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Let your habits be the driver of your destiny

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The new year brings hope and a sense of possibility. One of my favorite movies is The Shawshank Redemption. In it, the character Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins, writes to his friend Red (Morgan Freeman), “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies”. Along with hope, the new year brings resolutions and goals for the upcoming year.

All the hope that resolutions and goals bring is useless unless we are willing to change our habits. Setting goals is easy. However, without the necessary plan to change our habits, our battle is akin to pushing water uphill with a rake.

A movie that reinforces the power of habits is a childhood favorite of mine, The Karate Kid. The wise teacher in the movie, Mr. Miyage, instructs his protégé Daniel, “Wax on, right hand. Wax off, left hand. Wax on, wax off. Breathe in through nose, out the mouth. Wax on, wax off. Don’t forget to breathe, very important”. It is the discipline and the habits that transformed Daniel into the Karate Kid. Our habits are our destiny. Even hope (faith), if it has no works, is dead by itself.

Charles Duhigg explains in his book, The Power of Habit, that scientific discoveries explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. He reports that MIT researchers discovered a simple neurological loop at the core of every habit. This loop consists of three parts: cue, routine, and reward. What habits in our daily lives are stopping us from reaching our full potential? Once we identify a habit we would like to change, we must first identify the cues triggering our action, the routine associated with the action, and the reward.

Setting goals, as well as having hopes and dreams, are necessary; they provide us with the inspiration needed for action. Our habits are the nuts and bolts that determine our destiny. We are masters of our fate and the captains of our soul, and the ruler of our destiny is our habits. The beginning of each year provides us with hope. It is time to reflect on the previous year and ask, “What were the habits that were holding us back? What are the habits that are crippling us from reaching our potential?”

No one plans to fail, but people fail to plan. Part of our plan needs to be to identify the habits that are limiting our growth. Our self-limiting habits might be related to health, work practices, or communication styles. Breaking a habit is easy once we have the tools necessary to make the necessary adjustments.

Six steps to making lasting change, adapted from The Power of Habit.

1. Choose a habit you would like to change.

2. Identify the pattern.

3. Write about the pattern. Take an inventory. What happens and when?

4. Talk and discuss the habit and pattern with someone who is trying the same course of action.

5. Change the routine of the habit.

6. Change and experiment with rewards.

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