More than 2000 years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. I believe this idea holds true today just as much as it did in Aristotle’s time.
Confidence, success, health and happiness, conditions we all crave, are not gained and maintained by taking a set of isolated steps for a brief while, but rather by living our life in a particular way.
If you want these conditions in your life, you need to implement certain top habits: certain actions and activities that you perform regularly (some daily, some weekly, some monthly) and constitute an integral part of your lifestyle.
The topic of top habits is one I’ve investigated obstinately for more than a decade now, seeking to identify the main practices that draw, keep and amplify all the right things in your life.
Experimenting with an array of habits personally, coaching others for a living, meeting many people with awesome lives and studying the top scientific research on this topic certainly helped a lot.
Eventually, I devised a list of 10 top habits that I believe are very important for confidence, success, health and happiness. Whenever you see these conditions in a person, several if not all of these habits will be present, and not by coincidence.
I’d like to show you what these 10 top habits are, why they matter and how to implement them. Let’s take them one habit at a time.
There isn’t a speck of doubt in my mind that the happiest people alive are the ones who have great relationships with like-minded people and an active social life.
Even though some of us are fond of many solo activities, we humans are all gregarious creatures, designed to live among others, interact with others and bond with others. And when this ingredient is lacking in our life, we feel lonely, unlikable or depressed.
If you don’t have a social circle of at least several members you really click with, the first step in implementing this habit is to be more outgoing, meet new people, and build or re-build your social circle.
If you’re somewhat shy or socially anxious, this may prove to be a challenge, but the good news is that with the right guidance you can learn to be much more social and then it becomes pretty easy and very fun.
When you have a good social circle, socializing entails meeting with the people you know periodically and hanging out with them. You chat, you share experiences, you joke around, you do things together.
With some you’ll want to meet a few times every week, with others maybe just once a month, but the idea is to have regular and frequent social interactions, with folks you get along well with. Plus, keep meeting new people and refreshing your social life.
Learning is a habit with the aim of developing two types of skills. One is professional skills, which you use to prosper career wise, and the other is life skills, which you use to better your life overall.
So if you’re an engineer or you want to be one, you learn engineering. If you’re a marketing specialist or you want to be one, you learn marketing. These are professional skills.
But you also learn to enhance your social skills, your emotional intelligence, your problem solving skills, your resilience, your financial skills, and so on, which are all valuable life skills.
I believe in life-long learning, and every high-achiever I know practices it. I read/listen to one or two non-fiction books every month and I spend at least a few hundred dollars every year on self-improvement materials. And it pays off tenfold.
Consequently, I’m perplexed by the huge amount of people who rarely if ever pick up another book after they’ve finished school.
They get sucked into the immediate gratification world of TV entertainment, computer games, drinking, binge eating, and if they ever find themselves needing to learn something new, they hope reading a couple of articles on the web will do the trick.
Don’t be one of these people. Spend a few hours every week learning things with practical value in your life or career, and continually seek to better yourself. Investing in yourself is the best investment you’ll ever make.
3. Eating Healthy
Eating is a habit we all have, but eating healthy is far from it. A quick glance at the current health statistics is enough to realize that most of us have terrible eating habits. We eat too much sugar, too much carbs, too much junk food and just plain too much.
Since what you eat plays a crucial role in how healthy you are, no discussion about top habits would be complete without mentioning healthy eating.
The gist of it is to make sure that each day your meals and snacks are healthy and nutritious. Eat consciously.
Personally, I follow the eating recommendations in the primal blueprint, which I’ve studied and tested thoroughly and they make the most sense. I advise anybody who wants vibrant health and a good form to apply them.
These recommendations involve eating lots of fruits, veggies, nuts, meat and fish, which is what we ate for more than 95% of our existence as a species and are biologically adapted to. Some of the advice in the primal blueprint is controversial, for instance the advice to eat meat and avoid grains, but again, I’ve done my homework and I consider it extremely solid.
Exercising is the ideal complement to healthy eating. When you combine them, you not only regulate what you put into your body, but also what your body does with it to some extent.
Physical exercise also engages your body, keeps it active and trains it. And the health benefits are immense. Not to mention that, once you get used to exercise and provided you don’t overdo it, if feels real good.
Just as in eating, the primal blueprint is my guide in how I exercise. Accordingly, I do some light cardio a few times per week (for example fast paced waling, hiking or dancing), some strengths training (lifting weights) and a bit of sprinting, even if it is to catch a bus.
It’s a formula that provides a complete but not extreme workout, which works miracles for your physical health, your mood and your form. And it doesn’t require that much time. So I never hesitate to endorse it.
I was somewhat hesitant to do meditation at first, because I simply didn’t get it. Many really accomplished guys I knew swore by it, but I failed to see its benefits. Until I gave it a good try, doing it daily for a few weeks.
That’s when I discovered first-hand that meditation is a powerful way to let go of pesky negative thoughts, de-stress and access a state of calm confidence that can last for hours.
It’s also an awesome tool to become better at focusing and harder to get distracted, which boosts your productivity and your presence of mind. It facilitates insight and it builds your inner fortitude.
There are various meditation exercises and techniques, but the basic idea is to focus on a specific stimulus (for example your breathing or a small object in front of you) for a specific period of time and try to keep your focus on it.
It’s an exercise in concentrating your attention on something narrow and disregarding everything else. But really, you have to practice meditation for a period and experience it for yourself in order to truly understand it. So, give it a try.
6. Practicing Gratitude
Practicing gratitude means becoming fully aware of the good things about you and your life, acknowledging them, acknowledging that in other circumstances they may not have been, and expressing thankfulness for them.
Gratitude is particularly important because we have this very strong inclination to become acclimatized to whatever we have, no matter how awesome it is, and feel as if it’s no longer special.
Even a Ferrari feels like a normal thing after having it for a few months, and it no longer gives you a thrill. Why? Because you got used to it and you take it for granted.
Practicing gratitude reverses this and you stop taking things for granted. It helps you see that, although you may not have reached all your goals, you have some amazing things in your life, and it teaches you to appreciate them.
You take a lot of pleasure in small things such as a walk in a park or a cup of coffee. You become grateful that you have a nice computer and a roof over your head. You like yourself more and enjoy life more.
When I talk about practicing gratitude as a habit, I’m referring to doing specific gratitude exercises, preferably daily.
One simple exercise, which you can do each morning when you wake up, is to think of 5/7/10 things about you and your life that you are grateful for, and state them to yourself or write them down.
Another one, which you can do each evening before going to sleep, is to think of 5 positive things that happened to you during the day and express gratitude for them.
They may sound cheesy, but they are very powerful exercises. A lot of happiness comes from actually seeing and being thankful for everything good in your life. Which doesn’t exclude the pursuit of an even better life.
7. Financial Planning
Financial planning involves a series of periodical actions regarding your money, which I suggest you perform at the end of every month and every year.
The first key action is reviewing your spending over the past month or year (depending on the case) and assessing your current financial situation. This helps you keep track of your spending and identify types of goods or services that you spend excessively on considering the return on investment.
This information will be very relevant for the next action, which is budgeting money for the next month or year. Thus you control wasteful spending and ensure you put your money where the highest worth is.
In addition, you wanna save or invest a certain amount of your monthly income. This is essential for building wealth, as well as having financial security.
Most people think financial planning is something only rich people need to do. It’s not. If anything, non-rich people need to do it even more than rich ones. Because they have less financial resources available so it’s more germane for them to manage them well.
Unfortunately, most folks have no idea how much money they have or what exactly they spend it on. They just buy stuff impulsively until they max out their credit cards, then they stop and they wait for the next paycheck, to start the same process all over again.
It’s no wonder that the average person is not only broke, but in serious debt, with no financial security and nothing to show for than a lot of crap they bought over the years, most of which they don’t really need. This is why financial planning is key.
8. Helping Others
Helping others plays a central role in your happiness because one of our deepest desires as humans is to have a positive impact in this world. We wanna help others and make this world better. So it’s an excellent idea to have habitual activities through which you do so.
Ideally, your job should be your main vehicle for helping others. You spend so many hours working each day, you might as well do work that has a real positive impact in this world.
Unfortunately, most jobs out there simply do not meet this criterion, which is part of what makes them so unfulfilling. How fulfilled can you be as a drone in some greedy corporation, whose only contribution is helping it make more profit?
If you’re in this situation, in the mid-to-long-term, seek a career change towards a job that permits you to genuinely help others. In the short-term, seek activities to do in your free time through which you help others.
For instance, volunteer for an organization that aids people. Do some charity work. There is no shortage of people who could use some help, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find opportunities.
I could talk forever about the joys and benefits of travel. Personally, I spend 30 to 90 days every year travelling, and the period when I travel is pretty much the peak of my year.
Travelling exposes you to new places, new people, new cultures and new customs. It’s an amazing way to enrich your life and grow as an individual. Whenever I return from a week of travel, it’s like I’m a new, wiser, better person.
Not to mention that the entire experience of travelling is extremely fun. The things you do, the things you see; even the silly problems like missing your connection flight in the end just add to the sense of adventure and make travelling more exciting.
So I encourage you to try to put some time and money aside, and at least once every few months do a bit of travelling. Contrary to popular opinion, travelling doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. With a bit of research and preparation, you can find great opportunities to travel and have fun on a budget.
Last but not least, I wanna talk about sleep. Most of us have atrocious sleeping habits. And the main problem is that we simply don’t get enough sleep. We work too much, we party too long when we do, and we waste a lot of time, which leaves little time for sleep. Not good.
The standard requirement for sleep is 8 hours per night. Ensure that you get this amount of sleep regularly. Some people believe they only need 5 or 6 hours of sleep and they are fine, but the serious studies done on this topic prove this is false.
Sure, there are individual variations to the standard 8 hours of sleep requirement, but they are small. Getting considerably less than 8 hours of sleep affects your cognitive functions and your health, and if this happens repeatedly for a long time, the effects get worse and some become permanent. It’s no joking matter.
Nobody says you have to be a saint and never skip on sleep. Heck! I like to party, I go out 3 to 5 nights every week. Nevertheless, as a general rule, I get my 8 hours of sleep per night. I recommend you do the same.
These are the 10 top habits. How does one’s life look when you implement these habits?
Well, it’s a lot more organized in some instances, which, interestingly enough, gives you more leeway to be disorganized and wild in other instances. There is a sense of positive routine in your existence, and a sense that you’re constantly growing and your life is expanding rapidly.
It helps you do more, achieve more, stay upbeat and trust your abilities. Above all, it helps you live a long, gratifying life, paved with all sorts of indescribably beautiful experiences.
Nuff said. Now it’s up to you. Start implementing these habits one at a time, build them as part of your lifestyle, and you’ll thrive as a result.
And keep in mind: it’s not about what you have or who you know, it’s about the way you live your life day by day, and the habits that govern it.