Success in any business endeavour is the result of various factors coming together in the right combination, at the right time, and at the right place.
There is a degree of luck in this equation, but as the old saying goes, “the harder I work the luckier I get”, and the ability to be a rigidly-disciplined self-starter is certainly a prerequisite, if not a guarantee, of high-level success.
If you’re at the start of your professional life, aiming to establish an IT support business, or whether you’ve been around the block a good few times, but have never quite got all your ducks in a row, developing your self-discipline, focus, and mastery of habit are essential steps on your road to success.
Some of us are born disciplined and productive, but most of us have to work at it to varying degrees. If you ’re currently a slacker, but want to overhaul your life and realise the full range of your potential, here are some tips for your self-transformation.
Identify the habits you’ll need in order to be successful
Habits form destiny to an immeasurable degree. Put differently, in a quote often attributed to Aristotle (but actually from Will Durant); “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”
The same idea can be found expressed in similar ways from thinkers around the world, throughout the ages.
The basic truth behind this idea is easy enough to grasp. Our lives are primarily shaped and given meaning by the things we do most regularly and diligently. Not only do our habits have a direct impact on our material circumstances, for example, but they even shape the very structures of our brains, as noted by Norman Doidge in his writings on neuroplasticity.
It follows as a logical consequence of this, that habits which are self-destructive or which contribute to us wasting our time, are going to forge a character and destiny which is simply incapable of meeting the challenges of the world head-on and productively.
If, on the other hand, we instil habits in ourselves that will contribute to our overall life success to the greatest possible degree — things that make us more effective, more productive, and optimise our use of time — we will have an altogether better character, and can expect an altogether better destiny.
To first step to rebuilding yourself is to identify the habits that will contribute most positively to your future success and wellbeing. Think long and hard about what these might be. Exercising daily? Giving up video games? Spending your evenings reading or writing instead of watching YouTube videos?
Begin implementing new habits systematically, starting slow, but remaining consistent
As habits are not just things we do, but in fact, things we become from the perspective of our neurological systems, we need to instil habits slowly, carefully, and systematically, rather than trying to do too much all at once.
The more alien a positive habit is to you, or the more deeply embedded a negative habit is, the more difficult it’s going to be to implant or uproot them, respectively. The process of doing so has to be done with patience and consistency.
In practice, this involves taking the smallest possible step you can — something that you will be able to force yourself to do, every day, even when you don’t feel like it or don’t have time — and repeating it consistently day after day. As the habit becomes more entrenched, established and comfortable, you can add to it in small increments.
If, for example, you had a habit goal of doing a full hour-long exercise routine once a day, you should begin with something like “I will do one sit up once a day”. After a week or two, add a few more sit-ups. After a month or two, add some more exercises.
Take your time. The important thing is that you never miss a day of acting out a habit, unless it’s absolutely out of your control. Remember; you’re building pathways in your brain.
Envision and write out your perfect life — and your nightmare life
When constructing your goals and working out your motivations in life, it’s vitally important that you get a sense of where you want to be (so you can identify the steps forward and continuously enjoy the journey), and where you don’t want to be (the place you’ll go if your bad habits are un-addressed.)
The way to do this is to sit down and intensively visualise your ideal life, as it would be if everything fell into place in the way you most desired. First and foremost, what kind of person would you be? Then, what kind of job would you have? What kind of house would you live in? What would your relationships with others be like? With your family? Your romantic partner?
Write this perfect life vision down, and reflect on it daily.
Next, write down the worst life you could imagine, if you stayed on your current trajectory and didn’t change any of your habits or attitudes. Imagine the disappointment of those around you, and of yourself. The misery, shame, and regret.
Now — at the end of this exercise — you will have a vision of your dream life and a vision of your nightmare life. The vision of your dream life will give you something to reach towards, and will remind you regularly of the kinds of things you need to do in order to achieve that dream.
The vision of your nightmare life, on the other hand, will give you something to run away from. It will remind you that your actions in life have consequences, and that failing to reform your negative habits can lead to a destiny you never would have wanted, and wouldn’t have wished on your worst enemy. This, in turn, will give you a clear reminder of the kinds of behaviours to avoid, and will also motivate you in a different way.