“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
Yes, we are creatures of habit. Therefore, our thoughts and actions (which is pretty much everything we do) usually comprise of things we have repeated so many times that they are second nature.
Someone who was brought up by their parents without a solid routine, then, is very likely to be unorganized as an adult. Whereas someone brought up on a very strict schedule such as Arnold Schwarzenegger is likely to be very organized and get more done with his day.
We are literally the summation of our habits. The actions we take daily and the thought processes we go through to make each choice are most likely all linked to certain habits we have developed, consciously or subconsciously. Unfortunately, as Warren Buffet says: “Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”
This means that unless we make the decision to create new habits, they will usually arise without us knowing, negatively impacting our lives. The good news is, you can literally turn your life around (and I mean every aspect of your life) within a couple of years by altering your habits. It sounds daunting, but there’s a simple method of doing which can be found in a book called The Power of Habit.
How Lisa Allen dramatically changed her life
The prologue to The Power of Habit describes the story of Lisa Allen, a woman who turned her life around in the short space of a year. She had been a heavy smoker and drinker for most of her life and was very overweight already when her husband left her for someone else.
Distraught, she left for Cairo to get her head straight. In Cairo, she had an epiphany: she was going to trek through the desert in Egypt in a years’ time, but in order to do that she had to give up smoking as she would have no way of accessing cigarettes during the trek.
She started her year of change by swapping smoking for jogging, which led to many lifestyle changes such as how she ate, worked, slept and planned for the future. By the time she got to Cairo a year later she had lost sixty pounds of weight, paid off all her debts, stopped drinking and smoking, started a master’s degree and bought a house.
And it all started with a goal and a new habit to work towards that goal. In particular, a keystone habit, which is a habit you develop that teaches you how to reprogram other routines. It has a ripple effect, positively impacting all areas of your life. Here’s three keystone habits you should develop in 2017 which may just change your entire life:
Goal setting, at a minimum, gives you direction. And direction is paramount to getting anywhere in life. You’d be surprised how many people go about their work days doing whatever tasks they think of when it springs to mind. This only causes confusion, stress and missed deadlines.
Goal setting ranges from planning your day with a list of important things to achieve that day, all the way up through weekly, monthly, yearly, 5 yearly, 10 yearly and life goals. If you’ve never set goals before, I recommend devoting an entire day to setting life goals and working your way down through to daily goals. It doesn’t matter if you’re not sure what you want yet, just write down goals that attract you. This is about instilling a sense of direction, motivating yourself and getting some momentum going. You can alter it later.
To make this into a habit I’d recommend writing down daily goals every evening before you go to bed for the next day. Write weekly goals every Sunday evening, monthly goals at the end of every month and yearly goals at the end of the year. I wrote my yearly goals on December 31st and so far, I have an amazing sense of clarity and drive to make every day count.
It sounds vague but the habit of learning is vital to growth. I could rattle off a ton of quotes about how important continuous learning is but the simple fact is that you need to get in the habit of it NOW. It’s easy to get caught up in work and tell yourself there’s simply no time to read or go to seminars. Think about it this way: Learning is work. It is the fuel to drive you forward in your actions.
I’d recommend developing the habit of learning by taking on a new skill or simply starting to read every day. If you have never got into reading before, then it’s the perfect thing to do. However, if you already read then try a new skill – something you’ve never got around to doing. For one, it’s going to develop your self-discipline and hunger to learn, and secondly you’re going to understand the value of just doing things. Most people will have certain things they’ve always wanted to do which they’ll think about every now and again, then they’ll reach an age where they are too old to do it and be left with a list of regrets.
Don’t be that person. Get out of your comfort zone and try something new, it’ll increase your confidence and make you a lot happier! There’s a deep sense of fulfilment getting stuck in to things you’ve been putting off.
Tracking things like calories or time is something that has allowed for massive progress in short periods of time in the past few years. I tracked my calories and gained 15lbs in 6 weeks. I tracked my time and doubled my productivity in a matter of days.
Tracking, measuring, or journaling is so effective because it makes you constantly conscious of your goal. It’s like being accountable to yourself. You know in real time if you’re on track with the goal, and if you’re not it pushes you to work harder. Every time I looked at my calorie tracking app and I wasn’t on pace for my goal of 3000 calories in a day, I’d immediately eat. Every time I looked at my time tacking app and the ‘work’ section was low on hours, I’d get focused and keep working until I reached my desired goal for the day.
I wrote a blog post on how to effectively track your goal by using the MMR method, check it out here.
These keystone habits are broad and can be applied to literally any area of life, which is why they will have a ripple effect, having the potential to improve every aspect of your life. Choose one keystone habit and apply it to one area of your life that is holding you back. If you want to go hard core, do all three at once with one thing. For example, your goal for this year could be to double your income.
Firstly, you need to set yearly, monthly, weekly and daily goals to get there. Create as many stepping stones as possible so it’s easier to track how you are progressing. Secondly, take time every day to learn about finance and business. Read books, purchase courses and find a mentor to help you. Thirdly, track your progress by journaling your successes and failures each day. You’ll figure out along the way what is working and what isn’t so you can fix the weaknesses and double down on your strengths.
Apply these three habits to your new year’s resolution or yearly goal and I guarantee you will achieve it. But you’ve got to want it bad enough. Anyway, that’s a whole different story, but the point is that habits will make you or break you. So you’ve got to be in control of them to achieve anything.