Over the last two years I have spent the majority of my time doing two things: questioning where my actions come from and trying to understand why people do what they do. I was fascinated with actions, the origin of thought, and how habits get formed. I was specifically curious as to why I acted the way I do, and what the cause of those actions were. Why would I sometimes have an over abundance of motivation and drive one day, and the next all I wanted to do was watch television? What I came to discover is that the three concepts of thoughts, actions and habits are very tightly intertwined. Our thoughts lead to actions, actions lead to habits, and habits lead to defining who we are.
So what does this mean for ourselves? Well, an average day is filled with our habits. We wake up, brush our teeth, take a shower, eat breakfast, exercise, go to work, and then come home in the evening. The Monday through Friday routine is near identical, and that itself is a habit. But it seems lacking. There is rarely any fulfillment in these mundane routines. How often do you ask yourself why? What is the purpose behind what you are doing? You have this feeling like you can be making a difference in your life and the lives of others. Well the answer to these questions can be found in your habits.
Actions vs Beliefs
We are defined by what we do, not what we believe. If a person was judged on their beliefs, and action was the lesser of the two ideals, then the world would never progress. We would be a society filled with thinkers, idealists, visionaries, and hopefuls, just as we are now, however that is where the train of progression would end. This is why habits are so important. Without our actions, our ideas only exist in our minds. To make something real we must act. And by the process of acting we form our habits, whether they are good or bad.
In order to change your life, you must change your habits. And to change your habits you must first change your thoughts. Our thoughts are what allow us to be who we are and how we are. Without the belief that we can change we will never change. This is the first step in making some sort of improvement in your life. I realized this when I was unsure of myself. I really wanted to do something different. I struggled for years to figure out what it was that made me truly happy, and I realized that the reason I had so much difficulty was the paradigm that I was in. I believed that we must go to school, go through college, and then get a job. I believed that I could never be more than a “normal” person. I thought that there were limits. I was wrong.
The moment we allow our minds to believe that anything in life is possible, that then opens us up to the reality that limits do not exist. We cannot improve our lives unless we not only adopt a different mindset, but become that paradigm. However that is not enough. We must then act on that belief. Thoughts and actions are like yin and yang. They are two sides to a coin. We can have the greatest ideas and without action they are nothing. Alternatively, we can work and work and work our entire lives but without a purpose behind those actions we will always be stuck in a rut. And when we are able to master the balance between thoughts and actions, ideas and implementation, we form habits. That is change. That is how we improve as humans.
Our thoughts are the foundation. What we do, who we are, how we live our lives; it all comes from our thoughts. But just as a foundation of a house must be laid out, so must our thoughts. To change your thoughts and become the person that you want to be, you must first discover where those thoughts come from. I spent countless hours pondering, researching, and studying the origin of thought, and I found dozens of different beliefs and ideas on thought creation. After pouring through all of the theories and ideas, I found there are two things that ring true for everyone.
The first concept is that we think and believe only what we experience. This is a fairly easy idea to grasp, but if someone is raised to believe that the earth is flat, then believing the earth is round is very unlikely to happen unless we see concrete evidence. The same goes for our perceptions of success, happiness, and relationships. Our thoughts towards these ideas and beliefs are simply a result of our experiences.
The second concept that I discovered is that there is no truth to the origin of thought. Every guru, every teacher, and every coach has their own explanation on thoughts, and there is only one similar idea between them all. Thoughts are an effect from a higher level of thinking; the human consciousness. We do not know what our conscious is, but we do know that it is what creates our thoughts, and those thoughts in turn define the paradigm that we live our lives in. Although this is the extent of our understanding, this is not the important part. If there is one concept to take away from this article it is this. All that matters in our lives is that we are aware that we are fully in control of what we think and the different paradigms that we live our lives in. When we not only accept this belief to be true, but also LIVE and BE it, the we can take any action and turn it into a productive and positive habit.
Our lives are the accumulation of the actions we take. When I began this quest to make massive changes in my life, I began by looking at the actions that I was taking. My choices in life were not aligning with my blueprint for where I wanted to be, and I realized that I needed to change what I was doing. I discovered to really make a difference we must take action. That is it. Action is how we survive, action is how we improve day to day, and action is what shapes the world.
I have found that there are two kinds of people, those who are willing to do what it takes and those who are not. Those who would do anything to succeed or do anything to better their lives are the ones that will find lasting happiness. This is why we must first conquer our thoughts before permanently changing our actions. Everything in life that happens to us is our responsibility.The victim mindset is the most crippling paradigm that someone can allow them self to be in, and by accepting that whatever happens in your life is on you, then you can take responsibility for your life, take the proper action to break old habits, and build new and lasting ones.
As you continue to take positive and progressive actions, you start to build habits. It takes work and it can honestly suck at times, but that is where willpower comes into play. Every time you take an action you are strengthening your willpower. You are literally rewiring the neurons in your mind to change how you fundamentally operate. Every positive action you take compounds on the previous ones and slowly you begin to form habits.
Habits are the actions we take each and every day. Playing the guitar, brushing your teeth, going to the gym, and even being successful are all habits. Now matter what we think, everyone possesses both good and bad habits. It is interesting to think that I began my quest to better myself through the observation of a few bad habits. I was tired of where my life was heading; video games, television, drinking and partying. All of these were negative and limiting ways to spend time. Now I have managed cut out most of these, but even to this day I still work to eliminate bad habits from my life and only do proactive and positive things.
How to Create and Remove Habits
Habits are birthed from our actions, and actions are caused by our thoughts. These three concepts are all intertwined, and we cannot have any one of the three without the others. After spending many hours being relentlessly frustrated with my own actions, I found that to change my daily habits I had to begin with where my mindset was framed. If I wanted to stop watching television, I had to start by BEING in the paradigm that I do not waste time by consuming media. I didn’t wish that I would stop watching television, I did not make a plan to cut out television, I simply changed my paradigm. I became a person who is focused and does not allow outside distraction to affect me. To remove a habit you must simply be, and that is it.
The same goes for adding new habits into your life. It is about framing your mind to best accommodate whatever you desire. When I wanted to start working out, I simply became a person that always goes to the gym. There were many days when I did not want to go, but because I was someone who always worked out, I went and went until going to the gym became a subconscious habit. Then, I eventually got to the point that not going to the gym was harder than going to the gym.
All you must do is frame your mind. Instead of trying to add or remove a habit, create a reality in your mind that you have already added or removed that same habit in your life. Now you have a solid foundation to begin on.
Why it is Important to Have Good Habits
20 Daily Habits That Will Change Your Life
1. Write Down Ideas
Make a goal to write down 5 ideas a day. Or 10. Or 20. This will push your creative capacity and help expand your idea muscle. This practice has led to me having a plethora of new and creative ideas, and it can do the same for you. I have even co-founded a company from this process. The more you write them down, the better the ideas will get. You never know when one of these ideas will be the starting point of your new career, hobby or passion. The best way to do this is to buy a notebook from Amazon, Target, or any other retailer and write them down. Writing also builds a neurological connection in our minds to strengthen the action we are taking.
2. Eat healthy
We are what we eat in the most literal sense. Our bodies break down every protein, fat, and vitamin that we ingest and distributes them to where they are needed most. What we eat affects our physical, mental and emotional states. Every day one of my goals is to eat the healthiest foods I can. Vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds are the best. Then add in a few lean meats. Stay away from grains at all costs and limit the amount of dairy you intake. One way to do this is to look online for weekly meal plans. People have already made these purely to help others, and this is a great way to begin eating healthier. My favorite meal plan can be found at Deliciously Organic. They charge for a subscription, but give you weekly meal plans, shopping lists, and recipes with grain free, gluten free and paleo options. They even have free plans to download.
The second thing you can do for yourself is TAKE VITAMINS. I really do not understand the negative connotations that surround taking a daily multivitamin. Our bodies are machines. The nutrition that enters our bodies in turn dictates how we function. If we are deficient in a single vitamin or mineral then our body starts to systematically shut down biochemical processes that would require the missing nutrient. This is a very simple concept to grasp. If we do not have enough of a vitamin, then our bodies simply cannot use what is not there. There is one company that I have found that does this better than anyone. Your Nutrition is ran by an M.D. and a Ph.D who have been working with nutrition for over 25 years each. They run tests to see what your body is specifically deficient in, and then recommend supplements for you to take that will turn you into the most optimal human you can be. I honestly cannot recommend their service enough.
This is so important! Every single person needs as least 6 hours of sleep every night. There is no exception. Some humans need even more, needing an average of 8 hours of sleep per night. Nothing can beat a full night of sleep in terms of energy, focus, mental clarity, and daily ambition. Coffee does not replace sleep. Energy drinks do not replace sleep. Sugar does not replace sleep. This one is so simple yet so few people do it. All I ask is that you just sleep! I manage to get an average of 7.5 hours of sleep each night, and that helps to propel me each and every day. I am never fatigued, never tired and I do not have any issues waking up each morning.
Every blog, every article, every doctor, every personal trainer, every… see where I am going with this? You need to exercise. Pick something that works for you. Go on a 15 minute walk each day. Go on a jog 4 days a week. Go to the gym 3-5 times a week and work out for 30 minutes. Whatever it is you choose, the result will only be good. Our mental abilities are directly linked with our physical status. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind, just as an unhealthy body leads to reduced willpower, less neurological activity, and a reduced mental fatigue. Men’s Fitness has a great list of 8 exercises that anyone can easily do at home.
5. Pick Core Tasks and Stop Multitasking
Every day decide on two or three things that you HAVE to work on no matter what. These are your core tasks. They could be anything from managing all of your social accounts to writing a blog post to meditation. Whatever they are, these are things that you need to do first thing in the day before other commitments can distract you. Tackle them one at a time by placing all of your focus on each specific task. Just by doing this you will have crossed three things off of your list and have gotten done more than most do in a day. Personally, I manage all of my social media accounts, exercise, and write an article for one of my websites.
The second half to this is you need to stop multitasking. I know that we all think we are intellectual machines that can handle near anything, but that really isn’t true. Every time we split our focus we are now giving a part of ourselves to that other task, project or idea. All we can give is 100%. That is the sum of everything we have. If your goal is to accomplish X and you start working on Y and Z, then you can only give 100% – (Y+Z) to X now, and that will make accomplishing X take longer. The idea is that simple. It is much better to get 1 thing finished each day rather than start 10.
6. Learn Something New
Education does not end with college or high school. The practice of learning is exercise for the mind. Every day I take 10 minutes of my time to learn something new. It helps for me to grow as a person and consciously expand my knowledge and understanding of the world. I have found that TED has the best source of information and places to learn, but just by going to YouTube anyone can learn virtually anything. If you are more interested in scholastic learning, Khan Academy practically offers a complete K-12 education plus many subjects that are only covered in college. It never hurts to be able to improve who you are.
7. Practice Discovering Yourself
How can someone expect to better themselves if they do not even know who they are? The only way to explain what “discovering yourself” means is to ask yourself why. Why are you eating what you eat? Why are you working where you work? Why are you unhappy or lacking motivation or stuck in a rut? The only way to find the right answer is to ask the right question. This is how I started to change myself. Asking myself why was the catalyst above all others. When I started to discover my own why, I was able to start shaping my life the way I wanted to be.
8. Plan Out Your Week and Review Each Day.
This might be the most vital piece of the productivity puzzle. If you wish to accomplish a lot in a day, it is important to outline what it is that you actually want to accomplish. To be productive you MUST be proactive. Every Sunday, I fill out this weekly planner template. It allows me to plan out what is most important for me to accomplish in my week, then assign those tasks to a given day, and then assign those down to the hour. This is the best time management system that I have found. I even added an accomplished area at the bottom for anyone to write down what they got done in a given day. I have adopted this from the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, which is one of the books that I have in my recommended reading section.
Meditation is not just a religious or spiritual practice! We should think of meditation as simply an action to clear our minds and relax. I try to meditate for 10 minutes a day to give myself time to wind down at night. Meditation has been proven to reduce stress and to actually grow the grey matter in our brains. It is a way for us to practice creativity, focus on ideas, and calm ourselves in order to jump start our mental stamina.
Many who try meditation find little to no success within the first week of doing it, but that is because meditation is a long term practice. Meditation takes time to perfect, but when you get good at it you will be a changed person. I personally love meditation because my mind races all of the time, and it helps me to clear out thoughts and be in the present moment. If you visit my better yourself section, you will find a link to Mindfulness in Plain English. This is the BEST introduction and how-to book for meditation out there. And best of all it is free!
Books are full of the thoughts and experiences of the most intelligent men and women to ever live. The information that we can get from books far exceeds what we can get from an article like the one you are currently reading or any other blog post out there. I try to read at least one book a month, and this can be easily done just by giving 15 minutes of the day to reading. Reading is a complex task that will help develop your mind and enhance your ability to critically think. There is really no substitution for reading a great book.
Sometimes it can be hard to sort through all of the thoughts that are racing though our minds. By taking 5 minutes of our day to write down our thoughts, we can organize all of the eclectic happenings in our brain and focus on what matters. One of the biggest benefits of writing in a journal is that it helps us find a deeper understanding of our lives. I try to write at least 5 days a week, and when I do it helps me to vent everything that is on my mind and put it down on paper. There is a weird phenomena that comes with writing as well. When we write our thoughts on a piece of paper they are no longer in our heads. This allows us to get a different perspective on our own perspective of life and to re-frame what goes on inside of our heads.
12. Learn a language
Learning a second language is practical, mind expanding, and even attractive. There is honestly no reason not to pursue a second form of communication. Second languages help us interact with more people in the world and expand our understanding of different cultures. Yes, it is vastly easier to learn languages as children when we have many more neurons and neurological connections to work with, but even as adults our minds thrive off of changing and expanding. Learning a language does just that.
There are a few resources online that offer programs to learn second languages, but there is one program that excels over all of them. Duo Lingo is a relatively new software that was designed to help anyone learn a second language, and it is free! The person who made this has a belief that learning a language should be easy and it should be accessible to everyone. Duo Lingo is designed to look more like a video game than a traditional language learning program. This is what has likely led to its widespread success.
13. Work Both Smart and Hard
The most successful people work the hardest. They never give up and do whatever it takes to succeed. This is pretty common knowledge and it can be measured fairly easily. If there are two people working on the same idea, with the same resources and same level of understanding then the person who works hardest and wants it the most is going to be the victor. However there is a second aspect that is usually overlooked, the idea of working smart.
Working smart is knowing whether it is a better idea to do something yourself or to hand it off to someone else. Working smart is knowing why you are doing what you are doing. Working smart is making sure that the effort you are putting in to your work has a purpose, and that you are not just working for the sake of working. This last one is a problem that I have had many times, where I fill my day with unnecessary tasks to just to make myself feel like I am being productive. To work smart I have found that it simply takes two things, a little planning and a little strategy. Make it a habit to spend 10 to 20 minutes planning out your projects before you start them and you will find that you are vastly more productive and successful.
14. Be Willing to do Anything, but Smart Enough to Hand Off Everything
I call it the entrepreneur’s trap. We either think we can do everything better than everyone else, or we think that we can just delegate everything to others and never do anything ourselves. Both of these attitudes will cripple any business, personal life, or project. If we bury ourselves with work and get caught under a pile of tasks then nothing will ever get done. But on the other end, if we hand everything we need to do off to others, then our success is in the hands of someone else, and we are now waiting forever and ever before even the simplest tasks can get done.
My personal filter is importance. Either a task is a 1 and it has to be done soon, or it is a 2 and it can wait. If the task is a 1 I only hand it off if I absolutely know it will get done soon. If the task is a 2, then I will likely pass it off and have someone else do it. Create some sort of filter for yourself in order to know what the right action is for any given task.
15. Keep Your Place Clean
This might be my OCD talking, but having a clean place to work and live is one of the most important productivity hacks that I can think of. it literally takes 10 minutes a day to do, and it is a big item you can cross off of your list. It feels great knowing that I have a clean place to come back to or a nice and tidy spot to work at.
Environment is a big factor in our lives, and the difference between a clean and messy spot can be the deciding factor of you finishing a project or distracting you from doing something that is important. If you do not want to clean your place yourself, there are a ton of online cleaning companies that are popping up. Homejoy is in many major cities now, but there are likely dozens of local cleaners near you to choose from. If you can afford it, cleaning is definitely a “delegate” task.
16. Work on long term projects
Nothing worth having comes easy, and nothing worth any value will happen overnight. The projects that change our lives, the projects that make us retire early, and the projects that we are passionate about all take time. Lots of time. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your business be successful overnight. I used to try to do one long term project a week, but everything that I do is now a long term project. The simple day to day tasks are fleeting. I strive to create real value. That should be the filter that we all have in our lives. Is what we are working on going to create some sort of lasting impact or value?
This is the concept of being proactive vs reactive. A proactive person will plan and execute on tasks that provide real long term value. A reactive person will only do things as they come up and have to react to the environment that they are in. All you have to do to be a proactive person is to pick a project and stick to it. That is the start of creating real value.
17. Stop Watching Porn
This is more of a habit to break, but it is an important one. Guys, you are addicted. 95% of men are addicted to pornography and it is a disease that is largely overlooked in society. Porn does so many negative things to our minds and our lives. This is a habit that no one covers because very few people have studied the effect that it has on our mind. A great place to start is this TED talk. Gary Wilson has outlined the neurological effect that it has on the brain, and how we are not evolutionarily suited to be able to handle the stimuli that we encounter from it. Another place to read up is Your Brain on Porn. This is a massive resource to learn what porn addiction is and how to break it.
Countless people have reported more focus, a higher sex drive, a more positive outlook on life, decreased anxiety, and a number of other health benefits just from quitting watching. There is a sub-reddit that is completely dedicated to quitting called NoFap, where thousands of guys are coming together to voluntarily give up porn. All of this doesn’t even include that it is degrading to women and places them in a light that does not exist in normal society. I highly recommend that you quit watching porn and instead watch your life transform.
18. Work on Networking and Social Skills
A single conversation with the right person can change your life forever. Networking is the most important business and personal skill that can be learned. You can have a great idea with a great plan and great vision, but if your social skills are poor then you will still have a difficult time making any progress. Humans are a social species. That is how we have survived over the last tens of thousands of years. We are instinctively driven to search out others and make lasting relationships.
All you have to do to get good at networking is go and strike up a conversation with someone. It is easy to do and takes little to no effort. Just ask questions and listen. People love to talk and tell you about themselves so all you must do is give them an opportunity to do so.
19. Wake Up Earlier
When do you wake up? 8? 10? Noon? And when do you go to bed? Likely after midnight? Lets assume that the person A wakes up at 10am and goes to bed a midnight and person B wakes up at 6am and goes to bed at 10pm. By the time person A wakes up, person B has already had four hours to start their day. Four hours is a lot of time! If that is applied and focused time to work then that could be the difference between living a proactive and reactive life. And yes you might argue that person A has two extra hours at night to work, but how many people actually work after 10pm? I can safely say it is very few.
Last but definitely not least, you must smile! If you hate smiling for some reason then fake it. if you don’t hate smiling then why are you not smiling? People respond to you as a reflection of yourself. If I am talking to someone and I am in a grumpy or angry mood, then their reactions towards me will be closed and defensive. If I approach the same person smiling and happy, then they will have a more open attitude and be willing to talk. A simple smile has opened more doors and built more relationships that I could ever begin to count.
Barriers, Frustration, and Giving Up
We all hit a wall. I have experienced too many moments when I felt like giving up or quitting. When it felt like there was no point in even trying anymore. But there is. Every habit must be learned, and every habit can be broken. It just takes time. When we do something different, then we are doing something that is not natural for our current state of being. Our bodies and minds have evolved to get in rhythms and states of being that are the easiest and use the least energy. Our brain cannot instinctively tell right from wrong, so that is where we must consciously exert effort to make that positive change. It will be hard at times and you will feel like giving up, but the moment when you have succeeded will out-way every heartache, every struggle, and every difficulty a thousand fold.
The only thing that needs to be done in order to change your life is to try. Just put in the effort and do something different. Check out this weekly planner template if you have not already, and start by planning out your next week. Keep it extremely simple and don’t overwhelm yourself, but make one or two changes that you can easily measure. As you start to see success it will slowly build upon itself until you have snowballed into the person that you dream of being.