The Power of Habit

During a recent blog interview, I was posed this question:

"Phil, if you had to pick one thing that was most responsible for the success you've had thus far in your life, what would it be?"

My answer was simple - good habits.

"Good habits", she replied. "That's it?"

She seemed a little disappointed.

"Yes, good habits," I continued. "While our lives are certainly complex with an infinite number of factors that influence our paths, in some respects, we are nothing more than an accumulation of habits - both good and bad."

The Power of Habit
Habits are a powerful force in our lives, yet we rarely pay attention to them. Here's an old story that illustrates this disconnect:

Two young fish were swimming side-by-side in the ocean when an older fish swam by in the opposite direction. The older fish saw the younger two and greeted them, "Hey guys, how's the water?" he asked. The two younger fish just kept on swimming. A few minutes later, one of the fish looked at the other and said, "What...

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Procrastination

It was over two month's ago when I sat down with my 10-year old son to discuss the academic tasks he was assigned over the summer by his 5th grade teacher:

  1. Read 3 books (Hatchet, The Giver, A Wrinkle in Time)
  2. Create index cards for 300 vocabulary words
  3. Complete 300 math problems

At the time, nothing about these tasks seemed particularly difficult, especially with the "whole summer" to do it.

Preparer or Crammer?

He and I discussed two options:

"Chip away method" - this involved spreading the workload over the entire summer. We did the math, and it came out to roughly 2 pages of reading per day and 1 vocab word and 1 math problem every other day. This amounted to about 8 minutes of concentrated work per day. No big.

"Cram-it-all-in method" - this involved skipping the daily 8-minutes of work in exchange for a 3-week cram session at the end of the summer when all the work had to be completed at once.

We prepared a spreadsheet that mapped out 10 weeks of daily tasks. He could...

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