It was either the late 1980s or the very early 1990s, and I was listening to the Milt Rosenberg show on WGN radio, which was the best interview show I’ve ever known. Milt’s guest that night was Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of England. In the middle of the interview, in just a passing comment, she said this:
Habits are either the best of friends or the bitterest of foes.
Perhaps I was just ready to hear it, but I realized in that moment that I could arrange my life in beneficial and painless ways by creating productive habits.Short Pain, Long Gain
I had learned the rules of creating habits some time prior to this radio show (in a book by Dr. Robert Anthony):
If you repeat an action for 28 days, it will become a habit.
(That action, by the way, could include thinking in specific ways.)
Here is a harmless experiment to prove that statement:
Fold your hands by interlacing your fingers. Next, check to see which hand is on top; usually it is the left index (pointer) finger that ends up on the top of the pile. Now, reverse the order – if your left is on top, put the right on top, or vise versa. This will probably feel uncomfortable. For the next several weeks, make yourself use the reversed order. No exceptions allowed. Be tough on yourself.
If you do this religiously, at the end of four weeks (28 days), you will be doing it automatically, and the original order will feel almost as uncomfortable as the reverse order does now.
Do this right away and prove it to yourself.Now for the Next Step
Make a list of useful habits in whatever area(s) of life you want, and start creating them in yourself. You’ll have to remember to force yourself to do or think the new things from your list. But if you do it, you’ll create productive habits.
And once those productive habits are made, you will gather fruit from them for the rest of your life. Once created, a habit is automatic. You’ll end up doing useful things with zero stress, and for a long, long time.So where to start?
That’s really something only you can decide but I’d almost bet that something has started popping up in your consciousness already. If so, write it down and spend some time considering it.
What you want to find are silly or wasteful habits. Be honest with yourself and examine yourself. What have you always done that isn’t working in your interests? Whatever you find should be changed. It will probably be best to go one at a time, but change these habits. And rather than just trying to stop the bad habit, replace it with a good habit.
At one time, I was in the habit of reading a newspaper every day. But I soon found that I was spending a lot of time on it, and that I got much better news on the Internet, in less time. So, even though I enjoyed my daily paper, it was no longer worth my time and worked against me. So, I changed the habit into checking Internet news sites and saved myself about 15 minutes per day.
If you end up saving just ten minutes per day, you’ll get more than an hour of free time per week. That’s about five hours per month, and about sixty one hours per year. Over ten years, that’s almost a month and a half of waking time.
The payoff from that extra time can be profound.
Perhaps even more important than that is knowing that you can improve your life. Wanting to improve your life is a fine impulse, but knowing that you can takes you to a considerably higher level.
Here is a final thought on habits from an unwilling politician, George Washington:
Rise early, that by habit it may become familiar, agreeable, healthy, and profitable. It may, for a while, be irksome to do this, but that will wear off; and the practice will produce a rich harvest forever thereafter; whether in public or private walks of life.
That’s a comment from someone who had actually done this and knew from experience.
And with that, let it not be said that I never write anything nice about politicians.