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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