Not too long ago I coached the varsity cross country team at Addison Community Schools. We started with only five total runners (three boys, two girls) and eventually built the team up to over thirty members. Everyone that ever ran for me can attest that I kept a pretty loose reign on the team but that I wasn’t afraid to let them have it to change their behavior. What I didn’t do is present the team with a multi-page list of rules that they had to abide by. Let’s be honest, they wouldn’t have read it anyway. Instead I kept it simple with these three rules that anyone can use to make better decisions every day.
Rule #1 – Be a good person
What the heck does that mean? It is ambiguous for a reason. As I explained to my runners you can ask yourself “am I being a good person” and then it becomes pretty clear. It was my way to end any disagreements on the team or intercede when I felt behavior was going in the wrong direction. The amazing thing is that I never had an athlete say “I don’t know.” You always know when your behaviors are detrimental to what you want to accomplish. The important thing is that you ask the question, answer it honestly, and change your behavior if needed.
Rule #2 – Be a good student
People who don’t spend 5 hours a week online learning will make themselves obsolete.
– Randall Stephenson, CEO, AT&T
The mistake many people make is that they get into their career and stop learning. You can’t do that in today’s job market. Check out this infographic from the US Census Bureau:
Manufacturing was the top employer in 1997 when the Internet was in it’s infancy. Since then manufacturing has seen the largest decrease in employment while health care and technology are now dominating. How do you keep up? You keep up by always being a student! The Internet is full of free resources to help you add value to your skillset or help you develop a completely different skillset. Here is just a sampling of free resources available on the Internet:
Udemy: Udemy has both free and paid courses that are taught by real people on subjects ranging from programming to music to business. This site is my personal favorite and I have taken or started taking several courses on Udemy. One secret. Never pay full price for the course. You will see courses with a price of $129 but right now you can use a coupon MARCH2016 for 95% off. That means you pay $6.45 for that course.
iTunes U: If you have own an Apple or Windows device you have access to iTunes U through the iTunes application. You can take college courses from renowned universities like Stanford, Harvard, and MIT. If you are an educator they even give you the ability to create your own courses and have your students use the app as a Learning Management System (LMS).
Coursera: Coursera is like iTunes U but a little easier to work with in my opinion. They partner with universities like Johns Hopkins, University of Melbourne, Michigan State University (GO GREEN!), Yale, Georgia Tech and many others totaling 140 partners across 28 countries. This is another favorite of mine and worth the look.
This is just a sampling of sites that can help you “be a good student.” A simple google search will return more than you could ever visit.
Rule #3 – Be a Good Athlete
This one is probably the hardest for me to follow but our health is integral to our well-being. I’ve run three marathons in my life but haven’t run in a couple of years. I used to take my health very serious but have let myself go considerably since then. The result is high blood pressure and diabetes. I’m not giving up and neither should you. I’ve started walking again and hope to be running this summer. The problem with changing your unhealthy habits is just that, they are habits. I read an article recently (wish I could remember the source because it is worth the read) that talked about the problem with habits and weight loss and exercise. The most striking observation in the article is the identification of comforts as part of our habit making. When I think about sitting in front of the television in my recliner I think about relaxation. Eating a large meal makes me think about togetherness with my family. You may have similar or different thoughts but in the end these are all based on habit making. Stephanie Pappas points out that when we want to form new habits the key is to not overthink it.
The reason, said study researcher Jennifer Labrecque, a psychologist at the University of Southern California, is that habits are encoded in the brain by the procedural memory system, which doesn’t involve much conscious input. Planning and deliberation are handled by the declarative memory system, which catalogues facts and events.
“When you try to engage two memory systems at once, they just interfere with each other,” said Labrecque,
Wendy Wood puts a pretty simply in her article When it Comes to Weight Loss, Bad Habits Die Hard:
Improving health requires stopping the bad and starting the good by making healthy behavior easier to perform so that it becomes part of our daily routines.
For me that means walking. Walking is how I started my weight loss back in 2007 and it is how I’m starting now. It is easy to perform and enjoyable. Food is the tough one because I love to eat but I also love to feel good. I’ve tried reminding myself how bad certain foods make me feel and it worked getting rid of drinking soda. I used to consume at least 16 ounces of Mountain Dew per day. I switched over to ice tea and not just any ice tea. I switched to the pre-bottled ice tea that you buy at the grocery store. That way I don’t have to make and thus won’t fall back to the easy can of soda.
3 Simple Rules – Keep it simple superstar!
My purpose in writing this was to convey that we don’t need to make complicated rule sets to accomplish what we want to accomplish. We are far more likely to change our behavior by keeping things simple and changing positive behaviors into habits. What habits are you trying to change? What are you doing to make the changes? Is it working? I want to know.