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MACKAY: Change your habits, change your life

by HARVEY MACKAY
| March 21, 2021 1:00 AM

A guy walked into a sandwich shop and the server asked what he would like to order.

He said, "What do you have that's good?"

The clerk responded that everything was good.

The customer then asked, "Do you sell things other than sandwiches?"

The clerk said, "Yes, we have salads, too."

The customer added, "Great, I am so tired of sandwiches! That is all I ever eat!"

The clerk said, "What would you like?"

And the customer said, "I guess I'll take a roast beef sandwich."

Old habits die hard.

My friend John Maxwell got me thinking when he said:

"You'll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine."

Most of your everyday routines are probably comfortable, and you're probably doing OK with them. But imagine the dreams you could realize by mixing things up to achieve what you really want.

Another friend, Dean Graziosi, wrote a book called "Millionaire Success Habits," in which the premise is that you can make "barely noticeable, small shifts in your daily routines by nudging out those things that don't serve you and replacing them with habits that create a path to wealth and abundance."

First, you must decide what you want out of life. Too often, we can define what we don't want, but can't really figure out where we want to go. Once you do that, your path becomes clear as to what you need to work on.

When I think back on my career, I often changed my daily routine in order to realize what was important to me. When I was building my envelope-manufacturing business, I focused on selling the major accounts in Minnesota. When I wrote my first book, "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," I wanted to sell books and build my writing and speaking career. And with each new dream, I had to adapt.

I've always strived to be as productive as possible. I became a time-management freak. I was among the first to install a car phone. I took a speedreading course. I found that if I begin each day with a plan and prioritize what I need to accomplish, I procrastinate less.

I realized that by doing two things that I don't want to do every morning, I can move on to more profitable things.

I continue to work at being organized because that's always been a challenge. Wasting a minute here and there adds up to a lot of lost time trying to find things. Fortunately, I have a good staff that keeps me organized.

Another factor I've worked on is sleep. I always thought I wanted this message displayed on my tombstone: "He couldn't sleep fast enough!" I was afraid of missing something. But over the years, I've relented and slept more. It has helped my energy and focus.

Leading up to the recent Super Bowl, I saw an article about quarterback Tom Brady and how he credits his high performance, even at age 43, to getting quality sleep and lots of it.

Getting up and stretching for 15-20 minutes also helps me. I exercise for 60-75 minutes every single day, which also gives me energy and keeps me in shape. Eating healthy, starting with a good breakfast, is also helpful.

I eliminate disruptions as much as possible and return calls at the end of the day. I also reward myself when I accomplish a task.

These are all good habits that replace bad habits. That's not always easy. Some studies suggest that it takes about 21 days to create a new habit or break a bad habit. However, according to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it can take 18-254 days to form a new habit. The study also concluded that, on average, it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. Breaking a habit also tends to involve a more consistent, conscious effort.

So start today: Ditch your bad habits and focus on building better ones.

Mackay's Moral: We build our lives each day with the bricks of habits we have.

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Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com, by emailing harvey@mackay.com or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.