These 10 habits have helped me transform my life from that of frustration, anxiety, anger, and helplessness, to one of empowerment, ambition, purpose, and joy.
1. Wake Up When You Say You’re Going To Wake Up
Aside from the occasional “I’m going to sleep in until 11am on a Saturday because I’m visiting my parents house and I’m sleeping in my old bed and I haven’t slept in this long in forever,” it behooves you to wake up early. But more importantly, to wake up when you say you’re going to wake up. That means if you set the alarm for 6:30am, you get out of bed at 6:30am. Why? Because this is your first promise to yourself of the day. The night before, you set that alarm at that time because you were making a promise to yourself to get up at that time. Starting your day with a broken promise is the same as getting out of bed on the wrong foot. Keep your promise. Wake up.
2. Have A Clean Morning Routine (And Dress The Part)
There are very few things in life that can start your day off as well as a morning routine that has built in triggers to get your head in the game. Shower. Brush your teeth. Do your hair. Etc. But more importantly, choose clothes that force you to rise to the occasion. It’s hard to feel lazy in a suit. Now, I’m not saying wear a suit, but even wearing some jeans with a pair of nice brown dress shoes and a light blue button down is going to make you feel like you’re ready to tackle the day. T-shirt and sweats feels more like “I’m going to stay home, binge on Netflix, and eat potato chips in my bed.” Your morning routine should be more than just the things you have to do to be a functioning human being. It should get you mentally ready for what you have to do that day—whatever that is.
3. A Moment Of Mindfulness
In addition to the above, meditate. This is best done in the morning but after the shower (so you’re slightly more awake). Take 5 or 10 minutes and just sit in silence. Listen to where you are. This helps you understand if you’re starting your day in a good place, or if you woke up frustrated, or if something is stressing you out, or if there’s something you’re really excited about—and from there, you will better understand yourself and how you can best approach the day to work with yourself as you currently are. This is so important.
4. Regular Meals
I am a bodybuilder so this rings a bit more true to me personally, but I think there is something to be said about having regular meal times with meals that are prepared and ready to go. This helps you ensure that something as important as remembering to eat doesn’t get skipped over or replaced with more work throughout the day. If you plan ahead, this also helps you stay healthy. Eating is already habit, so the more you can prepare for that habit with healthy, pre-cooked choices, the more effective you will be at maintaining your health even with a busy schedule.
5. The Little Moments
We all have 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there. However with technology we have become accustomed to filling those little time periods with social media on our phones, watching videos on YouTube, etc. Take all those mindless apps and put them in a folder on your phone called “Wasting My Life Away.” On the front page, replace the spaces with productive apps—for me: Duolingo (to learn a foreign language), CNNmoney, iBooks, etc. Make those little moments count with the habit of learning, instead of just consuming.
6. Free Time Means Free Time
This habit is for the workaholics and entrepreneurs out there like myself who forget that “free time” doesn’t mean “freely working on more new projects.” Free time literally means free time. Time spent on nothing. Go for a walk in the park. Go meet an old friend for coffee. Go sit around and play Cards Against Humanity with a bunch of friends. Go call your Grandma. Go watch an entire movie without getting up halfway through because you feel like you’re being unproductive. This free time as a scheduled habit will help reset your brain and help you return to the work later with revitalized enthusiasm.
7. Manage Your Money
A lot of stress and anxiety stems from finances. However, it’s not usually the mere existence of money and finances that causes the stress, but rather the misunderstanding of how to manage it. Take the time to learn the basics about taxes, stocks, investing, saving, etc. And once every week, two weeks, or month, go through your finances and look at where your money went. Learn to work with money so that you can master money. Unless you have plans of moving into the middle of the wilderness and joining a far-out civilization that barters with fruits, nuts, and wild game, money is going to be part of your life forever. Make it a habit to learn how to use it to your advantage, instead of being defeated by it.
8. Meet Someone New
I’m fortunate that I’ve learned this through my job, but meeting new people fuels so much inspiration that it is as worthwhile of a habit as anything else. Does someone have a blog you read regularly? Shoot them an email. Is there a local business owner you’d like to learn from? See if they’d be up to meet you for coffee. The more people you reach out to and meet, the more valuable you will become because of your network, but also the more inspired you will be to continue your own development. It will also help put things in perspective whenever you are down and feeling like you’re not getting anywhere. You’ll meet someone new and realize that you aren’t alone, and you are getting somewhere, it just takes time.
9. Indulge and Explore
Part of life is pleasure. No matter how important discipline is, there comes a tipping point when discipline is no longer productive and you start to become too rigid to find your flow. You are not a monk. Go outside your comfort zone and indulge a little, and with it, explore someone or something new. Ask someone out. Go to a coffee shop on the outskirts of the city. Check out that new museum exhibit you’ve been seeing ads for. Eat so much cheesecake that you fall asleep at the restaurant table. Sit by the lake with your feet dangling off the pier, skimming in the water. These little moments are so easy to ignore, especially if you are a goal driven person. But they are the moments you remember the most, and they fuel the emotion inside you to be happier, to live deeply, and to create something of true, emotional value with your life.
10. Journal Before Bed
This has been a habit of mine ever since I was a little kid, and I believe it is the reason why I love writing so much. Every night before bed, I take a moment to write in my journal. Sometimes I write about what I learned that day. Sometimes I write about what I hope to do the next day. Sometimes I write poems, sometimes I write songs, sometimes I write down all the things that are bothering me and then I write out how I can change them. But no matter what, I write something. And I write from the heart. It helps me remember that life is just a story, we are the main character, and if I want tomorrow to be different then I simply have to play the part.
Bonus 11. Sleep
This should go without saying, but sleep is an important habit. It’s ok to have those 4 hour nights every once in a while—usually it’s a girl or an MMORPG release to blame. But in general, getting 7ish hours of sleep a night will do you good.
Nicolas Cole is an artist, writer, creative marketing strategist and self development coach.