A friend of mine told me once she had a very special way of cooking pot roast, handed down from her mother. The secret: cut an end off the roast when putting it in the pan (which my friend had been doing for years). One day her mom was with her when she began preparing the roast. When she cut off the end, her mother asked her what on earth she was doing. “Cutting off the end like you did,” she replied, to which her mom said,” but I only did it because the pan was too small!”

It’s easy to get caught up in nonproductive habits and actions based on old beliefs and assumptions. And it’s something all of us do, whether it’s the way we drive to work each day or how a new initiative is rolled out, much like last year’s. If we start to put some of our assumptions and habits under a microscope we see that while they may be working, they aren’t working as well as they could be. By making small changes we can start to see big results.

Impulse Control and Cookies!

In a study on what characteristics are crucial for success, one school of thought says impulse control is very important. Children who were offered one cookie immediately, or a plate of cookies if they waited, were then tracked into adulthood, to determine if one group was more successful than the other. In tracking the lives of children in this research, the ones who waited were far more successful.

And what does that have to do with habits and pot roast? By analyzing and reshaping our habits, the mental and physical action taken toward goals, we start to create exactly what we’re going after and not reproducing more of what we’ve always gotten. It’s not always immediate gratification but in building new beliefs and habits it’s a life-long change toward achievement.

One of the best methods to change how we approach something is to start by creating a series of small successes (things you already do right each day) and then build on those, adding the new habits that will help you reach your goals. I call these the SOS’s — the Series of Small Successes — and they’re a natural way to start easing out old habits and forming new ones to get what you want.

Winning is a Natural Extension

Let me give you an example. Olympic Gold Medal winner Michael Phelps was taught by his coach Bob Bowman to create a series of small successes, things that always worked. He would plan how his stretches would go and they would work as planned. His warm up laps went exactly as he had visualized, his headphone played  the music he expected and as everything worked successfully, up to the moment he prepared to start the race, winning was just a natural extension.

To create our own SOS’s we need to step back and examine which old beliefs are sitting around — like my friends’ pot roast — that need to be dusted off, adjusted or eliminated in order to start visualizing and accomplishing our wins. As we realize we have control over how we think and allow that realization to become habitual, then we start to experience what Michael Phelps experiences every time he competes.

We can assume that Michael’s extraordinary successes started with a series of small habits, thinking about things in a certain way that led to more successes. As author Charles Duhigg wrote in his landmark book The Power of Habit, “If you believe you can change — if you make it a habit — the change becomes real. Once that choice occurs-and becomes automatic-it’s not only real, it starts to seem inevitable.”

What would you like to change this month? Where can you change your beliefs and your habits to start making those goals realities…and inevitable?  And by the way, just think about how much pot roast was wasted over the years…and this is coming from a vegetarian!

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