Success isn’t just about the skills and knowledge you acquire; it is about the person you become. You are the product of how you conduct yourself every day. Your habits determine how you conduct yourself.
Success and happiness don’t always happen through a single moment. They happen through many small moments in your life that will lead to the major breakthroughs.
So, the question you need to ask yourself is:
“What are my daily habits, and are they building me up for success and happiness?”
1. Wake up on time
How you start your day will determine how you conduct and end your day. Time is the greatest valuable asset. It is the only asset in our world that we cannot create. If you lose money, you can still make it back. But, time will never return. Time is your most precious asset.
High-performers make sure that they wake up on time and make the most of their day.
Start your day with a simple success by waking up when you intend to.
2. Start With A Win
“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” That was the advice given by US Navy Admiral, William H McRaven. If you do something as simple as making your bed first thing in the morning, you will have begun your day with a win. It sets your mindset off on a powerful trajectory that will release a whole soup of “feel-good” hormones.
Even if you end up having a challenging day, you will come back to a clean and tidy bed that you made. That alone can provide you with a small level of gratitude to end your day and give you hope for tomorrow.
3. Connect with yourself and your environment
In a recent videocast, I conducted, Functional Medicine Practitioner, Amal Ismail, shared a habit that we all know we should break, but a lot of us still find it hard to do so: avoid any screen time first thing in the morning.
What she advises is to “connect with yourself and your environment”. You can connect with yourself by doing the following:
· Deep breathing exercises
· Reflect on all the things you are grateful for
· Mentally say your chosen incantations or affirmations (without using your screen)
You can connect with your environment by simply going for a walk in nature, or looking at a picture of nature (again without using your screen). This is a Japanese practise called Shinrin Yoku, or Forest Bathing. Studies have found that you don’t need to walk in nature to receive the benefits. You can get almost the same results by looking at a picture of trees and nature, especially water features as they have found to dramatically increase serotonin and endorphin levels.
As well as helping you relax, forest bathing has also shown to help increase your brain’s ability to focus. It is why I use images of nature in my presentations and training programs between themes and topics. They help relax the cognitive functions of your brain and helps your brain recharge to focus on the next topic.
4. Review your big, massive goals
High performers consistently share this habit, and it is one that will help you make sure you are focusing on your vision as well as remind you of why your working so hard.
Review your big goals and ambitions. Repeat them to yourself or say them out loud and pause in between each big goal to reflect on why that goal is important to you. Go through the Seven Levels Of Why to get clear on the ultimate reason for why each goal is important to you. Here is a hint: your ultimate Why is almost always an emotional feeling you get. For example, you may want more money, but more money will lead to buying your dream home, which will help you give the life you want for your family, which will mean they never go through the hardship that you went through, which means you will feel a sense of accomplishment.
5. Review your plan for the day
What are your big actions and outcomes for today? These must be aligned to your big vision and goals; otherwise, they won’t be useful actions. You will mostly have two or three major outcomes in a day. Make a list of these outcomes and make sure that you allocate the time you need to accomplish them in your diary. Doing this will help make sure that you set your valuable time aside to achieve these important outcomes.
Focus less on a task and more on the outcomes. For example, when I train people in B2B sales, most sellers and their managers encourage sellers to make 100 calls a day, but that is not a useful perspective. You are making 100 calls so that you schedule 3 meetings a day. You know that you need to make 3 meetings so that you can convert them into sales which will then achieve the number you need.
Instead of just measuring 100 calls a day, try thinking about the outcome: scheduling 3 meetings. This will help you raise your creativity and seek alternative means for gaining that target for the day e.g. emails, social media messages, follow up emails, referrals etc.
6. Take 1-minute pauses between each activity
This is a habit I learned at school. Between each subject or class, we would take a one minute pause where we close our eyes and take a few deep breaths. Research has found that this helps your brain avoid what is called “switching”. Switching tasks drain your brain of energy and focus. Research has found that it takes up to 20 minutes for your brain to regain its level of focus prior to the switch. When you think about how many times you view your phone, even for a few seconds, that is time that you can’t afford to waste!
Pausing also provides similar benefits as Forest Bathing and helps your brain recharge its focus for the next task. Incidentally, you can look at a picture of nature or look out of the window for one minute. It is just as effective.
7. Eat Lunch
In the same videocast, Amal explains the benefits of taking a lunch break, even if it is for only 15 minutes.
Firstly you need to recharge your reserves and acquire fuel for the energy you need in your day. Food will do that.
Secondly, your digestive system is intricately connected with your psychology. If you “stress eat” you prevent your body from being able to effectively digest your lunch and extract the most nutrients from your meal. So, eating in front of your screen is not something you want to do. Instead, take your lunch to the park or your garden and eat your meal in a relaxed state. If you can’t sit in nature, then eat somewhere away from your desk and in a quiet location. Take the time to reflect and relax as you eat. Failing that, eat whilst watching a video or picture of nature.
The important part is to take time out to recharge and eat in a relaxed state. Don’t eat in a charged and stressful state as this will make you lethargic and uncomfortable during the rest of your afternoon. The result is a lower performance.
8. Connect with nature
We have covered this in previous habits, but this is so important that it requires its own point. If you are unable to spend time in nature first thing in the morning, or during your lunch, make sure you take a short break where you are out in nature. Just looking at trees can give you incredible benefits.
Richard Taylor is a Professor of Physics and Psychology at the University of Oregon, and he conducted a fascinating study into why we become relaxed and happy when we look at nature. He found that the answer is to do with Fractal Patterns. This is a complex topic, but essentially trees and even our bodies are made up of Fractal Patterns. He found that when you look at these Fractal Patterns, even images of them on a computer screen, you can recover from stress by up to 60%. Upon further investigation, he found two major reasons for this.
One is that when we look at Fractals, the frontal lobes of our brain start producing alpha waves. These are the waves of a relaxed state, especially when we meditate.
The second thing he found was that when we look at Fractals, more blood flows to the Parahippocampus. This part of our brain is involved in regulating our emotions.
So, the bottom line is to make sure that you spend some time looking at nature; even if it is for only a few minutes.
9. Do something outside of your comfort zone
Growth happens at the edge of your comfort zone. So, in order to grow, you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
You don’t need to take too big a leap away from your comfort zone every day but do consciously seek out how you can take a small step over your comfort one. There are plenty of ways you can do this (it doesn’t have to be related to your profession or career):
· One extra rep in the gym when you reach your limit
· Try a new form of exercise
· Do an exercise or regiment that you dislike
· Make an extra call a day if you’re a salesperson
· Go one day without eating any refined sugar
· Go one day without taking caffeine
· Read 10 extra pages of a non-fiction book
· Spend the last 1 minute of your shower using just cold water
· Strike up a conversation with a stranger.
There are several benefits to stretching your comfort zone. The first one is that doing this daily helps you build courage. The more small courageous steps you take, the bigger the corouge you will see over a period of time.
The second benefit is that you will become familiar with setbacks or “failure”. I don’t like to use the word “failure” as this has more of a negative connotation compared to “setbacks”. Fear of failure is a common ailment that will hinder your growth. By its very nature, doing something new means that you will likely not succeed the first time; or the first few times. But, practice makes progress. Forget the goal of perfection; it doesn’t exist. Instead, look for progress and congratulate yourself for making progress. Stretching your comfort zone will help you get comfortable with setbacks and start to view them in a whole new way that is more empowering than the common crippling fear that a lot of people have for “failure”.
10. Connect with someone you love
As part of his daily routine, Gary V spends 5 minutes hugging his children and connecting with them, before they go to school. Spending quality time, even a few minutes with a loved one, will release a soup of “feel-good” hormones in your brain and body. This will raise your happiness levels.
If you have a partner, think about small ways you can inject some “magic” into your relationship every day. It doesn’t have to be something you spend on like flowers, but maybe taking the time to hear about their day, or saying something that will make them smile, or even raising their self-esteem. You will find that they will reciprocate!
Another benefit to doing this daily is that it connects with point 4 above. Your massive goals are likely related to a loved one. Connecting with them every day will give you the most powerful reminder for why you are working so hard every day.
11. Learn something new
You may think this comes under stretching your comfort zone, but this is so important that is deserves its own point.
Warren Buffet once said that you should “Go to bed smarter than when you woke up.” If it works for one of the richest people in the world, then it will work for you.
Make sure that you are using what I call the “learning channels”. This could be a professional course, a non-fiction book, a professional article or report, your own company training, financial newspapers, popular publications like the Economist, or even self-help training videos. The channel doesn’t matter, what matters is that you are learning something new, that is of value to your growth, every day (sorry, but new information/gossip about the Kardashians does not qualify).
Make sure that what you learn is aligned with what will help you grow. Get clear about what you need for growth and consistently learn more about those things every day.
12. Reflect on your day
There have been a lot of articles, videos and advice around the benefits of keeping a daily journal. Although there are scientific benefits to writing down your daily experiences and thoughts, you can start off small by just reflecting on your day before going to bed. Doing this before going to bed is important as your brain is starting to enter into the Alpha wave state, and this has an increased impact on your reflection process.
Reflect on the successes from your day, no matter how small! Success is not just big monumental outcomes. You can find success from the smallest things like holding open a door for someone, or taking out the trash. Compound your successes from the whole day. You will be amazed at how you feel.
You should also reflect on your setbacks. You have to be careful not to allow those setbacks to dominate your emotional state and define the results of your day (you don’t want to go to sleep feeling like a failure or you had an unproductive day). Instead, look at those setbacks as experiences for you to learn from and to help you become increasingly effective.
a. You don’t have to have a journal, although it does help a lot
b. You can just contemplate and review what you have accomplished today
c. End on a high, focus on what you may have not accomplished that you wanted to ad make a promise to yourself to accomplish tomorrow!
d. Then review all the good things that happened today. Doesn’t matter how small, they are all accomplishments!
13. Make a list of your outcomes and goals for tomorrow
This advice helped me a great deal. I used to waste over 30 minutes every morning reviewing the previous day and assessing what that meant to my activities for the day. This was 30 minutes of wasted time as most of it was spent recalling yesterday’s experience. That is why I recommend reflecting on your day before going to bed. It is still fresh in your mind, and it won’t take you as long to recall them as it would the next day.
Getting clear on your outcomes and goals for the next day will make sure that you start the day in “activity mode” rather than “reflection mode”. This will greatly increase your productivity and you will find yourself getting more done in your day.
14. Sleep well!
You are a biological creature, and there is no getting away from this.
You need good quality sleep to regenerate your body and especially your brain. In fact, your brain is the last major organ to be detoxified during sleep. Your brain spends the majority of your sleep detoxifying the rest of your body, before looking after itself. That is why it is important to have the right amount of sleep to give your brain time to clean itself. Yes, eating the right food and avoiding toxins like alcohol will also help detoxify your brain and body faster. But it is a good idea to sleep well. Even Jeff Bezos states that he makes sure to get 8 hours of sleep a night.
Good quality and quantity of sleep also help convert short-term memory into long-term memory. This will help you in your growth journey and learning something new every day that you can apply. Knowledge is not power; it is potential power. If you can’t apply what you have learned in a way that will elevate your life, then that knowledge is useless just sitting in your head. To effectively apply what you have learned, you need to convert it to long-term memory. Sleep will help you do that.
There will be times when you will sleep less due to deadlines or big projects, but you should always seek to make up for lost sleep hours soon afterwards. Try to monitor the strain you put your body through during the day to roughly calculate if you need more sleep during that night. For example, if you had a heavy workout session, especially weightlifting, you should try to sleep more. I personally use a Whoop strap to measure my strain more accurately and learn how much sleep I need, but you don’t have to use this. You know your own body and how much sleep works for you.
There are ways to safely reduce your sleep hours, without impacting your performance, but that is a topic for another article.