Monday, 30 December 2013

The attraction to things that don't work...

We are creatures of habit and as an educationalist I am keen to encourage good habit formation with my  pupils.

But the difference between good and bad habits is not always apparent. Good habits, we would assume, are conducive of higher productivity, great health, better friendships and relationships with family, a clearer sense of purpose, an organised life and house.

Bad habits negate such values - they lead to lower productivity and time wasting, poor health, random swings in relationships, a lack of purpose and direction, a disorganised household and life. Of course, we would all wish to avoid those but what is it about us that creates mayhem, purposelessness, poor health, and disorganisation?

It's because we don't pay attention to the little things in life. We become wedded to poor habits that take us away from succeeding. We are attracted to that which does not work.


Funnily enough though, successful people aren't attracted to that which doesn't work. If it doesn't work, they quit it; they move on; they keep on trying until they get something that does work. And they don't get emotionally attached to doing the wrong thing.

Unsuccessful people or 'lucky' people do not do this. When things are going well, they slowly but surely engage in habits that eventually wreck their success.

Imagine being a student who's just scored an A on a test. Well done! But what really got the A? If it was luck - the questions fell the pupil's way and that burst of revision paid off. But if that's not repeated, guess what - the student will receive a lower grade next time. Then he or she will feel despondent and moan that they're not good at exams or that they didn't really like the subject anyway (I hear 'it's boring' a lot - I change that to 'it's difficult' or 'I'm not engaged in class').

On the other hand, if the pupil reasoned, hey, that bit of revision got me a good grade, so if I work a bit harder on my next exams, I'll do better … and guess what? The average level of attainment will increase.

However, while revising, the student thinks, hey, I'm doing fine, I can take some time off to watch a dvd or surf some funny youtube videos or call my friends or play with my phone…then they quickly lose the edge they were sharpening for a higher performance.

It's the same as looking at our household budget and finances. Oh, it's only a little thing to add to the shopping trolley. Or, hey, I really need a new coat/shoes/car…Then the credit card bills come in and you're struggling and you pretend you don't know why … or even worse, you stick your head in the ground and pretend that you don't really owe so much on the cards or overdraft … or dream of winning the lottery. What good will that do?

Or with weight loss. If you think that that little bit of sugary food won't really do you much harm…you're wrong. The good habit of avoiding that which fattens you up or reduces your immune system is broken immediately - one exception becomes another and then another and then the rule, and before you know it you've put the weight back on.

There are no fairies in life that magically wave the wand and suddenly life's different and you're thinner, smarter, richer.

No, it all takes good habits. And no exceptions to the rule.

I'm suffering at the moment. Generally, I eat very healthy … but it's Christmas, I reasoned (or rather rationalised): that little bit of sugary food will be okay, and ah, another cup of coffee, after all, I love the taste, and let's stay up later and get less sleep…  I must be very sensitive, because my body has rewarded me with a cold!! So, back to the stricter diet (I follow a paleo based diet of no dairy, grains, legumes, or sugars sticking to meat/fish, lots of salad, nuts, fruit and organic as best as we can get.)

We're human - we err…but it is useful to know that we are attracted to that which brings us down and thus to be armed against such temptations! Behind the good habits is the key value that rarely gets mentioned in today's world: DISCIPLINE.

What is a disciple? Someone who follows a set of principles. So discipline is - following a set of principles.

What principles should we follow? … those that improve our minds, health, finances, friendships, and relationships...

Now the fun bit of life is working out what works!

I'll end on a not so subtle thought - no one accidentally put food in their mouth.

Think about it.

We can adapt that to no one accidentally picked up their phone to surf, opened their browser to waste time, put those extra doodads in the basket or bought worthless junk.


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