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  • Writer's picturePak H Chau

Start a new habit

Where you are today is a result of all your habits.

The great Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said: “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

So if you are not happy where you are today, you simply must adopt new habits. And to do that, you must overcome one major obstacle – your mind. No more excuses for not being able to do something. No more saying: “When I have more money, I’ll do this.” Or “When I have more time, I’ll do that.” NOW is the time.

Take the habit that most people want to form - exercising. You don’t really have to have money to be able to do this. You don’t have to enroll in some fancy gyms. Just start by walking for a few minutes everyday then build up from there!

Notice that Lao Tzu starts with “thoughts”? If you want to be in a good state, you

have to fill your mind with good things, things that will motivate you. So be very careful with the media that you consume, and the things around you. Trying to lose weight? Take out that junk food in your pantry. And not only that, be selective also of the people that surround you. Don’t hang around with people who say “You can’t do that.”, because frankly, you can. Or even people who might not be blatantly discouraging you but are sucking the energy out of you with all their negativity and rants. Stay away from these people.

A related concept is that of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “activation energy”. He says that if you want to form a new habit then decrease the activation energy needed to form that new habit. In simpler words, make it easier for yourself to do that habit. Want to start reading books? Then make sure your books are always visible so you will be enticed to read every time you see them. In my case, the books that I want to read are always on the table near our main door so that it’s easy for me to pick one up on my way out, for the downtimes that I’m sure to have during the day.

How many new habits do you need to form? Just one for now. Dr. Christine B. Whelan, a clinical professor in the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, advises against having a long list of habits to be changed all at once as she says, “it’s a recipe for failure.” Instead, she suggests to form one new habit one at a time. Your success rate will be higher this way.

The crucial part is to make the habit stick. 30 days has been scientifically proven in successful habit formation. Here, visualization will help. You can use Jerry Seinfeld’s “Calendar” Strategy or James Clear’s “Paperclip” strategy. The point is, each time you do a habit, mark it with something concrete. Your obsessive—compulsive self (and believe me, most of us have a bit of this in us) will not allow you to miss a day of doing that habit. And remember, the longer you stick to doing something, the higher the chances that it will be ingrained in your day-to-day living.

Do this now - and change your destiny.

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