I’ve been working a lot with my clients on creating productive, successful habits. And for you to be able to create a new habit, you will often need to know what method of creating habits fits best for you.

Here are three various ways for taking on a habit:

If you’re an abstainer, you work best when you completely STOP – cold turkey – an old destructive way of acting. For you, it’s easier to say to yourself, “I will have no dessert after dinner, except on Saturday evening.”

If you’re a moderator, you work best when you do not deprive yourself, when you allow yourself some of the old habit. For you, it’s easier to say to yourself, “I will have just a little dessert every day after dinner – just one peppermnt pattie or just one small serving of jello.”

If you’re an in-fluxer, you are comfortable going between abstaining and moderating. For you, it’s easier to say to yourself, “Sometimes, I will have no dessert after dinner. Sometimes, I will have a small dessert. I’ll listen to my feelings and thoughts in the moment.”

I find that the in-fluxer is the most difficult position to be in because you need to constantly make ACTIVE decisions about your every action. On the other hand, both the abstainer and the moderator can set up some GOOD constraints, which make day-to-day decisions easier to make because many decisions become automatic. I would encourage you to determine which of the abstainer or the moderator you are in creating new habits. And if you’re an in-fluxer, what can you still do to make day-to-day decisions more automatic and simpler?

I was speaking with a friend today, and she said a great combination of words, “networking really is aimless, isn’t it?” And I thought that was so correct, so right on.

By the time you have a goal with networking, it’s no longer networking. It’s sales or starting a transaction or even developing a business relationship. But at that point, it is NO LONGER networking for the sake of networking.

This is fasconating to me because I often have very fun discussions with people without knowing at all how we might one day work together, or have our lives intersect again. No, networking doesn’t have to be all that – the next job, the next project. Networking can be just two people who have a great time speaking with each other … Aimlessly!

In a comment last month, Michael writes,

So, my question is: if success is often dependent on delayed gratification and happiness is often dependent on enjoying the present, as well as achieving some measure of success, then how do we reconcile all these things?

What’s your answer?
I’ll start with mine, and would love to debate it.

Just like I wrote yesterday about doing exercise at 9:56pm on a Sunday to make sure I get in the right number of workouts for that week, I think you choose your battles. There are some things that you may be willing to delay gratification in – with the expectation of stronger gains in the future. I don’t mind not chilling and relaxing on a Sunday evening … as long as my cardio is stronger and my muscles more defined down the road.

I do mind having no weekends to myself – so that’s something I wouldn’t allow myself to do. In coaching, it’s easy to schedule people in on evenings, mornings, weekends. And I love doing early morning calls and evening calls, but I rarely, rarely do the weekend. That’s a sanity measure… even though to some degree delaying my weekends for a year might make the coaching business more exciting earlier, but – hey, why?

“Enjoying the present” – doesn’t this phrase sound like time passing slowly, like a river running. It’s almost, in answer to Michael – it’s almost that you may not be able to buckle down and do the discipline things unless you have enough psychological capital in you to be able to take those things on. And that psychological capital will come to a large degree from your taking good care of yourself, which may include enjoying the present.

To some degree, I see them feeding each other. What do you guys think?

It’s the same reason that I exercised yesterday – on Sunday – at 9:56pm (the very tippy top end part of the weekend).

There are some guidelines that I’ve set for myself.
Such as posting a blog post daily M-F.
Such as exercising five times per week (and Sunday was the end of the week).
Such as eating healthily.

It doesn’t even matter what my specific guidelines are. It just matters that I stick to them.

I don’t know what the research is – but I do believe it – that focusing on one thing at a time when creating new habits is the way to go. I learned this lesson in rock climbing. And I use it across the board.

Talk to you tomorrow! S.

The big thing about a new month is that things seem doable – the possibilities seem endless… how can we hold onto this kind of feeling throughout the month?!

How can we increase our challenges regularly during the month?

* One way is to have a system, a graph, or a method to map your monthly challenges. Jeff talks about that briefly here.

* Another way to increase challenge is to plan your future out before it happens. When I have a client meeting the next day, I already plan what we will discuss, and suggestions for the client for homework – I come in with a Word document outline. And I don’t mind if it changes during the session, but there are things that are the increased trajectory of the client’s path, and I want to respect that in planning for the session rather than just have us both talk about what is top of mind that morning. As Jon Bon Jovi is said to have said, “Write your future, but do it in pencil.” I like that. Map it out – plan it – be bold – be specific. But be open to change.

* Another way is to have a buddy system or a reminder system. My friend D is very big on this, and she makes the other person work harder because of it. It’s empowering and encouraging.

Do you have other ways to increase your challenge during the month?

Michael Felberbaum writes about the article from last week’s Harvard Business Review (HBR) about how great leaders think. Michael says that the HBR article argues that if you have one ok choice, it’s better to create a second choice for yourself, and then choose between the two choices becuase choosing between two will give you a better result than going with one ok choice when it may be the only option. Michael writes about a hidden benefit that may come out of expanding one choice into two choices:

If we follow this “rule” of finding at least two good options, I think we make better decisions. I have been piloting this for myself in trying to resolve some decisions I’ve lingered on for a while about a book I’m working on. I was trying to find an ideal solution. Instead I’ve found two workable options. Amazingly, I think a third option will emerge from those two and it will be closer to my ideal. I’m finding that the benefit of this “rule” is to fully engage creative decision-making which involves comparison, contrast and cost/benefit trade-offs.

I like two ideas especially in what Michael writes:
1) that he expects that once he engages in two ideas, a third better one will likely come along
2) that he enjoys comparing, trading-off benefits/costs between the options

I think of this comparing and contrasting as “negotiating with yourself.” You need to up the stakes. You need to get to a higher level of challenge, and a potentially higher level of flow (ideal combination of skills and challenge).

If you have one choice, you probably haven’t gone as deeply or as far as you could into many domains. You may likely not have pushed yourself as hard as you could have. At least getting two options allows you to negotiate with yourself – to play the game of, “did I push hard enough?”

Remember the Dunkin Donuts commercial with the angel and the devil? Well, it’s time to push myself harder. It’s time to negotiate with an angel version of myself and a devil version of myself.

Get two ideas, and the world already expands! That’s why I think Michael believes that once you have two, a third will likely come your way… because you’ve already proven to your brain that there’s more than one, and maybe it keeps looking (automatically) while you relax.

Hello, welcome to Question Fridays… My answer is in the comments section – I invite you to put your answer in the comments section as well!

It’s just about full-fledged summer!
Q: What’s the easiest new health habit that you could take on?

What’s a habit that it wouldn’t take you that much effort to start? That it might just take some focus and concentration but not necessarily a lot of work? What’s a habit that would be an easy addition, would be health-promoting, and you’d be happy to have for this summer?

I heard a talk today on mindful eating. The woman who spoke described how we take in experiences, how we eat experiences.

She said we are always eating. We are always taking in experiences, things around us, and we can choose how we take in things around us. We can choose the way that makes us less stressed, and we can choose the way that makes us more alive.

This sounds to me like Tonya Pinkin’s philosophy that how you do anything is how you do everything.

One other thing the woman said about mindful eating is kind of like the Zen of the Motorcycle (i.e. if your engine’s not starting, look to see where else in life you’re not getting started). Today’s woman’s point was that if we have strange eating habits, like particular snacking, or not eating breakfast, or not sitting down to eat – then where else might we be “snackin” on life, or not preparing for the day, or not giving enough time to ourselves?

How you do anything is how you do everything.

Did you ever read The Most Dangerous Game? (Here it is if you want a fun 10-minute action-packed story).

Well, today, we’re all about the MOST MOTIVATING QUESTION. What question will get you excited, get you moving, and get you pumped?

In fact, if we want to look at it cynically, we can ask, “What is a question that well-polished motivational speakers ask the audience in order to get audience members convinced to follow the motivational speaker’s system?” I.e., this is an effective question because it can change the mood, expectations, and actions of the listener.

Let’s look at the components of such a mysterious question:
1) It will fill you with positive emotions such as happiness, awe, engagement – which is important because when you’re on an emotional high, you are more open to looking at broader solutions, according to research by Barbara Fredrickson.
2) It will energize you – important because then you can turn the question into action. “People who are persuaded verbally that they possess the capabilities to master given activities are likely to mobilize greater effort and sustain it than if they harbor self-doubts and dwell on personal deficiencies when problems arise,” says Albert Bandura.
3) It will make you feel confident – important because confidence is just about a mix of self-esteem and personal control, and these are two of four inner traits of happy people according to Ed Diener and David Myers.

So…. what is such a question?

The Most Motivating Question GAME

When: When you want to motivate a person or people.

  • At the start of a meeting
  • In setting up a healthy mindset for a close friend or family to take action on his/her issue
  • In starting to work with colleagues on a project

The Players: You and one or more people.

The Rules: Ask the question in a warm, open tone. If everyone if is a rush, preface the question with, “Before we figure out this particular solution, let’s see…”

The Question Itself:


Variations: “What are we doing right so far in this project?”
“Before we figure out this particular solution,
let’s see what we’re already doing right.”

You don’t want to lose what you’re already doing right when you move to do something else. Additionally, this creates:
1) a positive tone and gets everyone to think about the situation as a team,
2) energy because something something is already not-broken, and
3) confidence because without any didactic explanation, you’ve shown the team that they have already done things right before.

It’s that simple. What are we doing right already?
See Doug Turner’s article on using this question to open meetings.

This question leads to productive discussions:

  • “You want to become a better salesperson. What are you already doing right? What if you did more of that?”
  • “You want to race in the Master’s class cycling track finals. What are you already doing right in your training? What other things can you do to complement this training?”
  • “You want to spend more quality time with your kids. What are you already doing right? How can you add to what you’re doing while keeping what you’re already doing right?”

What are you doing right today? :)
Enjoy the game. Play often, see how people react.

I’ve been on a health kick recently. And part of my health kick is eating bread on the weekends only – so no bread on weekdays. I really love fresh bread, so I tend to have a bit of it on the weekends. And I have bread with a thick swab of butter on it.

And then … the funny thing that happens is that the weekend is over, but on Monday I still crave butter.

Why do I crave butter on Mondays, and what can I do about it?

I’m asking more generally, how can you create a new habit for yourself such as:

  • Exercising on Monday when you’ve lounged the weekend away, or – better yet – spent it in a daze in front of the TV.
  • Prioritizing better at work after overloading yourself with to-do’s and promises to people.
  • Skipping the additional candy when you just want to reach for it in the bowl at the office.

You’d better create some new mental pathways!

We spoke here about Ann Graybiel’s research that new habits come about when a new neural pathway is strong enough. And we spoke here about the benefit of daily practice toward achieving anything in life.

That’s what happens on Mondays. Your old neural pathways want to kick in. Especially if you used to eat butter on any old day of the week, and now you’re limiting yourself to the weekends.

So what can you do to counteract that strong urge, that mental temptation?

1) As Ann Graybiel says, do not allow yourself trigger situations. Don’t go into a bar if you’re getting sober. Don’t have M&M’s in the house if you have a no-chocolate resolution. Don’t have butter in your home – always go out to have butter.

2) And her second suggestion, make the new habit stronger than the first habit. Create stronger, more firm new neural pathways. Make the old habits into a piece of thread, and the old habits as reinforced as a thick sailor’s rope.

And the funniest thing – daily practice. Each time you say “no” to something you don’t want and say “yes” to something you want, you are increasing the chances of being able to say “yes” to the good habit again later, you are increasing self-regulation.

Happy daily practicing of your best habits!