3 Habits That Will Change Your Life
Choosing what habit to build is like scrolling through the snack aisle, and not knowing what to settle on. What if there were habits that have been discovered that that cause you to adopt multiple other good habits and change your life?
Researchers at Harvard University have observed time and time again that when someone overcomes a certain bad habit or starts forming a particular new one, a whole slew of other good habits come with it. For example, when someone quits smoking, they most likely start exercising, improving their relationship with others and start focusing on other areas of personal development as well. They name this sort of habit a Keystone habit. A single habit that causes you to adopt multiple other good habits and change your life.
The reason I’m telling you this is because, by the end of this article, you are going to pick a habit to focus on. The three habits I’m going to talk about are three of the most powerful Keystone habits out there. These habits have the highest chance of drastically changing your life. So without further ado, here are the three most effective Keystone habits:
Habit 1 | Reading
Most of you must know by now that I am a HUGE fan of reading. When I started my self-development journey, this was the first habit that I implemented into my life. I would read just about every single day on my commute to class or spend 30 minutes before sleeping at night. Because of this I was able to finish a book every 2-3 weeks.
Now, everyone knows education is important, that’s why we spent 12 to 18 years in buildings that are designed to teach us things. However, the problem lies in the fact that most of the stuff we learned in school isn’t that useful in real life. When was the last time you had to use your history knowledge or your knowledge of calculus? These things are nice to know and have their place but are not that practical in our day-to-day lives. Instead we need to be learning about things like - social skills, maintaining a proper diet, how to exercise, money management, things that we don’t really learn correctly in school. Reading books provide you with knowledge on all of these topics, they also give you different perspectives on things that we assume to be true.
Most extraordinary individuals on this planet have attested a lot of their success their mentors. Martin Luther King Jr. had Gandhi, Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs, Bill Gates had Warren Buffett. People who become successful always have at least one person in their sphere of influence who is already massively successful. It is from them they adopted the mindsets and habits that they eventually needed to bring in for success. You might say, "I don't know anyone successful, all my friends are just average people." But this is where reading comes into play.
A book is literally the words, the ideas, the mindsets, the advices and even the experiences of someone wrapped into a convenient, portable and always available collection of papers. It is almost the equivalent of having that person speaking to you. 75% of self made millionaires have even reported reading at least 2 books a month. The TRUE benefit of reading is you can pick and choose who you want to add to your inner group of influence that will eventually affect who you become as a person.
By reading you will find you'll start adjusting other areas of your life. If you’re reading a book on body language you will start becoming more conscious of your own body language as well as those around you. If you read a book on money management you will start noticing a change in your spending habits. Because of its ability to influence any part of your life in a positive way, reading without a doubt is one of THE most powerful Keystone habits out there.
How To Create Habit:
Everyone knows they should read more, and constantly buy books to add to their home library but end up never touching them. Reading is a very tough habit to create because people always say they are too busy to set aside time to read. The trick is not to just arbitrarily, 'set aside time', it is to make a daily goal of pages.
Every morning I wake up a little early, drink coffee and read my 25 pages.
In 4 days that is 100 pages, in 40 days that is 1000 pages and it really just adds up over time. That is how some of the busiest people in the world like Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, etc. are able to knock books off their bookshelves. It works so much better than having goals of reading 1 book a week or 2 books a month since it becomes really easy to justify pushing all your reading off later because you have a lot of work to do, 'right now'.
Habit 2 | Meditation
The reason meditation is so powerful is because of what it does to your brain. It trains a part of your brain that is responsible for willpower & self-control. Just like going to the gym, if you train it, it actually get stronger. This gives you the ability to do certain things things that I consider to be superpowers. For example, you find yourself more in control of your emotions and this is great because often times we relapse, we give in to our addictions when our emotions are all over the place. Another thing meditation trains you to do is to focus longer. Meditation is simply the act of trying to focus your mind on one thing and this is extremely hard for people nowadays.
When you start meditating and making it into a habit, you’ll notice a drastic increase in your ability to focus. Maybe in the past you were the type of person who couldn’t even read 2 pages of a book without getting sidetracked. A lot of people report increased focus, being able to read entire chapters at a time after making meditation into a habit.
Another superpower meditation provides is a sense of general well being. Do you remember that sort of awe and joy you had as a kid, when the little things in life would excite you? Meditation brings back that sort of mindset, that sort of perspective, where you can sit down on the park bench and simply be mind blown by just how beautiful is everything around you.
How To Create Habit:
Meditation is an extremely powerful Keystone habit because it in itself is a very, very hard habit to stick to. If you can make it into a habit that you do automatically every day, that means your levels of will-power have skyrocketed dramatically and adopting other habits will become a piece of cake.
How Do I Meditate?
Now there are many different forms of meditation. Some focus on things around you, some focus on reciting things in your mind. The technique I use is one of the most commonly taught forms of meditation, it is called - Mindfulness Breathing Meditation. It is very easy to learn and is considered to be just as powerful and insightful as any other form of meditation. The focus of Breathing Meditation is, well, you guessed it - focusing on your breath.
First, you want to make sure you are breathing through your nose. Then ALL you have to do is focus all your attention on your breath. Observe the way the air feels as if flows through nostrils, observe the way your breath transitions from inhale to exhale. Observe that little pause between those two actions. Observe every single aspect about the way it feels. Do not judge it! Do not criticize it! Simply, just observe. Whenever you notice your mind wandering/lost in thought, just pull your attention back to your breath. This is how you train your mindfulness muscle.
Where Should I Meditate?
You can meditate anywhere you like, as long as it is a quiet place that allows you to not be distracted. Since meditation is an exercise for the mind you can meditate sitting on the floor, laying in bed or seated in a chair. However, meditating on the floor, with your back straight up is the most formal and optimal way to meditate since it keeps you awake and allows you to sit for long periods of time.
How Long Should I Meditate?
Before you begin your meditation session you should set an alarm. This is because time tends to feel a lot slower when you first start meditating. So setting an alarm prevents a constant need to wonder about, 'How much time is left?'. For first time meditators, I would recommend starting with just 5 minutes on the clock. As you make meditation into a daily practice and get used to staying in the meditative position for long periods of time, you can increase the time. Most people recommend meditating 10 - 20 minutes.
How Often Should I Meditate?
In order to really start seeing the benefits of meditation you should meditate on a DAILY basis. My personal routine is 10 minutes a day, EVERY single day when I wake up. Some people like Arnold Schwarzenegger & Will Smith, like to meditate twice a day. They meditate 20 minutes when they wake up and 20 minutes before going to bed. Do whatever works best for you, it doesn't matter when/how long you meditate as making it into a daily habit is the most important factor.
When Will I Start Seeing Benefits?
It takes usually 30 days of daily meditation to start seeing the benefits. In my personal experience, it took about a month and a half of meditating every single day before I noticed any benefit myself. I found myself in a better mood overall, procrastinating less on my work and was less likely to get consumed by certain negative emotions. As I continue to practice, I notice more and more benefits along the line.
Habit 3 | Fitness
This includes everything ranging from running, lifting weights, cardio, doing calisthenics, etc. Fitness is an extremely powerful Keystone habit because of its intimate relationship with diet. Researchers have found that most people who start sticking to a fitness regiment will often find themselves adjusting their diet as well, even if they’re told not to. It makes sense because, if you’re working hard at the gym, you’re less likely to consume junk food right after because it, 'undos', all of your hard work. And since these two habits basically come in a package together, it requires a lot of willpower to maintain. So if you can successfully make them into full-fledged habits you’ll be able to take on smaller habits with ease.
The habit of a fitness and diet has a huge influence on how you feel every single day. Many people report feeling foggy or tired every day and often times the problem stems from our diet or our lack of exercise. Once these people start adopting these two good habits, they often report feeling much better. If you start feeling better on a day-to-day basis, it makes it much easier to adopt other good habits. Furthermore, you get a natural high and confidence boost from feeling better about yourself which slowly seeps into every area of your life. This ability to improve your body's day-to-day function makes fitness and diet an extremely powerful Keystone habit.
How To Create Habit:
The hardest part of fitness is motivation. Essentially controlling your will-power and commanding your body to exercise, even when you do not feel like it. For now, just understand that will-power works like a muscle, the more you test it the stronger it becomes. A technique that works amazingly well for many people is called, "Don't Break The Chain", and it can help you work out consistently and keep your nutrition on track. This technique is actually from Jerry Seinfeld, one of the great comedians of all time. Here is how it works, it is very simple:
Step 1: Get yourself one of those old paper calendars you flip month by month. And grab a red felt pen and a green felt pen.
Step 2: On days you make progress with your fitness goals, you get to draw a big red 'X'. On days you fail you draw a big green 'O'.
At first, it is no big deal. However, once you start to get your first week's worth of red 'X's, you might come home from an awful day of work, exhausted, still hungry and you just want to watch TV. But then you look up at your calendar to see 6 red 'X's, and you think to yourself, "Do I really want to put a green 'O' on today?". Often times you will choose, "Not today," and convince yourself to work out one more day. It is that kind of, 'one-day-at-a-time' mindset, that lets you work towards success and gives you the motivation because you don't want to break that big beautiful chain of red 'X's! It may sound stupid, but once you start going you, will realize the power of the chain.
Again here are the three Keystone habits I talked about:
Now I know there’s a dozen other good habits like cold showers, morning rituals, making your bed, etc. But these three Keystone habits are without a doubt the most powerful habits that you can add to your life. So what I'd like for you to do right now, is to think carefully about which habit you want to work on and comment below what you picked to make a personal commitment to yourself. Which of these habits are you going to commit to and try to stick to until it reaches that line of automaticity, where you don’t even have to think about doing it. That’s the goal.
And it is also very important to know that you should only try to stick to ONE of these habits at a time. We humans are extremely bad at multi-tasking, although we tend to think we are pretty good. I can just about guarantee that if you try to adopt multiple habits at once that you’re going to get overwhelmed and fail. Stick to the single Keystone habit that you decide on until it reaches that line of automaticity, do not try to adopt any other good habits until that Keystone habit is completely embedded in your life.