Everyone at one time or another asks the question, “how can I be more successful?” It is a great question to ask, and it can take volumes of books to answer. The answers can be almost endless when you factor in all the different areas one may choose to direct their quest for success. Most adults are already on that quest to some degree. I will offer up one simple thing you can do to improve your odds of achieving success that you can implement right away and realize great improvement within a mere thirty days. Change the question you ask! The question should be, “how can I correct bad habits?”
You see your habits shape your future, for better or for worse. The things we do on a daily basis determine who we become and what we will achieve or not. Your daily routine is likely the culmination of habits you formed long ago and now you probably don’t even think about them because your life is on a sort of autopilot.
It may sound like an oversimplification to be honest with you, but it really is just this simple. It goes back to the most basic computer analogy I can think of. If you want to change your output, change the input!
Here’s what I mean, and I contend that this is one of the best lines I ever learned in my life and I learned it at about age 18. I was getting ready to enter my first year of college. I was a bit delusional in that I had dreams of being a musician. I had played keyboards in one capacity or another since I was 5. Let me clarify this up front. I did not consistently study and practice from age 5 on, I simply began lessons at that age and then as you might imagine only stuck with it a short period. On and off again, I came back to music and by my teen years I had the bright idea of being a professional musician. At any rate, I learned that upon arriving at college I would be required to perform certain classical pieces on the piano before the professors of the music department and other students waiting their turn. I had never played anything like this before. I sought out a highly recommended professor of music at a local college (not the one I would attend) and took private lessons from him. Dr. Henry Santos was his name. The piece I brought to him to get help with was Bach, Inventio #1. I was more or less able to play the song one hand at a time, but it was too complex to get it altogether. He sat me down and asked me to show him what I had. Almost immediately he stopped me and had some corrections to make. The problem he picked out right off the bat was that I was nowhere near holding my hands in the proper position. My wrists were angled downward and my palms relatively flat on the keyboard. He explained proper technique was to have my wrists angled upward and my fingers somewhat curled. This was the proper technique. I thought I was a witty young man and said, “practice makes perfect!” Dr. Santos was not amused! He retorted, “No, it doesn’t! Practice does not make perfect, but rather, PERFECT practice makes perfect!” His point was that if I was practicing wrong technique all I was doing was cementing bad habits into my mind and putting myself at a tremendous disadvantage. But, if I would take the time to practice using proper techniques that this would make all the difference.
I eventually corrected the bad habits by consciously focusing on the new habit I had to learn, not in the old way. I was able to play that song for a recital my first semester and my piano tutor at the college I attended was quite proud of my progress.
So, to answer the question of how to correct bad habits I would simply say to focus on right ones! It’s not so much that you are learning to correct a bad habit or to overcome the wrong way of doing things, but simply learning the right way. In fact, it’s best to take your focus off the bad habits as completely as you possibly can. Instead, in whatever the capacity you are wanting to change simply learn the right, or more beneficial habit and simply with repetition over time you will learn the new habit and automatically the old will be a thing of the past. How long can this take? I think to some degree it depends on exactly what we are talking about, but in general terms they say it takes about 28 days to establish a new habit. Perhaps a little more or less time depending on the nature of the habit and how long it has been engrained in your mind. But the bottom line is that it generally is not a terribly long process. Additionally, it is typically not too difficult if you are determined, focused and truly wanting to improve the area in which you are making the change.
My final word of advice on the matter is be careful not to replace one bad habit with another! Be certain that the thing you are trying to replace is truly the best possible technique! Remember Dr. Santos! Perfect practice makes perfect!