Three steps to make habits stick

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links to outside websites. I may receive a commission if a product is bought as a result of using those links.

 

It’s been said that it takes 21 days to create a habit. But that it’s just the first part of success. It takes more than 60 days to stick to a habit and to avoid the risk of getting back into the old behavior.

In his book, “Atomic Habits“, author James clear provides very simple ways to create and sustain habits geared towards success. I share my comments here, taking this book as a guide.

If you want to make sure that a new habit gets ingrained in your mind, follow these three steps:

  1. Make the habit clear and visible. This requires the use of tools that remind us of the habit every time is due. It can be a simple note on a sticky note, or a text or phrase in a whiteboard. Also, our phones provide a great variety of alarms, reminders and applications that can help us remember that is time to get to work.
  2. Add context to the habit, to make it meaningful. When add more elaborate meaning to a habit, this can motivate us to keep working on it. For example, exercising can lead to losing weight, but additional information like avoiding high cholesterol or cardiac problems can be a bigger motivator to avoid skipping a workout session.
  3. Make it fun. You can create your own system to make a habit a rewarding experience. If you want to play with your kids or grandchildren, and you push yourself to the point of breaking a sweat, you will accomplish two goals: spending time with them and working out. Or if you want to stick to reading, you can pick two books, one that helps you learn something, and one that entertain you but maybe doesn’t create value.

There are millions of small habits that can improve your life, and finding a way to start and sustain those is the key to great success. Staring is simple, but it takes discipline to make their execution automatic. However, creating discipline weights ounces, but if we don’t get disciplined, that brings regrets… and regrets weight tons.

This is a great read, or if you prefer, you can also use the audio version.

Are you ready to create good small habits?

Advertisements

Almost a perfect weekend!

A few days ago, our family went thru a somehow exciting and stressful ordeal. It was full of new experiences and lessons learned that will forever be remembered, and now that we look at it in retrospective, it brings smiles and laughs every time we talk about it.

Our kids, who at the time of this event were both minors, were invited by their cousin to a concert in Mexico City on a Thursday night, which meant that they needed to travel on that the same day to minimize the lost school days. In this case, due to airlines regulations, they had to fly non-stop. Living in Cincinnati, that meant we drove for 5 hours to Chicago for them to start their journey and to avoid costly plane tickets

Minors who are American citizens traveling internationally need to be authorized by their parents using a notarized document. But in our case, one of them is a Mexican citizen, which means that in addition to the notarized document, a document provided by the Mexican government website had to be filled out, signed by the parents and printed, so it could be presented when returning home.

We missed to fill out the latter.. the result was total craziness…

But before, the good stuff…

After waiting until the plane took off from O’Hare (Mom’s command wish), we checked in at a hotel close to the lake, so we could walk around downtown Chicago. Even though the day we arrived the weather was not the best, that didn’t change our plans. We walked by the lake shore and the downtown streets, visited a few malls while getting outraged at the parking fees. That taught us to use cabs or other public transportation. We even witnessed a couple getting married doing a photo shoot in the middle of the street. The bride was wearing a strapless dress… talk about courage (we were at 30 degrees). I guess for a Chicagoan that’s not a big deal!

IMG_2734

Da’ Bean!!!

We went to a Cuban cafe, were my wife ate caldo gallego (originally from Spain) served by a waitress from El Salvador. Diversity at its best! And my espresso was spot on!

And of course, being from Mexico, we had to go to La Villita (The Little Village), the Mexican neighborhood where English is not the first language spoken; where in every corner there’s a classic store where you can buy groceries, food, pastries, snacks, etc. We planned to shop for groceries in our last day before driving back home like we did in previous occasions, but that did not happen… you’ll see why in a bit.

We had the chance to visit my cousin, and we had a blast enjoying a lazy morning and going to lunch with his family. Damn, those kids grow fast… just like mine I guess.

Of course, we kept tabs on our kids. It’s either that or the missus going nuts about it, so we checked in with them more times than I could count. They had a great time at the concert, and then the next days going to parks and enjoying the local food.

Everything was on track to be perfect. Hey… I even went to the hotel gym two days in a row!

The plan for the last day was to check out early, do grocery shopping (fresh cheese of different varieties, meat cuts, delicious pastries for my wife me…) and then head to the airport to pick up the kids and drive the 5 hours back home to reset to our normal routine.

But then it came Sunday morning. The kids’ flight was scheduled at 7 AM. We (My wife) were was checking on them since 4 AM to make sure everything was fine.

And then, when they were ready to get their boarding passes at the airline counter, the dreaded missing document was requested, setting the paranoia into the highest possible gear. We were on the phone during the whole time, receiving instructions to fill out the document online, print it (thru the hotel front desk –they were awesome!), sign it and take pictures to send them to be printed at the airport and try to complete the documentation.

First try: wrong. We signed the wrong box. We were rushing without thinking. That meant we had to print the document again.

And here’s a little bit of context: we were in the 10th floor of a very old hotel, where everything is slow, including the elevators.

We finally got the document right, but it was already 7:25 AM. The plane had already left. Paranoia found new higher gears and made us think at a speed that sometimes I find impossible to do in normal circumstances. The situation required serious solutions and fast. The kids’ cousin had a schedule flight the same day, and when they asked about another flight, the next available non-stop was the next day. Some airlines don’t allow alone minors to fly at all. Others have strict policies and charge for services for these kinds of situations, but no tickets were available.

After going back and forth (the kids and their cousin) to multiple airlines, they ran out of options for traveling the same day, so they needed to stay another night at the hotel, and their cousin would loose his flight and stay also the night with them. He would not accept leaving them alone. We’re so grateful for that.

So… the solution?

To calm the evident anxiety in my wife as well as the not-so-evident-but-definitively-there anxiety inside me, we resorted to the expensive but effective option. First, we accepted the fact that the trip was not going to happen on Sunday. Then, around 8 AM we booked 4 plane tickets:

  • One one-way ticket for my wife to fly immediately and non-stop to Mexico City, scheduled from 3 PM to 8 PM
  • 3 one-way tickets for my wife and kids on Monday, with one stop, because at this point it didn’t matter as she was traveling with them, so the “minors traveling alone” issue was gone.

By the way, we wouldn’t have been able to get out of the hotel easily that morning, because the Chicago Marathon was happening. Beautiful to watch… from my window.

We finally packed and checked out, forgetting a couple of things behind, as usual. Lunch… irrelevant… under really bad mood… not at all enjoyed by my wife. I liked it, but it was not the same.

Grocery shopping… not even in question. Delicious pastries… 🙁

But most importantly, the anxiety level we were carrying on our shoulders came down to a manageable level (at least for me, I think), and now we needed to plan the last part of the trip. I drove my wife to the airport and after she cleared security, at her command wish, I left immediately to drive thru tollgate highways and not carrying any cash, so there I was, receiving instructions to pay online 4 times and delaying whoever was behind me (it was not rush hour, so it wasn’t that bad).

By the time I made it to our hometown I picked up the dog from our friends’ house and went straight home to check my wife’s flight status. Everything went fine and I could hear her relieved voice when she hugged her sprouts and became convinced that everything would be all-right.

A mother’s deep connection to her kids is something I cannot explain, but definitively it’s admirable. I love my kids, but to see my wife loving them so profoundly makes me feel incompetent, and I can only try my best to show them my love and appreciation in my humble and sometimes naive understanding.

Sunday night at home felt like a vacuum, only me and the dog looking at each other wondering: Where is everybody? Why is the house so empty? Where are the delicious pastries?

Monday morning was supposed to be another day at the office for me, but it was far from it. Keeping tabs on the family’s trip was on top of the list, to then pick them up at the airport at 10 PM.

With a delay in the second leg of the flight (in case there wasn’t enough drama already) due to a mechanical issue that had to be double-checked and with the risk of having to off board and get on a different plane, they finally took off 40-plus minutes after the scheduled time, in the same plane.

But Mom was not too concerned, because she was with them… that was better than not being there.

The final balance was another day lost at school for the kids, a work day lost for my wife, and a house full of exhausted people who needed to rest… a lot.

And yes, the financial burden, but like in many situations, money is replaceable, but the stress and worry of a loving mother is something priceless. I learned that big time.

I hope there’s anything you can learn from this. I certainly keep learning something every time I reflect upon it.

And of course, I must go back… for my pastries!

 

 

5 MIND OBSTACLES KEEPING YOU FROM BEING SUCCESSFUL, and how to think differently

Some mindset authors propose that we all have a 6-year old child in our minds that is always telling us the worst things about ourselves, and such child sometimes governs our actions as a result of us paying too much attention to what he has to say. Here are some of the thoughts that keep us from being successful. You might relate to one or more. The key is to think differently, and to push that 6-year child away from you.

OBSTACLE 1 — LACK OF TIME

When something is truly important to you, you will always have time. Sometimes 5 minutes makes a big difference.

  • 5 minutes of daily cardio exercise will help you lose about half pound per week, or 26 pounds after a year!
  • 5 minutes of daily reading will help you boost your brain power, avoid Alzheimer, improve your empathy, reduce stress and to fall asleep.
  • 5 minutes of household chores (if you don’t do this already) help you increase productivity (making your bed), make you proud about your house been clean, lower nervousness (washing dishes) and even can get you a nice tan (working in the front or backyard).

Do you have 5 minutes?

 

OBSTACLE 2 — LACK OF RESOURCES

In today’s economy, a hundred dollars is enough to plant the seeds for future wealth. If you have 100 dollars to invest in a promising company, you can reserve a seat at the table for when such company becomes a big success. There are many feasible ways to get into that world. It’s just a matter of changing the mindset to understand that having resources doesn’t mean having millions or even thousands of dollars. With just a few hundreds, you can create financial assets for the years to come.
Websites like Republic, Wefunder and others provide a plethora of opportunities to invest in companies for as little as 50 dollars.
You should invest in what aligns to your risk appetite. I’m not a financial advisor, nor I claim to be one, and you must understand that there’s a chance that you might lose your investment entirely. For business opportunities that require more financial resources, there are also strategies that can help, like reaching out to family members and friends, or using lines of credit that allow you to get started. The same risk principles apply here, and risk management is a critical piece that you need to consider.
To lack resources is different from being resourceful. Starting a business requires a lot of creativity and sometimes the road will be bumpy or with zigzags, but that’s what entrepreneurs must be able to face to achieve the success they want.

OBSTACLE 3 — IT’S TOO DIFFICULT

With the right motivation, everything is possible!
Back in time, during a country’s revolution, there was a train being used to displace people to a distant point. Here’s the conversation between a Sargent and the Colonel:

Sargent: Sr., we’re trying to fit all the people into the 10 train cars, but we have filled all of them and we still have enough people for three more cars. What do we do?

Colonel: Go back and announce that anybody who can’t fit in the train will be fusilladed!
After a few hours, the Sargent comes back.

Colonel: Well?

Sargent: Sr., after I delivered your message, all the people could fit in the train and now we have three empty cars!

Difficult is a state of mind. When we change our minds from saying “I can’t” to “how can I do this?”, the possibilities are endless.

OBSTACLE 4 — I HAVE NO SUPPORT

Life is not fair. Life is hard. The sooner you swallow this pill, the sooner you will be focusing on your goal, even when nobody believes in you. Here are some examples of people that faced opposition, but ended up been a great success:
Steve Jobs, ousted from the company he founded, came back and turned it into one of the biggest companies in history. Its products are not cheap, but its huge audience is an example of the power of influence. Jobs did not solve a problem but instead created a need that people didn’t know they had.
Thomas Edison, who is credited appropriately for inventing the light bulb, spent all his time isolated (with help from an assistant) due to the rejection of society. That did not matter to him, he was determined to fulfill his goal of being an inventor. The rest… you know it…
Michael Jordan was rejected by his High School team and even though he came back and proved himself in college, the team that had the first chance to draft him went for another player instead. Jordan is now known as the greatest basketball player in history. Every player that shows great talent is always unequivocally compared to Jordan. He has become the bar, and will continue to be, for many years to come. I don’t think the name Sam Bowie rings a bell on this.
There are other examples, of not so known people, whose accomplishments are not measured in millions of dollars or magnificent impact throughout the world, but still those examples are above average, because they are making something out of nothing, they show resiliency where others see defeat. They see opportunity where others see a roadblock. They constantly learn (like you, right now) while others just scroll… up and down.
Support is important, but it’s not a deal breaker. If your dream is big enough and scares you enough, you’ll make it real, with support or without it.

OBSTACLE 5 — WHAT IF I FAIL?

At some point in the journey there will be setbacks, some small, some big. There will be times when the burden and the pressure appear insurmountable. Here’s where the breakthrough zone is, the ultimate test to your character, your resiliency and your willingness to push thru towards the end. It’s where the fighters persist and the quitters are forgotten, where the successful people rise above the average people, where the comfort zone is behind to allow your passion flourish, where learning good habits pays dividends and unlearning bad habits save you from going back to your old self.

You will fail… you bet! But your mindset is a powerful tool that can make you stronger than you think and will help to swim instead of sinking.
I’m here to help you, if you allow me to.
I wish you the best of success, because you are awesome!

 

 
Alejandro Clavel is an entrepreneur, mindset and career coach with 20+ years of experience coaching and mentoring young and seasoned professionals. He lives in Middletown, OH with his wife and his kids. He can be contacted at alejandro@alejandroclavel.com

Vacation time: learning while relaxing

Vacation time can be exhausting… in a good way! So many flight options, routes, schedules, baggage fees, plane meals 🙁

Once landing at the destination, so much good food! Damn my diet!

In my case, so many beaches to visit, with a lot of activities like snorkeling, parachuting, tanning, beach massage, walking, swimming, paddle boarding =0)

Vacation time offers a lot of physical yet relaxing time that cleanses the mind from our life’s routine and turns the body into a fun machine, ready to go from one activity to the other, with enough energy to enjoy and rejoice without limits. Sleeping becomes a wonderful time to quickly recharge and restart the cycle the next day, looking forward to a new sunrise, new food, new activities, new relaxation, new exhausting… challenging… exhilarating… fun.

Learning while being on vacation is not optional. We learn new places, new tricks to our gadgets in order to capture those moments. We learn the limits of our bodies, when tasting new local foods and drinks (this, while fun, can come with a toll).

This is what I learned while on vacation:

  • How to operate a GoPro camera.
  • How to use the panning function on my cell phone
  • I tasted new versions of the seafood I grew up on
  • How to listen to controversial family conversations without interjecting (this is a tough one)

Going back home is always an opportunity to relearn, because time produces change… change in our minds, in our bodies, in our families, in our old friends, in our neighbors.

Learn while you’re on vacation. It’s always fun… it’s always exciting… it’s always beneficial.

Keep learning, while having fun!

The Summer of Learning

There’s no perfect time for learning. No perfect place, website, school, group of people, weather or learning style. There’s only desire. Desire to become a better version of ourselves every day, without constraints, predisposition or outdated traditions. When we let go old ideas like “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, or “if ain’t broken, don’t fix it”, we liberate ourselves from limits imposed by people no smarter than us. We then jump into a world of possibilities that allow us to exercise the only muscle of the body that doesn’t get tired, but instead becomes stronger every time we feed new information to it.

And it’s right there, inside our brains, where the seed of desire originates. It’s a small idea, a simple thought, a short statement that makes all the difference: I can do it.

Mark Twain said: If you believe you can do it, you’re right. If you believe you can’t, you’re also right.

Simple, yet challenging. Clear, but scary.

So, It’s not a matter of luck, at least not in the form of unexpected good fortune, but a quest, a resilient desire to continue the journey of learning while finding time, resources and the perseverance to confront the obstacles ahead and be ready to experiment, create, try, fail and repeat until the goal is accomplished.

Another toxic idea is this: “everything has already been invented”. This suggests that creativity and invention are not needed anymore, and that we must simply consume everything around us, with no hope to improve. But this mindset produces lack of progress and stagnation, and keeps us from investing in ourselves, which is necessary to keep finding new goals, new ideas, new dreams.

Let us have a Summer of learning, and keep extending such learning journey forever. It will make us better, and it will make the world better!

March Madness… time to learn something about sports

These days are all about basketball. College players and their respective fans are geared for living the time of the year when the academic interest is not the number one priority for some, because the game of basketball draws in all eyes, with the hope to be the team that cuts the net and closes another cycle, to then enjoy the taste of victory and start the a new chapter now trying to repeat the same success.

But while the college tournaments generate a lot of euphoria and other behaviors, some fans are oblivious about the origin of the sport, and in many cases they don’t know the rules of the games, because in fact they have never practiced the game.

The history of basketball has been published in may sources, including the NBA (National Basketball Association), in its article History of Basketball in Canada, which indicates how the sport was created out of necessity, to provide an indoor activity that could be performed by the physical education class in the cold weather of Massachusetts.

Today basketball is not a game, or a sport, but an industry, and industry that generates business, dreams, careers, money, and sometimes bankruptcy, failure and deceit.

Basketball
Imagine: It all started with a soccer ball and a peach basket…

The amount of adrenaline that is generated at a game can produce emotions never experienced before by the fans, and being part of the game is something that cannot be replaced by watching the game on TV or other devices. That kind of atmosphere is the main attraction that creates chaos on the streets surrounding the arenas, massive consumption of food and soda and other snacks, as well as happy or sad exodus back home.

It’s great to celebrate sports, to be part of the game, to chant, to cheer, to enjoy. But it’s also great to play the sport, to enjoy the rush of the dribble, the pass, the block, the three-pointer, the charge taken, the free throws…

And to enjoy playing the sport, knowing the facts and the rules of the game is necessary. Here are a couple of nuggets, for those of us who are interested:

  • A men’s ball is about 9.55 inches (24.26 cm) in diameter and a women’s ball is about 9.23 inches (23.44 cm) in diameter.
  • In the National Basketball Association (NBA), the court is 94 by 50 feet (28.7 by 15.2 m). Under International Basketball Federation (FIBA) rules, the court is slightly smaller, measuring exactly 28 by 15 meters (91.9 by 49.2 ft). 

The facts above were found in Wikipedia, but they can also be found in any other source. Before the electronic information conquered civilization, paper books were read around the world to know these facts.

March Madness is the culmination of a sport journey that has transformed parts of the society. Such transformation is a parallel of other times during the year when people support their teams in other sports. Sports that produce emotions, emotions that people cherish continuously, anxiously, and sometimes inevitably.

It’s another wave of late nights, next-day no-shows, and lots of fun.

Let the fun be great, and let the sport be not only viewed, but practiced, as it was originally intended.

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC

It’s not you… it’s me

How we view the world will always predispose us to adopt points of view that are unique, unmatched and easy to confront when our reality is threatened. When our paradigms are challenged, our reaction can be unpredictable. There is nothing more comfortable than our comfort zone, and if that’s in danger, we will jump.

But… in the current state of our civilization, such mindset can be worth only a few moments in memory, and then it could turn into a quick transition to irrelevance. Even though being intolerant can cause annoyance, the person that irradiates this character is doomed to quickly become ostracized and ignored.

Opposite mindsets have historically led to chaos in many forms, and the ultimate impact is at a world wide level. Sometimes the point of view of a single individual dragged others to a situation that could be prevented easily without escalation.

The existing chaos in our world is the result of our own turmoil. There are problems where we want to see problems, and there are no problems where we want to ignore them.

Selective chaos… chaos created by me… by you… and you… and you.

Wait a minute… how many fingers are pointing back at me?

The truth is, if you and I stop defending our paradigms so passionately, and focus on the context of them, we would have a great opportunity to understand each other better, and would be able to confront them without prejudice and with an open mind.

Understanding the motif behind a paradigm allows for a holistic view of the paradigm’s owner. And that helps the counterpart to think before reacting to it.

If we stop seeing only problems, and instead learn to appreciate each other’s paradigms, that will lead to a compassionate way of thinking and to a better interaction among our peers, family members, loved ones, enemies and strangers… because that’s what the world needs… compassion.

Compassion requires knowledge. When we pursue knowledge, the road can be interestingly challenging, but the journey is filled with insights that make it valuable and totally worth it.

Do you care to share your paradigms? I’m open to share mine.

Let’s keep learning!

Always be learning!

Long time no read! I’ve been learning new stuff, time to write something.

We cannot spend our entire lives reading books. The amount of books available to us is in the millions and is just a couple of clicks away. I have purchased more than 30 books in the last few weeks, and the queue keeps growing faster than me finishing them.

The reason for my indulgent purchasing of such books is that the investment is very low (mostly 99 cents). Also, I need to be clear that I don’t buy everything that comes to my attention, otherwise the quantity would be in the thousands. I just buy what I think is relevant to my goals, as well as selecting those recommended on podcasts, blogs and other books. This creates a constant flow of knowledge that helps me to be in “beta” mode.

Finding good books sometimes is difficult, but at least today the price is not prohibitive. Some books offered in digital format even let you peak at their first pages, so you can have an idea if it will provide value to you.

The question is not if there are good books, or if they are cheap or expensive.

The question is: do you have an insatiable need to know more?

I took that bit from the book The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, by Michael E. Gerber.

Been hungry for knowledge will create questions that will lead us to get the answers. And by doing so, we’ll discover how ignorant we are.

Let’s keep learning together!

The mood is in the writing

Our human relationships have shifted from a personal, face to face interactive mode, to a virtual, sometimes remote ones.

Wait… virtual, sometimes remote? Isn’t virtual always remote? Let’s think about the next situations: families having dinner at a restaurant, and some of them texting to each other, even though they are all there, sharing the table. Or in the car, texting each other in the back seat. Or mom or dad texting or calling someone within the house, because the other family member is in a different room.

If this doesn’t apply to you, you are still using the human emotions through your tone of voice, the emphasis in your words, and other body gestures that come with the message that you want to deliver. However, we are rapidly moving towards a society of written words delivered with mobile devices. And if we intent to include emotions with our text messages, we have to resort to the old punctuation symbols, or the graphic icons in the form of gifs, animated gifs, emojis, avatars or any other graphical representation. Adding such context requires time and sometimes we just need to deliver a plain text message. This is when there is a need to be mindful about the format of such simple line or paragraph, to avoid miscommunications. Here are some examples:

“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it’s a matter of choice”

This simple text conveys a motivational message. If we want to put emphasis in the key words, we can write it like:

“DESTINY is NOT a matter of CHANCE, it’s a matter of CHOICE”

The use of capitalized letters helps to make a bolder statement with the goal of motivating the receiving end to action.

Now, let’s use a different example, where using capitalized letters is not a good idea.

“The numbers you are showing are WRONG! FIX them!”

The combination of capitalized letters and the exclamation sign is basically a representation of the sender yelling at the receiver. Even if the words in the statement are kept the same, changing to lower case and removing the exclamation sign eliminates the belligerent tone that accompanies the phrase.

We spend a lot of time texting these days. Being aware of the basic etiquette can eliminate confusion or miscommunication, which can potentially destroy personal relationships.

Adiós!

 

hotel_power

 

 

 

 

 

Simple is better

Today I attended a football game and unfortunately our local team (Bengals) lost to their division rivals (Steelers), and as sour that it is to stomach the loss, there is a big lesson I witnessed in the last seconds of the game: big problems sometimes require simple solutions.

While many of us in the stands were waiting for a big play from the quarterback to any wide receiver who could catch the ball in the end zone with only fifteen seconds in the game clock, the visiting team executed a short pass to the inside in a crossing route using a screen, and the receiver pretty much ran the remaining yards through the center of the defense (untouched) for the winning touchdown.

Sometimes we over-complicate things, but going back to basic solutions can be the answer to big problems.

They did it. The got the win. The deserve it!