172 – Changing Unwanted Habits…

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CHANGING HABITS… 

I want you to think back to a time, anytime in your life when someone said something nice to you.  It could be anything, like someone telling you “good job”, or someone telling you that you look nice.  Think about a time when you received a positive acknowledgment that let you know someone else appreciated you.

Remember how it felt?  It feels pretty good when someone else notices our efforts and lets us know.  A simple kind word from someone can turn our whole day around, make us feel a bit lighter, and happy.  Especially if we are not expecting or looking for it.

With that in mind, something I have struggled with my whole life is remembering to do that for other people.  Some of you may have no problem with this at all, but I know there are a lot of men like me, who do, and that’s what I want to talk about today.  I think this is mostly a man problem…I don’t know many women who deal with this issue.

It’s not that I consciously withhold praise and recognition from anyone…not at all.  My problem, and maybe yours too, is that even when I notice something that is worthy of praise and recognition I talk about it in my own head…but for some reason it often doesn’t make it’s way out of my mouth where it can do some good.

I think maybe that because I talk about it in my head, it seems like I have said something, and then my brain moves on to something else without have said an actual word.

It’s really unfortunate.  There have been many times in my life when people had no idea I appreciated them.  Or they thought I was angry or upset with them, when I was actually perfectly happy with them. 

I’m not proud of this trait, I consider it a flaw in my wiring.  It’s as though sometimes I just expect that everyone around me has access to everything I’m thinking, when of course, they don’t.

There are many degrees to this problem, I’m probably not the worst at this, but I am definitely not the best either.

I’m not going to speculate as to what the biological, physiological, mental, or emotional reason for this behavior is.  Any so-called reason would sound like an excuse anyway.  The bottom line is that it’s a problem, one that needs to be corrected.

Remember in several of the first episodes when I encourage you to actually go look in a mirror and take a long, hard, objective look at your self?  Looking for things that could be better, things that need improvement?

Well, this is something showing up in the mirror for me when I do that.  I’m coming clean about it right here on the show, because it’s something I intend to improve.

The reason it’s a problem, the reason it matters, is because for me and everyone else who functions like this…here we are, walking around with the power to make the people in our life feel better.  We have the ability at our fingertips to improve someone else’ day, brighten their mood, and lift their spirits with nothing but the utterance of a kind word…and we don’t.  All because we thought about it in our head and figure somehow that should be enough.  It isn’t.

Like I always say;  if you don’t realize a problem exists then you can’t fix it, so I’m glad I am dealing with this now.  I want the people in my life that I care about to know that I appreciate them.  I want them to feel acknowledged and I want them to be happy.

The act itself is simple, and painless.  It requires almost no effort, all I have to do is remember to say what I’m already thinking.  The hard part, is breaking a habit, the hard part is remembering to actually speak.

Something else I always say is that the things we focus on, expand.  When we focus on something it becomes a priority, and priorities demand our attention and action.  I think this is the first step in changing any behavior you want to change; focusing on it.

That’s the first part of my plan, to focus on it and make it a priority to acknowledge people whenever I think about it.  The second part of my plan is to find a way to measure my improvement.

I always carry my change in my right pocket.  Starting today, whenever I remember to speak the kind words that are on my mind, I will move one coin to the left pocket.  At the end of the day I can measure my progress by how many coins are in my left pocket.  The goal, like I say every day, will be to be better today than I was yesterday.

It’s a pretty simple plan, but I have found that most effective plans are simple. 

I did not share this today because I like talking about myself.  I don’t particularly enjoy exposing my flaws to the world.  The reason I shared this, was to illustrate how it is done.

You can apply this formula to any area of your life that you want to improve in.  Start by being objective with yourself and recognizing the issue exists.  Then focus on it and make it a priority.  Next, come up with a way to measure your improvement against the day before so you can remain accountable to yourself. 

Eventually, this new behavior will become a habit, and you will have become a better man.

Now head out into the world and remember to focus on the areas you need to improve in, make it a priority in your life.  Then find a way to measure that improvement, and eventually you will become a better man today than you were yesterday.

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2 Comments

  1. Mike from Atlanta on February 28, 2017 at 17:20

    Hey Alf,

    Just wanted to share this with you…I’m a man who listens to your podcast (have listened to every episode) because I’m about the same age as you I probably don’t fit into your average demographic, but I love the show. In the last four years or so I’ve had a fairly rough go of it. My marriage ended in a very painful way for me (read between the lines) and I found myself a single dad (50% of the time) of a then 6 year old all at the age of 50. A young boy who is wonderful in so many ways, but has had a rough go of it himself with the divorce and is very challenging to raise at times…let alone raise with no help. On top of that I’ve had a host of physical problems including a hip replacement surgery, and I have other painful, and limiting injuries that are with me each day. Between the time it takes to raise my boy and the way that I’ve been feeling I haven’t dated much, and it does get a bit depressing at times.

    During all of this I started on a self improvement journey, and one of my avenues for inspiration has been your show. It’s really helped me focus on what is important, and has motivated me to be a better man. In one of the first few podcasts you made an analogue that really stuck with me, it was the pebbles in the bucket. You said that when we grow we are adding pebbles to the bucket and that each day it may not feel like a big deal, but if we continue to do this day after day we will dramatically change who we are, and some day our bucket will be full….or something along those lines.

    So last night I was feeling down about myself, after hearing complaints and put downs from an ex-wife that I have to co-parent with, and some other disappointing news that I received during the day…I really felt like a failure. All of this effort that is being spent and yet what do I have to show for it? Circumstances just aren’t going the way I’d like and I started to really get down on myself with a lot of negative self talk, and really beat myself up pretty good.

    So today I had an idea…I’m going to do the bucket and pebble thing…I figured that each day when I stretch myself, accomplish something, face a fear or do something that moves me forward …I’m going to put a pebble in a bucket. So tonight I went out and bought two buckets, one for me, and a smaller one for my now 9 year old son, and a big bag of sand pebbles.

    Tonight I earned my first pebble by starting this project and getting the materials, and I will have earned my second pebble by writing you and thanking you for your positive influence. Each time I add a pebble to the bucket, I’m going to take a moment and think about what I did to earn the pebble, and acknowledge the action. I figure that I tend to forget about the good I do, and the steps of growth that are happening all the time. Now when I get down on myself and feel like I’m no better than I was….I will look at the bucket and the bucket will tell me the truth. I AM becoming a better man! This physical object will be a reality check when I need it…it will remind me of the good I’m doing for myself, my son, my friends, and family.

    So once again Alf…THANK YOU…for all that you do.

    Mike from Georgia

    • Alf Herigstad on March 1, 2017 at 20:34

      Thank you so much Mike, as I wrote in the email I sent you…I am deeply moved. Keep up the great work with that son of yours!

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