Building Better Habits: Creating New Year’s Resolutions with Focus

We are all creatures of habit. Intentionally or not, we tend to get into habits. Sometimes they are good, sometimes not. And, we look at certain milestones to assess what bad habits we need to get rid of, and what good ones to start. For example, the birth of a child convinces one to stop smoking. A relocation prompts one to get out and explore the area instead of being sedentary in a comfortable environment.  And, of course, fitness centers get crowded in January as the end of the Holiday season signals a time to exercise and lose weight.

No one purposefully gets into a bad habit with the intention of getting into a bad habit. It just happens. And breaking those habits requires energy. Whether the physical energy of exercise, or the mental and psychological energy of the discipline it takes to eat right, devote time to pray, or read.

Stephen Covey wrote and researched extensively about habits. One of the most recognized names in non-fiction publishing since Dale Carnegie, Covey is famous for his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Each of his habits requires a discipline of thought and perspective that highly effective people have mastered. Think back on the old cartoons of a character with an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. Collectively, good habits are the attempt at listening to the angel and dismissing the devil. Avoid the temptation of … the cookie, the cigarette, the video game, etc.

Breaking bad habits is life-changing and while bad habits are often considered to be personal attributes, they do, of course, have a direct impact on the workplace. 

Losing weight and exercising gives you more energy and stamina, enabling you to perform better. Taking time to read or study and improve your skills makes you more effective in your work and more valuable to your team. In the end, it is all about continuous improvement and recognizing that we’re imperfect in nature. Adopting good habits is a necessary aspect of continuous improvement because it reflects a change for the better and change takes energy to implement.

Going back to Covey, his seven habits are:

  1. Be Proactive
  2. Begin with the End in Mind
  3. Put First Things First
  4. Think Win-Win
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the Saw

Over the holidays, I read a book called, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.

Keller is the co-founder and CEO of Keller Williams Realty – the world’s largest residential realtor. In his book, he poses what the calls “The Focusing Question” - “What’s the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?”

Think about that question for a moment. If you can answer the question, and accomplish the answer, would life not be better? 

A key to the Focusing Question is just that – focus. Focus means getting rid of distractions while tuning in to your priority. I do think that if you’re only going to read one chapter, it might be on the fallacy of multitasking. Multitasking is the enemy of focus, and whatever your answer to the Focusing Question is, multitasking will prevent you from achieving your potential.

In Covey’s Habits, it’s about Putting First Things First, Being Proactive, and Beginning With The End in Mind. Keller’s Focusing Question is a great tool to begin each day with; to ask yourself, your team, your family “What’s the ONE Thing…?”

Being empowered to say no to things that detract from your ONE Thing is critical, and the key to it is to ensure that people understand your own priorities and respect them.

So as we begin the New Year, let’s all assess what our ONE Thing is to make 2017 the best year yet. Listen to the angel on your shoulder. Stand tall and take control. Stop multitasking. Succeed. Be safe.  Good luck.                 

“To do two things at once is to do neither.”

Publilius Syrus

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

Johann Wolfegang von Goethe

“Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.”

Steve Uzzell