Journey of a Serial Entrepreneur

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How to get from where you are to where you want to be

5 Steps to Change a Habit

“When you sow a thought you reap an action, when you sow an action you reap a habit, when you sow a habit you reap a character and when you sow a character you reap a destiny.” Anonymous

Embracing change poses a challenge to most of us. Our comfort zones have the ability to make us feel just that, comfortable and at peace. Stepping out of these zones is a frightening experience, at the best of times.  Venturing into spaces where you need to find your bearings all over again is daunting . The task is arduous at the onset, it doesn’t get much easier along the way either, however, when you have successfully enlarged that comfort zone, the feeling of accomplishment is unparalleled. This week, I talked about a couple of steps which can be used when wanting to change or develop a new habit. I felt it was important to talk about this, because being an entrepreneur requires you to be flexible and open to change. It requires you to change limiting habits and beliefs, which may be pulling you back. Listed below are five steps which may be of help in this process:

1. Identification: Before we commit ourselves to “change”, we need to make sure our unconscious desires connect with the conscious ones. Clarity about what you want to change is essential. Asking yourself what you want to change about yourself is a powerful question, use it to crystalize your thoughts. To read more about identification of limiting habits/beliefs please click here.

2. Ask yourself why: Once you have identified the change you want in your life, the next question is, why do you want to change? This discovery process is essential, to grasp the fundamental reasoning behind the change you want to see in your life. Without this process of understanding , you may discover that you approached change in a particular habit, for the wrong reasons. You may discover that you never really wanted to change this particular habit, hence, you had not found a strong enough reason to motivate the change. To read more about asking yourself “why” please click here.

3. Make a plan: To successfully start a transformation process, you need to outline a plan. One which will be documented, and have clearly marked time lines. It is important you take into account any triggers which may lead to lapsing back to old habits.  To read more about making successful plans for changing  habits please click here.

4. Taking action: We can plan all we want, in the end, it all boils down to taking action. This step requires courage, determination, and above all, belief in your capabilities to bring about change. Life is too short to expect those around us to change, or, to stand still and hope that things will become better. The first step towards wanting to bring in change, is to take responsibility for your life. It boils down to you, and how committed you are, to wanting change in your life. To read more about taking action please click here.

5. Maintaining change: Once we have taken that first step towards bringing change into our life, we have begun a journey. To help us maintain the change that we have brought into our lives some of the things which can help us are, keeping a daily log, developing a support system and rewarding ourselves whenever we reach small milestones. These activities will help keep you motivated when the going gets tough. To read more about maintaining change please click here.

Time is the most precious asset we possess. Everyday is an opportunity for you to bring about the change that  you want to see, in your life. In the end, it boils down to your level of determination and persistence to be the change you want to see. I love the Adidas quote “impossible is nothing”. Maybe that could be a mantra for your next habit change? Best of luck!

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Maintaining Change

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

Once we have taken that first step towards bringing change into our life, we have begun a journey. Like most journeys, this one will have its share of ups and down. There will be times, when you will want to go back to the way things were, and there will be others when you feel lost and alone. Embracing these feelings for what they are, is an important step on this journey. If we let our emotions hinder our capabilities to move forward, we will find ourselves trapped, and unable to bring about the changes we want to see in our life. There is no doubt, we will fall many times, to fall is only human. What matters is whether we have the courage to pick ourselves up, and keep moving on.

Listed below, are a couple of pointers which have helped me carry on, when the going was tough:

1. Keep a daily log: This simple activity does not require you to write pages of detailed specifics. Its primary purpose, is to help you understand the transformations which are taking place in your life on a daily basis. As a secondary purpose, it serves as an outlet which allows you to express your thoughts and emotions.

2. Support systems: When we are undergoing drastic changes in our life, we need to identify an individual or a group of people, to rely on to help you through this period. Better yet, taking someone on board who also wants to change or inculcate the same habit, is ideal. This way there is someone to identify with, who also understands what you are going through. This emotional bond sometimes creates a force strong enough to overcome just about any obstacle.

3. Reward yourself: This is a tip I use a lot when going through change. It provides incentive to push yourself further. The sense of accomplishment when you are rewarded for your efforts, is a great boost as well. This also helps create a momentum that is infectious, and soon you find yourself hitting goal after goal. Choose your rewards carefully,  they play a major role in motivating you to go further.

Sustaining change is a challenging task. We have to constantly keep reminding ourselves why we want to change, and what we hope to achieve, once we have changed. The rationale behind the reason for change must be based on solid foundations. Without this base, reverting to older habits is more likely, and no one likes to admit failing. However, after having said that, there will be times, when although the reasons for change are based on the strongest of foundations, we still fail. At this point, it is best to go back and understand the reasons again. Was a trigger missed ? Does the plan need changing ? The minute we start blaming our inadequacies, is when we lose hope. Look for reasons , not blame.

Remember there is no such thing as failure only feedback!

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Taking Action

“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

We can plan all we want, in the end, it all boils down to taking action. This step requires courage, determination, and above all, belief in your capabilities to bring about change. Life is too short to expect those around us to change, or, to stand still and hope that things will become better. The truth is, once you sit on the fence for too long, it becomes comfortable, and taking a decision becomes a lot harder. In my own life, there have been times when I have been guilty of such behavior, we all have. However, what has happened in the past remains there, what is important is, that we don’t make the same errors today. If you have decided that something in your life needs changing, and have figured out what it is, and how you plan to change it, then you need to do, just that.

The first step towards wanting to bring in change, is to take responsibility for your life. It boils down to you, and how committed you are, to wanting change in your life.  For example, we are constantly bombarded about the side effects of smoking, in Singapore, they even have gruesome photographs on cigarette packs of what it could potentially do to you. The mind however, is such a powerful thing, that these images are subconsciously blocked. By remaining undecided and continuing to sit on the fence,  it may well be too late when you decide to take action! I accept that it is lot easier for me to say such things because I don’t smoke, I realize that giving it up is a very difficult process and one which requires a lot of discipline and determination. I believe however, that to find courage to take action, sincere and convincing arguments need to be understood with an open mind. Fully comprehending the negative impact of this habit is vital.

Along the way, curved balls will be thrown at you undoubtedly. Certain triggers will appear repeatedly, the urge and need to revert back will often be too strong to resist. However, if you have been strong enough to take that first step, with all the right reasons and intentions, half the battle has already been won. The theory of “Ready, Fire, Aim” is one which I believe in completely, it forces you to take action. There will always be fears and doubts regarding the outcome of an action, the important thing is, that you have taken that first step. Once you have begun to take consistent action, it is now, only a matter of maintaining a momentum to help you reach your goal.

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Planning to change?

“Reduce your plan to writing. The moment you complete this, you will have definitely given concrete form to the intangible desire.” Napoleon Hill

After we have identified the change we want to bring in, as well as the reason for it, we need a road map on how to implement this change into our lives. This is another critical process which requires substantial time. It is easy to wake up one day and tell yourself, you are going to change from tomorrow. This is easier said than done, whenever I have used this technique, it takes around 3 days to go back to old ways. What your mind needs, is direction. It knows the reasons to change, it also needs to be told how to get this change going.

 An effective plan for habit change, is better for the following steps :

1. Documented: A transfer of ideas and plans onto paper is essential. This is an obvious first step, however, most of the time we neglect to do so, thinking it to be trivial. Before starting any change, write down what you want to change and why you want to do so.

2. Time Specific: Setting yourself targets spread over extended periods of time (months, years) is not an effective strategy. Commit yourself to a realistic but challenging timeline, to help you start seeing results.

3. Identify Triggers: Most habits are triggered by specific activities or emotional states. Do your best to identify these triggers as soon as possible. Once you have list of triggers, you will need to compile a list of alternative actions that need to be taken in place of this habit. For example, if your smoking is triggered by the completion of a meal, replace the cigarette with some nicotine gum or green tea. This is a key component in developing your strategic plan.

4. Create Mini Goals: As humans, we need to be constantly motivated, to continue moving forward. Therefore your plan may be broken down into mini goals, which can be rewarded when acheived. This will help keep your motivation at a higher level.

Using these basic components, plan how to go about your day. This doesn’t need to be very detailed, it just needs to be specific enough, so you can monitor your progress. By developing a plan, you will have a guidance system, which helps keep you on track, and provides you with the necessary motivation to wake up the next morning, fully aware of the steps you have to take, to change that habit!

 

 

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Time Management System

“Many people seem to think that success in one area can compensate for failure in other areas. But can it really?…True effectiveness requires balance.” Stephen Covey

When scheduling my week, month and year I use the following time management system. The system basically asks you to break up your week into three different types of days. The break up is:

  1. Preparation
  2. Best
  3. Rest

This system truly is very simple, yet, it is often overlooked by many of us. Examples of when this system is not used are days when you feel you are not giving your best to what you are doing, looking to find more time in the day to complete a critical task, thinking your life is purely about work and nothing else.These are thoughts which come to mind even though we have a goals list which is prioritized. By implementing this system I have been able to bring balance into my life and to make sure that I am in sync with all aspects of it.

To use the system effectively you need a prioritized goals list as well as clearly outlining  the functions or tasks you excel at and bring the greatest amount of value to. Once you have marked these, you need to categorize your week into preparation, best and rest days. For example, due to an excess work load I am experiencing this month, I have allocated 2 preparation days, 4 best days and 1 rest day.

Preparation Days: These are the days when I plan the critical tasks which need to be completed during the course of the week or month. These include research for proposals which need to completed, tabulating psychometric tests scores which have been conducted, set and plan agendas for meetings scheduled during the week and coordination which needs to be done for events taking place during the week. Everyone’s preparation days will be unique to the core tasks at which they excel.

Best Days: These days include a number of tasks which create the greatest value. These would include finalizing and sending out proposals, giving presentations and meeting prospective clients, consultations and feedback sessions with clients who have taken our psychometric tests and internal strategic planning meetings. These are tasks which are made easier when prepared for in detail and make my best days a lot more productive. Choose tasks which you have skills and passion for to ensure that you make the most of these days.

Rest Days: These days include tasks which are not related to business . With the advent of Blackberry’s and iPhones, these rest days are slowly becoming extinct. You should do your best to allocate activities or events where you can relax and unwind during these days. I usually spend time with friends and family during this day, reading the ever increasing backlog of unread books and catching up on some sitcoms and shows which I enjoy. These days are essential for a balanced lifestyle.

By targeting a number of prep, best and rest days in a month I have been able to allocate  time more efficiently and have become more effective at the tasks which I excel at. I hope this system can help you as much as it has helped me.

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Where did the day go?

“Lost wealth may be replaced by industry, lost knowledge by study, lost health by temperance or medicine, but lost time is gone forever.” Samuel Smiles

As an entrepreneur the biggest hurdle that I face is that I wish the day had more hours in it. This is a problem which I have attempted to overcome and have had some success in achieving. It all comes down to the fact that my brain is in a continuous processing mode. Somewhat like a computer which has not been reset for a long time thus slowing everything down. This is how I feel on the days when I know I am not doing my best. I have hence decided to use this week to remind myself on the importance of time management and in the process give some tips to others on what has helped me.

Time management is a vast topic and has been written about and discussed widely. Yet most of it becomes difficult to digest and implement. The reason for this is that most individuals already have too much going on in their lives and miss out on the bigger picture. Three years ago, I remember being in college, running a large students organization, operating my first startup company and occasionally hanging out with friends. Looking back, that period of my life was well time managed due to correct prioritizing . The first step for organizing time has to revolve around priorities . As an entrepreneur I ask myself questions such as; what is important to myself, what do I aim to achieve and how do I plan to achieve these goals? You have to bring focus to the key priorities in life otherwise they will get left behind. For example if you believe helping out the less fortunate is an important aspect of your life and you plan to support it through a particular NGO, how are you incorporating this into your schedule? Has life taken over whilst you have been talking about it? If it has you shouldn’t be too worried, this does happen to everyone at some point of their lives. Prioritizing and using time more effectively with greater focus will help you achieve your commitment.

You will need to allocate certain days and time to your goals to make them possible. Through this methodology we will be able to strike a balance and make sure we utilize this most precious commodity as carefully as possible. I would like to know from the readers where they would utilize an extra hour if they could gain it from effectively managing time. Comments will be much appreciated.

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