You Can Develop Winning Habits

A sign we placed on the locker room wall of a sports team with whom I work reads, “Winners develop the habit of doing things that losers don’t like to do.” In my A Strategy For Winning book, Principle One is Accept Yourself And Your Worth. With six steps under that principle, step two is Develop Good Habits.  
Habits are strange and powerful things. Some are good. Some are bad. And none just happen. They are acquired either consciously or unconsciously whether we realize it or not. Once we develop them they are difficult to change, especially the bad ones. But changing habits can be done. I use the word “changing” because the only real way to get rid of a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. Some people make the mistake of concentrating on not doing something bad rather than concentrating on what they are going to do right. For example, if you have a bad habit of being late for school, work, or meetings, then you should concentrate on being on time rather than on not being late. Making a determined effort not to do something reinforces it instead of preventing it.
You may need to develop the habit of getting up each morning thirty minutes earlier. The first day that alarm goes off early you will probably have to struggle to cooperate rather than hit the snooze button. You may even reach out and backhand the clock for waking you up! The next morning it’s still not easy. The following morning may not be much different. As the days continue, however, getting up earlier becomes a little easier. Finally, after about three weeks, it seems the normal thing to do.
It takes about 21 days to form most habits. After this time, you get to the place where the thing you have been practicing and working on actually becomes a part of you. If you don’t do it, you don’t feel right. That’s the effect a developed habit has. In school, sports, career, and personal life, you can consciously choose to replace bad habits with good ones.
Make a list of habits that concern you. Typical bad habits include eating junk food, going to bed late, watching too much TV, and excessive Internet browsing. Others include abusing alcohol, drugs, or tobacco. Or it could be something like interrupting others in conversation or not being a good listener. It could be bad hygiene or sloppy dressing.
With list in hand, consider why you consciously or unconsciously developed each habit. Maybe it began because you were bored and you wanted to create some forced excitement. Maybe you were stressed and searched improperly for relief. Maybe you were unhappy with a relationship or job and wanted to escape it. There is always a reason you hold on to a habit. The more you understand any habit, the better you can deal with it. Whatever your bad habit may be, you built it over time and it will take time to reverse it. But it can be changed if you will practice these two steps: 
(1) Make a mental note each time you begin to do something that you know is a habit. Consider why you are repeating it. What was your mood or feelings before you did it? What were you involved in? For example, why did you have an urge to eat that candy bar (or those three candy bars)? Why were you late for the meeting? Why could you not wait to light up that cigarette, or put that “chew” in your mouth, or take a swing of that drink?
(2) Make a mental list of the advantages and disadvantages of the habit you are about to repeat. Is it going to cause you more harm than good? What harm will it cause? What good will it cause? What are reasons to keep the habit? What are reasons to change the habit? What can you do to replace the bad habit with a good one? Take a first step in making this change. 
Carl Mays, author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 3,000 events, can be contacted at or 865-436-7478. His books, including A Strategy For Winning, People of Passion, Anatomy Of A Leader, Are We Communicating Yet? and Winning Thoughts, are available in stores, on,, and other Internet locations.


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