Well-Being//

These 7 Habits Dramatically Improved My Life

Here’s the problem: I HATE practising them.

By Jo Panuwat D/Shutterstock
By Jo Panuwat D/Shutterstock

This morning, I woke up with a headache.

I didn’t want to get out of bed: I couldn’t fall asleep last night, and I got four hours of rest.

My work happens at a laptop, wherever in the world I am, and I am only accountable to myself. That means, there’s no one to kick me out of bed or yell at me if I’m late. That sounds pretty great except, on a day like this.

There was a time when such a bad start would have changed my entire week. And you know, since a week is 23% of a month, you could say it would have transformed the course of my year. Maybe even my life. After all, we’re the sum of our daily actions: whatever condition you are facing today, your present is the result of your past choices.

There was a time when I was the victim of daily circumstances.

Waking up on the wrong side of the bed dictated my own decisions: I went to bed with a plan and woke up with excuses.

Low energy, motivation, a negative conversation, an unexpected message, heck, even breakfast, would rule my day. I had to hope for the best and wait for things to align in my favour.

Until I learned to love doing what I didn’t want to do.

To listen to that voice in my head telling me that:

  • “Today I’m not feeling it.”
  • “The world is against me…”
  • “I’m not good enough.”
  • “Why do I even try…”

Acknowledge it, tell it “thanks for sharing”, and then go ahead and do it anyway.

Research says it takes 66 days on average to establish a new habit.

If you’ve ever decided to start a new positive habit, you likely encountered plenty of adverse conditions during those 2–3 months. A work “emergency” taking your morning reading time, a lot on your mind from a tense conversation, or j a bad day.

Life is testing you to see how much you want your new result: the people around you and the programmes inside you are fighting against that change.

The only way to win is to learn to love doing what you hate.

This morning, when I woke up feeling groggy and defeated, I stayed in bed a few extra minutes, until I gathered enough momentum to kick myself out of bed.

That’s when I quickly made my bed, to make sure I wouldn’t go back to sleep, and I started the day with order on my side.

The voice in my head told me to lie in bed a little longer: instead of falling for the trick, I did the opposite and took control of my day.

My head was throbbing, so I decided to meditate for 15 minutes: the last thing I wanted to do was to scan my body in silence and experience how I felt. But by showing up, the headache went away, and my head cleared. I started to feel great again.

Next, my body still felt a little tired and sluggish — I knew if I accepted that narrative, it was going to be low energy day full of disappointments. So I did the opposite and behaved like the high-energy person I want to be: I went to the park and worked out shirtless in 4°C winter (92°F).

One hour after waking up, I already had a great day. Everything went downhill from there: I wrote a blogpost, helped two coaching clients find their week’s priority, and went for a nice walk (and talked to a couple of strangers on the way).

Instead of being the victim of the day and letting it set the scene for you, attack it head first, and behave as you would under favourable circumstances. If you can turn enough bad days into good ones, you’ll have no choice but to have a great life.

Here are 7 of my favourite habits that I hate doing:

  1. Take a cold shower every morning. I despise cold showers, especially in the morning. That’s why they’re so great: I miss them whenever I’m tempted to skip a day. Cold showers save my day by forcing me to do something slightly uncomfortable right from the get-go. They’re also proven to lower stress levels and increase alertness.
  2. Meditate in the morning. Taking some time out of your day to listen to your body and mind and just become a spectator of the present is a fantastic experience. Except for when you wish to escape your thoughts, and they keep bubbling up in between short breaths. This habit shows me where I’m at, and allows me to check in with myself and make the right decision, instead of acting on an impulse.
  3. Shave/trim every morning. I trim my beard every day (I used to clean shave once). Sometimes, I want to skip the process and get to my first task of the day. But this reminds me that I’m worthy of self-care, and prepares me to greet the world with a clean face.
  4. Plan the day. A right chore, but it has the single most significant impact on my day. It’s taking 5–10 minutes at the end of your workday to plan what you are going to accomplish tomorrow. It gives you direction and clarity. Like my friend Liz says, “it’s like having a second brain to guide you through the day”. All you have to do is executing. I hate this habit, but I love it at the same time. That’s why I do it every day.
  5. Work out. When I paused fitness for 18 months because “I didn’t have time”, my life went downhill. So now, whenever I don’t feel like showing up, I work out twice. I do hill sprints for 30 minutes, take a break, and do pull-ups. Most people think that physical training gives you a six-pack. That’s a nice byproduct, but the main result is training your mind, and showing yourself that you are capable of more, no matter what the voice in your mind says. It’s a metaphor for life.
  6. Write down three things I am grateful for. When you feel thankful, this is easy. When you have a bad day, the last thing you want to think about is the things you’re grateful for in life. Life is awful, remember? However, breaking that negative thought pattern rescues me from perpetuating a miserable day.
  7. Record my thoughts and ideas. I get the best ideas when out and about. I see an object in a café or read a piece on Quora, and an idea pops up in my brain. Out of nowhere. I always want to let go, and “find it later”, but I always end up scheming “the perfect plan” (which never happens) instead. So I write them down in a note and go through them once a day.

These are my favourite 7 daily habits that I hate with all my heart. In the moment, I may not feel like showing up. But I know that when I look back, they always have my back: they rescue my day, and me from being a victim of my circumstances.

– Matt

Originally published on Medium.

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