by Dr Rob Pennington

When I first began attending seminars and workshops for my own personal and professional growth, I would become so inspired to make a positive difference in my life. I just knew when I got home I would immediately put into practice all the powerful tools and techniques I was learning. At least that’s what I thought at the seminar

But then… about a month later… I would often find my self thinking, “What was that thing from that seminar I was going to do? It was so clear then, but now… I’m just not remembering,” and then I would just fall back into my old habits.

Has that ever happened to you? Am I the only one who gets excited from a book or a lecture or tape or DVD about the changes I’m going to make in my life… and then… I don’t? I just seem to find myself in the same old habits, but feeling more guilty and frustrated and disappointed in my “lack of will power”.

Maybe these “same old habits” are what’s part of the problem.

Our lives are so full of existing habits and so many things we need to get done. It doesn’t seem we have room for the positive changes we really want to make, no matter how important – even when our lives (or the quality of it at least) literally depends on it!

For instance, have you ever found yourself sitting in front of the television, clicking away at the remote and thinking, “I really should get up and do some exercise.” (I’ve literally spent years doing this.) Then you hear a little whiney voice in the back of your mind say, “Awww, do I have to? I’m so tired. Not just yet. I’m too comfortable. Maybe a little later….”, and then you go back to clicking the remote. But “a little later” never comes. You want to build that new habit. You know it would be good for you, but it never seems to happen. What’s up with that???

It is because a good intention is not enough to build a new habit.

For me, to turn a good intention into an actual new habit, I learned that I have to follow Six Steps To Build A Positive Habit©: Click on this link to download a free manual on the following six steps:

  1. State a clear positive goal (and work on only one at a time),
  2. Consider possible behaviors I could do achieve my goal,
  3. Be specific about a single behavior I will to do to reach the goal,
  4. Connect this new behavior in time to existing habits I already have,
  5. Repeat, repeat, repeat (21 times) until the new behavior becomes a habit.
  6. Give myself a reward (that is not the benefit of the habit).

Here is a very simple example. Many years ago, our administrative assistant kept forgetting to turn on the office answering machine (back when you still had to turn them on!). The goal (step 1) was to always have a person or a machine answer every call. One possibility (step 2) to achieve this goal was to have the answering machine on whenever she was not there to answer the phone. But even though she knew this and definitely intended to do it, she just couldn’t remember. She didn’t have the habit yet.

In fact, she had a habit of not turning on the machine when she left. So we had to get very specific. The habit of turning on the answering machine had to happen every time before she left the office to go for lunch or even to the restroom (step 3). Both steps 1 and 2 were clear, but that wasn’t enough. The needed behavior wasn’t happening. Remember, good intention is not good enough!

We had to think of a habit she already had, that she always remembered to do whenever she left the office. She could use that old habit to help her develop/remember the new habit of turning on the machine (step 4). We noticed that she always took her purse. It was a habit. She didn’t even have to think about it. Whenever she got up to leave – she took her purse.

The trick was to figure how she could connect her habit of taking the purse to this new habit of turning on the answering machine. She decided to put her purse right next to the answering machine! We even gave the place a name: the “Sacred Purse Space!” so that nothing else would ever be put there. With the old behavior (picking up her purse) right next to the new behavior (turning on the machine) she had reinforcement to actually do the new habit. After repeating the new behavior (step 5) everyday successfully for 3 weeks (step 6) we took her out to lunch (at an expensive place of her choosing!) to celebrate her success.

For more information about how to turn your own good intentions into real, long lasting positive habits you can download a powerful set of handouts and listen to a 30 minute audio recording of a live presentation I gave recently. Please let me know about the success you experience in using this six step model to build your own new habit.

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Blessings on your success.