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New year, new beginnings. This is always a good time to apply one of my favorite life management models – Continue, Stop, Start. Perhaps especially so as the year of the rat suggests, the time is right for turning pages and embarking on new journeys.

So the model is quite simple, that’s why it works so well. It is essentially a behavior awareness and management model. Spend a few moments in quiet meditation and then slowly take inventory of your established habits. Cover the most important areas of your life:

  • health – diet and exercise and health related activities
  • finance – earning, spending and saving habits
  • relationship management – family, friends, colleagues

I find it is best to begin with Continue. List those habits that you have created that are serving you well. Serving you well is determined by deciding if the habit is moving you closer to the life you want to live or further away. Take a moment to give yourself credit for these habits and behaviors that you have worked to create. Remember that our minds are literally hard wired to focus on the negative. On top of that, we are always looking ahead at what we have to deal with or accomplish and often forget to look over our shoulders and see how far we’ve come. It is important for us to give ourselves credit, unfortunately it’s not often that others do.

Next, run your behaviors through the Stop filter. This one can be difficult because our habitual behaviors are often invisible to us because they are anchored in homeostasis. They are sub or semiconscious acts and can be described as “just the way I am.” Part of the insanity of the human condition, and there are many, is that we often want to have a different life experience but we are unwilling to do the hard work of changing ourselves. If you have a partner or friend that you totally trust with something this sensitive ask them to help you with this part. Be careful, in order to do this you must have your ego in check and really be willing to hear some things you may not like.

You may also find that working on your “stops” may well be directly connected to your starts. For example, you may have a habit of mindlessly judging people and frequently saying bad things about folks, even people you don’t even know. Again, if you have a trusted ally you can ask them to bring your attention to this habit when they notice it. Or you may be looking at quitting smoking or a similar undesirable habit, which will involve you starting some new behavioral habits. Remember, habits are much easier to replace than to eliminate.

Finally, consider some new behaviors to Start that will help you to manifest the life you want to live, creating your personal world the way you want it to be. Look to people you admire, scan literature on successful habits; there is a bunch out there. Decide which part of your life is most important to you at this point in your journey. It is best to pick one new habit to focus on. The biggest mistake you can make is to try to do everything at once.

Pick one new behavioral change from the Stop category and one from the Start category. Then you must make the commitment to make these changes a priority. Make them reasonable. When you have established these as your new norm, about three months, then you can ride your wave of momentum and revisit the CSS model again. In this way applying the CSS model can eventually become one of your Continues.

This is a very brief explanation of this simple but very powerful model. It can literally be applied to anything, from your morning ritual to the way you speak to the ones you love, and everything in between.

I will leave you with one last critical piece of information. Nothing moves in a straight line. Backsliding and temporary setbacks or “failures” are par for the course. You must not let these derail you. You fall off the horse, you dust yourself off, you get back on, and you keep on riding. The more you ride, the better you get at steering.

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