Often in life we know what we want and sometimes we even start in the right direction. … but then, somehow something happens, we get caught up, it runs out, we lose track and then feel frustrated or even like a failure. We are discouraged to live our dreams out and to have a happy life, it just did not work, again.
What can we do in a very practical sense, to just not stand in our own way and sabotage our good intentions?
A lot of how we function runs on autopilot, meaning what we’ve learned and did on a daily basis, is shaping our life. The patterns that run in our head are formed by doing and thinking the same way over and over again. The results are habits, that we live out daily. May it be the habit to stay awake late watching TV or surfing the internet or the habit to do things like overeating or procrastinating what you really want to do. You know how hard these are to change, even if you recognized as not supportive, don’t you?
Bad habits are easy to form, but hard to live with. Good habits are hard to form, but easy to live it. If we are able to repeat something and reinforce it by positive affirmations, we can lock in such good habits that are influencing our life in a continuing way. If you do something that is supporting for more at least 30 days, research shows that you have locked in a positive habit. This is the goal here.
The following 7 habits I chose as the most supportive and life-changing habits that I learned. Speaking from experience, their impact in everyday life really makes a difference:
1. Feed your mind
Basically we use our mind for everything we do in one way or the other. It operates with the information it has to best it can. It is our tool we use to get what we want. Therefore one of the best investments you can do is to train and feed your mind. Both is done perfectly by reading.
Focus your mind on reading every day for at least 30 minutes in a field that is helpful to you. This includes the specific area you want to be successful in or general books that help you to improve and fit your personal style in different areas of your life.
A great addition to this habit is setting a goal of to read at least one book a month. This can easily be done by everybody – think about it: you can read in the subway, bus or taxi, while waiting anywhere, or just walking, driving in the car, or traveling by plane or train. The idea is that whenever someone asks you, you can tell him the book-name you are reading right now.
An absolutely fantastic way to make it even easier and more fun is to listen to audio-books! Everywhere you go, drive or wait, just put on your iPod (or even iPhone, well any other mp3-player will just work fine… ;)) or the CD-player in your car and stop playing the Red Hot Chili Peppers up and down and instead listen to an audio-book. This is way better then reading because a) it is faster, you can get more information quicker b) you usually hear it read by the author (did I say that I love audio-books? :))
Secondly the internet is such a great source today. Knowledge is not a limiting resource anymore, it is available for everybody on the internet. The critical skill is now to choose the best material and really use it. It can’t get any easier than that. Just choose the best sources by getting into the field and listen to recommendations. Blogs (such as this one! J ), Wikipedia and websites on a specific topic are available everywhere.
2. Exercise 3 times a week
Choose an aerobic exercise that fits you and do it at least 3 or better 4 times a week. Aerobic exercise is done for a period of at least 45 minutes, better 60 minutes in which you keep your pulse at a level of about 130-150 beats per minute. This means you don’t push to the extremes, it is not mainly about performance, it is about persistence. Two of the most common sports that fit perfectly are running or swimming.
Now the key here is to find something that you enjoy doing. I personally love swimming. It is fun to be in the water and even more fun to improve the technique. You can talk to others or take a course in the swimming pool. If you are slightly overweight, swimming is also an excellent choice, because it is easier to move the body in the water, than carry it by running (duh! ;))
Another great way is if you can do this with a friend together. But make sure to commit to keeping the habit (remember, at least 30 days of 3 days a week to lock in the habit), even if your partner is not with you.
This is so unbelievable rewarding if you stick with it. It does the following: a) you won’t have any real problems with weight ever again, if you develop and maintain this habit. You will burn body-fat in these 60 minutes of aerobic exercise and if you do it 3 or even 4 times a week, you will also be able to lose weight if necessary. And b) you will get an energy boost by doing this. Oxygen is one of the most important substances for our body and to have it in our blood is essential. Also you improve activation of the lymphatic system which is important for our immune system. If you know how you feel after 60 minutes of aerobic exercising, this vital and healthy feeling, then you know that it is worth it. And if you do this 3 or even 4 times a week, this is the energy and health level you can have the whole time.
So just chose a good swimming-location (50 meters or at least 25 meters) or a great running course in a suitable park if you live in a city. Remember to drink a lot after exercising (best is just water) and to talk with your doctor also.
If you choose to run or do something similar you can combine this habit easily habit 1 by listening to great audio programs, what a concept! (If anybody can suggest me an mp3-player I can use swimming, please write a comment! :))
3. Write a personal journal
Write a daily journal and reflect on yourself and your progress in life. Everyday we (hopefully ;)) clean our body and brush our teeth, we call it taking care. Why not give the same service to our mind? This is mental care. Keep your inner space clear by getting the things out of the head and reflecting on them, and so making them conscious. Then you can actively choose what to do about it the next day. Sometimes it is even enough to see something as it really is, this gives you inner freedom and keeps you from getting crowded with energy-wasting thoughts and feelings.
Review your day and write down, what is important to you and what you want to improve. Also write down your successes. Reflecting on your daily – even small – successes gives you the support you need to build on it with the next step. Success in live is a progress, it is a sequence of right steps taken, improving something daily until it is something great.
By keeping track of your days you also commit automatically to improve yourself, just by writing and seeing where you are and where you want to be. You can also look back later and see how you progressed and what was important to you, which is really fun.
4. Set and review your goals
This is a perfect follow-up the 3. habit, when you write a journal, you can write your goals at the top of the document and have them ready to see and review whenever you want. To read your goals daily keeps you on track of what you really want. It sets your focus on what matters most to you, so you don’t lose yourself in the demands of the world around you or get distracted by some short-time pleasures. Reading these written goals daily will dramatically improve your mental focus over time to do, what you need and want to do.
Once a week, preferably every weekend, you sit down and review your goals to see, if they make sense or if you can improve them. Also plan your next week in advance during this period. For every day set one or more major tasks you will accomplish for your goals. You can write this down and then lock these tasks into a calendar or a 2do-list for the next seven days. This will increase your focus even more, will make sure you do what you set out for you achieve and will accelerate you towards your goals.
5. Develop a morning routine
Every day starts surprisingly enough with waking up in the morning. Haha ;) … yes, but it’s a fact. What could be more important than starting perfectly into the day and being energized and optimistic about it as you leave the house, instead of running a thought of “not again this stupid desk in front of me” on autopilot? There are several things you can do, including exercising in the morning (s. habit 2) to develop a supporting morning routine for yourself.
I’d like to suggest 3 parts that want to be nurtured in the morning: body, mind and heart:
Body: Immediately get up if the alarm (or whatever you use) clock starts. Take a shower or a bath. If you can, start your exercise routine (see habit 2). Have a healthy breakfast while you may read or listen (see habit 1) or just be with your family. If not absolutely necessary for your job, don’t watch TV or consume other mass media.
Heart: If you are in the shower or while you exercise, think about what you are grateful for in your life, think about everything that is working and be thankful for it. That may be your partner, your family, your friends, what you love to do and can do, what you have and what you are.
Mind: Then think about everything that fulfills you and inspires you. Think about and visualize in your mind, what great thing you want to accomplish today and how good this will be for you and others, how it will add to your goals and how great you are on track. Then quiet the mind and just be for a moment or two. Feel your inner body be fully in the moment and feel the energy raising in you.
Then get going and maybe get a coffee at Starbucks and flirt a bit with the nice girl / or guy that is always there (and maybe even suggest a date after work, if you’re feeling lucky ;))
6. Socialize proactively
Socialize proactively with your friends and family. People we like or even love are surely among the most important things in our live. If you grow out of school or college, most of the time we lose track of the good friends we had. But it does take only little to keep these nice people in our lives and it is the same for them. They love to be around you and you love it to be with them.
A great way to do this is take certain times a week, and do something together that you both love. If you are not in the same city, then give each other a call or do something over the internet (a project or play a game you both love). Internet Social Networks are also a way to stay in touch, but it is important to do it actively and remind yourself (maybe in your daily journal or in your goals, remember habit 3 and 4? :)) I have a lot of friends and since I stay in touch pro-actively with them, my life got richer in the social level and I like it.
7. Start paying you first
Start paying you first: Save and then invest 10% of your income. Get serious about money, because you don’t work for money! What you want is that money is working for you. This means that you start taking money serious in your life and start investing in yourself. This is so easily done, that it is embarrassing that so few people know and do this.
The first key however is to spent less than you earn. Most people spent all their money they have each month and most of the time even a little bit more. And so it comes, that there is always too much month left at the end of the money ;)
Of course there are two ways to get free of financial problems. The first is to earn more, and the whole blog is about enabling you to do this as a side effect of successful and fulfilled living. But the other additional way is often overlooked (ok, maybe you know it, then good for you, use it! J ). Paying yourself first means that you save 10% of your income at the start of a month and then invest it into something that fits to you. The investing is a little more difficult, but not that much and I will write about it in this blog later. The one thing you must do now, is that you create a second money-savings-account (something that gives you a little more return as a normal bank-account) and transfer 10% of the monthly income immediately to it. That is your wealth-building machine and you won’t touch this money but invest it later. It is one of the best ways to really build wealth.
These are no theoretical suggestions, I live them every day and they are meant to be lived, not only read ;) So learn them and integrate them in your happy life. Or maybe you even have a great supportive habit developed yourself and want to share with others? Please feel free to write it into the comments, I will also comment on it.