Guest Post by Craig Filek
Fall is in the air. Can you feel that back-to-school vibe?
This time of year supports “New Year Resolutions” better than the dormancy of winter’s long night.
Whether you’re fresh out of school, or catching your second wind via your school-age children, we’re all entrained to make major behavioral shifts this time of year.
If you’re like me, you’re feeling both relieved and excited to settle in to some autumn productivity.
How can we use back-to-school momentum to lay down a new rhythm track of daily and weekly routines that fortify our success?
Stephen Covey loved the metaphor of ‘putting in the big rocks first.’
Success, he explained, comes most easily when we schedule our big rocks (priorities) first. Gravel and sand naturally fill in around them.
Filling our calendar buckets with gravel and sand (small, unimportant activities) leaves no room to add the big important rocks, resulting in a hectic, mediocre life.
Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is a habit.”
Hab·it /?hab?t/ noun
1. an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary: “the habit of looking both ways before crossing the street.”
Habits come from repetition.
The alternative is drifting. Drifting leads to failing (in identity-damaging ways), and ultimately flirting with compensatory habits, a slippery slope toward stagnation and even addiction.
To establish healthy habits, we need regular repetition with scheduled time to practice.
The big rocks, the big priorities, are the things we want to make second nature. Involuntary. This means they go into our daily and weekly schedules before anything else.
For instance, every morning I drink a mason jar full of organic green glop. I love it. I literally watch myself making this green wonder on auto-pilot every morning, without fail.
That’s a habit; all but involuntary. (Wasn’t always that way, but about 3 months in, the auto-pilot switch flipped for me and I never looked back.)
What Habits Will You Build Your Schedule Around This Fall?
Ken Wilber describes 4 Quadrants, or primary areas of life. I find these to be the most succinct framework for a well-integrated life.
Grab your calendar, and by the end of this post, you’ll have a healthy “rock” scheduled for each quadrant. They are:
Like any 80/20 assessment, one of these areas will contain your BIG rock. The rest will be supporting rocks, while everything else is gravel or sand.
What we’re after in each quadrant is the One Thing that, if you do it consistently and predictably, making it an involuntary habit, will make everything else easier… or unnecessary.
So, let’s identify a habit you can develop in each quadrant, and make sure you get the big rocks in place.
Before we do, a quick disclaimer:
It takes 2-3 months for a new practice to become a habit.
Using that time-frame, it’s far easier to start with ridiculously tiny, no-fail habits and work your way up to something you feel proud of, which changes your life in measurable ways.
For example, start with 10-seconds of meditation every morning, and win! vs. shooting for an hour and failing right out of the gate.
Then the following week, bump that up to 30-seconds, and so on, until your’e doing 5, 10, even 30-minutes consistently. This rewires your brain and makes the practice an involuntary habit.
Consistency is the key. So if you’re already doing 10-minutes of meditation a day sporadically, try 5 or even 2-minutes every day without fail and build from there.
Self-practices could include things like:
- Meditation which is my current focus, but I do all of these more or less habitually now (after years of practice). Try apps like Headpace if you’re just starting out, or Insight Timer if you’re looking to build consistency in your existing practice.
- Journaling is not as scary as it sounds. Just scratch out three shitty, stream of consciousness, never to be read again ‘Morning Pages’ first chance you get each day. Use cheap $0.99 memo notebooks and burn them once they’re full! (I use a Moleskine for my coaching / workshop / business notes and I don’t burn those.)
- Gratitude Lists have been proven to bump your dopamine levels, resulting in a significant mood enhancement, especially when stabilized through daily practice. Start by writing 3 things you’re grateful for every morning when you first wake up.
- Reading, or listening to Audible.com, even podcasts… anything that feeds your mind is a good Self practice. Most people never read a book after college. If you read one a month, you’re doing great. One a week, and you’re on fire. You’ll feel it, too!
Start by putting one of these practices, or some equivalent Self-enhancing practice on your calendar. Ideally, daily. Pick one and start with regular, no-fail doses.
Use apps like Momentum habit tracker to support you in gamifying your new practice.
Make it fun!
Before you start getting antsy over going to the gym, let’s slow things down and look at some foundational Body practices that will support you to create a life and business that feels deeply nourishing for you.
Body practices I’ve seen work miracles include:
- Sleep because the science is in, and it’s just non-negotiable. You need 8 hours, on average. So, cut out caffeine after 4pm (or switch to green tea until you restore your adrenals). Dim lights after 9pm and get Fluxio on your computer to aid in melatonin production. And avoid sleep medications – the sleep is low quality.
- Exercise in a way that works for your body, start slow and build. Try walking around the block, or hiking for a start. A little cat-cow yoga or tai chi movement to get the spine lubricated in the morning. If you’re more advanced, consider hiring a personal trainer. Get consistent. That’s the key.
- Multi-Vitamins every day because food just isn’t what it used to be. Get a good food-based multi like MegaFood, MyKind, VitaminCode or whatever you like that’s food-based so your body doesn’t just eliminate it, undigested.
- Green Drinks are a genius way to start your day. I don’t love veggies, which is why I LOVE my green drink. If I get nothing else green in body each day, at least I’ve got this checked off.
Here’s my morning Green Drink recipe:
1 Organic apple or pear (chopped, seeded, and put at bottom for better blending)
Handful of Greens (I used the organic, pre-washed field mix + some kale or chard)
1/2 Avocado (for fats and oils… add half the pit for the best soluble fiber ever)
1/2 Lemon (or lime if it’s hot that day… this is a great way to alkalize your body)
Water (just enough to get it to blend, then add more until prefered consistency)
If you want to get fancy, try adding coconut oil and cilantro in summer, ghee and ginger in winter, unhulled flax & chia seeds for protein and enzymes, seaweed for all those nutrients, collagen powder for joints, or add ¼ cup aloe vera gel to keep things flowing smoothly in there.
Adjust everything to taste and monitor your body for sensitivities. Give your body time to adjust and notice how the taste you may dislike at first becomes a craving. That’s a great sign!
Getting some version of all these body practices going is the best basis for health to sustain you in every other area.
For now, pick one, or create your own, and start small with tiny, no-fail repetitions. Build up over time.
This is where I’m personally putting in my big rock first this fall.
My daughter is 15 1/2 and if she needs anything right now, it’s a strong father showing up for her no matter what. (Much easier said than done.)
So for me, the big rock is a daddy-daughter date every week. I’m scheduling it right after yoga when I’m nice and grounded. I rescheduled her violin lesson so her mom drops her off, and I pick her up from the cafe next door where I can leave my phone in the car, and give her my undivided attention for 20 minutes or 2 hours. Whatever it takes for her to feel seen and nourished by my presence.
Knowing that’s on the calendar every week, in addition to all our other regularly scheduled days and overnights, communicates more to her than words can ever approach. That’s putting the big rock in first, and aligning the supporting priorities (yoga, violin, pick-up/drop-off times) around it.
Relation practices I recommend for friends and clients include:
- Date Night, if you have a partner, this is such an overlooked no-brainer, and one of the most potent ways to ensure your relationship has what it needs to thrive. Block out the time, every week, and hold that sacrosanct for connecting with your partner. Or daughter. If you have multiple kids, rotate 1-on-1 time. It will work wonders for family dynamics.
- Imago Dialogue ensures both partners feel heard, seen and ‘gotten’ which is the essence of real communication. The steps include Mirroring, Validating, Empathizing and offering a Gift. My friend John Wineland encourages couples to practice this every day for 40 days just to make it a habit. I couldn’t agree more. Get the book or just google “Imago Steps” to get started.
- Men’s/Women’s Group is such a valuable support structure for your life. If you’ve never experienced a regular, weekly container for going deep without the distractions of the opposite sex, I can’t recommend this highly enough.
- Singles Practices could include anything from journaling about your ideal mate, doing therapy to prepare yourself, or creating an online profile and committing to date at least one person each week to get yourself into a rhythm until you find the one.
Again, we’re looking to start small and build consistency. That’s what rewires your brain and turns a practice into an involuntary habit.
Your habits define you.
You are already a cluster and pulse of habits. With this back-to-school momentum, you’re consciously choosing practices you want to become the habits that define you, and your relationships.
So choose wisely!
There are two types of systems:
- Your Environment includes your ecosystem at the macro level (Vancouver is different than Boulder is different than Topeka), and your home, office, even the chair you sit in and mattress you sleep on
- Your Contribution system involves what you’re contributing into the marketplace and what you are receiving back (usually monetarily, but not always).
Systems practices you can score big wins fast with include:
- Clean Out Your Closet because all the stuck energy is holding you back in your life. Believe it. Try Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up. Hire a professional organizer if needed. Especially as you spend more time in doors this season, you’ll be amazed at how much flow this frees up in your space and your life.
- Upgrade Your Systems is there something you use every day that you feel dissatisfied with? Like that old granny blender? Try upgrading to a Vitamix or Blendtec and you’ll be amazed at how your morning green drink seems to make itself. How about your chair or your computer?
Winners understand, environment is the better part of strategy.
- Structure Your Space for the different types of work or activities you do. This is especially important if you work from home. Once I separated my financial space from my creative space, they both felt so much better, and the work got done more consistently. Make a list of the 3-5 highest priority things you do, and identify one activity that would feel so much better if it had its own space. Carve out that space and support your practice at the structural level. It doesn’t have to be its own room, just a station.
And the grandaddy of all Systems practices…
When my Purpose Mapping® clients discover their Purpose, the thing they were born to do… the thing that puts them in flow… they pause for a moment and glow, and then their very next question is always:
“Great, I know my purpose… so how do I make a living with this?”
My answer is:
- Build Your Contribution System Around Your Flow State because anything less will leave you dissatisfied. The way to do this is slowly, through small experiments and lots of course-correcting repetition. Pick something you love to do and would do for free because it makes you feel so alive. Then give it as a gift to someone. Get paid in dopamine and endorphins. Then do it again. Get paid in testimonials. And again, and again… until someone says, “Hey, can I pay you for this?”
- 80/20 Your Business if you’re already getting paid for doing your life’s work, then it’s time to take stock and dial in on the things only you can do, with an eye for how you can delegate, automate or eliminate everything else. Make a quick list of everything you do in your business, and circle the top 3 most profitable, flow inducing things that you do best. Make a plan to start paring away everything else on the list. One item at a time. Your increased productivity will astound you.
By now you should have enough clarity to understand what the 4 Quadrants are, and why it’s important to have a practice in each area.
It doesn’t matter what practices you choose. But choose something, and put it in your calendar.
Then, monitor and adjust and correct your course continuously you hit your target. You need to understand that your target is fulfillment in life, and giving your unique gifts in powerful ways. That requires focus and FOCUS is an acronym for Follow One Course Until Successful.
Use the social momentum of the back-to-school season to make some quick, high-leverage changes in your routine, and stay the course.
Little changes now, well practiced, will result in habits that can carry you swiftly toward your goals with a lot less friction.
NOTE: Got a great idea for a habit-practice? Share what’s working in the comments below!
About the Author: Craig Filek knows success and significance are not the same thing. After building a 7-figure business, he walked away from it all to focus on what matters most — raising his daughter and living his purpose. With over 20 years experience coaching and facilitating deep, transformative work, Craig developed Purpose Mapping® to bring his own life into alignment. Now, he guides High-Achieving Misfits to reclaim their authenticity and find true fulfillment by using their talents to full capacity in service to a larger mission.
Executives, entrepreneurs, investors and professionals in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe seek Craig’s support when making life-changing decisions. If you’re ready to unlock your full potential without blowing up the success you’ve already created, request an invitation to speak with Craig.