Choose Better Habits and Enjoy Them Less

Last Updated Sep 28, 2010 5:28 PM EDT

Having misspent most of my youth in questionable pursuits, it feels weird to suggest a few items that might appear...well, wholesome. Possibly Spartan. Dweebish, even. Believe me, it's not my intention to moralize. But if the sprint has turned into a marathon and you're an old dog looking to keep up with a bunch of young pups, perhaps one of these ideas might help. Or not. Totally your call.

Get up before the sun. No practice could ever feel more bizarre and unnatural, particularly to yours truly. But it's the right thing to do and you know it. Every successful person since the advent of opposable thumbs has risen at the crack of butt. Set your alarm for the same ridiculous time each day and get moving.

Guard your tongue. What are your motives when you speak? To control? To impress? Are you always truthful? Sincere? How much of what you say is gossip and rumor? I realize it sounds harsh, but verbal mischief is our reality, isn't it? Imagine that all your remarks are being permanently recorded in an email and sent around to every person you know, that people never keep anything you tell them in confidence (they don't, by the way) and that privacy only exists inside your head. It usually costs nothing to say nothing. Gain mastery over this secret weapon and you will become powerful beyond your wildest dreams. Don't take my word for it -- test it yourself.

Eat less. Get a divorce from those evil twins, sugar and carbs. Skip the breakup sex and go directly for the restraining order. Seriously, it's not that difficult. Stick with protein and use smaller amounts of everything. (It's your emotions that want feeding, not your body.) Also, see if you can survive without eating for two or three hours before going to sleep. That's the hardest part by far, but it pays off with handsome dividends. In a few short months you'll actually be the correct size and shape. Then go buy some clothes that fit.

What, me worry? Have you not figured this out yet? Whatever the concerns -- money, health, children, the future -- and no matter how legitimate your need to panic, stressing and obsessing will only paralyze you. Yes, life can and often does blow giant chunks. But has gunning the fear engine ever done anything to relieve the pain? When you worry, you're just recycling the past. This is now. Extricate yourself and do something useful.

Quit sucking up. Totally not kidding here. In fact, you should consider giving up manipulation entirely. Flattery, appeasement and old-fashioned boot-licking are especially poisonous to a relationship...even if your manager is a modern-day Caligula.
Oh, I know you think it'll hurt your career. That's only because you haven't mastered the alternatives. But combine it with the verbal continence mentioned above and you may find yourself being given more responsibility and rewards than ever before. The trick to dealing with larger-than-life people who rule your destiny is this: Never suck up...but remember that the conversation is always about their issues, not yours.

Don't be sanctimonious. Hey, what's the weather like up there on Mt. Olympus? Nobody can stand that crap, so just don't start. If you believe in tolerance, kindly extend your tolerance to include those who are intolerant. Right? And while we're on the subject, can the phony humility. When you become great, then you can act humble.

Do like a Boy Scout. A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. Need I say more?

There's no guarantee that you'll derive any pleasure from these new habits, as I'm sure you are aware. But they could keep you in the game and competitive. My father used to tell the story about a man who sought the advice of a Himalayan guru in his quest to live forever.

"Stay away from tobacco, alcohol and women," the guru told him.

"Really?" the man asked. "And then I'll live forever?"

"," said the guru. "But it'll seem like it."

  • Mark Jaffe

    As President of Wyatt & Jaffe, Mark Jaffe has been called one of the 'World's 100 Most Influential Headhunters' by BusinessWeek magazine. His firm, Wyatt & Jaffe, works with a select list of financial services, high-tech and consumer companies worldwide and has been called one of the 50 leading retained search firms in North America.