If there is one thing that will define you as a person, it is your Habits. Moreover, if there is one thing that will determine whether you live a life of integrity, it’s your Habits. The Habits you acquire and continually work on throughout your life will shape your life and your identity. Simply put, bad Habits lead to a not-so-good life, but good Habits give you unlimited potential to live the life of your dreams. If you think this sounds too simple, let me be clear that simple does not mean easy. This does take work. Just like anything else worth doing, good Habits are not just one and done. You must continually evaluate and hone your Habits, even after you’ve formed them. This is the only way to ensure positive and sustainable results. So, I consider Habits the roots of your life from which everything else grows.
What are Habits? They’re behaviors you repeat until the behavior is second nature. You know something is a Habit when you no longer have to think about doing it and when you no longer need excessive willpower to stick with it. This is true for good Habits and bad Habits. Of course, we want to focus on the good ones.
Most people think of Habits as these huge behemoths of change. Sometimes they are. But in most cases Habits are just accumulation of small changes, which add up to big changes over time. One or two Habits can make a drastic change for sure. But that doesn’t mean you should only have a few good Habits. Habits are continuous, you will always be working on bettering your Habits and adding new ones when necessary. You may also find that some Habits which you thought were good, turn out to be bad for you long term. Smoking is a good example of this. I don’t know any teenager who starts smoking because they want to die of a heart attack or of lung cancer in 40 to 50 years. They do it to look cool or to de-stress. But over time, this benefit gets eclipsed by the long-term downfalls of smoking.
How Do I Form Positive Habits?
Let’s revisit The Simple Life Principle #5 “Take Action Today and Every Day.” Small, daily actions, taken consistently, will add up. But, you should also remember Principle #2 “Avoid Extremes.” Massive actions taken here and there don’t add up to much, except burnout. Today we think everything must have an immediate and automatic effect. But that’s not the way life truly works. It is far harder to make a massive change in a very short period of time. That is where most people fail to make positive change—when they don’t get the result they want immediately, they throw in the towel. Don’t be that person! This is the kind of person who has no sense of their authentic self because they’re always chasing new widgets, or systems, in search of a “shortcut.”
In my books, I talk about how to escape the daily anxiety and monotony of living in what I call “The Grid.” The Grid is a network of society-wide beliefs, systems and institutions which are designed to turn us into commodities. This is why so many people don’t live with real integrity. They’re too busy conforming. For example, just think about how many industries and institutions profit from promising you pleasure today at the expense of tomorrow’s dreams. Nothing sells like good old pain without gain and instant gratification, right? In my experience, most of the “experts” in our society are the architects of the beliefs, systems, and institutions, which make us slaves to The Grid and its lifestyle. These Gridmasters count on you and me to learn, and to repeat Habits that will move money out of your pocket into theirs and help them maintain their positions of power and privilege. The only way out of this Gridlocked Lifestyle is to replace those beliefs and Habits with ones that will empower you.
The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Failed New Year’s Resolutions
Historically people try to make changes to their health at the beginning of the year. You know, the good old New Year’s Resolution! Why someone would wait until a new year to make change in their life baffles me. Changing your life for the positive is a constant life-long endeavor. If you assume this is more likely to happen because you align your decision to change your life with the calendar, you’re setting yourself up for failure. First of all, waiting for a certain time of the year to do something positive is no way to form Habits. You form Habits from what you do consistently, rain or shine. Just think about how silly it is to try and learn positive Habits by saying…
“I’ll do that at the beginning of the year as one of my New Year’s Resolutions.”
“I’ll start working on this goal once the kids are back in school.”
“I’ll start my diet after the Holidays are over.”
“I’ll start my business after this financial slump has passed and the stock market is up again.”
This is a piss poor a way to change your life. It doesn’t help you build personal integrity because you’re hinging your success on exterior circumstances instead of on your own resourcefulness and determination. In fact, we should start calling them “New Year’s Procrastinations for Failure” instead of “New Year’s Resolutions.” After all, how resolute are you if you don’t start working on your positive Habits the second you get the idea? The sooner you start a positive Habit, the more time you have to benefit from that Habit and the more you benefit from the initial momentum of acting right away instead of putting things off.
You have to look at positive Habits as an investment that compounds over time, just like your 401k retirement account. The more positive Habits you have, and the more energy you put into them, the more potential they will have to pay off in the future. Also, the more positive Habits you have, the less likely negative Habits will find their way into your life and the more inner peace and happiness you’ll have.
More importantly, start thinking of all the things you want to change in your life. What Habits can you implement in order to accomplish these? Write them down… that is a positive Habit within itself.
One thing I can guarantee is that if you continue to follow the “instant gratification” mindset of the Grid, your actions will NOT become Habits. Habits need time to incubate and to find their way into your permanent beliefs and behavior patterns. There is no magic formula. Everyone’s relationship with these Habits is highly personal, and so is the time frame for these Habits to pay off. So, never give up on your positive Habits, because they seem to not be working right now or because they’re working much quicker for someone else than they are for you. That person might just be better at getting started, while you might be better at sticking with your Habits long term. And I’ll take the long-term advantage any day over a quick start. Long-term success leads to real peace and happiness because you come to a place where you no longer have to overthink shit or use excessive willpower to “stick to your commitments.” Instead, you just live your authentic life and enjoy every day of it.
Let me give you a perfect example from my life about sticking with a Habit and being rewarded later down the road. I started my journey to becoming a writer in 2010 I had no background as a writer. Matter of fact, I sucked at English and writing throughout most of my life. I was a math guy. But I also have a very creative side and love teaching. So, when I first started my pursuit of a possible writing career, I was not very good. Not at all. But I kept at it, and developed Habits overtime, which made me better and better. One of the most valuable Habits I have acquired over the years is using a well-thought-out outline to make sure my writing had good organization. From the beginning of my writing career, I have been creating this outline before I even write one word of the manuscript, and I still do this today. This Habit saves me a ton of time, and more importantly makes my editors job a lot easier. It also makes my books much more readable and memorable.
By creating and sticking to this Habit, I now make a full-time living as a writer. Yes, it took ten years. But if hadn’t stuck with that Habit, it would have been much harder for me to get to this point. Hell, there is a good chance I may not have made it at all. Obviously, there are many other Habits I have developed over my writing career. But starting very book with a well-thought-out outline is one of the most important.
That’s where this saying comes from…
“I’m an overnight success that only took 10 years to accomplish.”
The belief in overnight success is one of the Sacred Dogmas of The Grid. In real life, results only come as the result of your consistent Habits. Can you show me someone who is overweight and unhealthy as a result of consistently eating healthy and exercising? Can you show me someone who is broke as a result of living within their means and saving their extra money? Of course you can’t, because that person doesn’t exist. Oh trust me, I have had many clients who have come to me and say…
“I don’t understand why I’m overweight and don’t feel good… I do everything right!”
But when I dig into their eating and exercise routines, I almost always find a long list of bad Habits.
I hope you can now see Habits are critical to your success in life. Develop and practice good habits things tend to go your way; develop and practice bad habits, not so much!