I watched a movie recently, where a businessman was fighting a court battle against another company, and the other side found out he had been lying and cheating his business partners. The whole affair was going to be exposed.They were going to use his dishonesty to prove he was not to be trusted to give testimony in a court of law. He went to the lawyer of the other side and pleaded not to expose him; he said that his wife and kids would be devastated by the story, the Lawyer replied: “you should have thought of it before you did it.”It seems to be the norm now, leaders of businesses and governments get accused of all kinds of crazy stuff. Some things turn out to be the truth, and others are everyday character assassination usually before an election, or by some bitter competitor.Now, in all honesty, we all have areas in our personal, professional, and social lives where we have failed. It is hard to point the finger, as we all make mistakes, big and small. So, how do we improve? How we do more of the right things and less of the wrong ones?

Success is not an accident:

As a child, I thought that success was mainly related to having money, lot’s of it. I saw people suffering because there was never enough money to pay the rent or buy the things they needed.I saw people divorcing, children resentful to their parents, saw brothers fighting for inheritances, and in general, I understood that financial stability was essential for happiness in life.Then as I grew older, I saw rich people dying alone because they failed in their relationships with their families and friends. I saw people very sick and dying at an early age, without having the opportunity to enjoy the wealth they worked so hard to attain.I saw people with excellent positions in society, coming home and lashing out in anger and frustration to their kids and wife. I saw my father doing that and realized that money was necessary, but there were other things that money could not buy and that success or failure extended to different areas of our lives.At my school, there was minimal emphasis on morals, values, and character. Yes, values and morality were casually referred to, but real samples in our teachers were hard to find. But to be fair, in every situation, there was always a teacher, janitor, or person that exuded confidence, sweetness, happiness, and other qualities that were very attracting and helped form some of my better values in life.At home, after my parents divorced, my mother was so busy supporting us, four children, that the only sermon she had time to give was her sample.When you think about it, maybe it was not that bad, as that is the only way we can teach teens, by our example, words are meaningless if not backed up by a good sample. Teens have an innate natural gift to sense hypocrisy in adults. If you are a teen or have teens, we all have once been teens ourselves, and you know what I mean.

The Result:

Who we are as a person is the total of everything we have learned as children, and as we grow older, the choices and habits that we develop over time. The good news is that we can always learn to make better choices, we can choose to believe in better values, we can create better habits, we can continue to learn until the day we die.We also need to understand that we will never attain a perfect state; we are humans, and we will continue to make mistakes and experience success and failure in every aspect of our lives. We fall upwards and learn lessons through our defeats.In my life, even tho’ there have been negative experiences, and I wished it could have been different, I have no regrets as it all made me who I am today! I learned from failure, and it motivated me to change.But the question is:If our most significant pain comes from mistakes we make, and our greatest fears come from the consequences of our wrong choices. Then, our greatest joy will come from doing the right things, and greater love will cast away our fears.

Common causes of stress:

Think about it; for most of us, probably one of the most common reasons is not having enough finances to fulfill the expectations of the people we love.Another one is failed relationships, a friend we lost or a family member that has gone out of our lives.Problems at work. Our inability to get along with co-workers, bosses, or employees. Gaining weight because of a poor diet, drinking too much, or having a hard time sticking up to good habits and the inability to reach our goals.The managing of our time, it seems there is never enough time to do all that we need to do! And the list goes on.The good news is that we can control stress by becoming better people, by taking a good look at our values and by making better choices, creating better habits, and having a character with integrity, honesty, and love.Thinking clearly, allow us to identify the values that are in harmony with who we are. Some universal values are Truth, Love, Conduct, Peace, Freedom, Human Dignity, respect, empathy, and many more.

First Pillar: Values

Think about it. What we do and say reflects our values! We are, in a way, creating our future with every decision we make. How and what we think is essential, as that is how people see us, it shows us to the world, is our brand.Values are beliefs that help empower our life and the quality of what we experience. What are the movies that attract us the most? For me, it has always been about some warrior, King, or boxer. A hero that had conviction, vision and was willing to die for what he believed, Like Charles Heston in Ben Hur, Russell Crowe in The Gladiator, and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky.People that are willing to give their lives for ideals and values such as freedom and liberty, equality, and love are our greatest heroes. The same way, how we act and behave in our everyday life, reflects our deep-seated convictions and beliefs.Self-limiting believes did not exist for them because their values and personal conviction were higher. I am not a movie actor, but I know that my life affects many people, we are all leaders, and we all have followers, even if it is just our kids, and we are responsible for what we teach them and for what we contribute to the world.

It all starts in our mind:

If you are like me, it begins like this: I think! Sometimes entertaining the thought for days or weeks. Then I make a choice, and I act. If I do it again and again, it becomes a habit, and it determines the outcome of my day, week, year, and eventually will be my life!

Be clear of who you are:

What do people say about you when you are not in the room?Personal core values are critical because they define who you are as a person. It is like the GPS of your life. It directs your way in the best possible form, helps you to avoid problems, allows you to arrive at the right destination.

Be motivated by your own set of values:

I was thinking today how we are bombarded daily by the news, social media, songs, movies, TV, commercials, and gossip.Who is defining OUR values? We cannot let others tell us how to think; we must think clearly and determine what is essential for us and what we genuinely believe, and as the heroes of the movie, be willing to stick to our convictions.Like Mahatma Gandhi said: Be the change you want to see in the world.

The Law of values:

It is a law of life that determines what you will reflect on what you truly value in your heart. It is not what you say, but what you do, that is a true reflection of you.

Second Pillar: Our Conscience

“Listen to your conscience, and you will never regret it!” AdityaOne definition of conscience is:” A person’s moral sense of right and wrong that acts as a guide to one’s behavior.”A great person is known for his solid moral principles, virtues, and strength of character. Such people are loved and respected by most. Living with integrity brings a clear conscience, and a clear conscience builds self-worth and inner peace, you cannot put a price on.Benjamin Franklin said: “ A good conscience is like a continual Christmas.”When I was a child, someone said to me: Conscience is God talking. Growing up, it proved to be right, Every time I was doing something terrible, there was always a small voice telling me not to, it wasn’t my father or mother, it was something inside my head.I hated it! Other times I decided to listen and follow that voice and realized it was wise to do so. The more I heard, the more conscience spoke, and it was always to warn me of danger or harmful consequences.Think about Muhamad Ali, one of the greatest boxers in history, He was drafted to go to the army and fight in the Vietnam war, but he refused! Why? Because his conscience told him not to, he said:“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor, hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, and they never lynched me, didn’t put any dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape, and kill my mother and father.Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them, poor people? Just take me to jail.”And he did, he went to Jail! Eventually was released, and they took his boxing license, but he was willing to stand up for his convictions, for what his conscience told him to, he suffered for it, it cost him something.I think that makes him even more excellent than his boxing prowess.There is a quote by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book Antifragile, that says:“If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.”

Third Pillar: Personal integrity

Integrity means that your words and deeds match up! Your behavior is consistent in public and in private. You live by your set of values, and you don’t compromise them. There is one person that I know who I respect and admire, and that has personal integrity.I am married to her.Living so close, I understand that personal integrity is a matter of personal conviction. When a person feels accountable for his or her actions, we can safely say that they have integrity.And that is one of the paths to greatness! Without integrity, success won’t last, and you can see that more and more in the news every day.When I was a child, I remember my sweet mother teaching me that by her sample, when they give us too much change or the vendor made a mistake and charged us less, or anything like that, she always made a point, to be honest, and she explained to me why it was necessary.When my daughter was around four years, we went shopping, and when we came out, she had something that we hadn’t paid for! I was shocked that my sweet angel could do something like that. We returned to the shop, gave back the item, apologized, and I passed on to her the lesson I had learned from my mother; honesty is best!

Fourth Pillar: The golden rule:

“Do unto others, as you would have them do to you.” Great business leaders have long found that the business that treats others with respect, does business with integrity, never has to worry! Their reputation will precede them.And that is the secret for excellent relations in every facet of our lives.I found a quote once, and I don’t remember where or who wrote it, buy it was something like this: “Every time I meet a person, I will do my best to leave them better than when I found them.”I got so excited by that quote, I printed it, put it on my desk, and read it every day before going out. It was the golden rule in action! Suddenly, I was making friends right and left! The doorman at my office building, people in the elevator, the waiters, cleaners, cooks, secretaries, and big bosses.I made no distinctions, and I tried to show love and respect to all, and I can honestly tell you: It is excellent! It’s is a great rule, genuinely golden!

Fifth Pillar: Character

When people apply for immigration, they are required to answer if they have an excellent moral quality, and that if they can be expected to abide by the law and be a good citizen. Their character becomes extremely important for the authorities to accept or deny their request.Character is formed very early in life, to lie or to speak the truth, to have the courage or be a coward, to keep or not keep our promises. We parents need to know what we stand for, as our children will learn from our sample.Having the right attitude means to have some admirable traits such as honesty, responsibility, courage, and integrity. The existence or lack of these virtues will determine who we are.Character is what we are when we are all alone. It is what we do when there is no one around to impress. Reputation is what people think of us; character is what we know we are.Now, this is a tough topic! Character! As a teen, I remember doing things and wishing no one will find out! Growing up, I have learned that it is better to acknowledge our mistakes and do the best to rectify them than to cover it up.“Ability will enable a man to get to the top, but the character is the only thing that keeps him from falling off.” — Anonymous”

Sixth Pillar: Choices

Life is about choices. Some we regret, of some, we’re proud. Some will haunt us forever. We are what we chose to be.” — Graham Brown

Failure is the result of bad choices:

Why do people keep making the same wrong choices? Because they don’t think it matters. Little bad decisions don’t have substantial immediate consequences, but wait! The same small insignificant options repeated over several years become the total of failure, disappointment, sickness, and financial ruin.

Life is all about choices:

To be able to make choices about what is essential in our lives helps us to feel that we are in control. Everything boils down to everyday decisions in every aspect of our existence.Sometimes we sleepwalk throughout the choices we make, and we are even aware that we are making them, which makes it much harder to change the behavior our options bring because we are not even aware we are making them.We cannot control everything that happens in our lives, but we can control our reactions to it by the choices we make. No one purposely intends to go bankrupt, gain weight, or fail. These are the results of a series of small, poor decisions over time.

The small ones:

Some of the worst outcomes in my life came from making small wrong choices. I have learned since then, that is not only the things that we choose to do but also what we choose not to do, which are essential.Usually, we are eager to do a TO DO LIST, but now I understand that doing a NOT TO DO LIST is also extremely important. It is the seemingly unimportant choices that are the most dangerous because they are so little we think they are inconsequential, but this is the very thing that destroys our chances of succeeding.I admit that throughout my life, I have repeatedly made the same mistakes over and over until it was a disaster. If you wish, you could review your life and see if you are doing that right now and if you are, Stop it! I can tell you by experience; it is not worth it.Why will someone be so foolish as to keep repeating the wrong behavior over and over? Because we don’t think it is essential! On their own, small decisions, such as an hour wasted or another poor choice made, don’t have immediate negative consequences, so it doesn’t seem to matter, but it does!

The power of making the right ones:

Since our life is the result of the choices we make, then it means that we can change our destinies by improving our choices. Acts repeated become habits; in most cases, permanent patterns are what determines our life.Let’s choose wisely.

Seventh Pillar: Habits

Aristotle wrote: “We are what we repeatedly do.”

We are Creatures of Habit

Habit is repeated behavior that eventually becomes involuntary. Most patterns are so ingrained in our subconscious mind that it just take us for a daily ride!It is essential to examine our habits from time to time to see if they are taking us where we want to go. We cannot just live on autopilot and allow our patterns to lead us without consciously being aware of our actions and its consequences.A significant percentage of our actions are the results of habits we learn since we are very young, and it continues to adulthood. Good health, financial stability, good relations, successful careers, are all the result of excellent and constructive habits we have acquired over time.Many habits we do without thinking, such as brushing our teeth or saying Please and Thank you, or putting our seat belts when we get in the car, these are good positive habits which free our minds to think on more critical matters during the day.I am delighted that I have some habits, such as my morning ritual, my green smoothie, my workouts at the gym, my reading and prayer time. At home, spending time with my family and friends, eating healthy, dejunking my closet once a year, and giving away things I no longer need or use. Loving and helping people, listening and encouraging others, etc. Habits of doing things that benefit not only me but those around me. And since we all have influence, and we touch the lives of others daily, good habits help all.

Why bad habits?

Usually, it is because we want the immediate gratification of our base instincts and desires. Many times we act without thinking, overcome by emotion, and irrationally lead by our weaknesses rather than our strengths.The problem is that when we indulge in these bad habits, they seem to multiply over time, and the results are not very good. Some bad habits are so small that we think them inconsequential and not necessary. The slightest change in our daily routines can change the outcome dramatically.Small habits have a way to grow until they are tough to change and can take us far away from our desired goals. They become big trees that are extremely difficult to uproot.

The conclusion: What to do?

If we learned something wrong, it means we can unlearn it. We need, first of all, to recognize it and be honest with ourselves.We need to go on the offensive, no to be passive about the things that have the potential to ruin our lives.Want to do good? Do it now; later, you may not have the chance.Don’t wait for a heart attack to motivate you to change. Act now!Create unique and positive rituals and routines.Let’s be aware of the consequences of the choices we make.Surround yourself with good role models.Enjoy the process of changing the not so pleasant past for a better future.Forgive yourself, forget the past, and don’t worry about the future. Live today!Nobody said it would be easy.If you have a choice between instant gratification and long term gratification, choose wisely.Be patient; it takes time to change habits, learn to make good choices, understand your values, listen to your conscience, and build your character one step at the time.Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room — remember that. And more importantly, let’s discover why!Chris DuckerVitin Landivarwww. habitsofsuccess.org