Humans are creatures of habit. We live our lives following our daily routines and making most of our decisions out of habit. For the most part, this is fine, but sometimes we can be held back by our habits. Maybe we tend to slack off in the afternoon, or we roll out of bed 20 minutes before heading out to work.
These habits can be bad for us and even hinder our success. Instead, we should look at the habits of successful people and adopt some of the healthier patterns that they follow to improve our own lives.
How Habits are Formed
According to Medical Daily, the American Psychiatric Association believes that habits help us learn difficult things. The brain doesn’t want to do a lot of work, so when we start doing something more and more, the brain wires our muscles and emotions to automatically perform the task without thinking. At first, we have to carefully pay attention to performing the new task, but after trying it a few times, the new task becomes a natural motion. This is done with the basal ganglia the part of the brain that controls our emotions and movements.
Learning how to drive is a great example of habit forming. When someone starts out behind the wheel, they feel nervous, have trouble controlling the vehicle, and have to constantly pay attention. After a few hours of driving, turning becomes second nature because the brain has wired our arms to keep doing the proper motion, and eventually we don’t even have to think about it, letting the brain do other things while we drive. How many times have you driven to work on autopilot?
Why Habits Are So Hard to Break
As we all know, habits are hard to break. Once you’ve gotten into the routine of eating fast food for breakfast, drinking the fourth cup of coffee in the morning, or being lazy and less productive after lunch, it can be a challenge to replace these habits with something more productive. Strong habits are fine if they aren’t bad habits, but if you want to incorporate the habits of successful people into your routine, it helps to understand why old habits are hard to break.
There is physiological reasoning behind why we have a hard time breaking bad habits and it has to do with the way our neurons work together. The John Hopkins Health Review, explains that our neurons are wired together to respond to our behaviors when we receive a reward for performing a task or a habit. So if two neurons are working together and we finish our next big project one time, their bond strengthens.
Unfortunately, neurons also strengthen when they work together to get us a tasty, unhealthy snack. For example, your logical mind knows that eating a bag of chips is unhealthy for you, but your reward centers will over-ride your logical thinking if eating unhealthy snacks is a source of stress relief. Do this enough times, and you’ll be reaching for the chips without even thinking about it. This is where the term force of habit comes from.
Habits vs Goals
We often prioritize our goals, but habits are how we achieve those goals. Psychology Today discusses this at length, advising that rather than aiming for a goal, we should instead adopt habits that make the goal more attainable. Successful people typically create habits that prevent them from falling behind. Successful people are aware of the tasks that they perform. They consciously and consistently fight the brain’s natural urge of taking the path of least resistance.
The best example of a bad habit that is hard to break which also deters us from achieving our goals is procrastination. You may have a goal that requires a large undertaking, such as meeting a deadline at work, studying for a final exam, or losing 20 pounds before your wedding day. Even if you’ve squeezed by in the past by cramming in the work and grinding away at the very last minute, it doesn’t mean that you’ll always be able to achieve success.
Unfortunately, getting by in the past has We often get caught up in a bad habit by putting off our work, making any goal harder. That’s why it’s important to incorporate one easy habit at a time to make it easier to achieve your goals.
Successful people are good at creating habits that allow them to attain easily achievable goals. As they achieve small attainable goals, their neurons are re-wired to spark the reward centers in the brain. A new habit is formed and the brain’s previous urge to resist adapts into a natural and autonomous motion. The reward centers that are activated in the brain every time a successful person achieves a goal attributes to the natural drive that successful people possess.
What is Habit Stacking?
We like to think of goals as big, grand achievements that take hours, days, months or even years of hard work. Many times, we look at a goal and are easily bummed out when we think about all the work we have to put in to achieve that goal. Our brain wants instant results and will deter us away from anything that takes too much work. That’s why it’s important to create small achievable goals. One way to achieve goals by changing our habits is through a strategy known as habit stacking.
An example of habit stacking is taking a multi-vitamin every morning after you brush your teeth. Because the task of taking a vitamin after you’ve brushed your teeth seems like an easy task, your brain will easily accept it without convincing you otherwise. It may seem small, but after you’ve done this so many times, you will be taking your multi-vitamin every day without even thinking about it. It becomes a habit.
An issue that a lot of people deal with is losing weight. If your ultimate goal is to lose 25 pounds, it may seem like a daunting task. You want to lose weight as soon as possible because your brain wants instant results. You’ve tried juice diets in the past so you could lose the weight fast but always failed to follow through. That’s because it’s too hard. Try habit stacking instead.
Dedicate 10 minutes a day to walking, it won’t be a daunting task to your brain. It doesn’t seem like a big deal and you won’t see instant results, but if you multiply 10 minutes a day by 365 days, the results will be noticeable. Imagine if overtime you’ve built that 10-minute walking routine into a daily habit of walking 1 hour each day! Next, you may incorporate swapping an unhealthy lunch with a healthy lunch. Don’t even worry about healthy dinners until healthy lunches have become a habit. Small achievable goals work.
It’s easy to overlook all of the important, small goals that really just become habits. Steve “S.J.” Scott, a bestselling author of self-improvement, tells us to bundle all of these small goals together and turn them into habits. Habit stacking, writing routines down, and scheduling them into your day is one of the habits successful people use to their advantage.
Why You Should Be Tracking Your Habits
When things get busy at work, we often feel like we dedicate every moment of our lives to our responsibilities. The first thing we sacrifice is free-time, then healthy eating, exercise, and just about everything else that doesn’t have to do with our obligations to other people. This makes crunch times way too stressful, and can even prevent us from wanting to take on important projects. But by habit tracking and observing the work you put in every day, it is possible to make time for yourself.
Habit tracking involves writing down your routines and habits. If you enjoy reading the news in the morning, write it down whenever you get the chance to. If you love to jog in the evenings, keep track of it. If you’re trying to lose weight, weigh yourself every day and write it down. When you’re able to clearly track and visualize your habits this way, you’ll be able to organize your day to let you keep doing these things. You can also keep track of bad habits to help get rid of them. If you swapped your unhealthy lunch for a healthy lunch write it down. Write down your goals, the small tasks you need to do to achieve that goal and track your progress.
11 Habits of Successful People
Some people seem to have an endless stream of productive energy, but really, they just have really effective routines. Their days are packed with meetings and work, but most of it is automatic, giving them more time to think ahead. None of these habits are out of reach, so try testing out these 11 habits of successful people.
1. Become a Morning Person
The morning is sometimes called the 25th hour of the day. Not only are you sleeping through the sunrise, but you’re also sleeping through the time where your body has the most energy. By waking up in the morning, you give yourself a huge boost in metabolism, energy, and mood.
Work starts at 9, so waking up early gives you a whole new part of your day. Take the time to make breakfast, meditate, exercise, relax, and more. By the time you get to work, you’ll feel great and be ready to take on your tasks for the day because you chose to dedicate time to yourself. If you win the morning, you win the day.
2. Tackle Your Top Priorities First
We tend to take on our to-do list in chronological order. While recent developments seem more pressing, it’s important to keep in mind what the top priorities are. An angry client might demand more attention right now, but you shouldn’t sacrifice the quality of you’re most valuable work.
One of the main habits of successful people is to write down their to-do list based off of priority and tackle the list head-on. You can organize your priorities however you like, whether it be the hardest task or the most time-sensitive task. Once you clean up your most urgent matters, taking on the less important stuff will be a breeze.
3. Learn to Work in a Team
Everyone loves to shine on their own, but learn to leverage those around you. Some jobs require you to work alone, but if they don’t, you can accomplish a lot more in a group. Recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of everyone in your group, including you, will let you parcel out the work. This will let you work on what you do best, and those around you on what you don’t do as well. Plus, you can make valuable social and professional connections this way.
4. Be a Little Bit Better Everyday
It can be easy to want large improvements at once, but progress is a continuum. Make sure that you do one thing better than you did yesterday instead of trying to make huge strides every once in a while. Not only will this pace your work and stress levels, but it will let you continually improve for months and years at a time.
You can easily set daily, achievable goals for yourself and work towards them. They can be towards personal improvement, professional skills, or any sort of habits that will help you grow. By doing little things every day, you’ll begin to adopt a sustainable lifestyle of productivity and improvement.
5. Focus On Your Physical Well-Being
It can be easy to rely on fast-food and quick dinners before a big deadline, and we usually give up the gym pretty quickly when it gets hectic at work. One of the habits of successful people is to maintain a nutritional diet with an active lifestyle. Your body is made of what you eat, and exercise increases your stamina. A nutritious diet and a killer workout routine will keep you high energy all day.
6. Read Up On Your Industry and More…
Take some time every day to keep up to date with the news in your industry. Spend the time you might normally spend on Facebook reading the news. Even subscribe to industry magazines to make sure you have a constant, reliable source of information. This is a small daily habit that will give you a competitive edge in your career.
Take it a step further and keep up to date beyond your industry. If you’re in marketing at a tech company, keep up to date with both. If you work in the office end of a hospital, keep up to date on the medical industry. By staying informed, you make sure that you can be as engaged as possible in your field.
7. Start Your Day Peacefully
Starting your day in a hurry will stress you out before you even start your work. Instead, do everything you can to have a relaxing morning. Waking up in the morning to relaxing music and a warm shower, having a full breakfast and a couple of hours to meditate and read, all before heading to work will give you the energy and positive mood you need to take on your day.
8. Be Present
It can be easy to let your mind wander for some respite during a busy week, but that can do more harm than good. When you’re aloof, it sends a message of apathy to those around you. Instead, make sure to always be present, focused, and aware. Not only will this make you more pleasant to be around, but you’ll also be able to notice things and come up with solutions that you can’t when you’re absent-minded.
Keeping your ideas in your head will increase the likelihood that they stay in your head. Writing down goals is one of the habits of successful people, and is super easy to do. When you keep goals in your head, it constrains you from exploring new ideas, so writing them down frees up your brain for more ideas and goals.
10. Learn From Failure
We all fail, and successful people fail even more. But instead of giving up, or worse, repeating their mistakes, they learn from their failures. Letting a failure keep you down won’t help you at all. Instead, step back, reflect, and grow from the experience. Next time, you will succeed, and you’ll be even better equipped for challenges in the future.
11. Inspire Yourself and Those Around You
It’s important to recognize when you’re doing amazing things and let that fact inspire you. Reflecting on your actions in a humble way will let you grow, learn from your successes and failures, and share the knowledge with those around you. One of the habits of successful people is to recognize the great things they do, so that way the can keep doing those things. You and those around you will be better off for it.
The Key to Success
By focusing on yourself, your lifestyle, and your routine, you can achieve your goals. Taking the time to enforce good habits and break bad habits will pay off big time. You’ll get more done, have more energy, and feel more enriched and happy. You’ll find pockets of time that you didn’t know you had, letting you do more with less. Adopting some of the habits of successful people will help you find success in your own life and with your own goals.