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Michael Jordan once said that when you build good habits, they become second nature. When they become second nature, it becomes routine. And when it becomes routine, it becomes a way of life.
In this article, we discuss further why habits are important, provide a list of some of the best habits you can adopt, and give tips on how you can build those habits.
Why are habits important?
Habits are who you are
It’s an old adage that humans are creatures of habit. And this is why, according to Public Sociologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Christine Whelan, changing long-formed behaviors is hard.
A habit is something you do every day without putting much thought into it. It could be something as innocuous as having a pastry with your morning coffee, putting on music while you shower, or watering the plants before your leave for work (when people still left for work).
The habits you form, be it healthy or unhealthy, as Jordan alluded to earlier, become a significant part of your routine, ultimately becoming who you are.
Habits become your life path
For better or worse, habits set the foundation for your life, setting the tone for your entire life experience. According to Brian Tracy, habits determine 95% of a person’s behavior. So, say, you make it a habit to have a positive outlook regardless of the situation, the way you experience life will, for the most part, be in a positive light.
Habits can keep you going
If you don’t have a regular exercise routine, you understand how difficult it can be to get started with one. But even those who have an active lifestyle have days when they just don’t feel like it. This is where the importance of cultivating good habits comes in.
As LA-based psychologist Matt West notes, when you don’t have the motivation to do something, if you’ve made a habit of it, you’ll find that extra push needed to follow through with your good habits, even when you aren’t particularly thrilled about doing so.
Good habits help you reach your goals
We’ve all heard of a bride that goes on a crash diet just to fit into that dream wedding dress. While that might work for the short term, it’s easy to lose the motivation to keep at it once a short term goal is reached. When you consciously build good habits, it becomes a lifestyle that makes you achieve different kinds of goals with more ease.
It could be as simple as getting enough sleep, hydrating yourself regularly, or getting ample sun. When you build even the simplest good habits, you’ll find that you can go through life – its joys and challenges – more easily.
Best habits of highly successful people
Good habits may lead to different results for different people, but you’ll find that a lot of the more successful people share the same ones. Below is a shortlist of some of the best habits you can adapt to position yourself better for success.
1. Rise early
Accountant and financial planner Tom Corley surveyed 233 wealthy individuals on their daily habits and found that nearly 50 percent of the self-made millionaires got out of bed at least three hours before their workday actually started.
This habit afforded them the time to either get their exercise out of the way, visualize and plan their day, or work on personal projects. According to Corley, “Getting up at five in the morning to tackle the top three things you want to accomplish in your day allows you to regain control of your life… giving you a sense of confidence that you, indeed, direct your life.”
2. Constant education
Even more significant was Corley’s finding that 88 percent of the respondents say they devote at least 30 minutes each day to education and self-improvement through reading. One of the wealthiest people in the world, Warren Buffet, attributes reading as one of the most crucial habits he’s developed over the course of his life.
The habit of reading enables the mind to constantly pick up on ideas you might’ve otherwise looked past if you were just focusing on the tasks at hand.
3. Regular exercise
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that 76 percent of the respondents make time for at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. According to billionaire Richard Branson, his habit of waking up at 5 am to plan tennis or bike has doubled his productivity.
Take note that it doesn’t have to be high-intensity training all the time. It can be as simple as going for a light jog or even walking. When you make a habit out of exercising regularly, you’ll find that you become more attuned to what your body needs, allowing you to switch your workouts accordingly.
4. Ample sleep
Eighty-nine percent of the survey respondents say they make it a point to get seven to eight hours of sleep every day. Apart from the obvious benefit of being well-rested and allowing your body to recover, getting good sleep also positively affects memory function and creative thinking.
5. Spending time with what inspires
According to Corley, if you want to push yourself toward success, you need to spend time with people and things that inspire while cutting out exposure to toxicity and negativity. Building a network of people that you can find inspiration in is a great way to boost personal development, as the relationships and knowledge you can get on a regular basis can go a long way.
6. Emphasizing the value of time
The most successful people consider time to be one of their most important resources. This is why they’re thoughtful about how they spend theirs. If you’re just getting started on your path to success, you can start by being more considerate of the things you spend time on.
Perhaps, instead of playing video games or spending hours on end watching Netflix, you can find a more productive use of your time – things that can help bolster your personal growth and motivation.
Related: 35 Powerful Time Management Tips
Speaking of resources, making a habit out of being frugal is a common foundation of successful people. It’s important to note that being frugal is not the same as being cheap. Frugality entails learning to be economical with resources. This habit trickles down to avoiding waste in every aspect of your life, leading to a life of efficiency.
Instead of spending on a whim, successful people tend to compare and negotiate. This is a habit that frugality breeds.
Related: How to Save More Money in 2021
8. Having an action plan
Whatever the task or goal may be, having an action plan allows you to turn a plan into something more than just a potential outcome. There’s something to be said about having a well-crafted and thought-out plan, but often, acting quickly and often (sometimes even before you feel ready and even when it seems outlandish) can be the most important step.
Of course, it’s still crucial to organize, plan, and set goals and priorities. But making a habit out of pursuing action – whether it’s to get the organization, planning, and goal-setting done – can only lead to great things.
9. Focused thinking
Speaking of action, one of the best ways to fuel this is by practicing focused thinking. Corley found that many of the self-made millionaires he surveyed said they spend 15 to 30 minutes a day on focused thinking – processing everything that’s going on in their lives.
This might entail spending time reflecting on your career, health, relationships, and goals.
10. Personal care
We’ve alluded to this earlier (with sleep and exercise), but taking the time for personal care cannot be emphasized enough. It doesn’t even have to be a complex scheme covering diet, exercise, and mindfulness practices. For example, Elon Musk once said that the daily habit that has had the largest positive impact on his life was “showering.”
When we have a lot on our plate, it’s easy to get tunnel vision on the desired outcomes and forget to take care of ourselves. When we make sure that we’re ok, we’re able to function better and achieve what we’ve set out to do better.
This could also mean just taking the time to relax via short breaks or meditating. In fact, a Harvard-trained doctor told CNBC that even taking two minutes at work to focus on nothing but your breath will help you relax and reduce stress. Any time we can take to take all the noise from our minds will definitely do us well.
The habit of giving is also a common thread of successful people. More than just a tax write-off, sharing – whether through charitable donations or imparting knowledge and ideas – is commonly seen as am integral part of success.
Instead of just an accumulation of wealth and assets, successful people believe that their triumph should also result in being able to pay it forward.
Some of the more well-known people who’ve become notable philathropists include Bill and Melinda Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and LeBron James. But you don’t have to be a billionaire to help. Simply volunteering your time to a small cause will not only give you the satisfaction of being able to help, it will also help you form this habit.
How to start and build good habits
Understanding the benefits of good habits and learning about those of successful people is one thing, being able to make it stick in your own life is another. Below are some tips on how you can start a good habit and make it a part of your lifestyle.
Start with the small stuff and don’t try and overhaul your life in one go. When you try to take on too many things (eating healthier, exercising, while also adopting a mindfulness practice), it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
So staying with example of being healthier, you can start by just cutting out on the sugar and going for daily walks. When you start feeling better, you can then move on to having regular workouts. Starting with the simpler stuff gives you the momentum you’ll need for good habit-forming.
Commit to the 30 days
It’s been said countless times, but there’s a reason for that – it works. When you’re able to make it through the initial conditioning phase, an act becomes so much easier to sustain. For example, if you’re looking to form a habit out of working out, power through the first month and you’ll find that you’re mind and body will be treating it as a routine the following month.
This also makes it a more manageable commitment, thus making the habit-forming that much more accessible.
Form a trigger
A trigger is typically a ritual or signal you use before executing your habit. For example, it could be finishing the day’s most urgent tasks before going for a jog. This way, when you’re closing in on finishing up work, you’re already thinking about your run.
Replace lost needs
Usually, you’re giving something up in order to form a good habit. This could mean less screen time, junk food, or unproductive time. So if, say, you’re giving up Netflix time, which you used to have for unwinding – you could swap it with another relaxing, albeit mor epositive activity like strolling in the park.
Chances are, you will encounter slip-ups in your attempts to better your life. And that’s ok. Michael Jordan once famously said in an ad, “I’ve failed over and over and over in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Be kind to yourself. The fact that you’re looking to better yourself if an excellent start. Don’t expect the path to be perfect. But do insist that you will keep going.
Out of sight, out of mind. It’s not going to happen instantaneously (very rarely does it), but if you want to change things in your life, restructuring your environment is a good approach.
So if you want to cut out on the drinking, don’t keep alcohol in the house. If you want to lessen TV time, cancel your streaming subscriptions. When temptation is absent, we tend to look for a replacement. And when you’ve set a goal to develop a good habit, that becomes the easy replacement.
Understand the full benefits and the challenges
When you embark on a good habit, make sure you understand its full benefits and not just the short-term gains. So when it comes to a waking up earlier, for example, it’s not just the act of getting up a couple of hours ahead of your alarm. It’s about being able to get more morning sun (Vitamind D is an excellent defense against viruses), having more time for yourself, and it entails not staying up late the night before. When you see the multiple benefits a simple act brings, it can give you more motivation to make it a habit.
Similarly, when you take the time to ponder all the sacrifices trying to form a good habit brings, you’re armed with the understanding that this won’t be easy. This allows you to build more strength and be kinder to yourself when you slip.
Do it for you
This is great advice for virtuially everything in life. When you do something for yourself as opposed to doing it to gain others’ approval, you’re doing it fo the right reasons. So instead of eating healthier and exercising to fit into old clothes, do it because you want to have a healthier life with more vitality and zest.
Ultimately, forming good habits will come from a place of wanting to improve. Once you’re able to adopt a mindful approach to improving even in small increments, you’ll find that integrating other good habits will become easier as you go along.
Be kind to yourself and just keep at it and you’re sure to find your way.