Image Credits: Michela Ravasio
Our lives reflect our habits. The things you do regularly, define you as an individual. It’s important to keep this in mind the next time that you feel down about not living the life of your dreams. Not too long ago, I realized how unhappy I was with how my life had been unfolding. Even though certain aspects of my life were great and I was seemingly headed down the right track, my day-to-day was making me miserable.
I had been working from home for a couple of years — which was great — but I had managed to form some rather unhealthy habits. After all, any night can be a weekend if you set your own schedule. But you don’t need to be working from home to develop poor habits. Each of us has a habit or two that we’re less than happy with. And that’s okay. To be honest, it’s not so much the bad habits that are holding you back, but your lack of good habits.
Focusing on increasing your good and healthy habits will likely lead to you changing your unhealthy ones anyway. So it makes sense to focus on creating and living more healthy habits. This all starts with taking an honest look at how you go about your week, and your every day. Figure out where you can change the actions you regularly take, in order to build yourself into the person you want to become.
Right now you most likely don’t have what it takes to be successful. If you did, then you’d probably already be successful. It’s important to be honest with yourself and accept that you don’t have the habits that make a successful individual. Only then can you actually work on bettering yourself. I’ve come up with 9 habits that I’ve either incorporated into my life, or am in the process of incorporating into my life. These habits may not work for everyone, but at the very least, they’re a good place to start.
Set and keep a morning routine.
Setting a morning routine has several benefits. Firstly, it lets you start your day without having to do too much decision-making. This allows you to take time to enjoy your mornings, instead of having to solve problems — small as they may be. Truth is, you’ll be solving problems and accomplishing tasks regardless — it’s just that you’ll be doing all of it without feeling like you’re using much mental effort. Which is a nice way to start you day. Productive, calm, and satisfying.
Having a morning routine that you follow, regardless of whether it’s your day off or not (and this is important), will give you the right amount of boost to start your day. Making your bed, getting washed up, getting dressed, maybe reading the paper or your news app, maybe some yoga, some exercise, some meditation. Just imagine the way you wish you started your mornings, and then set that as your routine, and follow it every single day. Start with this habit, because building atop of it will be much easier.
Start each day with a bit of inspiration.
One of the most beneficial things you can add to your morning routine, is a healthy dosage of inspiration. Whether it’s reading a favorite quote or two of yours, listening to a positive podcast or radio show, or going through a list of your goals and dreams, do something that will make you smile and feel excited.
Most people don’t wake up to realize they’re living their dream. Most of us have quite a road ahead of us, before we manage to accomplish our most important goals. While in the end the journey will be beautiful, the truth is that you’re not going to enjoy all of it as it comes. You’re going to have to do things that you don’t especially want to do. Sometimes you can avoid doing certain things, and still get to where you want to be. But there will be times where the only way to get there, is to go through.
When that’s the case — when you’re going to spend the day trying to make it past this stepping-stone in your life — you need to remind yourself regularly where you’re headed, and why it is that you’re heading there. And more than just that, give yourself a taste. Close your eyes and imagine how it will feel once you succeed. If you can hold onto that feeling, that warm, positive, hopeful feeling, your chances of success increase twofold.
60% of our bodies are made up of water — most of you probably know that. But did you know that about 85% of your brain is made up of water? There are reports that as much as 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Which means that it’s very likely that you’re not drinking as much water as you ought to be. If you’re not drinking enough water, you won’t be able to properly process vitamins and minerals. So in the end, you’re brain isn’t getting enough water, vitamins, or minerals, to perform at peak levels.
Key takeaway: drink more water. How much you should be drinking will vary from individual to individual, and vary from day to day. There are some free daily hydration calculators out there on the interweb that you could use, but I’d recommend anywhere from 2 to 3 liters a day, for average activeness — more if you’re sweating a lot. Personally, I start each morning with at least half a liter of water. And that’s before I eat or have caffeine.
I don’t know what I would do if I had to remember all the things I needed to get to at some point within the next month. If you feel like you don’t need to schedule everything, then you’re either wrong and will overlook something sooner or later, or you have too much free time and aren’t doing enough.
I feel like it goes without saying that you need to hustle to make your dreams come true. So if you feel like you can remember all the things you need to do, people you need to email, research that you need to get to, ideas that you want to further develop, etc., then you have too much downtime. It’s important to schedule in downtime, of course, but it should be scheduled in like the rest of your life.
Having a schedule that you stick to helps you stay organized and efficient. Forgetting to do something important will cost you more time and mental energy, than will taking the time to put it into your calendar or to set yourself a reminder. Have a business/career plan? Well, schedule that too. Your goals and dreams need to be scheduled into your life, or you’ll never get to them. Remember, your dreams are the only goals that actually matter. You need to focus on those as much as possible; having things related to those goals scheduled, makes them concrete. It’ll help you stay focused.
Give yourself orders, and then follow through.
Discipline is arguably the most important characteristic one needs to develop in order to achieve success. The funny thing about discipline is that no one else, other than yourself, can give it to you. Only you can discipline yourself. It’s one thing to take and follow someone else’s orders, and another thing entirely to give yourself orders, and then choose to follow through with them.
How many times have you told yourself that you’re going to go to the gym, or that you’re going get to the office early to get a head start on the new project, or finally quit that job and take the leap you’ve been dying to make? And how many times have you found a reason not to go through with it? You’re not alone… I hate taking orders — even if I’m the one giving them. I don’t like to have to do anything that I don’t want to do. But no one likes that. The difference is that some of us tell ourselves to stop being a lazy piece of shit, and others decide they’d rather get some instant gratification instead.
If you can’t tell yourself to do something, and then go and do it, then you’ll never be successful. In fact, success is telling yourself orders, and then having it in you to carry them out. Success is having control over your thoughts and actions. Success is being disciplined — body and mind.
Take 30 minutes each and everyday to do nothing.
Not 30 minutes to sit and watch TV. Not 30 minutes to read. Not 30 minutes to do or think about anything at all. Our brains are very sophisticated computational systems. We think, and we think a lot. In fact, it’s impossible for you not to think. Go ahead try it. It can’t be done.
Our brains are built to run 24/7. However, that doesn’t mean that we’re meant to be processing heavy loads of new information 24/7. Our brains need time to process new information, make the appropriate connections, and then figure out how and where to file all of it away for later retrieval. If we never take the time to slow down our thoughts, we won’t be able to process all the information efficiently enough.
Sleep is certainly a big factor when we’re talking about this process, but so is taking the time during your day to not be intaking tons of information. You have to realize that today we’re bombarded with more information and mental stimulants than humans have ever before. It can be overwhelming. Especially when you’re focused everyday and working towards your goals. Taking 30 minutes out of the day to quietly stare out the window and let your mind wander or rest (which is basically meditation) will give you the calm you need to continue to stay focused.
Help others whenever you can.
Helping others is good for the soul. We spend the majority of our lives helping ourselves… taking the time to connect with your fellow humans, to offer a helping hand, to be kind and maybe even make someone else happy, is in part what it means to be human. People don’t realize how much we need each other. Think about this for a second…
What’s the worst thing that you can do to punish an inmate? Put them in solitary. They’re bunking with murderers and rapists, and the worst thing you can do to them, is to put them in a room all by themselves — completely remove them from the rest of humanity. Whether or not you want to admit it, we need each other. You need to connect with others, and the best way to do that is to help them. Plus, it feels really good. Being kind makes you feel good. I’m not kidding — try it.
On another note, I’m sure you’d agree that networking is incredibly important when it comes to success. So let me ask you this: how many networking events did you go to where you made a bunch of connections, only to never really leverage them? Truth is, all those people you met will likely forget you in a month — just like you will forget them. However, if you figure out a way to help them right off the bat, making a real connection, they won’t be able to forget you so easily. Networking should be about making human connections first, business connections second.
Keep a success/failure diary.
I remember going to this presentation by a higher-up from RGA ventures. I won’t mention his name, since I didn’t get a chance to ask him for his permission to mention him in this article. What the presentation was about is of little concern. What I want to share with you is a habit of his that he mentioned he’s had for years. One that I truly believe to be rather brilliant.
Every night before bed, he sits down with his notebook and goes through his day. He goes over the things he did, the things he attempted, his success and his failures. What did he do really well? What didn’t he do so well? What worked? What didn’t work? How can he improve? Essentially, he takes a look at himself from an objective point of view, and assesses his life.
If something didn’t work today, he tries it a little differently tomorrow. He A/B tests his life — brilliant. What better way to make sure you make progress, than to go over all your daily successes and failures, and figure out how you can tweak your actions in order to do better? Most of us have month-long or even year-long iterations cycles — doing something a certain way until we have no choice but admit that it’s just not going to work. Assess the way you live your life daily. It’s too easy to get comfortable and become stagnant. Worst part is that you don’t always get a warning… laziness and mediocrity can sneak up on you.