I consciously practice about 20 things daily “to have a good life,” and probably twice as much I do without even thinking about it. Focus on the following several areas; I will provide specific habits for each of them.
Your habits make you who you are. The etymology of the word “habit” says that your habits determine your essence. I fully agree with that. Pay attention to your habits. Develop good habits in a conscious manner. Look for new habits and incorporate them into your life, into your daily schedule.
When it comes to habits the best habit you can have is to monitor them. Have in place a system for tracking your daily activities. I track my habits in application Coach.me, but you can do it in many ways: on your wall calendar, personal notepad, Excel or text files.
This is extremely important. You are the person who talks with yourself the most. If your internal dialog is crappy, you cannot have a good life. Whatever good will come your way, your negative self-talk will find a way to spoil it.
Self-awareness provides a multitude of benefits other than just improving your self-talk. When you strive to consciously control your internal world, the external world seems to comply and become more controllable. If you are aware of your thoughts, words and deeds you make fewer mistakes. If you lead your life on autopilot – on the contrary – it’s easy to make mistakes.
Self-awareness also gives you input about your weaknesses and strengths. In the new economy where information is everything, this is priceless. People who know themselves can position themselves in a place where they can provide the most value to others and they can be rewarded accordingly.
A lot of successful people kept journals, including at least a few who had a global impact on politics at their times (Napoleon, Marcus Aurelius). When you keep a daily journal, you can often consult “with yourself” and notice what’s going on inside your head.
I know people for whom meditation was a life breakthrough. My friend, Rob Cubbon, came from a position of being unable to break his bad habits and feeling unhappy with his career and life to ditching alcohol and smoking and starting his own business. If you ask around, you will get to know more such stories. When Pat Flynn started to meditate regularly his revenues grew from five to six figures.
Meditation makes you aware of your internal clutter and chatter. When you try to sit for a minute and think nothing you can’t help, but notice the mess in your head.
3. Health in general.
“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” — Jim Rohn
It’s a struggle to have a good life if you’re sick. It’s possible, but it’s an uphill struggle. There are some very successful people with serious health problems: Nick Vujicic has no limbs, Stephen Hawking is paralyzed, my friend is a bestselling author but she has a genetic disease, lives in almost constant pain and doctors give her no more than 7 more years of life. I wouldn’t have exchanged places with any of them.
And there are many things you can do every day to maintain or improve your health.
Inspired by concerns about my weight loss I researched quite a lot (which is a bit unlike me, I prefer practice above theory) and built 8 habits:
-limiting sugar intake,
-drinking coffee to accelerate my metabolism,
-drinking two glasses of water first thing in the morning,
-tracking my consumption,
-eating at least one raw vegetable/ fruit a day,
-and tracking my sleep.
Writing a couple of books and several articles about health I recognized even more healthy habits in my life that are working on autopilot, so I usually don’t think about them:
-not eating outside,
-not drinking coffee after 3 pm,
-reading food labels when I buy the item for the first time,
-running all the stairs,
-taking stairs instead of an elevator,
-napping whenever I feel like it (including behind the desk at the office).
I’m pretty sure I have more habits that contribute to my wellbeing, but they are so ingrained into who am I, that I don’t even notice them.
The last time I was sick was in July 2013. I beat over 128 fitness records since April 2013.
And I hardly ever think about my health. Even when I do, like if I hesitate if choose stairs or an elevator, the moment of decision is ultra-brief and 95% of time I choose in accordance with my habits.
Automating my health took me no more than one year and it will benefit me to the end of my days.
4. People, or rather relationships.
This is paramount as well. Human happiness comes from relationships.
If you take 1,000 happy people, 900 of them are happy because they have good relationships in their lives. The remaining 100 can draw their happiness from their achievements, possessions or other sources. Relationships are the only factor that scientists found correlated with happiness. It’s worthwhile cultivating them.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn
Another thing is that whom you are hanging with affects who you are. You don’t have to acknowledge that, you don’t have to believe that, it’s just a part of human constitution. We absorb attitudes by osmosis. If you surround yourself with positive, passionate, successful people, you will become positive, passionate and successful. Period.
One more scientific tidbit—humans are motivated in a big part by other humans. We are very careful about what our peers think about us, we want to impress our mentors, we want to be loved in our families and there are some people who just want to do good for others from a pure benevolence.
Cases of people who have undertaken a great effort just for their own sake are exceptionally rare, because they are, well, exceptions. I’ve seen so many questions on Quora about self-motivation. In short, the answer to all of them is: there is no such thing as self-motivation. Some people possess this exceptional trait, but they are rare like Savants. If you want to be motivated you’d better start working on your relationships. Motivation comes mostly from other people, even if in the end it translates into “I want to look good in their eyes”.
I advise two daily activities:
One that builds your people skills and another one for cultivating your existing relationships.
If your social skills are well below average, it’s hard for you to create relationships in the first place. It doesn’t have to be something grand, in fact, it’s much better to start small and be consistent. I started from making eye contact with people on the streets and in public transportation.
Cultivating your relationships should also involve a small sustainable activities: saying “I love you” to your spouse, praising your kids, sending a text message to friends or siblings etc.
Your education doesn’t finish when you leave a school. Humans are designed and created for growth. We strive for progress, it’s in our nature. I think most of a modern existential void comes from the lack of growth in our lives.
Education doesn’t equal school. You don’t have to get degree after degree for the rest of your life. But if you want to progress, you need to remain curious and research and study on your own as long as you actively work in some area of activity.
For example, since I decided to become an author I read about a dozen books about the writing craft, being an authorpreneur and self-publisher. I consumed dozens of podcast episodes dedicated to writing and publishing. Teaching is a huge boost to one’s learning process, so I contributed to a few podcasts as well as a guest.
I followed a few authors’ blogs and interacted with their owners and their audiences.
I joined a few online communities for authors and writers and exchanged experience with my peers.
None of the above reminds me of a classic education, but it was as valuable as master’s degree, or even more so. My friend Matt Stone studied publishing and quickly he realized that most of his professors had no clue how to publish a book in practice.
There are different ways to study in online world and you should pick those that are suitable for your situation. You can read books, magazines, websites and blogs, listen to podcasts or audio programs, take online courses (most of them are in a video format) or watch video on YouTube or similar platforms.
I hate learning from videos. The only video content I can stand is an online real-time interactive class.
I don’t prefer listening either, mostly because I find very few opportunities to listen to. When I do something physical, like taking a walk or doing chores, I prefer to pray. Besides, when I really want to learn, I have to go back to the material anyway and make notes.
I love to learn via reading. I retain much more information that way and even when I don’t I can search and access written material much faster than audio or video.
Take inventory of your learning preferences and build your own self-university accordingly.
By cultivating gratitude you keep (or make if it’s not) your brain positive. Why is that important? When your brain is positive:
“every possible outcome we know how to test for raises dramatically.” – Shawn Achor
Gratitude is so important because it’s a catalyst. It has potential of providing better results in all areas of your life. EVERY measurable output, remember?
So far scientist have correlated gratitude with less stress, more health, better relationships…
It’s also absurdly easy to cultivate on a daily basis. I started my gratitude practice from a gratitude journal about my wife. Since September 2012 every day I note at least one thing about her I’m grateful for.
Your gratitude journal can be in a multitude of forms: about a person, about your daily efforts, your daily achievements, possessions, emotions, relationships or the mix of them all.
My gratitude entries are usually a dry but long list. I know people who jot down only a few points, but add elaborate explanations why they are grateful for them.
A tidbit: in almost every gratitude journal food appears.
Another form of expressing gratitude on a daily basis is sending thank you notes. It not only helps you focus on reasons to be grateful for, but also trains your “social muscle”. Expressing gratitude is unbelievably rare and people will your remember you for that.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
I once took an inventory of thank you notes I received from my readers. I obtained a ratio about 20:60,000. Even if I was mistaken because of my normal tendency to focus on negative, it couldn’t increase beyond 100:60,0000. That’s still exceptionally rare.
That’s how exceptional you will be expressing your gratitude.
Just 6 simple things to do daily to have a good life. Design your own habits in each area. Implement them. Enjoy your improved life.