Shake Habits that Block Your Progress

Shake Habits that Block Your Progress

Few of us can snap our fingers to shake habits that block progress even when we know how they limit us.   Often shifts are difficult because even unproductive habits are comfortable and predictable. Though little worthwhile action to shake habits will be magical, you can use this short guide to create opportunities that transcend them.  Start by building on your strengths and taking manageable steps.

Whether or not you have a clear direction for yourself now, you may want to move beyond being a static turtle on a log. To start, think of a few tendencies or habits that block your progress, sap energy, or deflect you from what you truly want to do.  Among any of the following that relate to you, choose the most significant one for modification that blocks your current progress:

  •  avoiding working on a top priority or action that could provide a positive outcome
  •  losing momentum, commitment, and patience because you do not see immediate results
  •  being overwhelmed with all you have to do rather than breaking up your actions into small, persistent steps
  •  focusing on problems and limitations rather than keeping an open mind, using your strengths, and testing possibilities
  •  investing the necessary time and effort to start shaking a habit that gets in your way

Other tendencies also create pesky blocks to progress.  These probably are a little more habitual and challenging to transcend.  Choose one to address from the questions below instead of overwhelming yourself with a long to-do list.

  •  How will I avoid doing too much and wearing myself out instead of doing one, valuable, manageable task and seeing it through?
  •  How will I stop beating myself up about doing too little?
  •  When and how will I figure out what’s worthwhile doing well, moderately well, or not at all?
  •  Who will I turn to for assistance rather than struggling through something alone?
  •  When will I listen to my intuition about the most important focus and act on it?

Now, identify any patterns you see among your choices that will contribute to effective action and useful insights.  If nothing clear comes to mind immediately, discuss your choices with someone you trust and respect.  As appropriate, offer similar assistance.

To move forward, take the most significant block to progress to address right now.   Write it down.  Then identify one related action you will take within the next week and schedule it on your calendar.  Aim at least for modification rather than complete elimination. Small, persistent steps are more likely to take.  Finally, identify one or two skills to refine or learn to support your efforts.

The following guidelines can also help in launching any new habit and applying a few related skills to support your goals:

  •  Be wholehearted in your initial trials of a new behavior.
  •  Whatever your first experiences with new behavior, be consistent in using new habits and skills. Stay alerted to opportunities to improve your approach.
  •  Never let an exception occur in use of a new habit or skill until your action is strongly rooted and you feel comfortable doing it.
  •  Seize every opportunity to use a new habit or skill.

Another issue may arise as you demonstrate new behaviors because some people will not always be comfortable with what seems like a change in you.  They might say something such as “that’s not like you.”  If this happens, try asking “What is like me?” Said with a smile can give others question their assumptions.

By the same token, do not expect a metamorphosis in your own situation or others’ response to you; they may not even notice a shift.  Since most effective change is incremental, you may not be able to detect a direct cause and effect relationship between what you are doing and what results.   In fact, there may not always be a clear outcome from what you do because there are aspects beyond your control.

Whatever your actions and the outcomes, acknowledge all improvements or shifts in your behavior.  Reward yourself for any efforts that minimize blocks to progress.  And be alert to how you can assist others who are also willing to make efforts to shake habits that get in their way.

Perhaps engage a few people to work together on modifying habits that block progress. Describe how you will enlist their assistance and what you will offer them in return. It is unlikely you will be able to shake habits that block progress without some assistance and reinforcement from others.

For a deeper dive into addressing habits that block your progress, among other related matters, see this article.

For a take on the danger of misplaced optimism and what to do about it, read this short article by Christie Aschwanden in The Washington Post. 

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