My daughter, Julia, is working on changing some of her homework habits and last night she asks me “Daddy, it takes 21 days to create a new habit, right?” I spared Julia the half-day workshop that we do for business people on changing and creating success habits. Instead we chatted about 6 of the basic items that successful people carry along their journey to changing habits and achieving great things (even ones that may have seemed impossible at one time). Here are those items:
Creating a new habit will probably be a little hard and uncomfortable at first and you will likely need to sacrifice something along the way. A friend said to me just last night in talking about a new (and better) job that he just took: "Jason I need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable for a bit until I get acclimated to the job’s new tasks and lingo.”
And this sacrifice can take a lot of different forms depending on what you're trying to change. Creating the new habit of working out in the morning might require you to not watch that last show on television the night before so you can get to bed an hour earlier. Or it might be the decision to not consume alcohol during the week so you are sharp for your work projects or sales calls during the business day. Or, in my daughter’s case, it might mean not texting her friends as soon as she gets home from school, but instead knocking out her homework.
This is a funny one because you will end up needing courage in your journey to achieving the impossible whether you “go for it” or not. Here’s what I mean: I think we can all agree that it takes courage to attempt quitting smoking due to the neural pathways created in your brain from years of smoking and the physical withdrawal your body will go through. But it also takes courage to not quit! You see, if you do not quit, you will likely face serious health issues down the road needing possibly messy and painful medical procedures. Enduring those procedures will take just as much, if not more, courage than the courage it would take to quit smoking.
The same idea holds true for having to let people go at the office to change your team’s culture or creating and using a database for the first time. And I am willing to bet that you have the courage needed to achieve your “impossible.” And I know this just by the mere fact that you are reading this article right now: it shows that you have an interest in improving something for yourself and that interest is the first ingredient that makes courage.
This is the act of doing certain things even when you don’t feel like it. Staying a little later at the office or after practice honing that new skill that will help get you to the next level. Not ordering the dessert after dinner even though you really want to. We have found a few tricks that help with discipline is to start small (stay 15 minutes after practice and not 2 hours) and to not punish yourself if you experience a discipline gap. Both tricks are easier said then done, but when combined with the other 5 items on this list, can indeed be achieved.
Plainly put, without being specific about your habit change, goal, or impossible achievement proposition, it just won’t happen. Making your achievement S.M.A.R.T. may be something you have heard about 100 times, but until you make it Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and attach a Time table to it, it just ain’t gunna' happen. Let's take sales goals for an example. If you were going over your goals with me, I'd be asking questions like:
- How many sales calls?
- When will you be making them?
- Whom will you call on?
- What will you say?
We are relational beings and we need each other for anything we want to do and achieve in life. Tell those close to you what it is that you want to do so they may encourage you; ask you how it’s going, and walk beside you. Aloneness leads to mediocrity and community leads to greatness. If you don’t think you have a community, then we just need to get your juices flowing a bit as just about anyone that is around you will likely be willing to be in community with you on your journey. Your office or classmates, your running or hunting partners, anyone at church, people you bowl with, your fellow football fans, neighbors, or bird-watching friends. Yep, even your bird-watching friends will help you.
This is the exciting thing that lies at the end of your “impossible” journey. This is the why behind what you are looking to change or achieve. This is the fun, good, and amazing outcome for you once you make that change. You need to start with this reward in mind and keep coming back to it throughout the process. Because we have found that without it, the impossible remains just that… impossible. And with it, not so impossible… at least not for you.
This item may take the form of a tangible thing like a new car that you buy when you hit a certain sales goal. But it could look like something more intangible like more time spent with your spouse instead of watching yet another game on the tube. Or maybe it’s knocking out that homework right after school so you have more “chill time” with your friends later in the day (smiley face).
So there you have it, the 6 items needed to achieve the impossible in 53.24 days. Why 53.24 days you ask? Well our research has shown that ”a little longer” comes to exactly 53.24 days. We’ll cover this number more closely in a future article. For now, please let us know how your impossible journeys are going and what items you have found helpful on those journeys.