• Pat Birnie

It's 2020 - make it your best year ever!

Yup another opinion article on creating a new habit! There are certainly an abundance of suggestions, strategies & books written on this subject. I’m far from an expert on this (or anything else for that matter!) but I’ve found a simple strategy that really works for me, and I want to share it here. It certainly is the time of year for deciding it’s finally the time you are going to --- (I'll let you fill in the blank)! Although I’m not a New Years res kind of person, I’d say the number one rule is keep it small and realistic, unlike this lady...

Let’s face it – we all struggle with a few things -- let’s call them habits or lack thereof -- that we’d like to conquer. Perhaps it’s an activity we really need to eliminate, such as smoking or eating a bag of chips a few times a week. Or it could be something simple that we’d like to become more consistent at, like flossing. For so many, the big one is regular physical activity or exercise. How the heck do you find/make time for that??!!


What’s your biggest challenge? Ok I’ll go first. I struggle with focusing on a single task when I sit down at my computer. I struggle to be consistent with weight training (my goal is 30 minutes, 3 times weekly) as part of my fitness regimen. I struggle with daily meditation (really I just want to incorporate 10 minutes using a guided meditation app* - and I KNOW when I do it, it is an awesome way to start my day….so why is it so hard to be consistent???) . That’s just the beginning – there are so many more things I’d like to work on! I’ve always looked at life as a constant journey of gentle improvements.


People often comment on how disciplined I am. Yes I am, in a way and with some things. It’s not hard for me to eat healthy but this growth has been ongoing. Getting rid of my dessert habit was a result of focusing on low glycemic eating week after week after week after week (well you get it…) & voila – the cravings do go away. So it wasn’t really ‘voila’; it was the result of sustained effort for months, maybe years. The easy part is that I really love the taste of healthy food and I love how it makes me feel, but many habits have a slower or less visible payback. How do you stay true without much discernible benefit?


Science has shown that discipline is like a muscle we can strength, and I have been working on being disciplined for most of my adult life – 40 plus years, so that’s a lot of practice! My greatest strength I believe, is that when I say I’m going to do something, I do it. Simple as that. So my success strategy makes a lot of sense as it fits with my strength. So, my secret to discipline is having an accountability partner. This is incredibly effective for me as I really never want to let anyone down. Super simple.


Here’s how it works: find a like-minded person that you can trust and that also has some sort of habit that’s been eluding them but that they really want to master. Share with each other what you want to start (or stop) doing and some details. It can be something as simple as not eating cookies, flossing your teeth daily, or starting a consistent exercise habit. I have a friend who texted me one word at the end of each day, for 60 days – “flossed”. That was it. After two months, she had established a solid habit of flossing daily, and to this day, years later, continues the habit.


Here’s a big one for me – I’ve been an entrepreneur for 15 years and I’ve ended each year with my books months behind. I’d need to dedicate a few full days to catching up before submitting them to my accountant. The thing is, in my business, it’s really not a lot of work. I’m also sure that there were write-offs missed and forgotten months later. Early this year I made a commitment to a mentorship group that I wouldn’t turn my laptop off on Friday until the week’s expenses were entered. That was the best thing I could have done – it took me maybe 30 minutes a week, I never let them down and going into 2020 I have perhaps a couple of hours of work to tie up the loose ends. I cannot tell you how excited I am and how good it feels – why on earth did it take me 14 ½ years??!!


I’ve used this simple strategy for so many things over the years, and with good success. Just writing this blog and mentioning my other challenges with strength training and guided meditation is a pretty good indicator that I’ll master those this year – I’ve now told someone and being true to my word is important to me. I highly recommend you try this out – just find a buddy, business partner or mentor that you trust and can be open with. It’s great if they also have a habit they’d like to work on. Commit to a simple text daily – a couple of words is all that’s necessary!


So, make a decision, keep it small, tell someone and just make it happen! I promise the payoff is incredible. Just remember the words of one of my favourite mentor whenever you doubt yourself.

Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. —Jim Rohn

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