These habits don’t always look glamorous, heck, you might even question how some of them could even make a difference. But small steps can lead to huge leaps forward.
Take wildly successful self-help guru, author, and investor Tim Ferriss as an example. His philosophy on habits is that they can help you win the morning and win the day.
But what does that look like in practice?
Well, Tim makes his bed every morning.
That’s right, one of the biggest habits that he encourages his audience to pick up is that of making the bed first thing.
Something so trivial as making the bed doesn’t sound like it’s going to skyrocket your success in your personal life or career, so why is it so important?
The theory is that by accomplishing something early on in the day, you will set yourself up for greater productivity later on. You will be able to go to bed that night (in an already-made bed) knowing that you at least finished one task, even if the rest of your day didn’t go to plan.
Another author who knows a lot about the importance of small habits for success is James Clear.
While Clear may not be as well-known as Tim Ferriss, the author penned the bestselling book Atomic Habits which makes him somewhat of an expert on the subject.
In Clear’s eyes, the best thing you can do to ensure future success is committing to a series of small actions that you repeat regularly.
That’s it, the formula for success isn’t any more complicated than choosing to spend time on the habit formation possess – usually just a few minutes each day.
Not just any ordinary habits, though, if you want to make the most progress you’re going to have to seek out those habits that will propel you forward towards your goals.
We’ll get into some of the habits Clear, Ferriss, and others suggest later on, but before that we need to address a key issue: what are the ingredients for habit success?
What do you need to know in order to create and stick to habits that last?
Let’s take a look!
Ingredients for Habit Success
While there’s nothing stopping you from committing to a workout regimen or a new way of eating, there are a few things you should know before you do.
Otherwise, you could end up like the thousands of people who commit to New Years’ resolution goals every year only to fall short every time.
While you won’t want to hear this if you’re a night owl, it’s the early risers that generally have an easier time forming habits.
If you subscribe to the theory that willpower is a depleting resource that resets after each day, then you’ll understand why getting started early in the day when your willpower is at its highest is so important.
Over the course of the day, decision fatigue can render you helpless in your pursuit for personal growth. You might not think it, but every time you decide what top to wear, what to eat, and even where to go, you are tapping into your willpower resource and draining it.
The result of this isn’t apparent until the end of the day, when you can’t seem to do anything but pass out on the couch and mindlessly watch TV.
So what can you do to remedy this?
Wake up early.
Yes, it will be difficult in the beginning, but if you can wake up before 8am (and make your bed) you will put yourself in a better position to establish solid habits. Time management is a breeze when you have the early morning hours to play around with.
Plus, some worthwhile habits such as meditation and working out or running are often better first thing in the morning when it’s quiet out and you haven’t yet had a chance to get pulled in various distractions by plans and your daily activities.
Discipline is the fuel of habits.
You can wake up at 5am, but this won’t guarantee that you stick to your habits.
In fact, many people get overexcited when starting a new habit and bite off more they can chew.
It’s a familiar story for many of us: the morning sun rolls around and you reluctantly leave the comfort of your bed to go and work out, yet no sooner than you take your first sip of coffee you’ve immersed yourself in a YouTube rabbit hole or get stuck in an endless scroll fest on your phone.
The missing ingredient in this scenario is discipline.
But what about motivation?
Motivation is important, yes, and it can give you the vigor you need to tackle a new habit head-on and crush a workout, but it’s a fleeting feeling.
When it’s cold and wet outside and the gym seems so far away, the comfort of your bed might overwhelm your sense of motivation to get fit.
On the other hand, discipline can be your best friend if you can convince yourself that this habit will benefit you in the long run.
Find your why, and you will have a habit for life.
Ask ex navy seal Jocko Willink, author of Discipline is Freedom, and he’ll tell you that discipline is essential for anything we do in life.
Willink argues that without discipline, you aren’t free to truly enjoy your life, despite the fact that this might seem counterintuitive. Discipline is a core pillar of success, so without cultivating it you’ll be building your house on shaky foundations.
Mindset goes hand in hand with discipline as one of the most important ingredients for starting and sticking to a new habit.
Atomic Habits author, James Clear, is a proponent for thinking of habits as small steps every day. That means you should think of habits one day at a time, rather than where they might get you a few weeks, months, or years down the line.
If you fall into the common trap of getting carried away with the potential outcome of the habits rather than the process, then you’ll struggle to stick to them.
Clear argues that just showing up is important.
In the book, the author uses the example of one individual who wanted to lose weight but was nervous about going to the gym. To ease himself into the habit, the individual would simply put on his shoes and workout gear and walk to the gym before returning home.
This may seem like a waste of time, but this small commitment day after day can compound over time. After a few times of just showing up to the gym, you’re going to work out in some capacity, even if that’s just a minute on the treadmill.
This mindset of less is more works on several levels.
First, it’s such a minimal commitment that it’s easy to stick to.
But the other benefit – and this is the true genius of it – is that when you show up and plan to work out for just a minute or two, you’ll probably find that you do more anyway since you’re already at the gym.
The Best Habits of Successful People
So now that you’ve got a good idea of what it takes to commit to a new and long-lasting habit, it’s time to go over some of the best habits for success.
These are habits that are frequently touted to be the most effective for success, whatever it is your goals in life are.
They are the kinds of habits that self improvement guru Tim Ferris expounds on often, and brings up in his book Tools of Titans which brings together the collective knowledge of dozens of experts in different disciplines.
Even if the vast majority of us aren’t planning on competing in the next Olympics, we could all benefit from getting more exercise and working out often.
There are so many reasons to get moving that if you don’t already do some form of regular exercise, then we strongly recommend that you implement working out into your daily routine.
The best part about exercise is that it’s such a broad term, running from low-energy activities like golf to high-octane sports like skiing or the action-packed parkour.
Even if you don’t enjoy sport, you can simply go for a brisk walk around the block or commit to a dance club.
There really are endless possibilities, so we guarantee that you can implement exercise into your life somehow even if you’ve always thought that it’s not something you’d enjoy.
The primary reason you should exercise regularly is to keep your body functioning at 100%. As they say, ‘healthy body, healthy mind’.
If you neglect to take care of your body and move often, it will break down like a car and require (expensive) repairs sooner or later.
If that isn’t enough of an incentive, what if we told you that exercising could boost your mood, lift your energy levels, and provide you with mental clarity and help you stay focused?
Not to mention the fact that joining a sport or dance club is a great way to meet new people and bond over an activity you enjoy.
Establishing a Sleep Routine
Believe it or not, lying unconscious in your bed at night is one of the best things you can do if you want to become someone who can stick to several habits.
Without sleep, success might just become a distant dream.
Sleep is essential for recovery, and recharging the body.
If you workout during the day, sleep is what helps the muscle break down and grow back stronger.
Even if you don’t, sleep will reset your batteries and help you put the day’s events to rest. It is also what commits the events and moments of the day to your long-term memory so you can enjoy them for years to come.
In other words, sleep is just as important to the body as exercise, if not more.
Yet despite the importance of sleep, so many of us don’t even give it a second thought. Sleep is something that happens to us at the end of the day when we can’t watch another episode of our show on Netflix.
Not many of us approach sleep with intention, and this could be costing us.
After all, if you don’t establish a sleep routine, how can you possibly expect to wake up at 6 or 7 in the morning feeling fresh and rejuvenated?
How can you tackle the day when you’re deprived of energy and your eyes are heavy?
Waking up tired from a lack of sleep is starting off the day on the wrong foot (sometimes literally!) and will more often than not prevent you from sticking to your habits.
If you don’t enjoy getting lost in a book from time to time, you’re missing out!
Nothing quite beats the pleasure of getting stuck into a new page-turner while you’re relaxing on the beach or nursing a hot mug of tea while it rains outside.
Reading is for many a great occasional pleasure, but in our view it should become a habit if you want to reach your full potential.
And no, that doesn’t mean you have to commit to reading countless lengthy novels.
You should try to read books and even online material that provide you with insights you wouldn’t otherwise have made.
Whether that’s autobiographies of some of the world’s greatest thinkers, or articles from a well-revered online publication, you need to soak up knowledge and incubate ideas for future success.
The best part about developing a reading habit is that it doesn’t require a monumental effort.
We invite you to read for just 5 minutes a day, starting today.
Are you up to the challenge?
Just like with going to the gym, when you commit to reading for a small amount of time you’ll often find that you read for more time than you expected to.
And the excuse of ‘but I don’t have enough time in the day’ doesn’t cut it here.
It’s 5 minutes.
It can be 5 minutes right after you wake up or 5 minutes right before you switch off the light at night.
You could even squeeze 5 minutes in at the dentist’s waiting room or in line at the bank!
Now before you dismiss the idea of meditation, hear us out.
If you’ve ever caught yourself wondering why mindfulness has blown up in recent years, it’s because of the numerous benefits of stopping to smell the roses.
We live in a fast-paced world that could easily pass us by if we don’t take the time to stop and look around from time to time.
Now that just about everyone is glued to their mobile device 24/7, mindfulness is more powerful than ever before.
Simply taking a minute or two out of your busy schedule to focus on your breathing can make all the difference on your mood and wellbeing.
If you’re curious about taking up meditation but you feel like you don’t have what you need, you’re mistaken.
All you need is somewhere to sit and you’re good to go.
Even if you happen to live in a noisy area, you can still cut through the chaos and get the benefits of meditation.
To start out, we would recommend downloading an app such as Calm or Headspace, the latter of which has a new series of visual meditations on Netflix too.
These apps can introduce you to meditation with a series of guided meditations and advice, so that all you need to do is show up regularly.
If you work up to 30 minutes every day, you’ll find that you’re much better equipped to deal with any problems that arise as you’ll have a sort of mental reset button that you can activate with your breath.
The comfort zone is a dangerous place to be.
If you rarely venture outside of it, you can condemn yourself to a life in which the biggest adventure you embark on is a trip to the convenience store down the road.
Nobody wants that.
So how can you begin to expand your comfort zone without making any drastic changes?
Well, one of the best things you can do to start your day with a bang and take yourself outside your comfort zone consistently is cold exposure.
By this, we mean stepping inside a cold shower, taking a cold plunge in a pool, or stepping into an ice bath or cryo-chamber.
Dutch ‘Iceman’ Wim Hof knows all about the power of cold.
Hof suffered a great personal tragedy in his life, which could have sent him on a dark path. Yet luckily he discovered the healing power of cold water.
Over time, Hof developed a breathing technique for staying longer in the cold water and freezing temperatures, and to date he has accomplished many impressive cold-related feats.
The biggest benefit of doing this?
If you watch Wim Hof talk, you can see that he lives life to the full, and feels empowered to do so by conquering his inner dialogue every day by immersing himself in ice cold water.
If you want more evidence of the effectiveness of cold water immersion for success, take a look at self-development author and speaker Tony Robbins, who regularly starts his day with a cold plunge into a hole in the ground in his garden.
Most of us would dream of having even just a fraction of the energy and charisma that Robbins has, so surely there’s something in the water!
Self care is the final habit that we’re going to cover, but certainly isn’t the least important by any means.
If you don’t take care of yourself, who will?
While you might be able to soldier on through adversity, we all need a rest from time to time.
Self-care doesn’t always have to look like pampering yourself by going to a spa or treating yourself to an expensive experience or weekend trip. It could be as simple as eating a bar of chocolate when you’re on a diet or finding time to do an activity you enjoy even if it doesn’t contribute to your personal growth journey in any way. It could even be avoiding the negative people in your life, as they can detract from your motivation and sap your energy.
After all, while you should strive for more and ambition is key for success in the long term, if you don’t stop along the way to enjoy life, what will it all be worth?
There are countless examples of people who have burnt out in their effort to become successful in their field or reached the zenith of success only to realize there’s nothing up there but a hollow feeling of accomplishment.
As such, you shouldn’t get carried away thinking about how success will feel or where your new habits will take you.
Focus on each individual step along the way, and make sure you leave time for self-care in whatever form that might take.
Self-care in its simplest form is the idea of taking actions in order to preserve your sense of self and individuality. Anything you can do to enrich or nourish yourself along the journey to success is well worth the time and effort.
So order that takeaway, play that video game, and go on that day trip – we give you permission.
Habits can be tricky to develop, but they’re even more difficult to stick to for a long period of time.
As such, it’s vital that you implement the habits of successful people and first focus on waking up early, cultivating discipline, and getting yourself in the right frame of mind. If you don’t, you might just end up like all the New Years’ resolutioners – full of regret after giving up on a new habit.