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Creating a routine for our day is probably the best known step of any journey to goal attainment.
I have started more than 20 different routines, none of which lasted the true measure of time and led to no real success. It has taken me at least this number of routines to figure out that none of my previous routines were truly aligned to my goals.
I would get carried away with incorporating as many healthy and trending habits as I could find—a cold shower, green tea, strong coffee, fasted cardio, journaling, yoga, push-ups, and meditation. And every time I would get excited to begin this new schedule for my week, and three days in, I would give it up.
Well, firstly, it isn’t enjoyable trying to do all these forced actions, and secondly, it’s even less enjoyable when we don’t know what the result will be. There are health benefits to some of these actions; however, if we’re already relatively healthy, these actions may not have a good return on investment unless we start from a sedentary or unhealthy lifestyle.
Most of these are fillers or nonrelative habits, especially if we try adding more than one to our morning, which becomes a time-consuming distraction from more goal-aligned habits. However, we can attempt this exploration and then navigate our way to the more essential practices aligned with our goals.
One of my health goals is to have good mental health, so meditation and cold showers can supplement that goal from a compounding effect. Another of my health goals is to be x weight and y amount body fat, so we may determine that fasted cardio will help us attain this.
In short, I believe most people understand the concept that our habits determine our future, and what we do in a day and repeat weekly will add up to give us the compounded result.
If I eat a bowl of sugary cereal, followed by a bacon sandwich every morning, then sit at an office for the next eight hours, adding two more doses of calories on my breaks, this will compound into excessive weight gain—unless I burn more calories than I eat through exercise. It sounds simple; however, this understanding of body composition is theory, and eating rice crispies and bacon is the habit.
Habits are extremely powerful and often underestimated. They are a force of nature, ingrained into our DNA.
All humans have good habits and bad habits. In reflection, many of our good ones are thought of by our society, schooling, and parents—clean our room, don’t lash out in anger, behave in public places, respect authority, and eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These are the more fundamental habits, which, even when pushed heavily, some still ignore.
We then have our expression habits. We gain these habits through our own personality and from the people we are impressed by, like our friends, older siblings, celebrities, and sports stars. If I were to reflect and judge myself in detail, I could name most people who influenced my habits.
Overall the importance of habits and incorporating more good ones into our daily routine is not emphasized enough. Habits are the key to success in any endeavor. We all look for this thing called motivation to kickstart us into success, but it is like a sugar boost. It only ever works in short bursts and will eventually drop off like a sugar crash.
Habits are like a healthy meal we start our day with to keep us going and support other habits throughout the day. Habits compound over time through conscious choice—we need to choose the action for the first few days, weeks, and maybe even a month. Then the habits we have acted on will fall into our subconscious, and the automated part of our brain will reprogram our brain to carry out these tasks automatically.
My suggestion is to start with one singular goal, focused on one part of our life—relationships, health, financial, or fulfillment. Get super narrow with this; for example, we can pick one relationship in our life we wish to improve, or set a monetary figure we want to achieve, or set the goal to overcome anxiety. Then after we set a definitive goal, we break it down into habits that will support its attainment.
These compounding habits need to become nonnegotiable, so they need to be planned into our day. Once we have stayed consistent with these habits, they can become automated, which turns into discipline—and that kind of habit will become the power to achieve that goal.
If we can do this successfully, we can create more goals and then break them down into more habits to incorporate. It is easier to add these to our mornings in an alpha state when our brain is more creative and less restrictive.
One problem is distraction can become heightened, and I truly believe if we win the morning, we win the day. It will be a struggle at first, but we don’t need to punish ourselves by giving up.
I have a rule where I never skip the habit for more than two days, as this gives us a psychological hall pass for the moments in life we couldn’t do it (sickness, hangover, work).
The habits that I have successfully incorporated for the past few years are reading before bed, journaling, and meditation. These have greatly benefited me in more than one of my goals. The key is to start small, and when we have cemented a habit, we can create more goals that we want to achieve and let the habits do the work.