nothing you can’t change if you want to make that change. You can drop an old habit or form a new one. Both are pretty much the same. It’s all a matter of changing a certain behavior to become the person you want to be. Do it consistently, one day at a time, and in just a few weeks you’ll be well on your way. The remaining month or two is simply for reinforcement.

Habits are simply behaviors that we repeat instinctively. We can choose the behaviors, and we can choose to repeat them until they become a natural part of our day. Pick the behaviors that will lead you closer to your goals and success is not only possible, it’s inevitable.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Procrastinate Tomorrow – Get Busy Today!

Good morning, and happy Friday! I hope your day is off to a great start.

This will be a busy weekend for me. For the past several weeks, I’ve been staring at a job that needs to be done, and now it’s time to pay the piper. I’m starting to realize if I’d broken it down into a list of smaller tasks, I’d probably be done by now. After 61 years, you’d think I’d have learned.

We’ve talked about this before – how we tend to put off those bigger jobs because we can’t set aside enough time to do the whole thing, so we don’t really do anything. Meanwhile, time marches on until the day comes when it has to be done, all at once. Makes you wonder, if you didn’t have time to work on this a month ago, what makes you think you’ll find the time to do it now?

It’s simple. you’ll find the time because you have to. It’s crunch time, and there’s no other option. I’d like to say we all do this, because it would make me feel a little less lazy. But the fact is, there are some people who don’t put things off until the last minute. If it’s a smaller job, they get it done. No excuses. With bigger jobs, they break them up and do a little each day.

I tend to stand back and look at the whole mountain, thinking of how much time and effort it’ll take to get to the other side. There are things I need to do for my business, and from a distance, they can look pretty daunting. I want to write a book, but that’s going to take some time. I need to clean up and reorganize my basement, but there’s a LOT of stuff down there to move, put away, or pitch.

And what happens? I find myself sitting here on yet another Friday morning thinking about how I can get some of this done, when the answer is really simple. Just do it, the same as I do eating broccoli … break it down into bite-sized pieces, pinch my nose, and have a bite. Do that enough times and the job is done.

My business goals can’t be achieved in a day. It’ll take a long series of small successes to get where I need to be. My book can’t be written all at once, even if I stay up all night. But if I had been putting in an hour a day, the same as I do with my morning posts, how far along would I be? And with the basement, it’s pretty simple. The dumpster can handle one extra bag of trash each week. So, fill it.

And here’s the real problem. Procrastination becomes a habit. At first, it’s pretty simple. You don’t have time to rebuild the car’s engine this weekend. It’ll have to wait. And that’s one of those jobs that truly has to be done all at once. But habits don’t stop at the big stuff. They just keep growing. Which explains why I’ve had a new toilet seat sitting in a box for the past month.

A toilet seat? Seriously? How long do you think it would take me to replace that? Well, far less time than I’ve spent re-attaching the old one every time it decides to come loose. But that only happens when you’re in the bathroom for another reason – something that truly is more pressing. And by the time you’re done, and your hands are washed, who wants to mess around with toilet seats?

Do you see a trend here? My wife does. In fact, it’s become such a way of life that she doesn’t even say much about it anymore. But it’s an easy trap to fall into. It’s also a pretty easy habit to break. Habits are nothing more than a routine to which we’ve become accustomed. Start a new job and you’ll learn a new routine pretty quickly. We can do the same in every area of our lives.

Most experts say it takes about three weeks to form a new habit. That’s 21 days. Unless you’re in military basic training, in which case new habits come in a matter of hours. But if you decide to make a change and commit to it, within three weeks it’ll be something you do as a matter of habit. Do it long enough, and it’ll take the same committed effort to fall back into your old habit.

Okay, in my case, maybe “effort” isn’t the operative word. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to say “tomorrow.” But the point is, we can either live with the things we’d like to change, or change them. You may not achieve your ultimate goal in three weeks, but you can become the person who is able to attain that goal. And, when you think about it, that has to happen first anyway.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Break a Tradition to Find the Possibilities Hidden Inside

Good morning. It’s Friday! I hope your day is starting off well.

For many of us, this will be a weekend of religious observances, and a day with family accented by some traditional meals. For others, it’s just a normal springtime weekend to observe their own weekend traditions. Whatever your plans, I hope the weekend is just perfect.

It seems traditions work their way into our life, sometimes completely by accident. But once they become ingrained in us, it’s hard to deviate. But sometimes that deviation can lead to new traditions, or even a tradition of just seeing where life takes you. That can be fun as well.

Nearly twenty years ago when our girls were visiting a grandparent out of state, my wife and I decided to take a long weekend and go someplace. We didn’t know where we wanted to go – we just wanted to get away for a couple of days.

I remember as I was loading our luggage for the trip, I asked my wife, “So, which way are we going? North, south, east, or west?” She shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know – pick one.” We hit the road, with no real idea of where we’d end up. And we had one of the most incredibly relaxing and enjoyable weekends ever.

Traditions can be great (not that we’ve ever had a real “tradition” for weekend outings), but they can limit your imagination and lead to a somewhat mundane existence. When we go to any of several familiar restaurants, I rarely even look at the menu because I already know what I’ll be eating. And sure, I get something I really like each time. But I always wonder what I may be missing.

Traditions are nothing more than habits, but with a more celebrated existence. Our family tradition of baked ham and macaroni & cheese casserole on Easter Sunday is a habit. One I really enjoy, mind you, but still a habit. And one that limits other possibilities. Like this year, when the menu will be traditional summertime cookout fare – hamburgers, hot dogs, and potato salad.

Notice how one tradition just slipped in there over another? Pretty sneaky, if you ask me. But it happens, because we’re all creatures of habit. We have routines that have become comfortable, and when decisions need to be made, we naturally gravitate to them. So, instead of a single tradition, we have a few. Then it’s just a matter of drawing one out of the hat.

And we follow this routine through much of what we do in our lives. I have certain combinations of clothing I wear. When I put on my blue pants, there are just a couple of shirts I’ll wear with them. And, most of the time, those shirts only get worn with my blue pants. So, the only real decision I make each morning, is which pair of pants to put on. From there it’s eenie-meenie-miney-mo.

In yesterday’s message, I stressed the point that we need to be willing to try new things. And sometimes those new things are so far outside the box, we’d have never thought of them on our own. When somebody suggests them, our brain immediately comes up with a dozen different reasons to resist. And if those reasons aren’t good enough, there are a dozen more behind them.

It’s simply because what we’ve been doing to this point in life is coloring inside the lines, following a pre-defined path that we laid out for ourselves. But if we want to turn the current picture into a masterpiece, we have to be willing to color outside the lines. We have to be willing to change those habits that have restrained us to this point and find some that will lead us where we want to be.

I’m not bashing traditions. We all have them, and there are some we have no desire to change. I could go to a Chinese restaurant for Easter – I just choose not to. And that resistance to something new will keep me from ever knowing what may have been. It’ll keep me in the same silo in which I’ve lived to this point in life. And in this case, it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

But if there are traditions and habits that are holding you back, change them. If something new could lead you to where you want to be, do it. The mind is like a parachute – it only works when it’s open. Be receptive to new ideas, new habits, and new traditions. And then shut your brain down long enough to get past those excuses and examine the possibilities. What a difference it can make!

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Perseverence (and Coffee) Can Make Everything Right

Good morning! It’s Hump Day! I hope your week is going well.

Every morning, as I make my rather large cup of coffee, I have to run it in two batches – the first is 12 ounces and the second is an additional 8 ounces. It’s simply because my coffee maker doesn’t have a mega-cup setting, and I’m not about to start my day without a mega-shot of caffeine. Those who work closest to me can fully appreciate that.

But after the initial 12-ounce run this morning, my coffee maker decided that was it for now. I waited patiently, and then not-so-patiently, and still it wouldn’t reset itself for an additional brew. I finally gave it the computer-style reboot (pulled the plug) and it decided to work, after I reset the time and all those other fun things. I hope this was just a fluke. I kinda depend on this thing to start my day.

It’s just part of my routine. We all have one. As I get dressed each day, my dog is waiting outside my bedroom door, just to be sure I’m not going back to bed. I go to the living room, sit in the recliner, and he props up across my left leg for a morning hug. Then it’s outside for him, and when he comes back, he gets his morning vitamin and eats his food while I make a mega-cup of coffee. Every day.

We do these things so automatically, we rarely even think about them. Unless the coffee maker decides to test my aging heart, in which case I have to improvise. Or panic. It could have gone either way. We improvise first, and if that doesn’t work, we panic. Can I get an amen?

When an animal does something without thinking about it, we call that “natural instinct.” Okay, I’m not sure dogs have a natural instinct to start dancing around at 7:30 every night because the human is supposed to give them a treat at 8:00. I’m not even sure it’s a habit. If you want my opinion, he’s spoiled. But I only have myself to blame for that.

And how did 8:00 become the official hour for a treat? Because the human (me) did it a few nights in a row at the end of a particular TV show. It’s funny how habits are formed. I didn’t intent do make that a nightly thing with him. It just worked out that way.

I think it’s a little amusing – it takes us about three weeks to form a new habit. If there’s something you’re desperately trying to change, do it consistently for 21 days and it’ll become a part of your life. But, since every years of a dog’s life equals seven years of a human life, that means it only takes a dog three days to form a habit. I walked right into that one.

So, what happens when I go to his favorite cabinet and the bag of treats is empty? He understands “all gone,”, but he doesn’t understand “Daddy forgot to buy some at the store last week.” It’s treat time, and there’d better be something in that magic cabinet. If not, then open the refrigerator. There’s cheese in there. He’s not stupid.

Sometimes we have to improvise. And that’s not always as easy as it sounds. It’s time to start cooking dinner and you realize the roast is still thawed. So, tonight we have grilled cheese. Problem solved. But when you get halfway to work and the car starts flashing that dreaded “check engine” light, you don’t have a lot of options. That’s when even the most devout atheist begins to pray.

As I stared at the coffee maker this morning, I began to wonder if I’d have to start my day with a half-cup of coffee, and how my wife would feel when she had to start her day without. We don’t have instant coffee in this house, so my only Plan B is to stop by the gas station on the way to work. And I’m sorry, but that’s just not a truly acceptable substitute.

Things will happen to mess up the best of plans. You’re on vacation and you hit a detour. The hotel you’d planned to stay in is full. You get a flat tire on the way, and finally arrive at Wally World only to find the park is closed. It happens to the best of us. But somehow, you find the resolve to keep going.

Anybody can breeze through an easy day and come out looking good. It’s how we handle those not-so-easy days that makes us who we are. Just take a step back, assess the situation, and re-focus on the goal. There’s always another way to get there. All you have to do is find it.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

The 21-Day Turnaround

Good morning! I hope you all had a fantastic weekend.

Well, it never fails. I bragged Friday morning about losing a few pounds and something happened over the weekend to spike my appetite. I know what part of the problem was, but the end result was I shoveled more food in my mouth than I needed and I’m back up a couple of pounds. Still a net loss since a week ago, but not as much as I’d hoped.

That’s the reality of weight loss, especially as we get older. I’ve learned that my body likes consistency. Whatever I weigh now, it’ll try to maintain that weight despite any amount of dieting and exercise. The body, and especially the mind, are intricate systems that are designed for self-preservation. And they resist any change that threatens that consistency.

On the other hand, I’ve learned that when I begin to consistently lose (or gain) weight, my body tries to maintain that momentum. I guess the trick is to get moving in the right direction and maintain that movement long enough that the body can adapt and accept the new direction. A week just isn’t enough. Thankfully, a week of weight gain isn’t enough either. If it was, I’d be in serious trouble.

It’s that way with a lot of things in life. We decide we need a change and start going through the motions to make it happen. If we’re really sold on the idea, that first week is easy. We do the things we need to do, or stop doing the things we shouldn’t do and, by all outward appearances, we’re on the way to success. Then comes the weekend. Or the second week, or the third.

It takes 21 days to form a new habit. For the first three weeks, whatever changes we’re trying to make are completely out of our comfort zone, whether it feels that way or not. We’re taking something we’ve done for probably a long time and trying to force ourselves to do something different. And our mind and body will resist that change until it becomes a habit.

Habits are things we do without thinking about them. They’re second nature. We do them just because that’s what we do. And the longer we maintain a habit, the more automatic it becomes. Which is why it’s just as hard to break an old habit as it is to start a new one. In fact, new habits usually mean we have to give up old habits. I guess it’s just nature’s way of maintaining balance.

I smoked for 23 years. Quitting wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be, once I really decided to do it. But for the first three weeks, I had to continually remind myself not to smoke. At the end of meals, I had to think about it. Waking up in the morning, I had to think about it. At work when we went on break, I had to think about it. Until one day, not smoking became a habit.

The same is true when we’re just trying to form a good habit. Maybe you want to start getting up earlier each day. Or maybe you want to start spending an hour each day reading something inspirational. It could be something you want to do to earn extra income or spending more time with family. Whatever it is, it’ll take about three weeks before that new action becomes a habit.

And once that happens, you’ll find that you no longer have to figure out what to rearrange in your schedule to accommodate your new habit. You’ll move things around without thinking about them. And when something else comes along and tries to take up that time, you’ll say no. “That’s my time for doing (whatever).” It just becomes part of your day.

That’s not to say things won’t happen to throw you off track. They will. And there will be days you just can’t make it happen. You handle the situation and move on. But once that’s over, you get back to normal. So, the trick is getting to a point where “normal” includes the things you need to do. If not, you’ll have to start those habits all over.

If there’s something you want to change, then do it. Let today be the first day. Mark it on the calendar. Then mark another date three weeks out – that’s the day your new life becomes a habit. All you have to do until then is just keep on doing whatever it is you’ve decided to do (or not do). And if you slip up a little along the way (you will), just get back on track. Success is still there, waiting for you to arrive.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Change is Not a Four-Letter Word

We’re all creatures of habit. Some a little more than others, but we all get into a comfort zone and tend to stay there until something comes along to change that. Those habits could be anything from which side of the bed we sleep on to which shoe we put on first, the route we follow driving to work, and how we spend our first five minutes on the job each day.

Most of our habits are completely inconsequential. Does it matter where you sit in church, or which shoe goes on first? Not a bit. In fact, some experts suggest we should change those habits from time to time, just to break up the monotony.

Beyond that, I think it can help us learn to adapt to change, so the thought of changing a habit isn’t quite so daunting. Because, let’s face it, we tend to make a big production of changing our habits. We make resolutions, set dates, create checklists, and put stars on our daily calendar like a kindergarten teacher to show the days we were “good.”

It’s no wonder we’re so reluctant to change. And if it’s that hard to change something relatively minor, how on earth can we tackle the changes that really matter, things like giving up smoking, losing weight, following an exercise program, or devoting a little time each day to building a business? All of these things can have a profound impact on our lives. And the stronger the impact, the more we resist making the change.

I think two things hold us back. The first is comfort. It’s human nature to seek a place of comfort. And when things are going well, and nothing is forcing us to change, it’s easy to sit back and say, “This isn’t so bad. I’ve done it this way all these years, and I’m still alive. In fact, I kind of enjoy how things are going right now. Why rock the boat?”

That’s great if you want to stay right where you are until the reaper pays a visit. But if you want to step things up a notch, something has to change. To have something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. That’s one of my favorite quotes, and it resonates perfectly in this context.

The first step in making that change is to get a little uncomfortable. If we’re cruising along with little or no discomfort, there’s little incentive to change. We know what we really should do, but the urgency just isn’t there. Until the mortgage company calls and says pay up or pack up. I hope none of you ever have to experience that, but I think we can all agree, it would light a fire.

Beyond that, we need to break these major changes down into smaller bite-size pieces. One of my goals for the year is to finalize my financial situation in preparation for retirement. If you could see my bank and 401k statements today, you’d know that’s a huge undertaking. And, I’ll be honest – looking at the end goal, it’s really hard to visualize.

But, if I break it down into smaller goals – paying down the credit cards, shedding some unnecessary expenses, and building some sources of ongoing income, it becomes a little more realistic. And if I take any one of those goals and break it down even further, I can come up with a list of actionable items that can be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time.

It’s all about habits. Form the right habits, and you’ll work toward your goal without really thinking about it. It becomes second-nature. And once that habit is firmly in place, you can start working on the next one. Instead of trying to leap-frog right to your ultimate goal, you do it 21 days at a time.

If there’s something you’d like to change, a habit you’d like to develop (or break), it only takes three weeks. You may or may not reach your big goal by the end of the year, but think of how much closer you’ll be. All it takes it to get a little uncomfortable with the status quo, make a decision to do something about it, then commit to doing that for the next three weeks.

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, day after day, and expecting different results. To have something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. Embrace change, one little step at a time, and there’s nothing you can’t accomplish. That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved