I am fascinated by human behaviour and the power of habits …
Building good habits can be difficult.
That’s especially true if you have a very big dream vision in mind which might feel so overwhelming that it leads you to procrastinating, and if you want to stick with your habits for the long-term.
Thankfully, there are a few simple strategies that you can use to build better habits.
Whether it’s in fitness or to realise a business project or write a book or develop new nutrition plan or being more productive and anything else one can think of … building habits is the key to unlock the realisation of your wildest dreams.
Small daily improvements over time lead to stunning results.
What you repeatedly do (i.e. what you spend time thinking about and doing each day) ultimately shapes your personality and beliefs.
The most common mistake that people make is setting their sights on a big transformation, large project, an overnight success they want to achieve, rather than focusing on their daily habits and routines or systems.
“Your audacious life goals are fabulous. We’re proud of you for having them. But it’s possible that those goals are designed to distract you from the thing that’s really frightening you—the shift in daily habits that would mean a re–invention of how you see yourself.” Seth Godin
I’ve certainly been guilty of this just like everyone else. Thinking I needed to wait for the perfect moment when I had everything figured out very clearly every step towards my goals (for example this website!). This search for perfectionism and full visibility made me fall in the trap of overthinking and hereby procrastinating to get it started rather than starting and iterating along the way.
And even today, I’m still learning how to master my habits just like everyone else.
But over time, I’ve discovered precious tips, from my own personal real world experience as well as readings, academic research, and speaking with various experts in their respective fields (fitness or life coach, business mentors, successful entrepreneurs, athletes, members of the army…).
These simple steps can help you make progress with most of the goals you have for your health, your work, and your life.
This helpful blend of academic research and real world experiences has allowed me to make progress in many areas of life.
It is very much like a food recipe. You can use these tips to develop any habit that you desire.
I want to share what I have learnt with you so that you can avoid some of the most common traps, and actually stick to your goals for the long term.
1. Failing to plan is planning to fail
The Pareto principle or 80/20 rule says that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your activities. Applying this to habits … 20% of the time that you spend planning your goal and organizing your plan will be worth 80% of the habits, time and effort required achieving the goal. Planning is therefore very important.
The finishing line
“To the person who does not know where he wants to go there is no favorable wind.” Seneca
“First say to yourself what you would be and then do what you have to do.” Epictetus
Goals, and having a finishing line in sight, are important – if you have no clarity about what you want to accomplish, you cannot plot how to get there.
Your mind’s eye is the most powerful: seeing is achieving
One of the most powerful tools in our mental and emotional arsenal is positive visualization, to see ourselves already successful in whatever endeavor we embrace.
For example, Tiger Woods said he would visualize how a ball would travel through the air and then how it would land on the putting green before he took a shot.
“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” Muhammed Ali
Envisioning that you have already arrived where you want to be can elevate your confidence, enhance your concentration and willpower. When your why is strong enough, the how will take care of itself.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.” Mahatma Gandhi
Have clear, specific goals which you can measure and track
“While a fixation on results is certainly unhealthy, short-term goals can be useful developmental tools if they are balanced within a nurturing long-term philosophy.” Josh Waitzkin
According to lots of psychology research, the most motivating goals are clearly defined and time-bound.
Your goals can either be focused on your behaviors (e.g. I’m going to write 500 words per day or run for 45 minutes ever day) or on the outcomes you’re seeking (e.g. I’m going to be on The New York Times Best Selling List by May 2020 or finish the London marathon in x hours).
A quick guide to setting your goals
1. Decide exactly what you want in every key area of your life
Dream. There are no limitations on what you can be, have or do.
I like to think of life as these 7 areas (perhaps because 7 is my lucky number!):
- Career, business and job
- Relationship (family, love, friends)
- Health and fitness
- Personal growth/ self-improvement or self-actualisation
- Contribution to the word: pure joy comes from giving and giving comes back to you multiplied
2. Organize your list into a plan
You organize this list by arranging the baby steps that you need to take in order to achieve the goals you set to yourself, from the beginning all the way through to completion.
What do you have to do before you do something else, and in what order? Prioritize the important versus the “nice to have” or non-urgent.
- Plan each day, week and month in advance
- Plan each month at the beginning of the month
- Plan each week the weekend before
- Plan each day the evening before
- Select your number one, most important task for each day
Don’t try to change everything at once.
You can do anything you want, but you just cannot do everything you want at once. You need to prioritize.
Pick one thing and do it well.
The general consensus among behavior change researchers is that you should focus on changing a very small number of habits at the same time.
2. Imperfect action is better than perfect procrastination
Getting started is more important than to succeed! Remember: excellence is not required for growth.
Our world is becoming more and more obsessed with comparison and validation. This often leads to a dangerous assumption that if one cannot be in the top 3, then it is better not to be in the game and not to play at all …
But the key question is: Whether you’ll end up being the best or the worst, are you willing to start?
The willingness to start and step out of your comfort zone is the tiniest thing in life that makes the biggest difference.
If you think of achieving a healthy and holistic, happy life, the one common enabler is the willingness to start. A happy, healthy and fulfilled existence – whether it is powerful relationships, exceptional creativity, purposeful work, a physical and fit lifestyle, etc. … all require a willingness to get started over and over again.
Being the best isn’t required to be happy or fulfilled, you do not need to imagine multiple permutations and scenarios or dress rehearsals in your minds and wait for the perfect moment to get started or fear that if there is no guarantee of a perfect outcome and success then it is better not to get started.
However you need to be in the game and step on this stage!
Goals without the right habits are like cars with no wheels
Don’t confuse your goals with your habits.
The goal is not to achieve results in one quick leap overnight, but to develop a lifestyle, through habits, routines, a process, to become the type of person who can achieve the goals you set to yourself
“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” Pablo Picasso
There is no such thing as goal hacking
We don’t have to achieve, and cannot achieve, whatever we are seeking immediately. This is overwhelming and unrealistic. Instead we can move toward the direction of our ultimate goal, one small step, one small victory at a time.
You can’t expect to see dramatic fitness results after only going to the gym a handful of times, and the same goes for any other type of goal and habit.
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to start with incredibly small steps!
“Big Project” syndrome
I have definitely fallen in the trap of the “Big Project” syndrome in the past. Looking backwards, I can see 2 main reasons:
- I am a perfectionist, and always aim for my work to be perfect and as comprehensive as possible, which causes me to spend more time planning, outlining, and researching, rather than actually doing and executing.
- I often set to myself ambitious big objectives and creatively foresee my long-term vision and goals. This is good but can lead to focusing on how big the project is and how much needs to be done rather than starting with baby steps.
My enlightenment came particularly in the end of 2016, when during a long walk on the beach I realized that imperfect action was better than perfect procrastination.
An imperfect start can always be improved, but obsessing over a perfect plan, reading and researching through all possible sources available, rather than practicing, would never take me anywhere on its own.
I constantly remind myself that an imperfect project that is complete is always better than a perfect project that is never finished.
Just one first step: 1 action lead to more satisf-action
“He who hesitates is lost.” Cato
There’s a reason you’ve never started that big project. There’s a reason you’ve never built your side hustle, written that book you keep speaking about, started a company, changed career path or started yoga practice.
It’s because doing those doesn’t happen overnight and requires hard work, and there is lot of uncertainties around these. And you can’t figure out where to start. Therefore, you never take the first steps.
Every single project, every book that’s been written, every company that grew into a billion dollar enterprise, started with one single action. Just one.
“Don’t think. You already know what you have to do, and you know how to do it. What’s stopping you?” Tim Grover
So here’s an approach I’m trying to push myself towards. If I want to start a project, I need to take one firm action. It doesn’t have to be huge, it doesn’t have to lead to immediate results, it doesn’t even have to be the right first step.
It just has to be taken.
You can figure out later on whether you’re going the right way, or if your first step was a misstep. You can figure out longer-term plans and ideas and strategies, and you can write a business plan and you can get yourself a serious direction.
Until you take action, it will all be hypothetical. But once you act, it becomes practical.
Just one first step. Go as far as you can see … then you will see further.
Start before you’re ready.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Chinese Proverb
Most people wait. They believe they can start after they have enough time, money, connections and credentials. They wait until they feel “secure.”
Not successful people. The people who are successful, not only at writing books but at starting companies, building organizations, and other daunting tasks are the ones who don’t psych themselves out by thinking they have to get it all done at once. Instead they get these projects started, and trust that they’ll find a way to finish them via the momentum that they generate along the way.
“Go as far as you can see, when you get there you will be able to see further” JPMorgan founder
They started before they even knew what they were doing. They started before they had any money. They started before they had all the answers. They started when no one else believed in them. The only permission they needed was the voice inside them prompting them to move forward. And they moved.
Trust the process of incrementalism
Incrementalism leads to gigantism. Dream big, but start small.
You need to trust the process, focus on the daily ritual and commit to your habits without worrying about the long-term end result.
Even if you don’t know all the elements of the how, the universe will help you along the way. You don’t need to see the whole way to start taking a step.
Just start. Once you do, the process becomes a second nature and you gain a magic momentum. An unstoppable positive spiral gets in motion to propel you towards your wildest dreams and your desired outcome will follow.
The following quote from BJ Fogg, a professor at Stanford University, where one of the focus of his lab, the Persuasive Technology Lab, is methods for creating habits, sums this idea up nicely.
“If you plant the right seed in the right spot, it will grow without further coaxing. I believe this is the best metaphor for creating habits. The “right seed” is the tiny behavior that you choose. The “right spot” is the sequencing — what it comes after. The “coaxing” part is amping up motivation, which I think has nothing to do with creating habits. In fact, focusing on motivation as the key to habits is exactly wrong. Let me be more explicit: If you pick the right small behavior and sequence it right, then you won’t have to motivate yourself to have it grow. It will just happen naturally, like a good seed planted in a good spot.” BJ Fogg
3. Focus on transformation not revolution
Do not seek a result but rituals
Nearly every conversation about goals and resolutions is focused on some type of result: how much weight you want to loose, how much more you want to earn, how many best-selling books you want to write, how many times per week you want to work-out to get into the better shape, by when you hope to build a successful business, by when you want to be winning a championship, and so on.
Most people love to talk about success as an event. Transformations and overnight successes get a lot of hype. The terms “life hack” or “body hack” are often trending on social media.
But the truth is that most of the significant things in life aren’t standalone events, but rather the sum of all the marginal gains aggregated overtime.
When you hear about a dramatic transformation (like someone losing 100 pounds) or an incredible success story (like someone building a million dollar business in 1 year or releasing a best selling book / debut musical album), the only thing you know is the event that people are talking about.
You don’t hear anything about the process that came before it or about the habits that led to the eventual result.
I am a firm believer of making progress by focusing on lifestyle behaviors and slow transformations.
There is power in small wins and slow gains.
Too often, people get obsessed with making life-changing revolutions and only focus on reaching the outcome.
When you become obsessed with achieving a result quickly, the only thing you think about is how to get to your goal, and you forget to realize that our process for achieving goals is just as important as whether or not you achieve them at all. The desire to achieve results quickly fools you into thinking that the result is the prize.
Focus on lifestyle, not life-changing!
If you raise your floor, and the habits and rituals which make you grounded in your daily life, then your ceiling will automatically raise and be limitless.
Rituals lead to habits and habits are what make big dreams a reality
Your will not change your life until you change something you do daily, and the secret of your success is found in your daily routine.
But goals in themselves don’t deliver new results. Lifestyles do. And a lifestyle is a process, a set of consistent rituals repeated overtime, which become habits and a second nature as much as brushing your teeth is.
All of your energy should go into building better rituals, not chasing better results.
Rituals are what turn behaviors into habits.
“A ritual is a highly precise behavior you do at a specific time so that it becomes automatic over time and no longer requires much conscious intention or energy.” Tony Schwartz
If you want a new habit, you have to fall in love with a new ritual.
Why Create a Routine?
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle
Following a daily routine can help you establish priorities, limit procrastination, keep track of goals, and even make you healthier.
What I’m starting to realize is that when it comes to actually getting things done and making progress in the areas that are important to you, you need to know the difference between goals and a system of routines.
For examples …
- As a finance professional, my goal is to deliver value and strategic impactful projects for my team and company, as well as to develop and empower talents. My system is the project plans and baby steps which I define to achieve these objectives, with daily and weekly priorities.
- As the founder of this website, one of my goals is to create content for the site and social media. My system is the writing schedule that I follow each week.
- As a fitness lover, my main goal is to keep building lean muscle mass. My system is my training schedule for each day of the week, per body part, as well as my nutrition plan which requires meals preparation.
My point is, if we have strong reliable systems (or set of routines) which serve the purpose of working towards our goals, then we can almost ignore our goals and focus solely on the process, trusting that we will get results overtime.
Goals are good for planning your progress, provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term. But systems is the key for actually making progress.
Fall in love with a process which works for YOU
Having no routine or structure is so much more draining mentally, physically, and emotionally than any routine could ever be!
I admit it though; it isn’t always easy to create good habits. As Brian Tracy says, “Good habits are hard to form but easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to form but hard to live with.”
Here’s something really important to remember: what works for someone else, might not work for you. That’s why it’s important to pick the activities that resonate most with you, the ones that push you to become the best you that you are capable of being…and to keep doing those.
The key is to create regular and consistent daily patterns that will take you where you want to go in life, helping you maximize yourself on every level possible.
Believe in the law of compound interest
“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.” Albert Einstein
The Compound Effect is based on the principle that decisions shape your destiny. Little, everyday decisions will either take you to the life you desire or to disaster by default.
You can also think of it as the Snowball Effect: the small things never stay small. They ultimately roll down snowy hills and become bigger unstoppable balls.
“Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.” Jim Rohn
Start a habit that is so easy you can’t say no
“Make it so easy you can’t say no.” Leo Babauta
The most important part of building new habits is staying consistent.
For that reason, when you start a new habit it should be so easy that you can’t say no to it.
Think of it as the butterfly effect of your personal excellence. The butterfly effect is the concept that small causes can have large effects. A very small change in initial conditions and habits creates overtime a significantly different outcome.
Start with something small, something you can stick with for good. It’s easy to compare yourself to what others are doing or to feel the urge to optimize your performance and do more. But focus on starting small. Once you’ve repeated it enough times, and are sticking to the schedule and remaining consistent, you can worry about increasing the difficulty.
In the beginning, performance is irrelevant. Build the behavior first. Worry about the results later.
- Want to build a new fitness habit? Your goal is to exercise for 5 minutes today
- Want to start a writing habit? Your goal is to write 5 sentences today
- Want to create a healthy eating habit? Your goal is to eat one healthy meal this week
- Wish you would read more books? Start by reading two pages every night
- Want to finally start meditating? Meditate for one minute each morning
“1% Better Every Day”: A great talk on the surprising power of small habits by speaker James Clear – filled with practical suggestions on how to build habits that stick and achieve small wins
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- Why small habits can make a big difference in life and work.
- What you can do to build habits that last.
- Practical strategies for scheduling new habits into your life, sticking to habits, overcoming procrastination, and using habits to re-shape your identity.
4. Be patient
Do not be in a rush to change
“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…” C.S. Lewis
When you want to accomplish something—whether it’s losing weight, getting fit, writing a book, learning guitar, or learning a language, it’s instinctive to want it as soon as possible.
But a vital requirement to make new habits sticks is patience.
“Slow and steady wins the race.”
It doesn’t matter how slow you go. Often the smallest steps in the right direction end up being the biggest steps in your life.
Remember the fable by Jean de La Fontaine, The Hare and the Turtoise? It is originally credited to Aesop, a slave and storyteller believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 564 BCE. It is narrated to many a child, and I still remember learning the La Fontaine version of it (French style!) by heart as part of our primary school assignments The story concerns a hare who ridicules a slow-moving tortoise. Tired of the hare’s boastful behaviour, the tortoise challenges him to a race. The hare soon leaves the tortoise behind and, confident of winning, takes a nap midway through the race. When the Hare awakes however, he finds that his competitor, crawling slowly but steadily, has arrived before him. The slower creature’s persistence wins out against ego and distractedness. Aesop’s moral is “Slow and steady wins the race”.
The moral in La Fontaine’s version is similar:
“The Tortoise was first. She was smart:
“You can surely run fast,
“ She remarked. “Yet you’re last.
It is better to get a good start.”
The power of setting a schedule, not a deadline
Set a process, a schedule to operate by rather than a deadline to perform by.
We do not give a deadline for a baby to know how to walk! It is a process the child goes through, step by step, by practicing and adjusting his technique along the way until he can walk and then run.
Instead of giving yourself a deadline to accomplish a particular goal by, set a schedule to work towards your goal consistently.
The things you schedule are the things that you get done.
Stick to your schedule, even in small ways
It’s not the individual impact of skipping a routine of your schedule but the cumulative impact of getting out of track which can compound overtime.
Therefore, it is best to stick to your schedule, even if it’s only in a very small way.
For example, even when I don’t have enough time to do a full workout, I at least try to do a few abs exercises at home or go to the gym even if only half hour to do cardio or only squat
Likewise, if I don’t have enough time to write full article for my website, I write a paragraph.
Never allow an exception to your new habit pattern during the formative stages. Don’t make excuses or rationalizations. Don’t let yourself off the hook. If you resolve to get up at 6:00 AM each morning, discipline yourself to get up at 6:00 AM, every single morning until this becomes automatic.
This strategy also allows you to prove to yourself that you can get something done even when the situation isn’t ideal. It’s the cumulative impact of always sticking to your schedule that will carry you to long-term success. That’s how little goals become lifetime habits.
Focus on the Practice, Not the Performance
With this technique, you make consistent progress towards your goals not by setting a deadline for your performance, but by sticking to a schedule. The focus is on doing the action, not on achieving a goal by a certain date.
5. It’s your ATTITUDE not your APTITUDE that determines your ALTITUDE
Your APTITUDE and genius is not genetics but practice
Whether in sport, life, business, artists – every expert was once an amateur, every master was once a beginner.
Your ATTITUDE, grit and willpower is the number one defining factor of success and ALTITUDE.
Willpower is like a muscle. If you practice it, you’ll get better at it. If you neglect it, it will shrivel.
It is absolutely necessary to have as a human being.
You won’t live your best life without it.
Make sure you exercise your willpower muscle every day, and aim for consistency.
“Self-discipline is the master key to riches.” Napoleon Hill
Self-discipline is the key to self-esteem, self-respect, and personal pride. The development of self- discipline is your guarantee that you will eventually overcome all your obstacles and create a wonderful life for yourself.
To have the results of a game changer, start thinking and behaving like one
The quality of your practice determines the caliber of your performance.
All victories are won before you even step onto the field.
Have vision and outwork on execution until done, through willpower, hard work, grit and resiliency.
An athlete didn’t get gold medal just by hitting the gym 4 days. The famous “1 inch punch from Bruce Lee” was the fruit of many hours or training and practice.
Likewise, Maya Angelou’s writing routine embodied this principle. Maya Angelou’s creative genius didn’t expose itself without hard work. She was a true master of habits, routines, and consistency.
Here’s how she described her writing habits in 1983 interview with Claudia Tate (as covered in Mason Currey’s book Daily Rituals),
“I usually get up at about 5:30, and I’m ready to have coffee by 6, usually with my husband. He goes off to his work around 6:30, and I go off to mine. I keep a hotel room in which I do my work—a tiny, mean room with just a bed, and sometimes, if I can find it, a face basin. I keep a dictionary, a Bible, a deck of cards and a bottle of sherry in the room. I try to get there around 7, and I work until 2 in the afternoon. If the work is going badly, I stay until 12:30. If it’s going well, I’ll stay as long as it’s going well. It’s lonely, and it’s marvelous. I edit while I’m working. When I come home at 2, I read over what I’ve written that day, and then try to put it out of my mind. I shower, prepare dinner, so that when my husband comes home, I’m not totally absorbed in my work. We have a semblance of a normal life. We have a drink together and have dinner. Maybe after dinner I’ll read to him what I’ve written that day. He doesn’t comment. I do not invite comments from anyone but my editor, but hearing it aloud is good. Sometimes I hear the dissonance; then I try to straighten it out in the morning.”
Maya Angelou’s routine and her willingness to sit down and do the work for at least five hours, even when she was lacking inspiration, is just another indication that great artists and performers in any fields relentlessly practice to become masters of their crafts.
The difference between learning and practicing
“When we practice something, we are involved in the deliberate repetition of a process with the intention of reaching a specific goal. The words deliberate and intention are key here because they define the difference between actively practicing something and passively learning it.” Thomas Sterner, The Practicing Mind
Learning something new and practicing something new may seem very similar, but these two methods can have profoundly different results. Here are some additional ways to think about the difference.
- If your goal is to get stronger and more fit. You can research the best instructions on glutes exercises and squatting, watch all YouTube videos and read all books by the greatest fitness experts, but the only way to build strength is to practice lifting weights.
- If your goal is to write a book or start a blog. You can talk to a best-selling author about writing, or subscribe to tons of newsletters and online courses about blogging but the only way become a better writer or blogger is to practice publishing consistently.
Passive learning creates knowledge. But active practice creates skill, and enables to start to make your goal reality and refine your strategy or process, routines, along the way.
As a perfectionist and constant learner, I have often fallen in this trap, and now can see how practicing and doing is actually powerful even when imperfect at first, to move us closer towards our dreams and goals.
6. Elevate your associations and emotional contagion
Learn from those who inspire you and who you want to emulate.
Be where your dreams are, read what your dream is about, be with people you aspire to become.
Research demonstrates that we behave like the most people we live with. This is the concept of “mirror neuron science”.
A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another.
In humans, brain activity consistent with that of mirror neurons has been found in the premotor cortex.
Some researchers in cognitive neuroscience and cognitive psychology consider that this system provides the physiological mechanism for the perception/action coupling and argue that mirror neurons may be important for understanding the actions of other people, and for learning new skills by imitation and associations.
We are certainly a reflection of the people we surround ourselves with.
According to “the Pygmalion Effect,” the expectations of those around you in large measure determine how well you perform. The Pygmalion effect, or Rosenthal effect, is the phenomenon whereby higher expectations lead to an increase in performance.
Therefore, aim to meet and surround yourself by those who inspire you and whom paths you seek to learn from and emulate.
If possible, find mentors or build your own little “personal board of advisors” for the various areas of your life, mind, body and spirit.
7. Avoid procrastination
What is Procrastination?
Human beings have been procrastinating for centuries. The problem is so timeless, in fact, that ancient Greek philosophers like Socrates and Aristotle developed a word to describe this type of behavior: Akrasia.
Akrasia is the state of acting against your better judgment. It is when you do one thing even though you know you should do something else. Loosely translated, you could say that akrasia is procrastination or a lack of self-control.
Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing a task or set of tasks. It is the force that prevents you from following through on what you set out to do.
If we want to stop procrastinating, then we need to make it as easy as possible to get started and trust that motivation and momentum will come after we begin. Motivation often comes after starting, not before.
Option 1: Make the rewards of taking action more immediate
The basic format is: Only do [thing you love] while, or after, doing [thing you procrastinate on].
Here are a few common examples of temptation bundling:
- Only get a massage, facial or pedicure after processing overdue work emails or finishing to write a long article
- Only listen to my favorite podcasts when doing weekly meal preparation
- Only eat at your favorite restaurant after delivering a challenging presentation
Option 2: Make the consequences of procrastination more immediate
There are many ways to force you to pay the costs of procrastination sooner rather than later. For example, if you are exercising alone, skipping your workout next week won’t impact your life much at all. Your health won’t deteriorate immediately because you missed that one workout. However, if you commit to working out with your best friend at 7am next Monday, then the cost of skipping your workout becomes more immediate.
Option 3: Design your future actions
One of the favorite tools psychologists use to overcome procrastination is called a “commitment device.” Commitment devices can help you stop procrastinating by designing your future actions ahead of time.
For example, you can curb your future eating habits by purchasing food in individual packages rather than in large packaging, or stocking your favorite peanut butter in a hard to reach cupboard so you can think twice before having that extra scoop.
Option 4: Make the Task More Achievable
If your habits are small and easy to start, then you will be less likely to procrastinate.
8. Focus on deliberate minimalism
Making choices is tiresome.
There’s even a term for the exhaustion you feel after making too many: decision fatigue.
One study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that participants demonstrated reduced self-control – less physical stamina, reduced persistence in the face of failure and more procrastination — after making several decisions about what types of goods to buy.
If your goal is to read more, for instance, create a short list of books or articles you’re interested in, then rank them in order of which you want to read first.
Streamlining your routine and narrowing your choices, in as many aspects of your life as possible, will save you the mental energy you’ll need for the activity you’re trying to turn into a habit.
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” Steve Jobs
We cannot make more time in your days but we can make the most of it
Don’t say you don’t have enough time. It’s not about having time. It’s about making time for what you want to be a priority in your life.
Instead of saying I don’t have time, try saying it’s not a priority.
If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.
“I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.” Charles Dickens
Remember – You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Pasteur, Michael Angelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Maya Angelou, Beyonce, Mark Zuckerberg, Muhammed Ali or whoever might be your heroes and inspirational role models…
Exploit Your Genius Hours
We all have hours within our days when our productive assets of focus/energy/willpower are at their highest.
What separates average performers from World-Changers is those that influence entire markets exploit their most valuable hours to deliver beautiful things instead of wasting them.
You only have 24 hours each day. Use them well. Because as you live your days, so you craft your life.
One of my favourite read and regular re-read is “On the Shortness of Life”, by Seneca – here is an extract:
“It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested.”
9. Rise by lifting others up
Help others around you further themselves. Unleash the greatness in people who have never seen the greatness within them, whether it is their physical potential, their business goals, their love life.
There is no exercise better for the heart than lifting people up.
Radiate optimism, kindness, and love. Make others feel on holidays by your side. Empower them to be their best self and love their best lives. Focus purely on the good in others. And savor the gifts that come back to you.
Life gives you what you give it.
“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” Seneca
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia
“This is what I find most magnetic about successful givers: they get to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefit themselves and the people around them. Whereas success is zero-sum in a group of takers, in groups of givers, it may be true that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” Adam Grant, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success
10. Find your keystone habit
I first read about this construct in Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit.
A keystone habit is an individual pattern that is unintentionally capable of very powerfully triggering other positive habits in the lives of people.
Charles Duhigg wrote about the company Alcoa, and how the new CEO Paul O’Neil, was able to rise the company’s market capitalization by 27 billion by enhancing safety in the work environment.
“I knew I had to transform Alcoa, … But you can’t order people to change, that’s not how the brain works. So I decided I was going to start by focusing on one thing. If I could start disrupting the habits around one thing, it would spread throughout the entire company.” Paul O’Neil
I am a huge believer and fan of keystone habits.
For example, my fitness and weightlifting is my keystone habit. If I get to the gym, then it creates a positive snowball effect in other areas of my life.
For me, working out is a pleasure, and a blessing filled with powerful benefits, which transfer into all areas of my life. My physical fitness leads to my life fitness. That physical release doesn’t just make me feel better in my body, but also it makes in my mind, it boosts my positive energy, increases my focus and productivity and unleashes my creativity, and enables me to face whatever the day might bring and move mountains in all spheres of my life.
I do not even need to build better specific habits for my focus, my nutrition, my sleep, or my energy. I just need my keystone habit of daily weight training and those other areas automatically improve as a ripple effect. Exercise and weightlifting in particular naturally pushes me towards my best self.
Keystone habits cascade into other areas of your life. You’ll have to figure out what your keystone habit is for you, but some popular examples include exercise whether at the gym or outdoor morning run, daily meditation, or scheduling and budgeting.
No matter what your keystone habit is, it is definitely worth focusing on it and doing more of it.
11. Track and stack your habits
Measure backward and track your habits
We often measure our progress by looking forward. We set goals. We plan milestones for our progress.
Goals are good and having a sense of direction for where you want to go is critical. But when it comes to determining the improvements we can make right now, measuring backward is very precious.
Let recent results drive your future actions.
- For my fitness goals, I do weekly (or two-weekly depending on my schedule) check-ups both taking progress pictures of how my body shape changed from one period to another, and measuring the evolution in my body lean muscle mass composition with a special machine at my gym.
- For my strength training: if I squatted with 60kg this week, I will give 65 kg a try next one.
Measuring backward enables you to refine the strategy to achieve your goals and then get a little bit better. What did you do last week? How can you improve by just a little bit this week?
Stack one habit on top of another
Your existing habits can serve as the basis for your future habits. Certain actions are already second nature to you (for examples showering to rushing your teeth) because you have developed overtime neural pathways in your brain that take you through the steps.
Likewise, your new habits will overtime become second nature. For examples, my daily exercise habits and weekly meal preparation are now part and parcels of my routine so much so I don’t even think about it anymore.
Once new habits are fully embedded in your life, you can stack more habits on top of these.
12. Your “I Can” is more powerful than your “IQ”
Use vocabulary of positivity and “cans”.
Your words are powerful, and so is positive visualization and affirmations.
Practice positive self-talk, and choose to believe everything is possible – I love mantras or “brain tattoos” for this.
When I was little, my father had a few mantras he was constantly repeating to us, so much so we were at times making fun of him (and still are!).
One of them is “when you want you can”. Hearing this, and incorporating it as an unshakable self-belief, inspired me to pursue my most ambitious goals as a student and subsequently in all areas of my life.
Your confidence determines not only the size of challenges you embrace, but also how likely you will achieve what you set your mind on.
A great example of this: Running a marathon is far more mental than physical. A person’s ability to run a marathon, or do anything which requires hard work, willpower and persistence in life, is more a reflection of your confidence than your aptitude and ability.
“I always tell beginning runners: train your brains first, it is much more important than your heart or legs” Amby Burfoot, American marathoner whose peak competitive years came in the late 1960s and early 1970s
13. Your life get better by change not by chance
“The seduction of safety is more dangerous than the perception of uncertainty” Robin Sharma
Your growth is not built on your comfort but discomfort. You must get our of your comfort zone to see changes and magic happen. Whether in business, a project dear to your heart, fitness, or other, if you keep doing what you have always done, you will have the same results you always had.
“There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” Bruce Lee
Dare to venture outside of your comfort zone … The rewards are worth it, evolution and progress are part of the adventures of your one life!
“Mental resilience is arguably the most critical trait of a world-class performer, and it should be nurtured continuously. Left to my own devices, I am always looking for ways to become more and more psychologically impregnable. When uncomfortable, my instinct is not to avoid the discomfort but to become at peace with it. My instinct is always to seek out challenges as opposed to avoiding them.” Josh Waitzkin
The best training you will ever do is mental training. Wherever your mind goes, your body follows. Wherever your thoughts go, your life follows.
Shaking up your fitness routine to the next level, daring to say hi to that cute stranger you have been noticing at your local coffee shop, saying yes to scary challenges in business when you don’t feel ready yet, embracing the unknown of moving to a new country, starting that book project you have been dreaming about, driving forward changes and new initiatives in your company, daring to speak up and voice your opinion even if it means going against what the majority thinks …
“When 10X is your measuring stick, you immediately see how you can bypass what everyone else is doing.” Dan Sullivan
Set goals that far exceed your current capabilities.
“You need to aim beyond what you are capable of. You need to develop a complete disregard for where your abilities end. If you think you’re unable to work for the best company in its sphere, make that your aim. If you think you’re unable to be on the cover of TIME magazine, make it your business to be there. Make your vision of where you want to be a reality. Nothing is impossible.” Paul Arden
If your goals are logical, they won’t force you to create luck.
Being unstoppable means your goals challenge you to be someone more than you currently are.
“Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better.” Jim Rohn
Your life gets better by change, not chance. If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
Remember – a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor and pressure creates diamonds.
Having obstacles in your life is a sign you aren’t settling for what life gives you, but are getting out of life what you want … You will shine out of these challenges – tough situations don’t last but tougher persons live forever.
And don’t be afraid to fail by trying!!! Be exited at the opportunity to fail forward.
“Thomas Edison conducted 1,000 failed experiments. Did you know that? I didn’t either – because No. 1,001 was the lightbulb. Fall forward. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success.” Denzel Washington told Penn’s class of 2011 in his commencement address
“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.” Peter Marshall
“I’m always looking for a new challenge. There are a lot of mountains to climb out there. When I run out of mountains, I’ll build a new one.” Sylvester Stallone, Nominee for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for “Creed”
14. What you appreciate appreciates
Be grateful for what you have and the present time while working towards your goals and dreams, and you will naturally attract more of the good things in your life.
You’re entirely humbled and grateful for everything in your life. Which is why you will never get complacent or lazy.
“The way to enjoy life best is to wrap up one goal and start right on the next one. Don’t linger too long at the table of success, the only way to enjoy another meal is to get hungry.” Jim Rohn
15. Be a lifelong student of life and of your craft
Know more than anyone else who does what you do in the history of what you do. Be ridiculously great at your craft. Be the Michael Angelo of your industry.
Successful people read constantly, find mentors who can teach them, and value new information that can help push them forward. Whatever field you are in, you have to learn before you earn. Learn from the masters, your peers, your friends, your customers, and competition. And then: Keep learning.
Extraordinary people seek life long education and learning. When you want to become the best at what you do, you never stop learning. You never stop improving and honing your skills and knowledge.
Your unparalleled preparation is what gives you power.
Here are some great resources to learn about the powerful habits of successful people and productivity tips:
16. Reward Yourself
The science behind how our habits work
There is a simple 3 steps structure that every habit follows.
This sequence has been proven repeatedly by behavioral psychology researchers. I originally learned of this cycle from Stanford professor, BJ Fogg and subsequently read about it in Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit.
Charles Duhigg’s book refers to the three steps as cue (the trigger that initiates the behavior), routine (the action you take), and reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behavior)
Giving yourself a reward for practicing and sticking to your new behavior
Each time you reward yourself, you reaffirm and reinforce the behavior.
Soon you begin to associate, at an unconscious level, the pleasure of the reward with the behavior.
You set up your virtuous circle of positive consequences that you unconsciously look forward to as the result of engaging in the behavior or habit that you have decided upon.
For example, I often look forward to a delicious post work-out protein shake after pushing hard through a weight lifting session, or enjoying a delicious dinner out after delivering a challenging presentation, finishing a big deadline at work or writing a long article for One Life & You. Other of my frequent rewards can also be as simple as congratulating myself or treating myself to new sneakers or leggings!