(a 15 minute read)
Not to jinx it or anything but 2021 can’t possibly be worse than last year...right?
While it can be really cheesy, setting the right resolutions for the coming time can be really helpful. You just have to set your bar slightly higher than 2020 has set it for this year. Today, I want you to reflect on the past few months or even years and realize that you have the power to become your best self if you really pursue it.
Of course, there’s no definition for what makes someone great - you have to take a deep look inside and set one for yourself. No one’s doing it for you. But through consistent enough discipline and by constantly improving yourself, you can do anything you set your mind to...I truly do believe that. That’s why I’ve written this today.
What Becoming Your Best Self Is About
“Simple things that have to be done consistently over large periods of time aren’t necessarily easy.” -a shameless plug from our book
Today I want to talk about 5 principles I follow that can really make a difference. Keep in mind: these principles aren’t step-by-step guides to structuring your day and all that stuff. This is more about the mindset behind every action because the details change from case to case. As I already said, everyone sets their own definitions of success and that's why everyone has to take different steps to get there...but the principles of mindfulness stay.
I always think it’s funny that people spend so much time reading about the morning habits of billionaires and thinking this will actually put them in their shoes. I started out like that as well, but came to the realization that this is simply the wrong way of doing it.
There is no blueprint and there are no shortcuts. What I’ll talk about in the coming chapters are pretty simple things to understand, but read the quote from the beginning of the chapter and you’ll think differently of simple things. But for good measure I’ll also list some habits that are proven to make a difference - it may not make sense for everyone but I’ll give it a shot. Let’s start.
#1) Happy Habits
“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away a few stones.” -Confucius
Your mind is the strongest tool you have. It commands everything you do and think. That’s why you have to train to control your thoughts by establishing positive habits and getting rid of bad ones. Habits don’t come at the press of a button though. It usually takes anywhere from 3 weeks to 2 months for a behavior to become automatic. That being said, you can begin to see how powerful habits truly are.
The first thing you should do is create a list of habits in your own life and then categorize them into what you feel is good and what not so much - kinda like a pros and cons list. What does your phone usage look like? What are your morning habits? How about your personal fitness, reading and others?
Once you’re done with the list, take another look at it to see if you notice something very important: are both sides the same length or is one much longer than the other? When I started doing this, I realized that the column with negative habits was much longer than the positive one...and I had to do something about it or I would forever regret it.
Bad habits will always be there because, after all, no one’s perfect. And if someone claims they have no bad habits at all, they’re probably lying. But we have the power to get rid of most of them if we really put our minds to it. Stone by stone. Don’t try to move the whole mountain all at once, and instead focus on establishing/deleting one habit at a time. Or even better: replace bad ones with new ones to fill the arising void and to speed up the process!
This will be much tougher than it might seem right now because we tend to like our comfort zone(...that might actually be why it’s called that). But if you’re not struggling, you’re not testing yourself with something new. From nothing comes nothing, so it’s our job to put in the work to make the habits work. There’s no way around that. Now let’s talk about a few habits that can have a huge positive impact...
Unfortunately, I can’t recall where exactly I picked these up but they’ve proven worthy. So let me start by listing them, adding a few thoughts, and then also coming up with a few other powerful habits. This is just to spice things up and to get your gears turning.
- Practice Gratitude.
We often get so caught up in our days that we fail to notice the beautiful things all around us. Training ourselves to savor the moment and appreciate our surroundings is one of the best things we can do. There’s so much to be grateful for: big things like the opportunities we’re given and the technology and infrastructure we’re able to use, but also smaller things like a sunny day or simply a nice meal.
Don’t over-complicate the process either; simply note down three things you’re grateful for each morning and make that part of your routine. It may not feel like anything significant but you’ll notice the effects much sooner than you might think.
- Start Journaling.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t think much of this when I first started. I simply didn’t like sitting down and writing out thoughts because it quickly started to feel like a chore to me. But I still kept on doing it and I am so grateful that I did. Not only did it help with clearing my mind but I’m now also able to better articulate my thoughts and feelings and I have a greater understanding of what the f*ck is going on up there.
So, my advice for you: simply journal for 2 minutes per day and write about one positive experience you had in the last 24 hours. It doesn’t matter if it’s unimportant or life-changing. What matters is that you try to relive the moment by going into great detail while writing. It’ll do wonders over time and it’s also a great collection of experiences to look back on every now and then.
- Be Kind.
I can’t believe I actually have to say this but being kind and making others feel good is one of the best ways to also make yourself feel better. And if you do it consistently and over large periods of time, you’ll feel better and better as times goes on. “If others are doing well, you’ll be doing well too.”
This basically means your goal should be to bring a smile to someone’s face with a friendly gesture at least once a day. A sincere compliment to a loved one, reaching out to a friend to catch up or simply holding open a door for a stranger aren’t too much to ask for, right?
- Meditate Daily.
Now this is where it gets tricky. I won’t even lie to you but I’m really bad at this. I can’t seem to get myself to sit down and do nothing because my mind immediately starts to begin racing and I think of all kinds of things except about sitting down and thinking about nothing...does that make sense?
If you feel the same way, I have a little trick for you. Do it differently. Don’t try to follow the cliches or anything overly complicated. Simply drop everything you’re doing, sit down, relax, and do nothing but focus on your breathing for a few minutes. It calms you down immensely and if done consistently, you can keep that energy throughout your day.
- Work Out.
This one can be tough in times of social distancing and lockdowns...but it’s probably the most important one. Implementing simple 15-minute workouts in daily routines is one of the best things we can do because physical exercise is the best antidepressant there is.
And it doesn’t even have to be two hours of pushing yourself to extreme limits like David Goggins or The Rock. Keep it simple and keep it consistent. That’s still better than doing nothing at all.
- There’s More.
If you follow these 5 Happy Habits every day and even combine them to be more efficient, you’ll one day look back and be surprised by how these seemingly minor things can have such huge consequences. But they’re obviously not it.
Other positive characteristics or habits to have can be anything from waking up early, eating healthy food and reading daily, to taking ownership, practicing forgiveness and much much more. Habits are the key to a successful life. And it’s up to you to own them.
#2) Treat Others How You Want To Be Treated
“One person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others; create a win-win situation.” -Stephen R. Covey
I’ll keep it short because the last chapter turned out to be really long and because it’s a saying everyone’s heard at least a billion times by now. But let me make it the billion-and-first time because it’s just so damn true.
A great person is someone that treats everyone with respect and does so no matter the race, gender, social status, or age. If you follow this unbelievably simple principle, you’ll easily create new powerful connections and have many eye-opening experiences. Lead by example and go your way from there. We can’t expect others to follow suit but we also can’t let our own moral principles be shaken by the behavior of others.
#3) Find Your Purpose In Life
“Most people die at 25 but aren’t buried until 75.” -Benjamin Franklin
Does life have meaning? Yes and no. It depends on who you ask and what you believe in. I’m not in a position to answer such a question so I won’t even begin to try. But one thing I can say for certain is that it’s up to you to decide.
For me, life is about more than just being born, getting an education, building a career, paying taxes until you’re approaching 70, then retire and ultimately die. (Hence why we wrote a whole entire book about how to go around just that…) Even though these are very respectable things and there are a ton of people that dream of this, it just isn’t for me. And that’s what I meant at the beginning with having to decide.
Finding one’s purpose is closely bound to doing something that makes you wake up in the morning with excitement for the day to come. To find out what this could be, think about what your ideal life would look like and then picture yourself living it. What does a morning look like? What do you have for lunch and what are you working on?
Now reverse engineer your way back to the Now - in a nutshell, reverse engineering basically means taking something apart into its fundamental parts and then finding out who it’s actually constructed. This way you can break down the larger-than-life goal of finding your purpose into smaller, actionable tasks that you can work on. Finding purpose can be really difficult, which is why I’ll work on a more detailed approach to it in another blog post for the future so keep your eyes open.
Now it’s up to you to take action. Will you follow your dream and actually put in the work that’s required or will it stay a dream? Usually, when everything’s said and done, people don’t regret things they did but the things they didn’t do. Don’t make the same mistake.
#4) Seek To Improve Constantly
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt
The desire to constantly keep on improving in all aspects of life is a very noble characteristic and definitely worth practicing. But don’t make the mistake of comparing yourself to others - not only will it probably make you miserable but it’s also not really a good metric to extract data from. For example, does it really make sense for newcomers at the gym to compare themselves to athletes that’ve been working out for 6 years by now?
Instead, you should compare yourself to who you were yesterday, last year or even a decade ago. While you can use other people as a driver for motivation, that should become a determinant for success. That’s what your past self is for. That’s how real success is measured.
Comparing us to others is a normal behavior but we can break this cycle by being mindful of our thoughts. If we do that, we’re already ahead of 95% of our competition, because they’re still dwelling over other people’s concerns. Being mindful of one’s thoughts and other principles of continuous improvement are basically what #1 and habit building in general are about…
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, simple things that have to be done consistently over large periods of time aren't necessarily easy. This also means that seemingly simple actions can have huge results if compounded over time - and this goes for good actions as well as for bad actions...the power of the compound effect.
#5) It’s Never Too Late For Change
That was a paragraph from D. Waitley’s The Winner’s Edge. I admit that this is a bit harsh but the fundamental point is true: if you don’t like how life is playing out, change things. You’re always in control of what you do with your situation, so be responsible and stop blaming others or luck. Be proactive and worry about the things you CAN control. Have the guts to quit something if it isn’t working out or making you happy.
As cheesy as it sounds, life's not about the destination but about the journey. There is no ultimate high because we always keep on going. Shortly after we achieve something, we simply get used to it and start looking for the next thing. And if there’s one proof for how quickly we get used to new situations, it’s the past year.
This life is not a dress rehearsal. It’s the real deal. So act like it by taking ownership of your situation. It’s up to you to find fulfillment in life, which is the greatest success one can achieve. Someone once said “Success is not the key to happiness - happiness is the key to success” and I couldn’t agree more. Now go and make 2021 worth remembering...but for all the right reasons.