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Get Over
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Are addictions and bad habits standing in your way?

Ask an accomplished businessperson how he or she made it to the top and you'll get any number of responses: great mentors, hard work, well-defined goals. I've yet to hear, however, "I couldn't have done it without my pack-a-day habit -- really keeps me going," or "Barbiturates gave me my edge over the competition."

Addictions -- behaviors that we keep doing even though they don't serve us well -- inevitably hold us back. I'm not just talking about the "standard" addictions like alcohol or drugs. I'm talking about all of our compulsive behaviors. Take my great friend Dave from Los Angeles. Dave is an incredible holistic doctor with amazing dreams who believes in the power of integrated medicine to transform the health care industry. He's been talking for the longest time about opening his own clinic. Unfortunately, he's a major procrastinator -- that's his addiction.

Addiction comes in many flavors. For some people, it's being defensive. For others, it's avoiding conflict. Think of all the "dreamers" you know -- and chances are you know many -- who have great ideas and lofty ambitions. Now think of all the dreamers you know who actually achieved their dreams and made their goals a reality. Chances are you know very few. Why do so many dreams go unfulfilled? Homophobia? The proverbial glass ceiling? Lack of a national nondiscrimination law? (By the way, acting like a victim is an addiction too.) Or could the problem be that your own bad habits prevent you from achieving your greatest potential? My vote is there. It's been true for me.

It's difficult to admit our addictions and pinpoint areas in our lives that could stand to be improved; sometimes we need a little help. My friend and associate Dr. Mark Goulston, author of Get Out of Your Own Way at Work, is one of the best professionals I know for diagnosing behavioral addiction. He and I created LifeCoach Tool 1.0, a five-minute interactive questionnaire, for my website NeverEatAlone.com. LifeCoach Tool 1.0 is designed to diagnose negative inclinations and daily routines that stand in the way of individual achievement.

Identify one of your goals -- a promotion or a salary raise, for example. Next, ask yourself what you need to do, or stop doing, in the next 60 days in order to achieve that goal -- such as meeting with management to determine the qualifications for a promotion, talking with your boss about the requirements for a raise, or avoiding late nights out during the week so you can accomplish more at the office.

"What's measured gets managed" is an often-quoted proverb of the business world. It's also a necessary part of realizing personal goals. There's a reason Weight Watchers insists on weekly weigh-ins and Alcoholics Anonymous members declare how long they've been sober before speaking at meetings. There's also a reason why Weight Watchers, AA, and numerous other peer-to-peer support groups use regular meetings as a component of their treatments. The most dramatic and enduring life changes often occur through community-based initiatives, in which a group of people is invested in your success and you feel accountable to them. It's called obligatory interdependence. Whatever you choose to call your dream team of advisers, it's important that you have several people (I recommend at least three) whom you can count on to be brutally honest with you when you ask for their feedback and guidance.

It's important to hold yourself to a 60-day timetable and even more important that your peer counselors hold you to that timetable. Bad habits die hard. Unfortunately, great dreams die very easily--and behavioral addictions are their number 1 killer. It's not easy to change bad habits and take responsibility for your actions, but you'll find that life is far more rewarding when you do, and far easier when you do it with the help of others.

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Keith Ferrazzi