Every soft-drink has one. So does your favorite yogurt or shampoo.
Your toothpaste of choice and favorite brand of pickles has one too.
Every pill you put in your mouth or ointment you rub on your aching back is no exception.
You’ve never selected an item off the shelf at the grocery store that didn’t have one.
From potato chips to detergents, from cosmetics to condiments, every consumer product out there is created using a carefully followed formula. Manufacturers use formulas to ensure their customers enjoy the exact same experience every time they use their product. In short, formulas perpetuate consistency.
People use formulas when they want similar results every time.
Your favorite products are produced using a tried and true formula to consistently deliver an experience that looks, tastes, feels, smells, and performs exactly like it did the last time you bought it. These formulas are copyrighted, kept under lock and key, and accessible only to a few trusted employees sworn to silence about a company’s secret recipe.
What’s Your Formula?
In the same way manufacturers use formulas to create consistent results in their best-selling products, we do the same thing in how we go about living our life.
We all use a formula. No exceptions. Everybody has a formula for the life they live.
So let me ask you, “What’s your formula?” What recipe are you using for how you live your life? Do you know? Have any idea?
Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t. Most people don’t have a clue about what formula they are following for the life they live. It’s fairly normal to not give it much thought.
A formula is defined as:
· “A plan or method for doing, making, or achieving something””
· “A list of the ingredients used for making something”
A formula is a recipe; a specific approach used to arrive at a particular result.
When we’re talking about baking a cake, the idea of a recipe makes perfect sense. We understand that a recipe calls for ingredients like flour, eggs, sugar and vanilla to bake a dessert. When we start talking about the ingredients we use to make (“bake”) the life we live, it isn’t quite as clear to us. It gets a little fuzzy when we’re talking about a recipe for living our life.
So let me put it this way. The ingredients in the recipe we use to create our life are called habits.
Our formula for living is the sum total of our habits. Every day of our life is a compilation of the routines and rituals we employ in different situations to navigate throughout our week, our month, and our year.
· Eating habits.
· Thinking habits.
· Work habits.
· Relationship habits.
· Exercise habits.
· Television-watching habits.
· Social-media habits.
· Yard-work habits.
· Car-maintenance habits.
· Sleeping habits.
· Time-management habits.
· Conflict-resolution habits.
· Sexual-intimacy habits.
· Dental-hygiene habits.
· Coping habits.
· Drug-abuse habits. (Commonly called an addiction)
· Spending habits.
· Driving habits.
· Reading habits.
You get the idea, right?
All you do in your life is a reflection of the routines you’re following to produce the results you’re experiencing. That’s your formula.
Even when you rarely do something, it’s still a habit. Take for instance, exercise. For many, their exercise “habit” is to rarely do it. Every so many months (or years) they get concerned about their health and decide to start exercising….again. They begin with a bang, but fizzle out somewhere between three weeks to three months. They’ll do this exact same routine about once a year or so. That’s their habit; their formula.
Another person chooses to exercise regularly. It’s their habit to do some form of blood-pumping activity four days a week for an hour. That’s their formula.
Stand both people next to each other, and I am positive their level of physical fitness will reflect the contrast between their different habits. Both follow a formula – one seldom exercises, the other, regularly – and both experience the results each formula produces.
An overweight person’s size and shape often reflects the result of the formula they are currently using for eating and exercise. A fit person’s size and shape does the same. Their lean build and energetic vitality are the result of the formula they are currently using when it comes to physical fitness.
The Wrong Formula
If you keep getting the same results every time you do something, you are using a formula. I guarantee you.
Somewhere along the way you adopted a certain routine – a habit – for going about your daily activities. Your continued use of these particular habits demonstrates your confidence in the formula you have chosen. How else do you explain why you keep using it over and over again?
But what about when your life is not working quite like you imagined?
· Disappointment in your relationships?
· Frustration in your finances?
· Bored in your career?
· Discouraged by your physical well-being?
It might be time to explore a new formula; a new set of habits.
If you have less than desirable results in the important arenas of your life, change the formula you’re using. If it’s not producing what you prefer, you need to alter the recipe. Add something to it or take something away, but don’t keep using the same equation over and over if it keeps you from enjoying your life.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and
over again expecting different results.”
Anatomy of a Habit
Every habit begins somewhere. Long before it became a predictable routine in your life, it started out as a new and awkward approach to solving a problem. The more you used that particular solution, the more familiar it became and the more experienced you became with it. Before long, it was the automatic approach to handling a situation you encountered on a regular basis. From shaving to eating, handling conflict to coping with anxiety, habits are our way of dealing with life.
Every habit is born in your mind. Whether a challenge is getting yourself fed or dealing with an overdrawn bank account, you chose a way to react based on a series of thoughts about a given situation. Every time something happens in your life, you think thoughts that lead to choices that result in certain actions. Repeated enough times, those actions become habits.
When totaled together, those habits become the formula you use for living your life.
Unfortunately, if our thoughts are misguided, our choices will be ill advised. This results in taking the wrong course of action and, if done repeatedly, a bad habit is conceived.
The Good News about Bad Habits
Here’s the good news about bad habits. If we have habits that aren’t producing the results we’d like to see, we can do something about it. If certain eating habits keep us overweight and tired, we can change them. If certain financial habits keep us in debt, we can change them. If certain relational habits keep us feeling isolated from the people closest to us, we can change them.
That’s the beauty of a habit. It can always be traded in for a better one. You can come up with a different formula for how to go about living your life.
Habits are predictable behaviors; things we do the same way every time. So if they are predictable, they are manageable. That means we can step right into the middle of them and change the routine once we identify what it is. This is true of every habit in your life.
Think of it this way.
You take the same route to work every day. Unfortunately, that particular way is full of traffic congestion due to what seems like never ending road construction. Thousands of other people in your city use that exact same route along with you each day. Travel delays and the corresponding aggressiveness of annoyed drivers make your drive to work miserable. You arrive at the office each morning feeling annoyed and frustrated before you even start your day.
What if you decided to point your car in a different direction?
You have a couple of options.
· You could take a different route using less traveled roads. You may encounter a few more stoplights than you’d prefer, but far fewer people choose that particular route in the morning. All told, it takes about the same amount time to get to work, but your mental and emotional state when you arrive at the office is completely different due to a less stressful route.
· You could also change the routine by deciding to start earlier in the morning before rush hour hits its zenith. Sure, you have to get up and out the door much earlier, but the trade off may be worth it in the grand scheme of things. A half hour less sleep is better than the additional hour of stop and go traffic on the way to the office.
· A third option would be to make arrangements with your boss to come into work later in the morning. Perhaps she’d be agreeable to you working from home at the start of the day while you wait for the morning gridlock on the interstate to dissipate.
Each of these options represents a new formula; a different recipe.
The point is you are the driver of that car each day. If the route you are currently taking leaves you frustrated and frazzled by the time you arrive at work, you can take a different route.
You can always come up with a different approach.
Now think of this scenario in terms of any situation in your life that leaves you frustrated and disappointed. This exact same principle applies to any and every arena of your life. To get what you want, you may need to find a different route.
Do you feel tired and grouchy at work each day because you end up watching television until way past when you should have gone to bed every night? That’s a habit. You choose to do that every time it happens. Nobody is forcing you to sit there and watch another episode of your favorite sitcom on Netflix. That’s all on you.
It has become a habit and you can change it.
The first step in changing the habit is to figure out the reason you do it in the first place. Here are a few options to consider.
· It might be because you really hate your job and dread the thought of going to bed knowing it starts all over again in the morning.
· It might be because you’re really frustrated with your spouse’s lack of interest in sexual intimacy and you can’t stand to go to bed at the same time only to lay there in your disappointment.
· It might be you’re addicted to watching really lousy television programming as some mindless way to forget your life for a few hours.
· It might be because it’s the only few moments you have in a day that somebody isn’t expecting, demanding, asking, or waiting on something from you.
· It might be because sitting there watching television is the perfect distraction while consuming an entire carton of ice-cream as a way to eat yourself into an emotional coma before heading off to bed.
You chose a course of action at some point in time and kept doing it the same way again and again until you established a pattern for how you think about your evening routine. Consequently, every night around 11:00 PM you crash on the couch, grab the remote, and start your nightly ritual.
Night after night.
Week after week.
Month after month.
It will never change until you change it.
Change it by choosing a different way to handle your evening.
That’s where the hard work of breaking a bad habit begins. People think the most difficult challenge in changing a bad habit is coming up with the willpower to keep doing the right thing in place of the wrong one. What I have found to be the real work of breaking a habit is figuring out the thoughts and choices that underlie the pattern hardwired into the way you go about life.
Until you do that, you’ll never truly achieve a lasting, sustainable change.
If you keep ending up at Z, you might have to work your way back to A before you’ll really get to the bottom of why you do what you do. Sure, you might be watching television until all hours of the early morning, but the real work required to break that habit is to have an honest conversation with your spouse about your broken marriage as evidenced in the lack of sexual intimacy between the two of you.
Everything is a Habit
Everything is a habit. From the most basic rituals of personal maintenance to the significant nuances of relational interaction, everything we do is ultimately a well-worn routine of thoughts, choices, and actions.
The way you brush your teeth, the foods you choose to eat for breakfast, the coffee you consume to jump start your battery in the morning are all habits you have developed over time.
The way you always end up talking to your spouse about finances is a habit too. If those conversations always turn into an argument, the two of you have created some habits for those discussions that predictably result in frustration and anger.
You say, “We always end up in a fight when we talk about money.”
The key word there is “always.” “Always” is the by-product of a formula; it declares consistency. The reason you and your spouse always end up arguing about money is that you have developed a series of individual habits from how you spend money to how you talk about each other’s spending habits. These habits, when combined together, have created a rift in your marriage.
Even our attitude is a habit. It is shaped by a routine of thoughts we’ve established in our brain that always end up in the same place. Bad attitudes are thoughts that follow the same path and end up in a negative, critical, or grouchy spirit. A good attitude is the trail in our mind that always finds the positive, grateful, or indomitable perspective on what is happening around us. That’s why we know people who always seem to be grouchy and others who always seem to be happy. They have made it a habit to think a certain way about how they are going to live their life.
Life is Not a Formula, But Living Is.
Life is not formulaic. There is no way to reduce life to a predictable formula. It is too unpredictable by nature. Life can change at any time due to circumstances beyond our control. It comes at us each and every day and we respond to it “the best we know how.”
There it is! That “best we know how” is all about the habits we have adopted for navigating our way through life’s circumstances.
· People make choices that have bearing on our well-being.
· Circumstances beyond our control impact our regular routines.
· Tragedy strikes when we least expect it.
Such is the nature of life. It happens outside the rules of carefully construed routines.
However, while life is not formulaic, living is. Living our life can be reduced to a formula. We do it all the time. When we choose to keep using a particular habit, we keep counting on that formula to create what we want.
Only when we decide a certain habit is no longer working to our advantage are we determined to change it.
You say, “I really want to change some of my habits, but I can’t.”
You can’t or you won’t?
There’s a big difference.
“I can’t” is usually code for “I’m unwilling to do the long-term
training and conditioning necessary to achieve that.”
- Brendon Burchard
Here’s the bottom line. We’re always using a formula for the life we live. The formula can either be the wrong one or the right one for what we’re trying to do. If we recognize that the current recipe we are using is not producing the results we’d like, we can change it. We can always come up with a better formula.
And when we do, we can change anything we want to about our life.
“What you allow is what will continue.”