- What’s the best way to stay focused and stay consistent in our efforts?
In THE COMPOUND EFFECT, I offer seven practical ways to help people stay focused, committed, and consistent with their efforts to improve an important area of life. Here is one of my favorite tips.Perform a PDA – Public Display of Accountability. Get Big Brother to watch you, so to speak. Or put yourself in a fish bowl for the whole world to watch… and it’s never been easier with all the social media available. I once helped a co-worker quit smoking by telling everyone at the company: “Listen up! Zelda’s decided to stop smoking! Isn’t that great? She just smoked her last cigarette!” I then placed a huge wall calendar on the outside of her cubical. Every day she didn’t smoke, Zelda got to draw a big fat red X on the calendar. Co-workers took notice and started to cheer her on, and the parade of big red X’s started to fill up the chart, which took on a life of its own. Zelda didn’t want to quit on that chart, quit on her co-workers, or quit on herself. But she did quit smoking!Tell your family. Tell your friends. Tell Facebook and Twitter. Get the word out that there’s a new sheriff in town, and you’re in charge.
- What is another way to stay consistent?
There are few things as powerful as two people locked arm and arm marching toward the same goal. To up your chances of success, get a success buddy, someone who’ll keep you accountable as you cement your new habit while you return the favor. I, for example, have what I call a “Peak-Performance Partner.” Every Friday at 11 a.m. sharp, we have a thirty-minute all during which we trade our wins, losses, fixes, ah-has, and solicit the needed feedback and hold each other accountable. You might seek out a success buddy for regular walks, runs, or dates at the gym, or to meet to discuss and trade personal development books.
- What is your strategy for breaking a bad habit or developing a new habit?
Psychological studies reveal that 95% of everything we feel, think, do, and achieve is a result of a learned habit. We’re born with instincts, of course, but no habits at all. We develop them over time. Beginning in childhood, we learned a series of conditioned responses that led us to react automatically (as in, without thinking) to most situations.The first strategy to uproot your bad habits and install the needed success habits to help you reach your goals is—awareness. We know all change begins with awareness and since 95% of your habits are completely unconscious, that is where we need to start—making them conscious again. I do this by tracking the behavior I want to change.
- What is the best way to track your behavior?
I learned the power of tracking the hard way, after I’d acted like a colossal idiot about my finances. Back in my early twenties, when I was making a lot of money selling real estate, I met with my accountant. “You owe well over $100,000 in taxes,” he said. “What?!” I said. “I don’t have that kind of cash just lying around.”“Why not?” he asked. “You collected several times that; certainly you set aside the taxes that would be due on that money.” “Evidently I didn’t,” I said.“Where did the money go?” he asked. “I don’t know,” I said, a sobering confession, for sure. The money had passed through my hands like water, and I hadn’t even noticed!Here’s what my accountant had me do: carry a small notepad in my back pocket, and write down every single cent I spent for thirty days. Whether it was a thousand dollars for a new suit or fifty cents for air to fill up my tires, it all had to go down on the notepad. Wow. This brought an instantaneous awareness of the many unconscious choices I was making that resulted in money pouring out of my pockets. Because I had to log everything, I resisted buying some things, just so I didn’t have to take out the notepad and write it in the dang book!
This tracking exercise changed my awareness of how I related to my money. It worked so well, in fact, that I’ve used it many times to change other behaviors. Tracking is my go-to transformation model for everything that ails me. Over the years I’ve tracked what I eat and drink, how much I exercise, how much time I spend improving a skill, my number of sales calls, even the improvement of my relationships with family, friends, or my spouse. The results have been no less profound than my money-tracking wake-up call.
- You discuss the power of establishing success routines. Why is that important and what are some of your routines?
A routine is something you do every day without fail, so that eventually, like brushing your teeth or putting on your seatbelt, you do it without conscious thought. If you look at anything you do that’s successful, you’ll see that you’ve probably developed a routine for it. These routines ease life’s stresses by making our actions automatic and effective. To reach new goals and develop new habits, it’s necessary to create new routines to support your objectives.Let me give you a for instance, I was constantly being told I needed to stretch more. I would do it for a week or two then forget about it. It wasn’t until I inserted it into a predictable sequence of steps that I do every morning did it take hold. When I get out of bed the first thing I do is put on a pot of coffee. While the coffee is brewing I do a stretching routine that only lasts 8 minutes. By the time I am done the coffee is ready and I continue on with my morning routine sequence.The key is this, routines allow you to create a rhythm. Once you have a rhythm going it can evoke the enigmatic force of momentum. Then once you have that you are surely unstoppable.
- You say that change is hard and that is a good thing. Please explain.
If change were easy, and everyone were doing it then it would be much more difficult for you and me to stand out and become an extraordinary success. Ordinary is easy. Extra-ordinary is what will separate you from the crowd. This is why, personally, I’m always happy when something is hard. Because I know that most people won’t do what it takes; therefore, it will be easier for me to step in front of the pack and take the lead. I love what Martin Luther King Jr. said so eloquently: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge.” It is only when we are presented with those challenges do we get to separate ourselves from other people.When you press on despite difficulty, tedium, and hardship, that’s when you earn your improvement and gain strides on the competition. If it’s hard, awkward, or tedious, so be it. Just do it. And keep doing it, and the magic of the Compound Effect will reward you handsomely.