Changing long-standing habits and achieving goals

I have a number of habits that have become long-standing, and seemingly more-so since I have tried to combat them. These include:

  • The types of foods I gravitate towards
  • The inability to stick to a schedule
  • My use of the internet
  • My daily consumption of coffee
  • My constant absorbing of books but my lack of recollection

Pretty much all of these fall into the category of self-control yet through all of my attempts to improve things for myself any progress seems to plateau and things either return to how they were, or worse; the feeling of failure causes me to spiral backwards.

The problem with the seeming lack of progress makes me feel like any goals in life I may want to achieve will never come into fruition unless I can overcome these hurdles I see before me. As I get older and the years pass I fear I will simply run out of time here.

Today I picked up the book NLP – neuro linguistic programming; the new art and science of getting what you want by Dr Harry Alder. While NLP is a relatively new concept for me, perhaps having heard about it only a year ago, this book was published back in 1995, but Alder’s book appears it may well help me to change my ways, ways which became ingrained in me from childhood, my teens, right the way up to things that are more recent in my adulthood.

There are various day-to-day things I would like to achieve/overcome, such as:

  • Staying off the internet for at least a day, or minimising my daily time to only only an hour of productivity
  • To be able to avoid coffee for a day as and when I choose
  • To be able to ‘comfortably’ fast for one day a week, should I choose
  • Stick to a previously planned schedule for a day, or even a week
  • To be able to work on a given project for an entire day (such as writing, working on my model railway, or a DIY project).
  • Achieve various “30-day” challenges, such as jogging/yoga/reading
  • Develop a more healthy and consistent eating regime
  • Be more intellectual and mentally focused being better able to draw in various related ideas and put them into words
  • Be more vocal and develop the ability to speak about topics more competently rather then relying on writing my ideas first

If some of these things seem odd to you, as some of your behviours may seem odd to me, Alder states that this is to be expected:

Although our behaviour might seem inappropriate or even bizarre or irrational, to others, it always ‘makes sense’ in the context of our own mental map. We do what is best within our unique and very limited view of reality.

Should I focus on one item from the list each week or find an approach or technique that addresses all? Again, this seems to all be achievable through a general improvement in self-control. Maybe I simply have a limiting belief that I lack such control.

Alder says:

Models of true success are resourceful learners, able to transcend their own thoughts and see the big picture… They use challenges; they use failures; they use random, seemingly negative circumstances and events to bring about mastery, creativity and success. That is what this book is all about – how you can get what you want, do what you want to do, and be what you want to be.

I recognise that I will need to develop and switch to a way of life that will be long-standing and not short-lived and seeing me returning to my old ways. For this I will need to first ‘imagine’ how I want my life to be, how it can be, and ensure it fits a model that is sustainable. It’s no good cutting things out, like coffee for instance, just to see how long I can go without drinking the stuff only to then return to drinking it because I actually like the taste and don’t want to live a life without ever drinking coffee again… that is unless it is only through addiction that I think I like the taste. Ultimately I need to imagine how I want to be, and then be that person.

Alder begins with four essential steps:

  1. Know what you want
  2. Take action
  3. Learn to notice the results of what you do
  4. Be prepared to change your behaviour until you get the result you are after

I have already outlined about ideas about what I want, but it is the taking action, the ability to turn these things into a reality through routine, motivation, and persistence where I need the help; I recognise, as Alder points out, that far to many people are dreamers and part of my frustration thus far is my recognition of this – I know that action is what sets us apart from the talkers. I need to take action in a way that enables me to notice results; where results are not obtained in an observable form, or are achieved too slowly to notice, then I all too easily find myself slipping backwards. In my coffee-drinking example I recognised already point 4 and I will perhaps need to make some hard decisions in life if I am to achieve all what I want.

Alder promises that “your investment will be repaid many times over and, as with other demanding activities, there can be almost as much pleasure in the journey as in reaching the destination.” He goes on to point out that there is “a distinction between our behaviour and our intentions: what we do and what we want to achieve. There is positive intention behind everything we do… Sometimes our intentions are not clear at a conscious level and may, as in the case of [coffee drinking,] be complex and conflicting.” I need to understand and perhaps address what my intentions are that result in my undesired behaviours “not by ‘trying’ and applying will power, but by recognising the positive intention and finding other ways to achieve it”.

Alder points out that,

NLP is concerned with learning from what we observe, and basing our actions on what we learn… we need to learn in the adventurous, enjoyable exciting way that a young child learns, rather than the way we have come to expect from teachers in school or college… People who reach personal excellence in any particular sphere are often unaware of their excellence until it is pointed out. Moreover, they often cannot explain what they do or how they do it. Their skill has reached a level at which they operate unconsciously.

Not meaning to blow my own trumpet here, but in my work people often ask where I learned how I do what I do (“fixing computers”), and I generally reply with “aside from school and some at college, I’m just self-taught”, and similar with cycling, recently when I was observed “swooping” into a supermarket car-park which has a nice ramp up into it, I was told how I appeared to be one with my bike. Both of these things became parts of my life years ago, so it is, in reflection, a pleasure how they are second-nature to me, while impressive to others who give me this external, and (I think) needed perspective. I would just like to develop this way with other areas of my life.

Those were my thoughts as I read through chapter one of the book, what follows is apparently 21 Days of self-inflicted neuro linguistic programming, although since I will be going away traveling before then, and currently having plenty of time on my hands that my current state of mind is allowing me to waste, I intend to finish the book and its proposed 21 Days ahead of schedule.

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