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“If you change your identity (the type of person that you believe that you are), then it’s easier to change your actions.” — Gretchen Rubin, Happiness Guru

I had to think very hard about what I wanted for myself. I realized very soon that it is important to ask yourself: “What kind of person am I and is this right for me?” I used to adopt this silly approach of: ‘This is what Steve Jobs did,’ or ‘Everybody should get up early and run.’ This thinking always failed me time and again. I used to idolize successful colleagues around me and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t be like them.

Trust me; bad habits and mindset often go unnoticed, like a slow leak in a car tire. Until one day, when you’re on the side of the road without any advance warning there’s a problem.

Today, I am going to reveal my disaster stories aka the two ‘bad habits’ that I overcame to became the person I am today: a more fine-tuned version of myself.

Failure to Respect Time

Within a few months of JEE preparation, I understood that my approach wasn’t working. I was performing badly in the tests as well as in my school. I couldn’t exactly figure out where was I wrong. I analysed my routine and figured out my habits that were doing me harm. Finally, it dawned on me that I was a lousy manager of time and didn’t really value time, to begin with. Procrastination was my best friend, and still I used to dream about passing with flying colors without much effort.

But once I organised things and managed my priorities, things started to work out for me. I was guilty of taking too many breaks, sleeping all day and then panicking at the last moment before exams or projects. I have had this approach all my life. But then I realized that it was not going to work this time for JEE.

Dividing my work into four periods of one hour each instead of a single long period lasting four hours (with a lot of distractions), which I used to do earlier, was extremely helpful. However, I told myself that it was OK to make the movie buff in me happy once in a while and have a cheat day of movie marathons.

Although my time-management skills were formed out of absolute necessity, I worked every day to habituate myself to this difficult routine till it became easily manageable for me.

Ignoring Doubts and Small Problems

When I didn’t understand or couldn’t get the hang of something, I used to feel like I am the only person in the world who just doesn’t get it. It used to take a hit at my confidence, and I used to always feel shy about asking for help.

I used to sit in Science and Maths lessons for weeks on end without having a clue about what was going on. I used to just look like I was listening. But I used to be lost in daydreams of bashing the girl next to me (who used to put her hand up to answer every single question) very hard over the head with my graphical calculator, and sniggering unpleasantly if she ever got a question wrong.

What I didn’t understand in those dark Sciencey days was that no matter how bright or hard-working, everyone struggles with topics or concepts from time-to-time. I just hated the fact that I was dumb enough to not understand concepts.

But finally, I opened my eyes to the fact that absolutely no one understands everything the first time they hear it. What makes a successful student is how they deal with things they find difficult. It’s not a good idea to ignore tough topics, focus on only what you like and declare sadly that I ‘just don’t have a mathsy brain’. I used such excuses after getting poor grades for a long time.

How have I changed now? If I don’t get something in class, I go home that day and read through the notes, textbook or syllabus. I sometimes muster the courage even to ask the teacher or a friend to explain it to me again so that the problem doesn’t fester, becoming bigger and more stressful.

I strongly think that developing positive habits can help students to succeed. And not just students, everyone can change habits and change their life.

Breaking habits is a lot like curing addiction. First, you need to go through the process of detoxification to get all the bad stuff out of your system and start with a clean slate. Then, once you’ve hit that personal reset button, you can start shaping your mindset and personality the way you want to.

Over to You!

Which bad habit do you want to change? I’d love to hear what you think. Please leave a comment below.

Want to know more about the habits you can cultivate for a successful life? Click here.

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