Hugging the Cactus

Contributed by: Adam Steck, President/CEO (Southwest Metal Systems)

Don’t hug the cactus…” I can hear Mike's voice ringing in my ears now. You see, my friend Mike is a retired Marine who hasn’t lost his passion for training young men. He's a drill instructor at heart and can smile joyfully and holler at you simultaneously! He is a spry lively fellow that is full of practical wisdom and short on patience for people who do dumb things repeatedly. So when I do or see other people do the dumb thing for the umpteenth time, I hear Mike, in a very animated fashion, explaining to a group of young boys to "quit hugging the cactus!"

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We all have one - that thing we have a high inclination to do over and over again that leaves us feeling like we have just bear hugged a cactus. We step away from that thing or person only to think to ourselves -What was I thinking? I’m never going to do that again. Only to find ourselves embracing that cactus again in very short order!

I think this is the motivation for most New Year’s resolutions. This year I will quit doing this or that dumb thing. We can even get creative and decide we are going to balance out our dumb thing with a smart thing. I will just work out so I can continue to eat that tub of ice cream every night. 

The problem is a nasty five letter word that comes back to bite us… habit! There is an entrenchment of the old habit that can prevent the traction of the new one. We work out a few weeks and feel good about our plan. Then boom, we pull a muscle while working out. Do we stop eating the ice cream while we are laid up? Nope! What is the likelihood that we start back on the workout after we recover? The entrenchment of the old prevents the traction of the new.

One of my favorite quotes on habits is from Warren Buffet. "Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are to heavy to be broken."

Now comes the million-dollar question, what do we do first... Do we stop the old, entrenched, cactus hugging habits or do we start new, unfamiliar, life-giving habits?

I am inclined to think a better place to start is why.

A question I frequently ask myself and my team is “Are we running to a goal or just away from a problem?” We can run to something or away from something, but not both at the same time. 

Problems are a good indicator that something needs to change. But I have yet to successfully outrun a problem, even if that problem was my main motivation for movement. Running away from the cactus chasing me has a cruel habit of diverting my attention behind me while I barrel down the road at 100 mph. All the while, wondering…. worrying… am I going fast enough?

Your why is the focal point that you are running to! If strong enough, it creates endurance. There is a higher chance if you make a detour you will adapt and refocus, looking forward again. Your why will be the motivation that moves you out of the wake of your old habits and creates traction for new productive, life-giving habits.

"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going." - Jim Rohn

So, once you find the strength to let go of the cactus, find your new focal point… your why. Square up and defeat the cactus chasing you. Then be focused, disciplined and accountable to your why!

Here’s to a cactus-free 2018! - Adam Steck