Habits - they make us and they break us!
Good habits can be the very thing driving us on to our goals.
Bad habits can be the Achilles heal sabotaging our best intentions on a daily basis.
Habit is the action that happens automatically when we encounter a particular stimuli. The key word here is automatic.
When a habit is ingrained in your brain it will override intention and make it difficult to deliberately choose a different action.
Most behavior is habitual, and they say that the chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.
Habits become harder and harder to change as time passes because they don’t rely on memory or willpower.
If you want to have habits that last you through a lifetime, 20s is the time to start laying the foundation.
How to change a habit?
To change a habit you need to break the ‘habit loop’ of cue, routine and reward.
The quickest and most hassle-free way to build a new habit into your life is to stack it up on top of a current habit.
Habit stacking takes advantage of the already existing neural pathways instead of building a reward loop from scratch.
In our course of work, our performance is often influenced by the external factors over which we cannot exert control. To maximise the possibility of success, you need to concentrate on the one thing that you can control - your habits and your actions.
Here are 8 habits which will give you a serious shot at becoming the best version of yourself in the future.
1. Wake up early, but don’t start working yet!
Starting your day early is one habit that has all round positive impact on your health, productivity, efficiency and success. Biologist Christopher Randler has found that, early risers are more proactive, better planners and better poised for business success.
Early risers are happier and healthier than the night owls.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz are in the office by 6 am.
Apple CEO Tim Cook wakes up at 4.30 am to hit the gym.
Vogue editor Anna Wintour wakes up at 5.45 am to play tennis.
If you get up at 5 am to check your emails, you are defeating the purpose.
When you examine the morning routine of the successful, you will find they don’t spend their mornings on work.
They spend their mornings on themselves - exercising the body, recharging the mind with meditation or indulging in a hobby that ignites their creativity.
Does this mean you should start cutting back on your sleep?
Most emphatically not.Getting restorative sleep (ideally 6.5 to 7.5 hours) is an essential function of waking up early.
Mind over Mattress
The key is to spread your work throughout the day to avoid working late nights to finish tasks. Another strategy is to plan your morning beforehand. When you have a to-do list, it is easier for you to move out of bed and start the day.
I know, many of us feel that successful people can ‘afford to’ wake up early.
In reality many of us with commitments similar to our own are doing it with great results.Why not have a look at the routines of early risers from all over the world and compare notes?
2. Learn the art of ‘conscious media consumption’
Media, either online or offline is a huge part of our lives. We are dependent on it for news, entertainment, emotional connections and even our livelihood.
Social Media and Internet have revolutionised how people live, work and earn money. But our virtual realities have taken over our lives to the point of distraction from our real lives.
Are we consuming media or is the media consuming us?
Individuals aged 18 to 36 spend an average of 17.8 hours a day with different types of media. User-generated content (social media posts, photos, blogs, email, texting and talking to others about media) occupies about 5.4 hours of the average Millennial's day.
Our attachment to the media has reached the levels of addiction and concepts like “social media fast’ are gaining momentum.
Webroot research into 'social media consumption' found that, 75% of Millennials feel addicted to social media. And 54% of Millennials access their social network of choice constantly from their smartphone or tablet.
55% of those surveyed would actually stay away from social media entirely “if they could start fresh”.
Is the habit of excessive media consumption and constant connectivity worth carrying forward to your 40s,50s and 60s?
We all know, this is not an ideal lifestyle to follow if we want to achieve anything at all.
Even technology driven entrepreneur Steve Jobs had understood the dangers of overexposure and was a low-tech parent.
But quitting social media is not a realistic option.
Instead consciously pick and choose the type and amount of media you want to consume.
I can’t control who follows me, but I can control who I follow.
Planning your day ahead and prioritising the tasks will also help you sharpen your focus and minimise the time wasted.
Social media is a great servant but a destructive master.
You should be the one driving it, rather than it dictating your time and attention.
3. Pay attention to your finances
How well do you know your money?
No, nothing fancy like stock markets and derivatives. I am asking about your savings, your federal student debt, your taxes, and 401(k).
If you felt like I just spoke pig latin to you, you are not alone.
Millennials are considered to be the worst among all generations when it comes to financial literacy.
The PWC and George Washington University survey on Millennials and Financial Literacy revealed that only 24% of Millennials demonstrated basic financial knowledge. Nearly 30% are overdrawing on their checking accounts.
American Institute of CPA’S discovered that, more than a quarter of millennials surveyed had missed a bill or had been contacted by a creditor due to late payments.
Millennials, as an age group, have the lowest credit scores as well.
Rule No. 1: Never lose money. Rule No. 2: Never forget rule No. 1
"Are we saying debt is a bad thing?
Not necessarily.As long as you use it wisely it should actually help you to optimise your financial resources.
But if you take your eye off the ball, it can deliver a blow to your best laid plans.
When you don't manage your finances, you will be forced to make choices out of desperation rather than passion.
Stripped to its basics financial management is not rocket science.
Here are 4 basics of money management for the uninitiated -
- Save - a percentage of your income rather than a fixed amount, so that, when you earn more automatically your savings will rise.
- Value vs price - Always compare the price you are paying to the value you are getting when you are paying with credit cards.
- Keep Cash in Hand - Warren Buffett recommends, ‘don’t leave home without it’.
- Learn about money - Undue risk is the direct outcome of lack of knowledge.Start your financial literacy early and build it like compound interest.
4. Surround yourself with the right people
The people whom you share your goals with - mentors, colleagues, family or friends, are a vital part of your journey.
we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.
Many of us always strive to be the smartest person in the room. Our insecurities often drive us to work only with people who don't challenge our ability or skill.
Is your desire to be right all the time interfering with your growth?
When you are always working with ‘yes men’, it creates a limiting environment.
In no time you will be dragged down to the level of the lowest common denominator in your team.
Your potential for growth is directly proportional to the quality of your competition.
Don't surround yourself with people who are just like you. Aim to work with people who have different sets of skills and attitudes because diversity promotes creativity and innovation.
When you are working with people who are better than you, you will be motivated to elevate your performance to match them or exceed them.
A true leader is not the ‘best’ or the smartest person in the team.
Good ideas don't have a hierarchy.
Distinguished leaders, like Steve Jobs and James Dyson, encouraged their teams to consistently question the way they did things.
President Lincoln famously appointed his chief rivals to his cabinet.
Successful people have the vision to see how everyone’s skills fit into the larger picture and accommodate them accordingly.
Have the courage to look beyond your ego and seek to work with people who keep you on your toes.
5. Read a lot, there is no substitute for it
Can you guess the one habit that is common among high achievers in all fields?
Almost all of them are voracious readers.
Warren Buffett devotes about 80% of each day to reading. Bill Gates reads 50 books per year i.e. 1 book per week. Mark Cuban reads for 3 hours everyday. Among wealthy people, 88 percent read 30 minutes or more every day.
Reading can help you improve not only IQ but also your EQ.
The American Academy of Neurology Study has revealed that people who read consistently exhibit better memory and mental abilities.
Reading reduces stress, depression and the risk of dementia.
Reading gives you a richer and broader perspective into your own life.
One lifetime is too short to go through all of life’s experiences. Books offer a window into an unknown world so that you can understand and empathise with the struggles of others.
When it comes to reading, quality trumps quantity.
When you are developing the habit of reading, make sure that you don't squander your time on flaky tabloids.
It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.
Successful people value education over entertainment while choosing books.
They are particularly partial to biographies for inspiration and guidance.
According to author Tom Corley, rich people read for self-improvement and education. Whereas poor people read for entertainment.
No matter what your area of interest is, there is a book for you. Thanks to the advances in technology, access and portability of books has increased exponentially.
Why not start off with these 20 books on the reading list of every leader?
6. Self-discipline goes a long way
Self-discipline is a much maligned concept, associated with rigidity, restriction and a limited lifestyle.
Self-discipline is a form of freedom. Freedom from laziness and lethargy, freedom from the expectations and demands of others, freedom from weakness and fear – and doubt.
In reality, self-discipline means learning to focus your resources on your goals and persevering until they are realised.
It means choosing a high value task over the one that offers momentary gratification.
A University of Chicago study into 'self control and life satisfaction' has found correlations between self-control and happiness, even financial security.
Self-discipline has been found to be a greater predictor of academic performance than IQ.
The journey of success demands everyday commitments. Self-discipline helps you stick with that future success day in and day out.
Self-discipline is the congruence of intention and action.
The journey of self-discipline begins with awareness - of your time and priorities.
Then taking deliberate decisions that steer you towards worthiest of actions.
The final crucial step is to follow-through and monitor yourself.
Self-discipline ensures that you reach your goals in the reasonable time frame with the optimised use of your resources. It is a crucial habit if you want to achieve anything at all amidst conflicting goals demanding your attention.
Self-discipline is not a limited resource, like a muscle it grows stronger with use.
Start exercising it today!
7. Make time for your family
A balanced life is a successful life.
Your goals, attentions and efforts should be balanced across all areas of your life.
The time you spend with your family helps you develop deeper and meaningful connections. This will ultimately keep you happier and healthier.
If you become a workhorse blind to emotional and social ties, you will live to regret it.
From Barack Obama to Usher, they all wish they could spend more time with the family.
Bronnie Ware says that when it comes to regrets, not taking time out for family comes only second to not being true to ourselves.
IMaking time for your family means, prioritising and scheduling the time spent with your family.
Many of us confuse balancing work and family life with spending equal amounts of time on both. This is unrealistic and sets you up for failure even before you begin. Instead, switching off from work for a couple of hours when you come home can be the practical option in the long run.
So, where to find the time to spend with family in the middle of a 47-hour workweek ?
The thing is, you don’t need more time, you just need better time management.
We spend 41% of our time on activities that offer little personal satisfaction and can be delegated to others. So, many a times it is about cutting out the low value tasks to clear out your schedule.
Focus your time and energy at work on high value tasks that have a concrete influence on the outcomes. Take advantage of this free time to switch off from work and take part in the lives of your family.
8. Move on, set bigger goals
This is why we see few athletes who have the temperament to rule the roost for decades.
This is the reason we see one hit wonders who fizzle off.
Success is much harder to handle than failure.We even fear success so much that we self-sabotage.
Sigmund Freud observed that, ego will defend itself hotly against a wish as soon as it approaches fulfillment and threatens to become a reality.
The Enemy of the best is the good. If you're always settling with what's good, you'll never be the best.
How often have you become content with small successes along the way and lost sight of the bigger potential awaiting you?
High achievers know that success is an ongoing journey and every achievement is a pit stop. It should expand your skills and vision, not make you complacent.
This continuous drive for excellence is what determines the limits of your achievements. This drive is the reason why technopreneurs like Zuckerberg are still innovating with their products. This is why Richard Branson went from Virgin Records to Virgin Galactic.
Success is a moving goalpost, that’s why Magic Johnson moved on to production after retiring from basketball.
Resting on past laurels stagnates your growth. Seeking higher goals stimulates your progress.
Use your success as the springboard that propels you forward. Use this success as the cushion that helps you navigate the future risks.
Build on the skills, experience and contacts you already have to reach higher and achieve more.
Transformation is not a future event, it is happening right now.
The things you do today will chip away over time to reveal the future you.
So, pay close attention to the habits you are cultivating in your 20s. They can determine the level of success and happiness you will have in your 40s.
Distractions and setbacks will veer you off course on your journey. A good habit can help you pick yourself up and continue.
Good habits are difficult to start. Bad habits are difficult to stop.
Picking up the right habits is as important as avoiding the wrong ones.
What is the one habit you want to change today?