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Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Morning: The State of the Union

Monday morning again, and I'm checking in with you to see if you are on track with your goal plan. Today I'd like to write about habits. We all have them. Some we are proud of and display publicly, while others we try to hide in secret.

A habit is something that you are used to doing. It's something you have done so many times that you may not even be aware that you are doing it at the time. Habits can be good or bad, desired or embarrassing. One thing that is common to all of us is that we have the power to change our habits to whichever direction we want our habits to go.

Starting a good habit takes the same amount of time as starting a bad habit. Practicing a correct habit takes as long as practicing an incorrect habit. Once learned, however, a bad habit takes a longer time to undo than it does to learn in the first place, because there is the added element of having to unlearn something before a new thing takes its place.

The key to working to undo a bad habit is lots of little corrections done consistently and regularly. Edward Kreitman, who wrote Teaching from the Balance Point (1998 Western Springs School of Talent Education, IL), suggests that we work to change a bad habit a little at a time. Mr. Kreitman writes that he asks students to form the imaginary picture of cutting or breaking a thick rope. At first this task may seem too difficult to do; therefore we tend not to do it, and we keep on doing what is easy to do.

If we think about the thick rope, we realize that the larger rope is built by numerous tiny strands woven together to form a larger unit. If we just work at loosening one tiny strand at a time, we will ultimately sever the power of the larger rope. Similarly if we just work to undo one small aspect of our bad habit at a time, we will ultimately unravel all the strings of the poor habit.

During this season of the State of the Union, why not take a few minutes today to consider what your current habits are, whether they are good or bad, and whether you want to keep any of them or change them to something else. What tiny strands could you put your attention to on a daily basis that will ultimately sever the larger cord?

Our next step is to develop the discipline to take the daily steps necessary to bring us closer to achieving our goals and take us to where we want to be. We must continually ask ourselves: What can I do today that will move me closer to my goal? Then we should take that step.

What about setbacks? Setbacks, frustrations, and disappointments are inevitable. We do not learn anything when things go smoothly. We need our setbacks in order to continue our growth. I read an old proverb somewhere that says: A person can't climb a mountain that's smooth as glass. There would be no place to get a foothold. With setbacks we also have one thing in common, and that is our ability to choose how we will react to the setbacks. In the words of Cesar Millan, the "Dog Whisperer":

"When bad things happen, we can react one of several ways. We can feel defeated, depressed, hopeless, or we can use it as a learning experience, to grow, redefine, and improve. . . . [W]hen you are dreaming big and tackling what seems impossible, you are bound to have some setbacks along the way. . . . Not every experience is going to be positive. But with each negative experience or display of bad behavior is the opportunity for you to correct it and turn it around into a canvas for learning.

"Negative experiences serve as reminders for ways we can improve our lives. The 'downs' are the best teachers to become clear with your belief system and what you want in life. It allows you to be more in tune to yourself because you are more vulnerable. Without weakness, you don't know strength."*

Now you have a plan for the week. Let's get started.

*, January 23, 2011, newsletter.

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