For better or worse, our habits shape us.
Our daily lives are a series of habits played out through the day.
Better life habits have the potential to increase your well-being and ability to perform effectively.
Confucius once said, “Men’s natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them.”
Don’t let bad habits hold you back in life.
Start building these habits for a happier, productive, and fulfilling life.
Enthusiasm is common. Commitment is rare.
In research by the Journal of Clinical Psychology, approximately 54% of people who resolve to change their ways fail to make the transformation last beyond six months, and the average person makes the same life resolution 10 times over without success.
Knowing what to do is not an issue, COMMITTING to it is the problem!
Many of us lack the proper structures to support the behavioral changes our life goals require.
Commitment, consistency and patience.
Those are hardest skills I have had to learn to use to be better and improve daily. In his brief 1890 work, Habit, William James, a writer, philosopher and physician considered to be one of the fathers of modern psychology laid out observations on forming new and lasting behaviors:
“Put yourself assiduously in conditions that encourage the new way,” he wrote. “Make engagements incompatible with the old; take a public pledge, if the case allows; in short, envelop your resolution with every aid you know. This will give your new beginning such a momentum that the temptation to break down will not occur as soon as it otherwise might; and every day during which a breakdown is postponed adds to the chances of its not occurring at all.”
Making meaningful and long-lasting changes in life depends on your ability to form and execute new goal achieving activities consistently enough that they become habitual.
Spend the first hour of your work day on high-value tasks
Don’t begin the activities of your day until you know exactly what you plan to accomplish.
Don’t start your day until you have it planned. — Jim Rohn
Every morning, get one most important things done immediately.
There is nothing more satisfying than feeling like you’re already in the flow.
And the easiest way to trigger this feeling is to work on your most important task in the first hour.
Use your mornings for high-value work.
Lean to avoid the busy work that adds no real value to your work, vision or long-term goal.
Low-value activities, including responding to notifications, or reacting to emails keep you busy and stop you from getting real work done. Make time for work that matters.
In his book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen says, “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”
Research shows that it takes, on average, more than 23 minutes to fully recover your concentration after a trivial interruption.
Single task with purpose
In an age of constant digital interruptions, it is no wonder you’re having trouble ignoring distractions.
If you really have to focus on that task, limit the time you have to spend on any given task. Add dates, and due time to your to-do lists.
Push yourself to deliver within the specified time and move on.
Single-tasking is one task at a time, with zero tolerance for distractions.
Try the Pomodoro Technique to improve your chances of success when you embrace single -tasking habit.
Focus on one task for about 30 minutes, then take a 5 minute break, and then move on to another task or continue the task.
Commit to lifelong learning
One of the best ways to gain knowledge is self-education. Period.
It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a college classroom or a coffee shop.
As long as you are genuinely interested in what you are studying, don’t stop. Make the most of your time and get the best education you can can offer yourself.
People who take the time and initiative to pursue knowledge on their own are the only ones who earn a real education in this world.
Take a look at any widely acclaimed scholar, entrepreneur or historical figure you can think of.
Formal education or not, you’ll find that he or she is a product of continuous self-education.
Lifelong learning will get most of your questions answered.
You don’t even have to commit long hours everyday to learning. Whatever time you decide to put in your own education, stick to it.
What are the most interesting topics you wish to know more about.
The goal here is to find as many sources of ideas and knowledge as possible.
Brain Pickings is a good place to start. It’s one of my favorites. And it’s free. Go subscribe and you won’t be disappointed.
Find other blogs blogs, websites or online courses that can broaden your horizon. Read expert opinions about topics of interest on Quora.
It’s a game-changer in the world of question and answer websites. Look for answers to some of your most important questions at places people normally ignore.
Use lateral thinking to solve problems
Lateral thinking means deliberately setting out to look at a challenge from completely different angles to find great solutions that would otherwise remain hidden.
As Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”.
A new approach is probably all you need to get unstuck.
Break away from vertical thinking.
Vertical: Step by step, analyzing, based on facts and convention, one expected result.
Lateral: Provokes, jumps from one to another, breaks the rules, looks at possibilities, many results
Shane Snow, author of Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success explains:
Lateral Thinking is the process of solving problems via different angles than you might expect. It doesn’t happen when you do more of the same thing. So just simply working harder may not accomplish a goal like rethinking the approach you’re taking. Lateral thinking is about getting in the mindset of breaking the rules that aren’t really rules; they’re just the way things have been conventionallydone in the past.
Spending just five minutes a day being mindful changes how you react to everything
At any moment, or situation, if you’re aware that your mind is wandering, you’re halfway to a successful mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness is paying attention to everything happening around you.
According to research, it has some quite extraordinary effects on the brains of those who do it regularly.
Through repeated mindfulness practice, brain activity is redirected from ancient, reactionary parts of the brain, including the limbic system, to the newest, rational part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex.
Sometimes, achieving calm has everything to do with starting things off right each day.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be practiced in the form of a 30-minute meditation sequence.
Mark Williams, co-author of Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World encourages us to live in the moment every day. “Start living right here, in each present moment.
When we stop dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, we’re open to rich sources of information we’ve been missing out on — information that can keep us out of the downward spiral and poised for a richer life,” he says.
When practiced and applied, mindfulness fundamentally alters the operating system of the mind.
In less than five minutes a day, you can become less reactive and more in tune with the moment.
In that five minutes lies the opportunity to improve the way you decide and direct, the way you engage with everyone around you.
Most people find mornings the best time to practice mindfulness, but you can do it any time of day.
It can help you select your responses and make calculated choices instead of succumbing to reactionary decisions everyday.
Your brain needs you to read everyday
Reading puts your brain to work.
Reading is to the mind what exercise is to your body.
It gives us freedom to roam the expanse of space, time, history, and offer a deeper view of ideas, concepts, emotions, and body of knowledge.
Roberto Bolaño says, “Reading is like thinking, like praying, like talking to a friend, like expressing your ideas, like listening to other people’s ideas, like listening to music, like looking at the view, like taking a walk on the beach.”
Your brain on books is active — growing, changing and making new connections and different patterns, depending on the type of material you’re reading.
Reading heightens brain connectivity
Our brains change and develop in some fascinating ways when we read.
As you read these words, your brain is decoding a series of abstract symbols and synthesizing the results into complex ideas.
It’s an amazing process.
The reading brain can be likened to the real-time collaborative effort of a symphony orchestra, with various parts of the brain working together, like sections of instruments, to maximize our ability to decode the written text in front of us.
Reading rewires parts of your brain. Maryanne Wolf explains in her book, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain:
Human beings invented reading only a few thousand years ago. And with this invention, we rearranged the very organization of our brain, which in turn expanded the ways we were able to think, which altered the intellectual evolution of our species. . . Our ancestors’ invention could come about only because of the human brain’s extraordinary ability to make new connections among its existing structures, a process made possible by the brain’s ability to be reshaped by experience.
Reading involves several brain functions, including visual and auditory processes, phonemic awareness, fluency, comprehension, and more.
The same neurological regions of the brain are stimulated by reading about something as by experiencing it.
According to the ongoing research at Haskins Laboratories for the Science of the Spoken and Written Word, reading, unlike watching or listening to media, gives the brain more time to stop, think, process, and imagine the narrative in from of us.
Reading every day can slow down late-life cognitive decline and keeps the brains healthier.
In a world where information is the new currency, reading is the best source of continuous learning, knowledge and acquiring more of that currency.
Reading requires patience, diligence, and determination.
Reading is like any skill. You have to practice it, regularly and constantly.
Where you prefer the alluring glow and convenience of a smartphone or the sense of control of a paper book, by all means make time to read.
Next time you choose a book from the shelf, or download a new title on your Kindle, stop and think about what you’re reading — it could impact you more than you realise!
Expose yourself to different world views
Be genuinely curious about other cultures, languages or how things are done differently by others.
Different cultures could have a big positive effect on your own ideas. Read about other industries.
Find out how work is done in different markets. Get out of your own perception for once. Be open to discussions that does not share your world view.
Read books on topics you usually ignore.
Unconsciously, you are are more likely to search, find and read about everything you know something about.
It’s a way to protect and reinforce your beliefs, perceptions and opinions.
The only way to get out of your own world view is to step outside your perception and embrace new knowledge.
Get fascinated by a lot things.
If you can’t get fascinated, you won’t care enough to really learn something. You’ll just go through the motions.
How do you get fascinated?
Often doing something with or for other people helps to motivate me to look more deeply into something, and reading about other people who have been successful/legendary at it also fascinates me.
Allow yourself to wander.
Take a break to restore flow
Sometimes all you need to restore flow, is to take a step back and ask where the current patterns are leading and whether you are making progress or not.If you feel stuck in a different area of your life, break the norm.
When was the last time you deliberately broke your flow. Taking a break every now and then is important for your work. Do yourself a favor and take sometime off to recuperate.
Don’t stay put in one spot for too long. Move. Get up. Take a 15 minute walk. The faster your blood moves, the faster oxygen gets to your brain. Hence, better ideas, better results.
If you are distracted by too many things, it pays to disconnect. Remove distractions. Turn off notifications.
Or better still, turn off your phone, mobile devices and leverage silence to think or relax. In other words, block out the external world and retreat inwards to find new energy.
Sometimes all you need is a change of environment, style, routine or pattern. Break away from the usual.
Sura, a Meditation Coach, recommmends you move and play. She writes:
Being immersed in movement and play really gets the flow of energy moving in your body and your life. Try a new way of moving: dancing, tai chi, racquetball. Go see a comedy. Paint. Play Twister or Monopoly. Whatever it is, let yourself be free without restriction. What are the silly, playful things that you don’t usually make time for? Giving yourself time to play and unwind can make an immense difference in bringing new energy into your life.
If you could just pick one or two habits to create in the next few months — habits that will have the most impact on your life — what would they be?
Ready to start a life-changing habit?
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Originally published at medium.com.