The Origin of Our Habits
We are habitual creatures. From the genetic origins of our species, we’ve been designed and programmed to run certain sequences that will help aid us in the daily development, growth, regeneration, repair, and sustainability of our lives from the micro level to the macro level. We are selfish-survivors from an evolutionary standpoint and the CPUs of our minds have been etched with programs along neural pathways that are habitually instinctive by nature.
Of course, we all know that there are pre-programmed functions that are coded directly into our genetics that allow us to do things like digest food, supply oxygen to our blood, fight off diseases, process images or hear sounds, and so on. And, although the autonomous pre-programmed functions of our minds and bodies are important, so are the other non-instictive functions that are created over the course of our lives. These habits – both good and bad – either help to serve us or hinder us in the pursuit of all things.
Habits, and the formation of our habits is an important subject because we are, in essence, an aggregation of our habits. From the moment that we awake to the moment that we fall asleep, our minds are running these habitual sequences that we’ve come to know. Sometimes, those habits are successful habits that allow us to make a little bit of progress each and every day. However, unfortunately, most of the time, those habits are bad habits that hold us back from living the life of our dreams.
Why Habits Are So Important
When you stop to think about it, good habits, or the lack thereof, are attributable to the success or failure at any endeavor in life. When you look at a habit, such as smoking a cigarette after a meal, your mind might not portray it as ultimately detrimental to your physical well-being.
The single occurrence of having one cigarette after a meal once in your life probably isn’t too bad. However, it’s the habitual set of autonomous functions that is played out by the mind over and over again that can help to degrade health over time. It’s not just the cigarette after a meal anymore – it’s a cigarette after a meal, before work, during break, during lunch, after work, at night before bed, at the bar while drinking, and so on.
Clearly, habits are escalating, in nature; they grow and expand over time. What starts out as a 1-cigarette-a-day habit, turns into one or two packs as time passes. The mind has a tendency to build up the neural pathways that it etches in order to put our lives on autopilot. If it thinks that something is giving it pleasure in the near-term, it gravitates towards it. However, when it does this with bad habits, it can create huge deterrents in every area of our lives including health, finance, and relationships.
The 10 Must-Have Success Habits
In a recent post, I spoke about the 10 must-have success habits. These are the absolute fundamental habits that are required at our core to succeed in life. But there are so many more habits that help to comprise a successful person. They involve habits in areas such as your health, finances, relationships, career, time management skills, and goal-setting. But, before I get into the list of 101 successful habits, let’s look at just how to form those habits.
In fact, at the very core of forming successful habits is the habit of habit formation itself. Sound strange? Well, we are an amalgamation of our habits. Those habits form over time with a little bit of effort each day; this happens almost without our noticing. If you’re used to grabbing a candy bar at around 3pm without paying much attention to it, then it’s a habit. If, on the other hand, you’re used to lacing up your running shoes in the morning and sprinting out the door, that’s another habit.
But, habits are hard to break. If you have a set of habits that have formed over years and years of repetitious behavior that includes emotional, social, mental, and physical cues, it’s remarkably hard to break. So, you have to get into the habit of habit formation. This will only take you 5 or 10 minutes per day, so anyone can do it. There’s absolutely no excuse for not doing this, and it precedes all other success habits.
So, what are the 10 must-have success habits?
Well, if you didn’t read that post, then here’s a quick and simple breakdown for you:
- Set Goals Daily
- Manage your Time Efficiently
- Measure and Track Everything
- Budget and Spend Wisely
- Pay yourself First
- Exercise Every Day
- Make Healthy Choices
- Get Proper Sleep
- Daily Gratitude
- Take Daily Action
Now, some of these might sound like common sense to you. If you didn’t read that article on how and why each of these are important, then go back and do so now. But, what I wanted to do here was to give you a breakdown of not only the core success habits, but all 101 success habits that should literally become habitual to you (no pun intended).
Now, these success habits don’t just apply to your daily routine, they apply to your monthly and yearly routine. You want to ensure that you get into the habit of having success habits and ensure that you’re doing a little bit each and every single day towards the attainment of a better life.
So, How Does Habit Formation Work?
Well, before I get into all 101 success habits, it’s important to look at how habit formation works. When you can understand how the habits are formed, you’ll be better able to manage and tackle both building positive habits and eliminating those pesky bad habits as well. Now, I know this is easier said than done.
Building positive habits is hard and eliminating bad habits, especially the ones that we’ve had for years and years, is even harder. But it’s not impossible.
So, how are habits formed exactly? What is the specific process in the mind that leads to the formation of a habit? Well, habits are incremental. They start small and grow larger. Thing about the strands in a rope for a moment. A thick piece of rope can be made from thousands upon thousands of strands.
Many Strands Woven Together
Imagine if you will for a moment as this thick piece of rope (the kind that would tether a large ship to a dock) as a habit. This thick rope (also called a mooring line) is strong. In fact, they are very strong. They can pull and moor a massive ship to a dock and keep it there, even under the heavy strain of high winds and tides.
Habits, like mooring lines, are also very strong. Oftentimes they’re there to stay. And bad habits are seemingly impossible to break. Furthermore, if we feel like we break a bad habit for a while, eventually it comes back around. So, why is that? Why is that it’s seemingly impossible to break bad habits and so hard to form good habits?
Well, if you think about that mooring line again, and just how thick it is, imagine it in the beginning first. Think about when there is no habit there, whether good or bad. The first time we do something that eventually becomes habitual, we start with a single strand. That first occurrence involves much more awareness from our minds.
For example, the first time we go to the gym, smoke a cigarette, have an alcoholic drink, eat an apple, and so on, we need awareness from the mind. The mind has to be aware because it’s not used to a certain activity. When the chain smoker who reaches for a cigarette and lights it up, putting it to his or her mouth, without even knowing it on a conscious level, does so due to ingrained habits.
It’s the product of a neural pathway etched over time, like the strands in a mooring line being strung together one after another after another. Eventually, those single strands, when combined together, produce a habit that’s so incredibly strong that it can either be next-to-impossible to break. That’s why the formation of positive habits over time and the elimination of negative habits is so incredibly important.
Can Bad Habits Really be Broken?
Yes, bad habits can really be broken. But, like the mooring line of a ship, those habits are strong so it’s going to take acute awareness and daily consistent action. This is why so many people find it so difficult to lose weight, stop smoking, make more money, and so on. We’re such habitual creatures that even if we move away from something for a little while we tend to gravitate back to it.
But you can break bad habits with awareness and application over time. Since bad habits have formed over years and years of repetitious behavior, you have to realize that breaking those bad habits is going to take acute awareness over a 4 to 6 month period. That’s how long it takes to form new habits. And 4 to 6 months is a long time. But if you can get past that 6-month hump, then you’re much more likely to continue through.
To break bad habits you have to ensure that you’re doing a little bit each and every day towards both breaking the bad habit and replacing it with a positive habit. For example, if you reached for a candy bar at 3pm every single day, you have to replace that habit with a healthy habit. This includes awareness and making healthy decisions. It also involves some planning.
Using the P.A.R.A. Technique
Bad habits can be broken and good habits can be formed by using what I’ve coined as the P.A.R.A. technique, which stands for Planning, Awareness, Reason, and Action. Anyone can make or break a habit by using the PARA technique; anyone who’s committed enough that is.
So, how does it work?
Step #1 – (P) – Planning the Habit
Well, the first thing that you need to do is plan. What is the bad habit that you want to break or what is the good habit that you want to form? You have to plan it out and write it down. If you don’t plan it, you won’t do it. So, if the bad habit involves cigarette smoking then write that down then make a plan. Without a plan you’ll simply revert to those neural pathways.
So, how is a plan made? Well, aside from recognizing the bad habit you want to break or the good habit you want to form, you have to commit a certain part of your day to the habit formation or habit breaking exercise. This is going to take you 5 minutes per day to start with. Just 5 minutes you ask? Is that really possible? Yes it is.
Again, going back to that example of the mooring line, it starts off with one strand. When you started a bad habit, you didn’t dive in at the deepest end. The chain smoker didn’t start off smoking three packs per day. No, they started with a cigarette here and there. Those were the single strands that were woven together little by little over time. So, 5 minutes is all it takes in the beginning.
For example, if you have a bad habit of driving through a fast food restaurant on the way home, plan a different route. Don’t drive home the same way. In fact, plan 3 different routes, none of which pass by that fast food restaurant. And, if you know you’ll get hungry in your car, plan a healthy snack and bring it with you. Pack an apple or a bag of nuts. All it takes it 5 minutes of planning.
Step #2 – (A) – Awareness of the Habit
The next step is awareness. You have to build awareness towards your good or bad habit every single day. What do I mean? Well, habits are built on subconscious repetitious behaviors that become routine and commonplace. When we don’t build awareness, we don’t actually see what we’re doing on a conscious level. The mind just institutes what it knows.
So, when you do build awareness towards the bad or good habit’s behaviors, then you’re much more likely to break or make the habit. This always isn’t as simple as it sounds, but when you plan first, you can be aware. If you have something with you that will remind you of the bad or good habit, then you’re much more likely to follow through with it. Awareness is the key.
For example, if you bring an apple with you on your way to work, and you have it ready for when you have that craving, then you will be much more likely to be aware. Because you planned with the apple (or your route driving home from work), you’re more aware. When you force yourself to do things that are out of your comfort zone you have no choice but to be aware. Since the mind hasn’t run those routines before it’s forced to be aware to build new patterns.
Step #3 – (R) – Reasons for Making / Breaking the Habit
Reasons are the key to either making or breaking habits. In fact, no matter what you do in life – whatever goal you want to achieve – when your reasons are strong enough, you can accomplish anything. So, what are your reasons for wanting to make or break a habit? They have to be strong enough to help you override your natural tendencies to do something.
Take the time to write out your reasons for wanting a better life and better habits. Figure out why you want to stop smoking, stop overeating, over drinking, or anything else. They can’t just be superficial reasons. These reasons have to actually mean something to you. You don’t want to have a good habit just because you’ll make more money with it. It has to be more profound.
When your reasons run deep you can make or break any habit. The reasons are the gateway to the formation of habits but they aren’t the only thing that will get you there. However, without reasons, we’re left in the dark and our minds can allow us to put things off longer. We tend to procrastinate, saying we’ll get to it another day.
Step #4 – (A) – Action to Create or Eliminate the Habit
Last but not least, is the “A” for action. If you’ve tackled the first three, then what you need to do is take action. All you have to do is do a little bit each day to build or break a habit. If you smoke 30 cigarettes per day, cut back to 20, then 10, then 0, and eventually break the bad habit. If you eat junk food three times per day, limit it to one time per day, then one time per week, then once per month, and so on.
You have to do a little bit each day towards making or breaking the habits. It doesn’t matter how small that is. Take 10 minutes and walk around your block where you live. It might sound like something small at first, but that’s how habits are built. Remember the example of thick mooring line? Start off with little strands that build up over time. You’ll be surprised to see just how much you start doing once you get started.
The biggest deterrent that people have in life is actually acting. Decide and do it now. That’s all you have to do to make or break a habit. Too many people make things out too be much larger in their minds than it actually is. Simply decide to act then act. You can make or break any habit if you stick to these four steps.
So What are the Success Habits?
Okay, so, we know how habits are formed and how we can make or break them now. So, what are these success habits? Well, this is my ultimate list of 101 habits that will help you to succeed in all areas of your life. In particular, these habits cover the following 8 areas:
#1 – Health & Wellness
#2 – Finances
#3 – Business & Career
#4 – Relationships
#5 – Spirituality
#6 – Goals
#7 – Education
#8 – Time Management
Category #1 – Health & Wellness Habits
#1 – Eat breakfast
#2 – Eat one apple a day
#3 – Get a good night’s sleep
#4 – Use sunblock
#5 – Floss your teeth
#6 – Drink plenty of water
#7 – Eliminate processed foods
#8 – Avoid cigarette smoking
#9 – Walk 10,000 steps daily
#10 – Eat fiber daily
#11 – Exercise
#12 – Reduce caffeine intake
#13 – Eat green vegetables
#14 – Visit the dentist twice a year
#15 – Visit the doctor every year
#16 – Brush your teeth
Category #2 – Financial Habits
#17 – Budget your finances
#18 – Save money automatically
#19 – Daily money minute
#20 – Invest your money
#21 – Reduce debt
#22 – Own your home
#23 – Carry one credit card
#24 – Reconcile your accounts
#25 – Organize your receipts
#26 – Monitor credit report
#27 – File taxes on time
#28 – Consult with your accountant
Category #3 – Business & Career Habits
#29 – Start your day early
#30 – Organize and prioritize
#31 – Plan and systemize
#32 – Be time-efficient
#33 – Solve problems
#34 – Always follow up
#35 – Double check your work
#36 – Be on time to meetings
#37 – Limit social media
#38 – Be initiative
#39 – Consult with others
#40 – Take responsibility
#41 – Be detail-oriented
#42 – Be open-minded
#43 – Smile and be friendly
Category #4 – Relationship Habits
#44 – Don’t lie
#45 – Be faithful
#46 – Show respect
#47 – Learn to listen
#48 – Never go to bed angry
#49 – Eliminate assumptions
#50 – Spend quality time
#51 – Venture out together
#52 – Have a date night
#53 – Be light-hearted
#54 – Show love daily
#55 – Remember anniversaries
#56 – Avoid demands
Category #5 – Spirituality Habits
#57 – Meditate
#58 – Do Yoga
#59 – Schedule “me” time
#60 – Give to less fortunate
#61 – Be positive
#62 – Daily gratitude
#62 – Worship
#63 – Breed happiness
#64 – Show love
#65 – Ask for help
#66 – Have belief
#67 – Sing out loud
#68 – Grow with a group
Category #6 – Goal-Oriented Habits
#69 – Set daily goals
#70 – Track your progress
#71 – Make adjustments
#72 – Use mantras
#72 – Seek out inspiration
#73 – Confide in others
#74 – Consult with professionals
#75 – Exhibit patience
#76 – Be courageous
#77 – Never give up
Category #7 – Educational Habits
#78 – Learn one new word per day
#79 – Study a foreign language
#80 – Learn a new skill
#81 – Eliminate distractions
#82 – Join a study group
#83 – Ask questions daily
#84 – Watch educational videos
#85 – Listen to others opinions
#86 – Read something fascinating
Category #8 – Time Management Habits
#87 – Create a daily task list
#88 – Manage time with quadrants
#89 – Review your goals
#90 – Don’t procrastinate
#91 – Set reminders
#92 – Do one thing per day you’ve been putting off
#93 – Avoid distractions
#94 – Change your environment
#95 – Take breaks often
#96 – Remove social media apps from phone
#97 – Give yourself free time
#98 – Delegate tasks where needed
#99 – Outsource tedious tasks
#100 – Buffer time between tasks
#101 – Avoid getting sidetracked