Imagine a world in which robots walked among us, thinking they’re human. No one knows who they are, not even the robots themselves. No one knows how many there are, but they’re everywhere. Some of your co-workers, your friends, even your family, are robots, and they don’t even know it. And the scariest part of it all is this…you’re probably one of them, too.
This isn’t some futuristic scenario or a preview for the next Hollywood science fiction blockbuster. It’s the world you and I live in.
Let me explain.
We each have tens of thousands of thoughts per day-some estimates claim as many as 60,000! Think about that for a moment (no pun intended). Really think about that. It raises some questions, doesn’t it? For example, how is it that you can have 60,000 thoughts every day and still have trouble finding solutions to your problems? You’d think a solution would be in there somewhere-we’re talking one thought every one and a half seconds! The answer is this: Almost all of your thoughts today are the same ones you had yesterday.
In fact, it’s estimated that 90-95% of everything we think and do is habit. So, in a way, our habits are controlling us. Most of us, most of the time, are robots. How does that feel, to think of yourself as a robot? No very good, does it?
So, what does that mean? It means that if we want to be in control of our lives, and habits are controlling us, then we must control our habits. But before I tell you how to do that, consider your own life for a moment to make sure that what I’m saying is really true. What about your life are you dissatisfied with? Stop reading and write down the first thing that comes to mind. Maybe it’s your weight, maybe it’s that you don’t get to spend enough quality time with your spouse, or maybe it’s your salary. Once you have an answer, write down something you’ve recently done or thought that contributes to the problem. Don’t think too hard, just write the first thing that comes to mind. Now look at your answer. Is that action or thought a one-time occurrence, or part of a pattern? Odds are, it’s something you do or think often, maybe even every day. And isn’t it also true that the actions and thoughts that would lead to improvement in this area of your life are things you must do and think almost every day?
That’s the key to controlling your habits-daily consistency. Take action every day. I know that sounds like a lot of work, but there’s good news. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of time each day. Daily consistency at any level of performance will build the habits that you need, to create the life that you want. Even just five minutes a day is enough.
Five minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, I know. You might be skeptical at this point, so let me give you an example.
A friend of mine wanted to get in the habit of running for a half an hour every day. If you’ve ever done that-or tried-then you know just how difficult it is to do. But he noticed that the biggest obstacle for him was overcoming inertia and actually getting out of the house. Once he was outside, running didn’t seem like a big deal. So he decided that each day, at a minimum, he would put on his exercise clothes, go outside, and touch his feet to the street-no excuses. And if he didn’t want to run at that point, he could go back inside and still feel good about himself. You see, he made it easy to overcome the obstacle of getting started. And in those first few months of building his habit, he only went back inside without running a handful of times. But I would argue, even if he’d gone for the run less than half of the time, that still would’ve been the right first step because it got him started. Just get out of the house, and I promise that you’ll run more often than you would have otherwise.
Let me give you some more examples. Writing for five minutes a day at a rate of thirty words per minute will produce a 180-page draft of a book by the end of one year. How many books did you write last year? If you run for five minutes a day for a year, you’ll have run the equivalent of 7 marathons. How many marathons did you run last year? If you were to read for an extra five minutes each day, you will have read 4-8 more books by the end of the year. How might reading 4-8 more books per year impact your life and your business?
What new and powerful habits might you have right now if you’d started creating them a year ago? Do you want another year to go by without those habits?
If you accept that habits are controlling your life, and all it takes is five minutes a day to build a habit, then the next step for you is to take that knowledge and act on it. Create and commit to a daily No-Excuse Minimum-something that’s so simple and requires so little time each day that you have absolutely no excuse to skip it. Before you know it, you’ll have made it a habit.
They say that freewill is what sets us apart from everything else on earth. But how free are you if you’re letting yourself be controlled by your habits? When you do that, that’s when you become a robot. That’s when the part of you that is human dies. The choice is yours, but it’s an easy one…because the price is only five minutes a day.
©2005 Curtis G. Schmitt