Daily Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.
-James Clear, Atomic Habits
Did you know that according to researchers at Duke University, habits account for approximately forty percent of our behaviors on a given day? Your life today (and in this very moment) is a sum total of your habits. The daily habits you have developed, for example, is the only answer to the following questions:
- Are you in (or out of) shape?
- Are you happy (or unhappy)?
- Are you successful (or I think you got the idea!)
What you repeatedly do, i.e. what you spend your waking time thinking and doing, ultimately determines the person you are on that day. It is also the sum total of your beliefs and the personality or aura you project to the outside world. So, transforming your daily habits and transforming your life is essentially the same thing.
Before we dive into the actual daily habits, let’s take a small detour to what James Clear calls in his book Atomic Habits as ’The Four Stages of Habit’:
- Stage 01 (Cue): This is a trigger to your brain to initiate a behavior. Think of this as the information that predicts a reward. Our mind is constantly scanning our internal and external environments for hints of where these rewards could be located. And because cue in the first indication, it leads us to crave, our second stage. Cues, in and of themselves, are meaningless until they are interpreted. The thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the observer are what transform a cue into a craving.
- Stage 02 (Craving): This is the motivational or the driving force behind every habit. Without a desire (or that initial push), we don't have an incentive to act. It isn’t the habit per se that we crave, but the change in state that the said habit delivers. For example, I have never heard someone craving brushing their teeth, but people do crave clean oral hygiene. But, the really interesting thing here is that cravings are not the same for everyone.
- Stage 03 (Response): This is the actual habit that is performed and can take the form of a thought or an action. Whether or not a response occurs depends on your levels of motivation and the levels of friction associated with the behavior. Finally, your response also depends on your ability— as simple as that might sound, if you are trying to create a habit change that falls outside the realm of your ability, you are not likely to succeed.
- Stage 04 (Reward): This is the end goal of every habit, and it is the response that delivers the reward. The first purpose that rewards serve is that they satisfy our cravings, and the second purpose is that they teach us which actions are worth remembering in the future. Rewards, therefore, close the feedback loop and complete the habit cycle.
Now it's time to dive into the five daily habits that can actually change your life and improve your personality development:
- Create a morning ritual: That you have a morning ritual is more important than what your particular ritual is. You could be the sort of person who likes to hit the gym first thing in the morning, or maybe you are someone who likes to prepare a healthy breakfast for yourself. You should start your day with the habit that makes you feel ready and raring to go. Establishing a morning routine that helps you start your day on a positive, proactive note is the one that you must stick to. Giving your morning a structure, instead of rushing to compensate for the time you think have lost would help eliminate stress, mental fatigue and enhance your productivity. Some of our favorite morning rituals are:
- Maintain a gratitude journal
- Write down the most important tasks
- Affirm your goals in writing (drawing them would be even better)
- Listen to music that lifts your spirits
- Follow the 80/20 Rule: This is the basis for what’s referred to as ’The Pareto Principle’, and it states that in most situations roughly 80% of the effects come from only 20% of the causes. What this means is that you can maximize productivity by investing most of your time and energy in tasks that are going to create the biggest impact. Once you have got those tasks out of the way, you can shift to other tasks on your list.
Did you know that 90% of Warren Buffet's wealth is from just ten investments, and in sales, typically 80% of revenue comes from 20% of the sales team?
We can use this to our advantage— Harvard Business Review suggests writing down your top six priorities of the day and then striking out the bottom five. Work on the top one for 90-minutes first thing in the morning (after your morning ritual obviously). And any time you feel the unconquerable urge to check your email/Twitter/Instagram write down what you are about to do. Doing this wouldn’t allow your focus to stray.
- Read, read, read: Reading books not just allows us to gain knowledge and stimulate creativity, but immersion reading also helps our focus (which is gold dust in today’s distracting times!) and has a calming effect on our brains (just in the same way as meditation does). Non-fiction books such as biographies/autobiographies/memoirs inspire us by awaking us to the possibilities of human achievement. The great visionaries of our time (Bill Gates, Warren Buffett etc.) all have one thing in common— they are all voracious readers.
- Learn to single-task: Only 2% of people in the world can multitask successfully, and the reason for that is constantly trying to juggle various things limits your focus and increases your mental clutter. According to a study conducted by Standard University, extensive multi-tasking lowers efficiency and may impair cognitive control. This is the reason why the aim should be to single-task. Like we discussed in the 80/20 rule above, you should make a list of things you would like to accomplish in a day (ranked in the order of importance) and work your way through the list, focusing on one item at a time.
- Make time for exercise: Exercising is not just about improving your physical health, but working out on a regular basis pumps up your creativity and enhances your cognitive skills. Exercising elevates mood by boosting the production of endorphins, thereby acting as a natural anti-depressant.
We are not saying you will be able to build these daily habits overnight (we all know that nothing of any value is built overnight!), but there is only one key to turn any behavior into a habit— perseverance.