What are the habits of highly successful people? - Voxbd

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What are the habits of highly successful people?

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  1. Cold Showers

Regularly taking cold showers, especially in the morning directly after waking up is one of the best ways to get yourself into “peak state” and start the day. But why would one bother to start this uncomfortable journey of getting used to the cold, especially in the morning when coming out of a nice and warm bed?

Firstly, there are a lot of health benefits. Cold exposure has shown positive effects on the cardiovascular and immune system. It will grant you enhanced concentration and focus, improve your energy levels and boost your mood through the release of endorphins.

However, the most important aspect of taking cold showers regularly is that it builds the willpower and discipline to plough through resistance.

In life in general, there will always be some kind of resistance trying to stop you from stepping outside of your comfort zone. But remember, resistance is the best indicator that something is worth doing and that it will make you grow.

So, if you can overcome the resistance to expose yourself to the cold on a daily basis, you will have built a solid foundation for overcoming even more challenging obstacles.

2. Journaling

There is one habit to rule them all. One habit that is easy to implement and that has enormous potential to produce change in every area of your life once you make it stick.

“Keeping a personal journal, a daily in-depth analysis and evaluation of your experiences is a high-leverage activity that increases self-awareness and enhances all the endowments and the synergy among them.” — Stephen R.Covey

Journaling has been around for centuries, even millennia.

From the ancient stoics, like the roman emperor Marcus Aurelius or statesman Seneca, over Benjamin Franklin, Marie Curie and Mark Twain, to inventors and scientists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein.

What do all these people have in common apart from being famous and accomplished in their respective fields?

They all incorporated the habit of journaling in one form or another into their daily routine.

What is Journaling?

One thing that many people associate with the term journaling is the regular writing of a diary.

But that alone doesn’t catch it.

Journaling is much more. It can loosely be defined as regularly reflecting on something and writing things down, whether it is in a paper notebook or even using some software on your PC.

This broad definition makes it such a versatile tool that can fulfill several functions. The following list shows why journaling is better than the best Swiss army knife:

1. Creative factory

Journaling can tremendously improve your creativity and idea generation.

Chess prodigy, martial artist and author of the book “The Art of Learning” Josh Waitzkin does what is called “priming of the subconscious mind”, every night before he goes to bed. He uses his journal to write down the number one problem he is trying to solve right now and after some pondering calls it a day.

As Thomas Edison said “Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.”

While asleep, the subconscious mind keeps working and connects the dots to present solutions and answers to the request or problem. This is where creative breakthroughs come from.

Immediately after waking up, Josh uses his journal as some kind of “solution trap”. Hetries to tap into the thoughts presented by the processing of his subconscious mind throughout the night and writes them down in his journal.

This is how enormous creative potential is unleashed, solutions to problems are found, interesting ideas can be captured on paper and the important mindset shift from a reactive to a proactive lifestyle, from the very start of the day, takes place.

2. Thought dump

On a similar note journaling can serve as a place where to dump your thoughts to simply get them out of your mind, whether it is in the morning or the evening.

Tim Ferris is a huge fan of journaling in the morning. In his book “Tools of Titans”he says that writing in a journal doesn’t have to solve your problems, but “you need to get them out of your head, where they’ll otherwise bounce around all day like a bullet ricocheting inside your skull.”

He summarizes elegantly: “I’m just caging my monkey mind on paper so I can get on with my fucking day.”

3. Compass for life

A journal is the perfect place to write down your values and true priorities. You can either use your daily journaling sessions to think about what your values are or schedule longer “thinking sessions”, for example once per week on a Sunday, to just ponder what truly matters to you and thus establish a long-term vision of how you want your life to look like in the future.

Once you gained some clarity about your values and created a vision for you life, write it down and make sure to revisit it as part of your journaling sessions. Especially in the morning this contributes to getting yourself into what Benjamin Hardy calls “peak state”.

It essentially puts things into perspective and let’s you focus on what matters most. Try to combine it with the idea of “memento mori”, the contemplation of your ephemerality and death.

This will serve as a sometimes well needed smack in the face, wake you up and give you a sense of urgency to work on your goals and serve as a guiding star for your actions during the day ahead.

4. Goal setting

Similar to the function as a compass for life, a journal can be used for goal setting. It is essential to connect your long-term life vision with what you can do here and now, establishing the connection between “somewhen” and “right now.”

As Steve Jobs said: “ You can only connect the dots going backwards”

So just begin with what the end in mind and go backwards. Break your long term vision down into long-term, yearly, monthly, weekly and then daily goals.

There is a technique which I found in Gary Kellers “The One Thing”, which is called “Goal-Setting To The Now”. Check out how to do it here.

What works for many people is to schedule the goal setting sessions according to the type of goals being set. This means at the end of a year plan for the next year, at the end of month, plan for the next month, at the end of a week, plan for the next week and at the end of a day, plan and set your to-do list for the next day.

Creating your to-do list already the day before is crucial. On the one hand you are priming your subconscious on what lies ahead and on the other hand will it be easier to just start taking action in the morning when you already know what to do.

Also, always know your — what Gary Keller calls — “One Thing”, the one task that is most important towards your long term goals and that you commit to completing, no matter what.

Put this task on top of your list and make sure to tackle it directly after your morning routine. This is the time where your brain is most capable, levels of willpower are the highest and it will make the rest of the day much easier.

5. Accountability

At the end of the day, you can also use your journal to hold yourself accountable. The following questions could serve as a starting point for reviewing your day:

a. What was good about today?

b. What could I improve?

c. Did I live up to my standards and values?

d. What did I get done?

e. How far would I get towards my long term vision if every day looked like this?

f. Any question about whether your desired habits where in place.

Apart from being regularly held accountable by a person, establishing a accountability system, that is part of your journaling session and thus easy to go through, ensures that learning never stops and each day presents at least a tiny step into the right direction.

6. Gratitude

Regularly expressing gratitude is something that often gets overlooked in our busy daily lives. However, it can heavily contribute to your well-being and overall satisfaction. I wrote about it at the bottom of another article.

Therefore, try to make it part of your journaling session, especially in the evening. After you reviewed your day and held yourself accountable, find at least three things you are grateful for. It may be things that happened to you during the day or subtle things like your food, your nice and warm bed, your family or your health.

Writing these things down when you are about to end your journaling session and prepare for bed, allows you to enter a state of abundance and therefore ends the day on a positive note with an optimistic outlook on the next day.

3. Have a morning and evening routine

Think back to when you woke up this morning. What was the first thing you did? How did you spend the first 30 minutes after waking up? Is it always the same and have you already have established some routine? Do you feel energized and ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead?

A common thing many people do directly after waking up is checking their smartphone. All the notifications, messages and news from social media crave for our attention. They suck us in. And they keep us in the position of a reactive consumer, whose emotional state is dependent on external news and events. Do you feel powerful, ready to pursue your goals and take on the world after starting the day like this? Most likely you feel sluggish, in-your-head, with million thoughts battling for your attention, making intense focus on what lies ahead sheerly impossible.

What is the alternative?

A conscious decision and commitment to change.

Decide to change your role from a consumer to a producer, to start your day actively by pursuing your desired habits first thing in the morning, because you know they would otherwise get lost and never happen throughout your busy day. Then intelligently design your environment to make it easier to stick to your desired habits.

The power of routines

This is where routines come into play. They are one of the most powerful tools for productivity. A routine basically is a sum of small habits. Most people already have some form of routine in the morning, just think of how you routinely go for your morning coffee, brush your teeth or take a shower.

However, the great thing about routines is that you can consciously design and shape them by batching habits that you want to be included, choosing their order and run them on auto-pilot as one seamless process.

In the case of a morning routine it may consist of smaller habits like cold showers, meditation, journaling, visualization, reading, exercise, but also basic things as having your cup of coffee or talking a short walk.

When choosing the habits that will be part of your morning routine, try to keep some basic principles in mind:

  1. Less input, more output: This holds especially true for any form of news, be it the newspaper, social media, messages, TV, etc. You can inform yourself later throughout the day if you wish, but don’t start the day with what most of the time is just irrelevant noise. An exception can be uplifting content from books that make you think and increase your creativity. What you should do is try to actively produce something. You can do that by writing some lines about your thoughts in a journal or just prime yourself on the day and tasks ahead and produce uplifting thoughts.
  2. “Eat that frog”: Willpower is at its peak in the morning, so do things that you otherwise would most likely neglect. Cold showers are a great example. Depending on your schedule you can also put the most difficult and important task at the end of your routine, which is the frog you need to eat. The routine then provides a smooth transition from waking up to working on your true priorities.
  3. Keep it simple: It is tempting to try to cram all of our desired habits into one morning routine and try to effortless make you do anything. The truth is especially when introducing new habits and a new morning routine in general, you need to start small and focus on one keystone habit. This is a habit that, once fully established, can have positive side effects on many other areas of your life. Choose one or a few habits, do them consistently and as soon as it is second nature you can step-by-step include new habits.
  4. Quality over quantity: Carve out enough time in the morning, so you don’t have to rush through your routine. Focus on the few things that matter most to you right now and do them deliberately and with mental clarity.

In order to stick to your morning routine, make sure to write down the steps you wish to complete after waking up. It is important to put them somewhere where you can easily see them after waking up, so there is a smooth transition from waking up to starting the day with your routine.

Sample morning routine

With some minor alterations depending on location and season, my routine generally consists of the following steps:

  1. Open window, make bed
  2. Myofascial release and short mobility exercise
  3. Go on balcony to get sunlight
  4. Meditation
  5. Have coffee with protein
  6. Read uplifting content about philosophy
  7. Journaling, goal review, priming+perspective
  8. Write a bit
  9. Cold shower + getting ready
  10. Transition to work/most important task of the day

Remember that the selection of habits and its order is entirely up to you. Find out what works best for you.

What are the main purposes of an evening routine?

The three most important points of an evening routine are:

  1. Review: Take a short moment to review how your day went and ask yourself accountability questions as part of your journaling session.
  2. Plan: In line with your long term goals, plan the day and its to-do list ahead. Focus on the one thing that is most important right now, put it on top of your list and commit to completing it first. Let your subconscious mind continue to process the impressions of the day and the tasks of next day.
  3. Relax: Let go of every mental and physical stress. Find a routine that calms your mind and relaxes your body. Ensure the best possible sleep to be fully recovered for the next day.

Sample evening routine

How could then an evening routine look like? The following list is an example:

  • Shutdown time (e.g. 9pm): Dim all lights, phone in airplane mode, no more screens
  • Evening journaling session
  • Vitamins, minerals plus vinegar and honey
  • Short myofascial release of tight muscles
  • Meditation
  • Reading
  • Relaxation technique and transition to sleep

How can you implement all of that?

Right now, choose one habit that you always wanted to make happen. Write it down on a sheet of paper and put it somewhere you can see it immediately after waking up. Do it first thing in the morning. Only focus on this activity, do it consistently and maintain the streak. Over time a routine will develop, which you can then cultivate further.

You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.

-Darren Hardy, author of the book „The Compound Effect