Do you want to achieve more? Change your Habits

It is almost one week since the New Year 2015 started. In a heartbeat we will be in June, and after a second, God willing, we will be celebrating another new year, looking at yet another resolution list. But maybe that resolution list will have many of the same goals we have been trying to achieve over and over again.

Why it is that time passes by so fast and it is so hard to achieve many things we really want? The answer to that question is simple: Habits

To change a habit is easier to say than to be done. A habit, as defined in the American Journal of Psychology,”… is a more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through repetition of a mental experience.” To gain a habit, good or bad, usually takes a long time. Our habitual behavior begins to be formed when we are just a little baby, and it is strongly influenced by parenting.

I took classical guitar lessons about fifteen year ago. My teacher used to tell me that when studying a new score, I needed to practice and repeat every transition of the left hand (I am right-handed), until it became automatic. Just like that, through repetition, habits become imprinted in our neurological system. He also used to tell me, as some of the left hand´s finger positions were so challenging, that it seems like every finger has its own will. “Make them do what you want them to do, not what they want to do.” Does all of this relate to you? When your goal is to lose weight, and you want to stop eating certain foods, Do you feel like your stomach has its own will, and it keeps craving those potato chips with soda? Or if you want to start doing more exercise, Do you keep leaving that for later, like if your legs don’t feel it’s the right time?

Habits are created through repetition, with a lot of effort, until they almost become an unconscious thing to do. And for some reason, good habits are harder to form than bad habits. So what do we need to form a new good habit? Determination, Execution, and Persistence.

Determination

To form a new good habit, the first thing we need is to want it. We need the focus and the will power to achieve something for our own good. When I was trying to move the fingers in my left hand to press different strings on the guitar, I had to really focus on each finger at a time, until I got it right. Then, I had to repeat the transitions countless times. I really wanted to learn to play the music, and I loved it. To want something with determination, think about the reward you’ll get if you achieve it; stay motivated and focused on it every day.

Execution

You are not achieving anything just with wanting it. This is usually where we get stuck: We want something; we know we can do it, we feel good to know it, and we never start. We continue to postpone it for later. There is no way around it, execution means to act. If you want to achieve anything, do whatever it takes and do it. And I know it is not that easy. That´s why we need to take small steps at a time to start doing something. Back then, I wanted to learn to play classical guitar. So I decided to take lessons and committed to go to a class once a week and I started practicing every day for about an hour to comply with the homework studies and advance. “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

Persistence

“Firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.” Don’t be surprised if, after some time, you find conformity in the arms of defeat and failure, but you shall not desist. If you have to start over again, do it, but do not quit halfway of completing your goals.

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” – Maya Angelou

To break a bad habit is a different  approach. We really don’t eliminate or break habits; we replace them with good ones. After admitting your bad habits, you will also need Determination, Execution and Persistence.

Today, I still study and play classical guitar, a good habit to relax and enjoy good music.

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