How To Drag Yourself Out Of A Rut With Three Good Habits

This is the fourth piece to be published on the Get The Guy blog from my brother Stephen. Steve helped co-write the Get The Guy book and is a wealth of knowledge on dating and relationships.

Today’s article is a little more lifestyle orientated. Simple but effective advice for making 2014 everything you want it to be. Enjoy!

Enter Stephen

I think we were lied to. It’s not enough to be in the right place at the right time.

That old hackneyed formula might apply in retrospect, if you had to explain, say, the explosion of an iconic figure like Bob Dylan, who arrived precisely at a sweet spot in the 1960’s just when the world was ready for a nasal-voiced folk poet genius.

But for you and me, the “right place, right time” mantra, when offered as though it were sage advice equates to something like “get lucky” – and, despite Pharell Williams’ dogged insistence, I just can’t be up all night waiting for that to happen. Not with my schedule.

The thing is, many of us are in the right places. Often at the right time as well.

We can go to the gym, attend our cool friend’s party, or get to our desk everyday. We show up, but that doesn’t automatically translate to any visible improvement. The most dispiriting feeling is when you’re punching in, trying hard, and still nothing seems to improve. Repeat this enough, and the road leads to despair and cynicism.

So showing up, right place or right time, isn’t enough. Showing up is just the first, albeit crucial, step that must be immediately be followed by another: Doing effective things.

Working out in the gym everyday will only yield average results if you don’t perform effective workouts. For example, in recent months I tried my own gym experiment. I replaced two of my weekly unstructured solo gym sessions with two instructor-led group circuit sessions per week. The improvement in fitness and body shape was drastic. Looking back, substituting in those circuit sessions with an instructor brought two benefits I couldn’t have created alone:

(1) Technical guidance – I was taken through uncomfortable exercises that I would used to have instinctively avoided when exercising alone.

(2) Accountability – I was pushed hard by an instructor, and therefore got more juice out of my usual hour-long workout.

The lesson was simple. Progress comes not just from action, but from taking effective action. I was in the same place (the gym), spending the same amount of time (an hour), but was taking more effective action.

But that, of course, isn’t the whole story.

The true success of that effective action will really be determined in the next six months, by just how many times I can drag my ass to those regular circuit sessions. In other words, to make real improvement, a good action has to become a good habit.

Not to sound too grand about it then, but our entire success in life (at least in terms of worldly achievement) comes down to three words: Make good habits.

I therefore propose we forget the ‘right place, right time’ philosophy, and humbly offer a new ultimate formula for all success in life:

Success = doing the right things, the right number of times.

That’s all a good habit really amounts to: Doing the right actions, with the right frequency.

Three Good Habits

So how does this relate to getting out of a rut?

Easy. We just need three good habits.

That’s three good habits for the next 6 months. Go ahead, write your own now. These habits are your absolute priorities, those few things you must make progress on over the next six months. Use them to frame your entire weekly schedule.

The best thing about the Three Good Habits model is its simplicity.

I know, we all have more than three important things in our life. That’s why the three good habits only apply to those areas in which that you absolutely MUST make regular progress on.

Make it easy by picking one for health, one for career, and one for relationships.

So three habits could be:

Habit 1: Exercise for 30 minutes, four times a week – Health.

Habit 2: Write 500 words/make 10 sales calls/send out two applications every working day. (Pick the most effective, measurable action that will push you towards your goal) – Career.

Habit 3: Talk to three new people, three days a week (I like this one because it motivates me to schedule at least a couple of nights out with friends every week) – Relationships.

These are more than habits; they are RULES. Rules that you have to carry out no matter what else is thrown your way each week. They are your ABSOLUTE MUST DO’S.

Once you have the habit locked in place, you can then work on refining it as you go along to make the action more effective, like I did with my circuit workouts.

Keep it to only 3-4 habits at most, otherwise you’ll be overwhelmed and have to summon up too much willpower to stick to them. You might also want to add something purely pleasurable like: Read 20 pages of a book per day. I find if I don’t have rules for reading, I can easily let it slip even though it’s something I love doing.

The point is to make these so simple that they make effective progress easy. The habits act as a source of constant accountability to ensure you are always moving forward on important things.

If keeping up the habits seems overwhelming, make them even smaller at first. Reduce it to writing 200 words a day, or talking to just one new person three times a week. Reduce until it’s something you can unconsciously ingrain into your everyday routine without having to think about it.

Some days these will feel like a stretch. Other days they will feel easy and you’ll get them done without much strain. The point of this model is the long-term consistency it offers.

In our love lives, we are often used to just taking action only when we are in a massive rut. Instead of being consistent, we let things slide further and further until we become desperate, take furious action for a couple of weeks, placate ourselves for a while, before letting it all slide back down once again.

This is a way of staying the course. When you’re always meeting new people, or advancing in your career, or looking out for your health, you won’t have those crisis moments when you feel like you’re drowning and can never get the ball rolling again. Moreover, it helps you keep up a feeling of constant growth, which helps your confidence keep rising higher and higher.

In last week’s video Matt spoke of the importance of keeping promises to yourself for your confidence. These are three promises you are going to keep every week no matter what. They are your way of telling yourself that you’re serious.

I know this model is reductive and simple, but that’s kind of why I love it.

I also know that three good habits alone won’t magically solve every part of our lives. But they can make a hell of an improvement to it.

Question Of The Day: What are three great habits that would change your life in the next 6 months?

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*Photo credit Ryan Smith Photography

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23 Responses to How To Drag Yourself Out Of A Rut With Three Good Habits

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  1. Sinead says:

    Hi Stephen,
    I love this idea of three good habits as it is so simple! I’ve tried to make mine achievable so I won’t get disheartened if I slip.
    1. I will go to the gym three times per week, once for a swim, once for zumba class and once for 5km run on treadmill. Hopefully the variety will stop me getting bored!
    2. I will dedicate one evening a week to data collection for the MSc project I am currently working on but only making very slow progress.
    3. I will start a conversation with three new people per week.

    Thanks to you and Matt for your inspiration, positivity and practical advice.

    Wish me luck!
    Sinead x

  2. Emily says:

    Hey Steven,

    thank you for valuable tips that you share via this blog) The lifestlye is so important when it comes to love and happiness and fulfillment of oneself, and all pretty much depend on lifestyle) Thank you for sharing! You and your brother help me to make small steps to great improvements of my life: emotional, intellectual, creative) big hugs and warm kisses on your cheecks! Hope this comment will be a drop in the ocean of inspiration you get from your feedback) take care

  3. Irene says:

    Hello Stephen,

    This is amazing!

    I added Hobby and changed relationship to lifestyle because changing my lifestyle will hopefully lead to previous. Lifestyle contains a couple of things but I meant something like make time for friends,(We text alot but…)and culture (museums, concerts, etc.).
    Relationship includes freinds and family as well but due to the context it implies relationship-relationship and that’s way too much presure lol

    And I would love to find time again for my beloved hobby, painting. Haven’t done that for too long and it’s something that provides me (when my piece is done) with an undescribable feeling.

    Looking forward to keep these promises to myself.

    Thanks!!

  4. Kathryn Green says:

    Hi Stephen,
    I love your example of being at the gym and how to make that more effective. I would never have thought about it like that. I’m afraid my habits are going to have to start small as I sometimes feel I have so much on my plate that what I have started I end up abandoning and then have less confidence and motivation to start it up again each time.
    1. My Ballet workout, I will buy the NYC ballet workout 1. I have been doing harder 2 one for over a year now, but when my son gets really ill and I have to see to him I find it soo hard to start up again. (That means admitting to myself I’m not as fit as I used to be! )
    2. I will keep a journal/ notebook and start writing again. I haven’t done any writing or hardly any reading since University and I love it, but the pressure of som much reading put me off thinking it could be pleasurable again.
    3. Get out the apartment more. We can both go to an art gallery/ cafe and meet people there. The artists do a great workshop for Michael but I find it easy to put off going out and making the effort. I will make a day to go.
    Thanks for another great article Stephen, I really enjoy and think about what you have to say, you do come across as very clever and thoughtful.
    Kathryn x

  5. Hala says:

    Ironically, this article was definitely the right thing for me to read, the right time ! I was just talking about all the things I want to improve in my life, but how even when I’m determined to change them, I always end up getting caught up with my daily routine and all the old habits I was trying to rid of..
    While reading this article, I’ve decided to adopt three good habits of my own, and apply them on everyday basis.. But I’m afraid I don’t really know how to pick up on the one concerning relationships’ : meeting new people, or at least how can I become friends with other students I don’t know ?

    • Barbara says:

      I don’t know whether you mean students as in school or university, but both usually have gatherings or parties to go to, or afterschool activities you may pick one from (be it sports or whatever).
      And if you aren’t up for either of that, join them during lunch or break and start talking – nobody minds company.
      If you’re going to get yourself something, invite someone in. If they decline, you’ll just do what you wanted to do anyways

      Good luck!

  6. Barbara says:

    Thanks for writing that! Sometimes you just need encouragement like that to start working on it ;)

    Well, there are a lot of habits I started to work on ..

    Soo:

    1. A kanji a day keeps the doctor away (used to learn one new kanji each day, but stopped around the last holidays)

    I do want to Japanese later, so I will have to learn them anyway. As a matter of fact, you simply cannot learn multiple Kanji simultanously, so it’s making it rather easy. You just need a few minutes per day.

    2. No gaming until 8pm

    I love gaming, but it’s rather time consuming once I start (especially when people invite me to play with them when I actually wanted to work and already had my break ..)

    3. Talk to one new person a week

    I’ll be realistic on that one, as I CANNOT go to parties or the like due to my health, I’ll talk to someone new whenever I get the chance. Have met many already recently, but it’s more random than deliberate.

  7. Leecis says:

    DESPAIR AN CYNICISM. I get that. It reminds me that if I don’t “do” my hair and it looks bad. I don’t get upset. If I spend an hour attempting to “do” my hair and its stills looks bad, then I get mad.
    I definitely have been making an effort to make changes. Impatiently I give up when I don’t feel the results. So Stephen, I will get ” reductive” and “simplify” my habits ( goals)!

    Thanks Leecis

  8. Randa says:

    “great place of discovering it”!? –> great WAY of discovering it ¬¬

  9. Randa says:

    1) Eating (Health)
    2) Sleeping (Relationship… with my lovely pillow)
    3) Bathroom time with something to read (Career… best moment to get inspired or to learn something new! ;P)

    I really like how you highlight the importance of simplicity, for me it’s by far the best way to keep a habit.

    I also like to add a splash of variety into my habits/goals (for example changing my running routine every 21 or so days) mainly to avoid going on the dark side of the monotonous (a.k.a boring!!) routine.

    With that said here go my REAL 3 habits which I have started last month and are so far turning out well ;)

    1) Signing up to a new sports meeting every sunday (aside from my usual workout routine) (Health+Relationship BOOYA!!)

    2) Chilling at a new café every week to read, write in my blog and to send 3 applications. I’m living in a city I’ve never lived in before so it’s a great place of discovering it. (Career… and I’d also add Relationship! Meeting people when you’re by yourself is easier than what many may think!)

    3) Hanging out with my two buddies whom happen to own a pub, hence hanging out AT the pub and meeting at least 2 new people there.(Relationship)

    Great post once more! Keeeeep ’em coming!
    xx

    • Stephen Hussey says:

      Randa! Great to hear from you again! Your no. 2 speaks to me a lot – I spend every Sunday reading and writing in a cafe and it’s one of my favourite pleasures of the week. Thanks for your comments, and stay out of trouble, Stephen x

  10. Noémie says:

    Hi Stephen,

    Thank you for your writing!
    It’s really xhat I needed to hear.
    I deeply want to make of 2014 an amazing year, stick to my resolutions and great things to happen in my life.

    My habits are:

    1) To send at least 5 applications per week to finally get a great job abroad (I just graduated from a French Business School with a Master’s degree)

    2) To exercise 30minutes 3 times a week.
    I’m currently jobless, so I have a lot of free time. I should be able to do so.

    3) To talk to 3 new people a week. (I was really proud of me, I managed to do so at a friend’s Bday party last Saturday. I did it successfully once, so I can do it over and over again now)

    Looking forward to reading you soon!
    Take care

    Noémie

    • Stephen Hussey says:

      Thanks Noémie, I hope you get the job! I think no. 3 is great – I like making simple social goals like that because they stop me from making excuses about being too busy to go out/see friends. It’s just as important to keep up as other goals. Thanks for your comments, Stephen x

  11. Angela says:

    Hi Stephen

    1. Jogging at least 3 times a week, I live near the beach so it is also a great pleasure …. I put my earphones with the best rhythm music and run for about 1 hour . Love the adrenaline!

    2. To express more often my opinion or thoughts…. And I started with your articles. I never liked the way I express myself writing, i feel that my words do not do justice to my thoughts. Infact it would be cool if you gave me an advise how I could improve.

    3. to be able to show more my real personality, to be less a piece of ice!
    I was raised in a very strict way, I was thought that a woman has to be always a lady ,princess manners…. I am all that, but I have also a passionate temper.

    And Stephen , I love your writing!

    Best
    Angela

    • Stephen Hussey says:

      This is great Angela. I really want to write something about how to express yourself better, so thanks for bringing that up. Look out for it in another article at some point! One thing to remember is to make your habits as measurable as possible – so you could find an activity that helps you express emotions more – like an improv class or, you could make it simpler, and just resolve to tell 2-3 people how you feel this week – or find a way to publicly talk about your feelings more in a debate or conversation).

      Thanks for your kind words – if you want advice on writing send me a couple of questions to shhussey@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to get back as soon as possible.

  12. Maria says:

    Here I go, now this is a commitment:

    Habit 1: study at least 1 hour everyday (lately this has been an incredible struggle and I feel like I won’t ever finish my career If I don’t make it a priority).
    Habit 2: exercise 4 times a week (it doesn’t really matter what I do, I just need to get active).
    Habit 3: talk to 3 new people a week.

    I think I can stick to them, but I need to put in the effort!

    • Stephen Hussey says:

      These are perfect Maria – really just go for consistency. Even if it feels small now – after two weeks of it you’ll love the feeling you get from staying the course.

      Go for it!

  13. Sam says:

    Great article! Stephen!

    My habits are
    1) exercise for an hour at least twice a week (yoga and Zumba)
    2) practise ukelele for at least 30 mins 1 day a week (learn a new song)
    3) make a YouTube video once a week (teaching graphic design)
    4) arrange to meet up with different people (friends, meet new people) each week

    I like the line written about how success is doing the right things the right number of times :)

    • Stephen Hussey says:

      Great list Sam – really practical and they all look like very effective actions. If you do those, you’ll leap a mile ahead this year. Stephen x

  14. Erica says:

    My habits are

    1) exercise at least 30 minutes a week. ( don’t want to push it because I might not do it if I say 30 minutes a day aha…)

    2) Study (not just do homework) at least twice a week ( because I’m a college student and working part-time, schl comes first.

    3) Talk to at least 3 new people a week. (mostly guys…getting out of my comfort zone to make that conversation especially with guys which is hard for me sometimes.)

    Thank you Steve. i’ll keep and work on these habits.

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