It is important to admire and respect people. And humility is key. But raising someone on a pedestal creates a psychological distance between you, the person and the qualities you admire. You might not be getting smaller by making someone larger than life, but the proportion still applies. You are only making it more difficult for yourself to be the greatest person you can be.
Perceive individuals you respect and admire as human, as equals. Only then can you be that much closer to fitting in their proverbial shoes – and tailoring shoes of your own.
We all have habits we are not proud of. The first step to breaking a bad habit is being aware of it in the first place. “I bite my nails. I gamble all my money away. I eat too much candy. I need to lay off the cocaine.”
Bad Habit Log
The best way to make yourself hyper-aware of your habit is to document every infraction. Keep a log or journal of some kind. Never miss an entry. Let it haunt you.
I organize my logs with “Date,” “Time,” “Days [between infractions],” “Location,” and “Reason.” The “Reason” part is extremely important – you must explain to yourself why you have betrayed your commitment to breaking this habit. If you do not have a good reason for betraying yourself, watch the guilt roll in. Embrace it.
I prefer spreadsheets so I can use formulas to automatically calculate time between infractions and overall averages (I use Google Docs specifically so that I can carry logs around with me wherever I go). The “time between” formula is simple and can be copied all the way down a column:
= ( Today’s Date – Last Infraction Date ) + ( Today’s Infraction Time – Last Infraction Time )
Make it a Game
You cannot quit bad habits overnight. It takes time and realistic measurable goals. You might as well have fun with it. Challenge yourself to increasing the overall average time between infractions. Average the “Days [between infractions]” column and set a goal to reach the next full day average (for example, time between infractions is 2.3 days now, set a goal of raising that average to 3 days). If you are not too ashamed of your habit, rope a friend in to hold you accountable (betting money or meals always helps).
Documenting is much easier than breaking the habit. With enough practice, documenting becomes a new good habit. From there, the real work begins!
Journaling is not exclusive to gossipy, hormonal teenage girls. Leonardo da Vinci journaled, why can’t you? By putting thoughts on paper, you see them differently – you develop pseudo third-person perspective to the inner-workings of your own mind. If you document life’s ideas, experiences and feelings to review later, you gain unparalleled insight into your own life. Journaling can be a qualitative method for tracking personal progress. With notes frozen in time, change is extremely easy to identify. A journal reminds you that you are always growing – and that you will continue to grow despite how stagnant life may feel now.
Journaling does not have to be complicated. I email myself often so that I can search it later. You should not waste time checking spelling or grammar (especially when you journal drunk, the entertainment can be priceless). Get out of your head, preserve this moment in time. You will thank yourself later.
The key to a higher quality life is through self assessment. To improve performance, break habits and adjust personal behavior, one must quantify his or her life with gadgets, apps and spreadsheets that help track personal trends and identify areas for improvement. I am very much on board with the Quantified Self school of thought. I maintain spreadsheets galore.
I have never been able to track my sleep in spreadsheets. Why? Well, because I am asleep.
Enter Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock. My friends Drew and Nicole introduced me to this rather handy iOS application that graphs your sleep phases. Place your iPod or iPhone on the bed next to you at night and the accelerometer will monitor your every move to determine which phase of sleep you are in. The main purpose behind the app is to wake you during your lightest sleep phase where you feel rested and relaxed (in a specified time range rather than a hard alarm time), but I have found it more useful for the sleep graphs.
Above, my graph from Friday – went to bed at 1:40am, woke up at 9:59am and slept a total of 8 hours and 19 minutes (believe it or not, college friends – I actually sleep now!).
With only a week of data, I can already see trends. I am taking notes on pre-sleep activity, successful bed times, successful waking times and more. Apparently, a glass of wine within an hour of bedtime has helped me to sleep quicker. Uh oh!