Developing new habits to improve your future

The first week in September represents the start of a new school year. For some it is their first time at University or College, for others the continuation of a previous year or years. For those who have just graduated, it is a reminder that things have really changed and they are truly out in the “real” world. Whatever position you are currently in, it is a watershed of sorts for your life. Take the time before the beginning of this semester (or ‘term’ if you are in the UK!)  to identify one or two things you can start work on today to develop successful habits that will help you in your future.

To quote Aristotle

You are what you repeatedly do. Success is a habit – not an event

Identifying those areas you need to work on takes a sprinkle of self-awareness. Below I’ve listed a few ideas with some resources you can refer to that I hope will get you thinking. We are all “works in progress”, and the most successful people are life long learners who are always looking to improve.

Listening

It seems like the most simple of skills but so underrated in its effectiveness and misunderstood in its application. In fact, Dale Carnegie, the godfather of personal and professional development, states in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, that being a genuinely good listener is one of the most powerful ways to improve your own likability and influence. Strong listening skills is also a prerequisite of becoming a good leader. Have you ever started talking before someone else has stopped? Ever got distracted mid-way through a sentence being delivered by another person? Have you forgotten, minutes after speaking with someone, what they said? Then check out this link for 10 steps you can take to improve your listening skills.

Connecting

It’s easy when you are a student to get comfortable in your bubble of friends, classmates and housemates. However if you take the time to find other ways to connect outside your usual circle it will pay future dividends. Especially if you try to do this with your future career in mind. We’ve already emphasized the importance of joining industry associations that are within your field of study (FoodGrads is busy working on a list of these for inclusion on our website). Don’t forget opportunities that might be available as a result of volunteering, participating in conferences or working on your own passion projects. You will inevitably gain different perspectives and will meet new people with different information to share.

Reading

Smart people like to know what other smart people are thinking and saying. Identify the movers and shakers in your field (or fields!) of interest and make it a habit to read (or listen or watch) their podcasts, documentaries, blogs, books or media columns. You will develop a base of knowledge in your field that will give you something to talk to others about and will demonstrate your passion for and knowledge of your chosen career.

Developing a Routine

Sound boring? Every successful person you will ever read about from Malcolm Gladwell to Bill Gates has a routine they maintain. It allows them to minimize wasted time on non-essential things (like finding matching socks in the morning) and leaves time for activities that will move them toward their goals. This might start with making sure you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. For others it might mean adding appointments and deadlines to their schedule immediately so they don’t forget them.

Following through on your commitments

Early in your academic or professional life, the demands on your time can occasionally become overwhelming and difficult to manage. This often leads to missed commitments, deadlines or forgotten promises. Yet when you start out, initially the only thing you have at your disposal to impress others is how you conduct yourself. Developing the habit of always keeping your commitments will contribute incredibly to your personal brand over time. Being the kind of person who can be relied upon will take you far in life. Inevitably there will be times when you can’t meet your commitments – life will get always in the way somehow. Communicate these potential misses way before they are going to happen and you wall be forgiven in 99.9% of times.

Forming Habits

There is sound scientific research that has proven it takes anywhere between 2  to 8 months to form a new habit. So don’t get down on yourself if you fall off the wagon a few times along the way. Simply figure out why you took the tumble, how to avoid it in future and start again. Developing a habit is a process, not an event (to paraphrase Aristotle).

Another way to develop habits that stick is to start very small. Pick one and do it for a very small amount of time each day. Lets say you want to read more frequently. Dedicate five minutes to reading a book or article every day in your first week. Once you’ve mastered that consistently, increase the time to 10 minutes and so on. If your focus is listening better, identify one conversation in a day when you are going to practice your listening skills. Move up to two, and so on. Over time you will have embedded the new activity in to your routine.

OK, so what will you change this school year, phase of your career or co-op term? Share in the comments section and the FoodGrads family will send you good karma!

Author: Juliette Prouse