Today I want to start a video series called Impact Habits!
A few years ago I was living on the outskirts of the city of Vienna. There was a forest nearby and next to the house a small river was flowing. At night one could hear the animals from the nearby forest. It was a very nice place to live at and very serene. Yet I was at a point in my life where I was feeling intensely depressed. I was very discouraged and wasn’t happy with where I was in my life but also with myself. I had almost no money and was struggling financially. What was especially tough for me though was that I really wanted to change things, but I just couldn’t figure out how!
Every time I tried something, I felt like there was somebody standing behind me who was sabotaging me. I felt like my mind and my habits, my whole conditioning were working against me. I was running on autopilot and the autopilot just wasn’t working. Whatever strength I mustered and energy I invested in changing things, I always felt like being thrown down to the ground – again and again. It was a very tough and intense time. I’m sure you can relate to situations in your own life where you feel something inside of you is blocking you. Or you have a sense that certain habits are not helping you. You may feel like you are just sabotaging yourself while other people are having a much easier time succeeding, like your habits are keeping you “down”. That is exactly the reason why I am doing this video series. Because I have experienced the contrast between:
- Getting up in the morning and feeling depressed and demotivated. When starting a project I was very quickly feeling discouraged. I had extremely high expectations of myself and I never approved of myself and my small successes. I almost never said to myself: “Great Lukas! You did that small step. That’s amazing!”, and by giving myself a pat on the back aroused motivation. I was always discouraging myself: “This isn’t good enough. You are not making enough progress. You won’t succeed with this anyways…”. Because of this I stopped many projects – simply because I was having a very negative relationship with myself and bad habits. When trying to work I fell prey to many distractions. I couldn’t even focus for a few minutes or read a book.
- These days when I get up in the morning I usually feel very motivated and strong. I have a purpose and I know why I am getting up. My mind is clear. I follow through on the things I say that I am going to do most of the time. I have a daily routine and a daily ritual for my mornings and evenings and I usually get done what needs to get done. I work in a very focused and productive manner.
I learned that it is possible to totally change things around if one has a clear goal (a strong enough why), and applies consistent effort. Remember: it’s about small steps! Many people try to change their life quickly. They try to change many things at once. What that mostly leads to is discouragement and failure. We have to make small adjustments and small steps and build on them. We have to teach ourselves to celebrate the little victories because they will get us to our goal eventually. This is how I changed a lot of things in my life and how I am now able to have a completely different experience of life. Just by doing the small steps. Sure it takes work and consistent focus, but the rewards are really amazing!
When we do change something in our life, it is important that we focus on one thing at a time! This way we can really concentrate our energy and don’t scatter it into all six directions. Focusing our energy, like we would bundle the beams of the sun with a magnifying glass, will bring an impact. This way we will achieve results. That’s also why I call this series Impact Habits. Because by changing these small habits we:
1) Have a direct impact on our life because we are focusing our energy on a single habit.
2) Stack these small habits like building blocks. What you build stays and you can build on top of that. The bigger it gets (the more positive habits you install) – the more impact it has (ie. positive changes in your mental state but also health, job, productivity, finances, relationships). You can also imagine a small tree that starts growing. Once it’s big it starts to give it’s shade and fruits. In the beginning you have to carefully tend to it – later on you don’t even have to water it. It just starts giving on its own! It’s the same with learning to change your habits. Another analogy is that water is flowing down a river but there are a lot of hindrances. What we are doing by aligning our habits, by building Impact Habits is that we are taking away the hindrances so that the water can flow smoothly and quickly. As a result a lot of water can flow almost by itself!
In that process it is very important that we don’t focus too much on the results in the outside, but that we keep the focus on our own process of improvement. At times we have to check if we are making progress. Do we need to change the right direction or the way we are working? Do we need to tweak this or that? Our main goal that we want to achieve is: A smoothly flowing process where we are joyfully moving towards our goal. So the main focus should be on personality-development where we are enjoying both the learning and the doing, while gradually making measurable progress. Because this cycle of positive feedback is where all the results will originate. If you are not having much success in your life then probably you haven’t developed a habit of succeeding. Check out my article and video on Staying Motivated for more details on developing strong internal motivation.
Working towards your vision has to become a fulfilling habit for you, it cannot be done by sheer force. We need engagement and enjoyment in the process if we want to succeed! This way we will be taking consistent action towards the realisation of our vision.
If you don’t know what your goal is (or could be), then it’s important that you define it. I have another article/video on this topic about writing down and clarifying your vision gradually (or developing one if you don’t have a vision for certain areas of your life) called Nurturing Your Vision. Now that I’ve covered the general information about why building strong and supportive habits is so important, let’s jump right in with the first habit we are going to work with:
Impact Habit #1: Integrity
What is integrity? It means that you are trusting yourself, you are feeling connected with yourself and you have confidence in yourself. You are upright. You keep your word, You do what you say you are going to do. This makes you feel good about yourself and gives you an internal strength. Other people can feel this too!
I want you to remember a specific time in your life when you said you were going to do something. You planned to do something, but… you didn’t do it. How did that make you feel about yourself? Maybe for a few hours, for a day, maybe even for a few days? Ask yourself honestly: “How does this impact me?”.
The next time you commit to another action at a later time, a few days or maybe a week later, you are going to feel a little insecure. This is because you are carrying around a negative reference from not following through last time. This can develop into a very negative, self-sabotaging habit, which later can become part of our identity. We might say or think something like: “I never follow through. I can’t keep my word”. Or maybe we try to ignore it and act like everything is fine (that’s how I did it for many years). In any case we become scared to even start a small project because we become afraid of failing, can’t trust ourself and don’t want to disappoint ourself. We are missing the strength that comes from many positive references of following through on what we say – on a consistent basis! The first step towards change is self-awareness. We have to admit to ourself that there is a problem in order to begin solving it. We have to acknowledge that this a habit we have to change if we want to be succesful and happier with ourself.
Now what if we actually keep our word? Think back to a situation in your life where you did keep your word. Recall and notice: How did it feel to keep your word? How did it feel to follow through? How does it feel to complete what you said you were going to do? Chances are this feels very good to you. This gives you strength. Even a few weeks or months later! If you remember that situation where you did follow through, it is going to give you confidence in yourself!
It is extremely important to feel confident in yourself and your ability to follow through and take action – this is how you can take more and more small steps that will eventually lead you to the successful completion of your projects and to the fulfilling of your vision! A vision that you clearly hold in your mind’s eye, can feel as tangible emotions in your body or hear as a strong voice that carries you through your days. Independently from your external circumstances and if they already reflect it.
I want to invite you to a small formal exercise to immediately take action on what you just learned. To help you with recognising the paramount importance of keeping your word and doing what you say, so that you can feel good and confident about yourself. So that you feel strong on the inside and ready to tackle bigger and more difficult projects and challenges!
Take 5 minutes and write down on a sheet of paper:
A) 3 situations from your life recently (or go back further in time if you can’t remember any recent situations) where you didn’t follow through, didn’t keep your word and violated your own integrity.
-Write next to it: How did that make you feel? What do you think are going to be the consequences or impact of doing this? Are they positive or negative and harmful? Write down whatever comes to mind and go into the emotions that come up. Put your hand on your heart and genuinely ask yourself: “How do I feel about this on the inside?” How does it feel right now, thinking about this situation where I violated my integrity?
B) 3 situations from your life where you DID follow through and kept your word. Times where you were trusting in yourself, where you were upright and kept and strengthened your integrity. Then write next to it: How did that make you feel? Even now as you are thinking about it? Again put your hand on your heart and be really honest. Ask yourself: “How do I really feel about this? How do I feel about following through and keeping my word? What is it like to be a man or woman of my word?” Again write next to it what you think will be the consequences and impact of this behaviour.
C) Write a short paragraph on why you think developing this habit of integrity is important in your life. What are going to be the rewards if you had really really strong integrity? Find your strongest why for changing this habit – this is going to be the fuel for change. Then also write down what will happen if you don’t work on this habit. If you don’t develop your integrity or it even deteriorates. Reflect about the most important areas of your life: your relationships, finances, your body and health and any important goals or projects you might have. What impact is this going to have if you don’t work on this?
I hope that this article was helpful and that you could get some value from it. I look forward to doing more in this series because I think that Impactful Habits are a crucial tool for changing our attitude, behaviour and thus changing our life. For becoming happier, more productive, successful and clearer in our mind. For living our life from action instead of reaction, so that you can actually have an experience where you get up in the morning and feel motivated. When you start a project then there is no inner saboteur – maybe the project is demanding and difficult, but you know that you have yourself on your side and that your habits align with your vision. An experience where you feel that you are supporting yourself and that you can trust yourself on each step of the way. Where you are constantly moving in the direction of your vision and you just know that you are going to make it a reailty.