Retirement Planning Strategies - August 2019

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‘Atomic Habits’ and the Path Toward Self-Improvement A VERY VALUABLE SUMMER READ

I’m always looking for books that allow me to grow as a business owner and person, but that effort kicks into high gear during the summer. Maybe it’s a relic from childhood summers spent plowing through reading lists, but, for whatever reason, I find myself finishing more books between Memorial Day and Labor Day than I do during any other time of the year. This summer, one of the best titles I’ve picked up is “Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones” by James Clear. “Atomic Habits” is all about the internal systems that create habit patterns. As the age-old cliché states, we’re all creatures of habit. How those habits develop and manifest has a huge impact on the way we interact with the world. We all have little or not-so-little behaviors we’d like to change, but breaking a bad habit isn’t always an easy task. Clear gives readers the tools to do just that. “You do not rise to the level of your goals,” Clear writes. “You fall to the level of your systems.” In other words, you can’t just aspire to a certain goal; you have to work toward it systematically. Clear believes

in a system of incremental growth, of getting “1% better every day.” When you do that, you put yourself on a path toward continued progress. That path begins with believing in yourself. Having the mindset that you are capable of change and improvement is the first step toward changing and improving. Let’s take the example of smoking, a habit millions of people wish they could break, to show how mindset informs results. Imagine two people who’ve recently given up smoking. Each is offered a cigarette. The first says, “I don’t want one right now.” The second says, “No, thanks. I’m not a smoker.” The second person has already changed their mind about smoking. They are steadfast in their resolve to quit, while the first person has left the door open for a cigarette in the future. Which of these people seems more determined to quit? And which is more likely to be successful? (Hint: The answer to both questions is the same.) In this newsletter, we often talk about the importance of focusing on things you can control rather than worrying about what

you can’t. Your habits fall under the first category, even if you don’t think they do. All too often, we rely on the tired excuse of, “That’s just the way I am,” when we behave in a way others or ourselves don’t like. The truth is that you have the power to change the way you are, you just have to work at it. So, yes, we are creatures of habit. The millions of decisions we have to make in daily life would be insurmountable without instinctive habits invisibly guiding our behavior. The question isn’t whether or not you’ll have habits, but what those habits will be. You have a say in determining and developing the most productive and rewarding habits in your life. If you need a hand making those decisions a reality, “Atomic Habits” will be a very valuable addition for you. P.S. If you have any books you think I’d benefit from reading, I’d love to hear about them. Summer’s not over just yet! –Ann Vanderslice | 1

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