The greatest gap in living a successful life is the habit gap, which is the distance between who you want to be and your routine. It is in this gap that we experience disappointments and frustration. This gap keeps us from our best performance by preventing us from tapping into our potential. The greater this gap, the less optimistic you face the future. I remember a few years ago, my credit card usage was through the roof. I was barely making the minimum payments. What was shocking was that I worked overtime in my regular job and had another part-time employment. My hard-working efforts to keep me from sliding into a financial turmoil seemed to gain no traction.
I was awoken by a report in my banking statement, which showed the earning-spending ratio. For the last few months, I had been spending way more than I was depositing. I wondered how that would have even been possible. I knew I had to do something before I got myself in deep and serious trouble. Upon examining and reflecting on my financial habits, I discovered a massive gap between what I did with my money and where I should have been financially. To close this gap, I had to pivot.
While my financial predicament provides a clear picture of the habit gap that was about to run me aground, habit gaps exist in all areas of our lives. I believe that we are either closing a habit gap or preventing one from forming. Think of habit gaps as weeds in a garden. A farmer must intentionally keep weeds out of the garden. We must also be deliberate about closing habit gaps. I believe the most effective way to way close any habit gap is through pivoting. Pivoting is making changes using specific skills to make a different experience. For a successful pivot to happen, we must clearly define the change we desire and choose the skills (tools) we must use.
Closing habit gaps and pivoting are extremely vital while facing a storm. They determine whether we come out of the storm better and stronger or worse and weaker. This is true as we face the storms of 2020, as it was true during the Great Depression, which produced many successful people. I believe that while we all have different habit gaps we need to close, there are three habits we must develop and maintain to be successful in the area of habits. I refer to them as primer habits. They are at the foundation of any habit we intend to make or break. Let’s look at each and see how we can apply each one in our lives.
1. Asking for and giving help
“Until we can receive with an open heart, we’re never really giving with an open heart.” said Brené Brown. Asking for help and helping others is the surest way to succeed throughout life. Despite being a person who loves to give, I concluded that not unless I learn how to ask for help and take it when offered, I will never be a good giver. I have also observed that many people fail to live their best lives because of rejecting help.
Often, we reject help because of fear. We fear being judged and worry about what people will think of us when we ask for help. The other thing that prevents us from asking for help is pride. But fear and pride only hold us back and make us captive of what we can overcome with a little help. Overcome any fear or pride of asking for help by reminding yourself that you ask for help because you want to be great.
I think that the first transformative questions that have the most significant impact on closing any habit gap and pivoting for a better future are, can you help me? Whenever you ask this question, you open up to new information and value locked in others. The second great question for closing habit gaps and pivoting is, how can I help? Frequently, we avoid this question because of a scarcity mindset. We assume we don’t have enough time or resources to change people’s situation. But what I have realized is that we reinforce good habits any moment we offer to help and follow through. For example, if you are struggling to save your money like I was, and you decided you will help others financially, you will soon realize that your money habits improve. Want to live a healthy lifestyle? Help someone have a healthier lifestyle. This works all the time. Try it.
It’s when you cultivate reciprocity by asking for and giving others help that you truly live a life of gratitude.
2. Remaining grateful
I was surprised how quickly my income expanded when I became grateful for how much I earned. One major shift of attitude that helped reverse the downward financial spiral I was experiencing, was appreciating the little money I earned. Firstly, as a Christian (believing in God’s word), I remembered that I was a steward of the resources I received, including my income. I, therefore, honored God first by giving my tithe. And second, I promised I would show gratitude by giving to the needy. Remaining grateful enabled me to be mindful of my habits, break bad spending habits, and cultivate healthy wealth-building habits. Today, despite earning less because of being back in school, I am financially safe.
Being grateful opens the floodgates of other positive habits. Whenever you’re thankful for your body, you take care of it more; you often eat well and exercise periodically. Simply put, what you appreciate, appreciates. But it’s impossible to remain grateful if you don’t work on your faith.
3. Feed your faith
Your level of faith determines your level of hope for a better tomorrow. People of faith build themselves up with good habits. People without faith self-destruct with poor habits. Feeding your faith is a major consequential factor when building or breaking habits. Without faith, you can’t be free from the cycle of bad habits. This is true in areas where we often don’t realize the vital role faith plays. Such as in personal finance.
To completely turn things around for my financial issues, I applied faith. I had to feed my faith continually. I fed my faith by finding people who had overcome financial setbacks. I believed and visualized a better financial future. And most importantly, I applied God’s word regarding money to my life. The approach of feeding my faith has worked for me in many areas beyond finances. It helped me develop healthy professional habits at work. Also, I have become a better person in my relationships because of it.
What habits do you want to break or develop? Start by having the foundational habit of feeding your faith. When your faith is growing, you will discover what I discovered, that you won’t be worried about facing challenges in life, since you will be focusing on getting better. Faith makes you better; therefore, feed it.
I love encouraging people. And since this is where I am good at, I will ask you the important question we covered earlier, how I can help you through my writing? Suggest a topic in the comments section below that will encourage you if I wrote on it. Next week, we will look at habits that we must avoid like a plague.