Habits define you. All the results in your life come from your daily habits.
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In a culture that seeks quick results, we must learn the beauty of effort, patience, and perseverance.
Have you ever told yourself that you’re going to make something happen and then nothing happened? All details aside, it’s because you didn’t have the right habits in place—the little things you do every day that build up to something bigger.
Habits define you. All the results in your life come from your daily habits.
If you’re out of shape and overweight, you have different habits than someone who’s physically fit. If you’re fit, you jump out of bed early every morning and sweat before preparing a healthy breakfast. If you’re out of shape, you sleep in and eat whatever is fastest and easiest.
This may be a bit of a generalization, but it’s not far from the truth for the average able-bodied person.
In all walks of life, you don’t become an overnight success. You become successful over time from all the little things you do one day at a time.
Failure occurs in the same way. All your little daily failures (that you don’t learn and grow from) come together and cause you to fail…
- You fail to check the books.
- You fail to make the calls.
- You fail to listen to your customers.
- You fail to innovate.
- You fail to do what must be done.
And then one day you wake up and your business has failed. It was all the little things you did or didn’t do along the way—your daily habits—not just one catastrophic event.
Let this be your wake-up call.
YOUR LIFE IS YOUR BUSINESS!
YOUR HABITS ARE YOUR BUSINESS!
So today, let’s discuss some super-common habits Marc and I have seen plaguing thousands of our course students and Think Better, Live Better live event attendees over the past decade—little things too many people do every day to gradually wreck their own lives:
1. Change nothing and expect different results.
There’s a saying that the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Take this to heart. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. Period.
Oftentimes the only difference between a successful person and a person who makes little progress is not one’s superior abilities, but the courage that one has to bet on one’s ideas, to take calculated risks, and to take steady steps forward. In other words, some people sit and wait for the magic beans to arrive while the rest of us just get up and get to work.
2. Keep waiting and waiting and waiting for the right time.
Remind yourself of how often we waste our time waiting for the ideal path to appear. Then remind yourself of how often it never appears. Seriously, we forget that paths are made by walking, not waiting.
So think of today as the beginning—the conception of a new life. The next nine months are all yours. You can do with them as you please. Make them count. Because a new person is born in nine months. The only question is: Who do you want that person to be? Now is the right time to decide.
And no, you shouldn’t feel more confident before you take the next step. Taking the next step is what builds your confidence and fuels your inner and outer growth.
3. Expect good things to come easy.
A goal is a point of achievement that requires effort and sacrifice. There are no esteemed ventures worth participating in that don’t require some level of effort and sacrifice. Trust me, decades from now when you’re resting on your deathbed, you will not remember the days that were easy, you will cherish the moments when you rose above your difficulties and conquered challenges of magnitude. You will dream of the strength you found within yourself that allowed you to achieve what once seemed impossible.
So don’t do what’s easy, do what you’re capable of. Astound yourself with your own abilities. And as you struggle forward, remember, it is far better to be exhausted from lots of effort and learning than to be tired of doing nothing. Effort is never wasted, even when it leads to disappointing results. For it always makes you stronger and more experienced in the long run.
4. Refuse to accept necessary risks.
Living is about learning as you go. Living is risky business. Every decision, every interaction, every step, every time you get out of bed in the morning, you take a small risk. To truly live is to know you’re getting up and taking that risk, and to trust yourself to take it. To not get out of bed, clutching to illusions of safety, is to die slowly without ever having truly lived. This isn’t drama—it’s real life.
Think about it. If you ignore your instincts and let shallow feelings of uncertainty stop you, you will never know anything for sure, and in many ways this un-knowing will be worse than finding out your instincts were wrong. Because if you were wrong, you could make adjustments and carry on with your life, without looking back and wondering what might have been.
5. Make the rejections of yesterday the focal point of today.
Be okay with walking away when the time comes. Rejection teaches us how to reject what’s not right for our well-being. It won’t be easy, but some chapters in our lives have to close without closure. There’s no point in losing yourself by trying to fix what’s meant to stay broken.
All too often we let the rejections of our past dictate every move we make thereafter. We literally do not know ourselves to be any better than what some opinionated person or narrow circumstance once told us was true. Of course, this old rejection doesn’t mean we aren’t good enough; it means the other person or circumstance failed to align with what we have to offer. It means we have more time to improve our thing—to build upon our ideas, to perfect our craft, and indulge deeper in to the work that moves us. And that’s exactly what you need to do, starting now.
6. Refuse to take responsibility.
You aren’t responsible for everything that happened to you, but you need to be responsible for undoing the thinking and behavioral patterns these outcomes created. Blaming the past for a limiting mindset today doesn’t fix it. Change your response to what you remember, and step forward again with grace.
A combination of your decisions and external factors for which you had no control brought you to where you are in the world today. Negatively blaming someone else, or some other past circumstance, will change nothing. Positively taking full responsibility for your situation and your path forward can change everything. Leave the unchangeable past behind you as you diligently give yourself to the present moment.
In this moment is every possibility you seek. Take responsibility for it, and bring these possibilities to life.
7. Close your mind to new ideas and perspectives.
Even as you grow wiser and wiser with age you must remind yourself that an understanding is never absolutely final. What’s currently right could easily be wrong later. Thus, the most destructive illusion is a settled point of view. So, remember that success in life does not depend on always being right. To make real progress you must let go of the assumption that you already have all the answers.
Bottom line: Don’t stop learning. Don’t stop investing in yourself. Study. Read. Devour books. Engage with people, including those who think differently. Ask questions. Listen closely. And don’t just grow in knowledge. Be a person who gives back. Use what you’re learning to make a difference.
8. Let a few negative people fill your mind with garbage.
Your mind is your private sanctuary; do not allow the negative beliefs of others to occupy it. Your skin is your barrier; do not allow others to get under it. Take good care of your personal boundaries and what you allow yourself to absorb from others.
Of course, there will inevitably be a few people in your life who will be critical of you regardless of what you do or how well you do it. If you say you want to be a dancer, they will discredit your rhythm. If you say you want to build a new business, they will give you a dozen reasons why it might not work. They somehow assume you don’t have what it takes, but they are dead wrong.
Let that sink in.
It’s a lot easier to be negative than positive—a lot easier to be critical than correct. When you’re embarking on a new venture, instead of listening to the few critics that will try to discredit you, spend time talking to one of the thousands of people in this world who are willing to support your efforts and acknowledge your potential, respectfully. And go ahead and leave us a comment on this post if you think you can’t find one.
9. Hold tight to something that’s not real.
One of the most important moments in life is the moment you finally find the courage to let go of what can’t be changed. Because, when you are no longer able to change a situation, you are challenged to change yourself—to grow beyond the unchangable. And that changes everything.
Seriously, remind yourself right now that not everything is meant to be. You have to seriously sit down with yourself and come to grips with the fact that you were wrong about it all along. It was just an illusion that never really was what you thought it was. It’s one of the most difficult realizations to accept, to realize that you feel a sense of loss, even though you never really had what you thought you had in the first place. The key is knowing this, learning from it, letting go, and taking the next step. (Marc and I discuss this in more detail in the “Adversity” chapter of the NEW edition of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
10. Maintain rigid expectations every step of the way.
Simple things become complicated when you expect too much. Expectation truly is the root of all heartache. Don’t let it get the best of you. Every difficult life situation can be an excuse for hopelessness or an opportunity for personal growth, depending on what you choose to do with it. So start by choosing to let go of the ideas and expectations that aren’t serving you.
Remember that there’s no such thing as a perfect life.
There’s just this moment you’re living through and what you choose to do with it. You can be disappointed in this moment and do nothing, or you can practice being satisfied with the opportunity to make the very best of it.
Closing Exercise: Build Better Habits
Choose any area in your life that you want to improve, and then:
- Write down the specific details about your current circumstances. (What’s bothering you? What’s wrong? What do you want to change?)
- Write down your answer to this question: What are the daily habits that have contributed to your current circumstances? (Be honest with yourself. What are you doing that contributes to the situation you’re in?)
- Write down the specific details about your ideal circumstances. (What would make you happy? What does your ideal situation look like?)
- Write down your answer to this question: What are the daily habits that will get you from where you are to where you want to be? (Think about it. What small, daily steps will help you move forward?)
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