“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” —Brian Tracy
When I first learned the habits of successful people, I was astounded — they lead such inspiring lives, which makes their success seem rather reasonable as a result of their lifestyle and discipline. I was anxious to adopt many of their habits thinking even if I don’t achieve success in my life and career, I’d live a better life regardless.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” —Aristotle
Habit is a powerful human force. We are not defined one act but by what we do everyday. Going on a diet then is a counter-productive idea — looking slim for a brief period of time is just as meaningless as not doing it at all because eventually, we all fall back to what we do each day. Thus, the belief behind my regimen dictates that from this day forth, any change I wish to bring about my life that I wouldn’t do for the rest of my life, I would not do at all. But once the habit is deemed necessary to keep for the rest of my life, start immediately.
How Long Does It Take to Form A Habit?
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.” Zig Ziglar
Research has shown that on average, it takes about 66 days before a new behavior becomes automatic while some people may take anywhere from 18 to 254 days. Perseverance is a desired yet difficult virtue to pursue because of setbacks, and such short-term progress may elude your perception of your ability and potential to change and to grow. You must remember why you’re developing new and positive habits in your life constantly. And such motivation will be what carries you to greatness.
Most articles, books, TED talks focus on practical points while some philosophies remain really high level. I tried to gather a list that are both idealistic to pursue over the long run and practical enough to start trying right away. Since I cannot validate most habits I gathered with actual successful leaders, I validate their ideals with the following sources:
- Recent research and theories from Harvard, Stanford, and other institutes of equal stature on motivation, leadership, and innovation.
- Ancient books on morality, life, and leadership from philosophers such as Sun Tzu, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Plato, Aristotle, and those with equal integrity and wisdom.
- Books and lectures by recent prestigious authors such as Daniel Kahneman, Brian Tracy, Steve Jobs, Stephan Covey, Dave Ramsey and others with equal reputation.
I have gathered below 10 habits (some modified to our modern lifestyle) that I wish to share.
1. Read Daily
Every world-changing historical figure, innovative businessman, creative thinker all read in their spare time. Reading good books is like eating healthy meals for the mind inspiring creativity and innovation. If you don’t have time to read, listen to audio books. I realized we often waste a majority of our time in the day doing household chores, commuting, and handling repetitive tasks while doing nothing. Transform those hours into learning, and your mind will improve dramatically. Last year I have transformed hours of mindless tasks into 38 books of knowledge that would have otherwise been wasted wandering off daydreaming. Taking advantage of the loose change can quickly add up.
2. Strong Understanding of Purpose
Most successful people wake up early knowing exactly what they need to achieve not because they are better at creating to-dos (which studies show often times are more counter-productive than most believed), but because they meditate. Successful people take their time to wake up, they massage their face to stimulate blood flow and use the time to organize their thoughts and remember why they are doing what they are doing. Such purpose is usually an altruistic one where money and greed are the least of their concerns. They want to make a change, a dent in the universe by helping the human race move forward. If you’re creating something you will not use, you’re exploiting. At the end of the day, stare into the mirror and ask “Have I lived a productive day that if I die tomorrow, I’d be proud of myself?”
3. Healthy Balanced Meals
All successful people have a very nutritious diet to maintain peak performances. Start each day with a mix of 5 different color fruits on an empty stomach. For the rest of the day, maintain a balanced diet including 5 different color vegetables. Do not cut off carbs for they provide enough energy for the day that would otherwise burn your muscles and damage organs. White meat is the better alternative for proteins while moderate amount of red meat offers a good source of DHA for your heart and your brain. Rule of thumb is that nothing is ever so good that you could eat so much of it — even too much water can be poisonous to the body.
4. Emails and News for Later
Highly successful people never check their phone or emails first thing in the morning; they save it for later when they have the mental capacity to actually digest and reply emails. Idealistically, potentially mind troubling exercise should be saved for later in the day unless if you have a job or a business to run. Studies have shown that checking emails can often disrupt productivity. When checking news, it’s recommended to mix in motivational quotes into your usual feed to get the day started the right way. Some notable inspirational leaders include Zig Ziglar, John Wooden, Dave Ramsey, and Anthony Robbins.
5. Exercise the Body and the Mind
Moderate cardio exercise in the morning is crucial to achieve critical mental performance for the day. Too much would burn your muscle, so you must weight train on the side to maintain a healthy physique. Practice deep breathing at the end your sessions. Most people don’t drink enough water, but more people don’t breathe enough. 30 to 60 minutes of exercise 5 times a week is recommended. Prepare some audio book, so you can train your mind at the same time.
For the mind, I have been experimenting with brain training games. Most of them set out to improve players’ memory, speed, problem solving, versatility, and attention skills. There have been quite a few controversies on the subject claiming the effectiveness of such exercise. I continue to train my brain regardless because my belief resides in breaking the routine. Usually once we get used to a routine, we no longer experience growth from almost any exercise. I experienced similar deficiencies in my weight training routine. So with training brains, try to switch around different apps for optimal results.
Success people have the discipline to be able to close their eyes in the middle of the day and meditate. Usually it should take about 10-20 minutes to meditate unless you’re very busy, you will need to meditate twice. It may seem unrealistic in a hectic workplace, but it is an investment of time, and the payout is usually more than doubled. There are also multiple health benefits related to meditation such as lowering blood pressure and anxiety.
Most are exploring the Buddhist style of meditation technique where you train your mind to focus on only one thing (or concept) or you try to clear off everything in the mind. There are multiple time frames in a day you can meditate for optimal result: upon waking up, after lunch, and before you sleep. The purpose is to let loose and let your subconscious gather your thoughts and make sense of the things you experience in the day.
7. Creative Environment
Both Confucius school of teaching and recent studies reveal that working in an organized space yields a more efficient and creative mind. While there are creative hoarders who are successful artists, generally speaking, having an organized environment relieves your mind from clustering thoughts.
You can explore a thought experiment of your own and imagine yourself now living your usual life in a metropolis, by the beach, or in a forest. Pay attention to each location’s energy and your understanding of such environment. You will notice a big mental paradigm shift when you know the outside of your window is a vast ocean.
8. Family Comes First
Very successful people have a harmonious family. They always have time for the loved ones. Steven Spielberg once said in an interview that he rarely does overtime, so he can go home early for the family. Confucius believe in order to bring peace to the world, one must first fix the nation. In order to fix the nation, you must have a cohesive and harmonious family. Malcolm Gladwell also discusses the value of family in one of his books, Outliers, where a community of Italian immigrants maintained one of the longest living cities in the country without keeping a healthy lifestyle. You just cannot have a corrupt and unbalanced family value and bring that to the work place and succeed. Family is the reflection of person’s value of everything.
9. Diary of Gratitude
Writing is important for anyone for it can refine your thoughts and to better articulate ideas. After each day or at the beginning of each day, write down 10 things you are grateful for. All successful leaders are optimists; they are not quixotic, but practical optimists who bring a raincoat. Naturally, people are attracted to positive energy because that’s what we all essentially yearn for as a human. Do not talk behind someone else’s back. Those who do will certainly talk behind your’s. A mistake is not a mistake if you can learn from it. Stay curious, and learn from anything. Be grateful for those who’d wronged you, so you can move forward and learn from mistakes. Be grateful for those who’s contribution has become invisible to you.
10. Innovative Sleep
A good night sleep is key to maintain peak performance. Successful people sleep 4-6 hours a day, but very successful people sleep 7-8 hours a day because they know that life is not a sprint but a marathon. They stop working in the evening, so they have time for family. Even if they need to work late, they stop 1-2 hours before bed time. Going to bed 30 minutes before feeling tired is most optimal.
There are three things to do before you sleep. You can:
- Read a story and carry that sense of novelty into your dreams.
- Meditate and resolve your issues before you sleep.
- Keep thinking hard about a problem you’re trying to solve. The solution you get through dreaming is usually spectacular.
Forming habit is key to achieving greatness. Without it, you’ll be wasting your life searching for quick fixes. Great results usually yield in the long run and rarely do they promise potential in the very beginning.
“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” —Beverly Sills
Start living successfully and live a good life.