One of the very best lessons I learned on personal development was shared with me over 25 years ago. It’s clearly been one of the most influential habits for positive change in all kinds of important areas of my life – areas including my faith, my marriage, parenting, sales, and leadership.
Here’s the advice: Read 15 minutes a day for 30 days out of a book that stretches my thinking in one of those key areas. Then, repeat.
Well, I’ve been in and out of this habit many times over the last 25 years, but mostly I’ve kept up with reading. Yet, as recently as last year I doubled back on this daily habit of reading. I amended the advice to coincide with my workdays, so now it’s really about a 5 day a week habit.
And it’s made a massive difference. Why?
Beyond the obvious – knowledge…it helps by gaining a sense of daily victory, gaining self-confidence through self-discipline; it sets an excellent example; it’s congruent with the advice I give and hope to live. And so much more. But the daily impact is the real difference. Daily book learning raises my immediate awareness around the topic I’m attempting to learn. Easier that way. Plus it provides teaching opportunities – daily – and nothing reinforces learning as much as teaching.
Now to the problem. Execution.
Reading is likely to be one of the more difficult habits you’ll ever develop because it’s so simple and easy NOT to do. You’ll plan it, intend it, but not do it, at least not consistently. Trust me. I’ve encouraged so many people over the years to build this life-changing habit and few have actually done it.
So let me suggest some of the best advice for execution of this habit, or any new habit, I’ve ever known.
Find “anchors” and fix that habit firmly to that anchor.
That’s why my reading commitment is only 5 days – workdays are anchors - because they’re relatively predictable. From there, I find the daily anchor that works best for me and fix reading to it. My best daily anchor is pretty simple and very predictable – waking up. If I ever miss that anchor, reading won’t really matter. So I wake up, get my coffee, go to my office, sit in my “reading” chair and read. I have not checked email or any other social media at this point because that would separate reading from my anchor. Not doing it.
Anchors are just one strategy for making habits stick. You’ve also got to believe in it, want it and have some self-discipline along the way. But the anchors help tremendously. It’s so much nicer going through my day without carrying the weight of wondering when I’m going to do what I said I’d do – read.
Somebody once said, “We don’t determine our future. We determine our habits which determine our future”. So choose your habit. What one new habit would have the greatest positive impact in the next few months? Pick it – I might suggest reading! – and then find the anchor and hitch it up!
My challenge to you? Read 15 minutes, 5 days a week for 30 days, from a positive book. Up for it?