We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.— Aristotle
As the saying goes… first we make our habits, and then our habits make us.
Habits really are a matter of identity, that’s why they are so difficult to change. But what’s the difference between a “good habit” and a “bad habit”?
Well, it’s quite simple. Good habits bring you the results you want. Bad habits bring you results you don’t.
Elon Musk, for example, has a habit of little sleep and being a self-confessed workaholic. But it brings him the visionary results that he wants. To him, it’s a good habit. He makes ‘sacrifices’ that others are unwilling or unable to accept because he’s so strongly identified with the kind of person he needs to be in order to achieve his goals.
I believe that ‘success’ doesn’t have to feel like hard work. I believe that there should be no distinction between work and play. Those are the results I want. That’s my identity. And I’ve adopted habits that make this a reality.
There’s a price to pay for every habit you form. This is why you need to be crystal clear on the results you want to achieve. So it’s important to choose your habits wisely, based on the results you want to achieve. Because whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’, you ARE the cumulative result of your habits.
Here are five habits that became a part of my identity through conscious repetition:
HABIT #1: Seek Great Mentors
Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living — if you do it well, I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.— Denzel Washington
Make it a priority to get in touch with people you consider great mentors. Join networking groups or take trips where you can learn from people you admire or want to emulate, devour their wisdom, and integrate it into your life.
It’s a common tactic, employed by some of the world’s most successful people. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with Richard Branson on Necker Island as part of mastermind groups with major entrepreneurs and education reformists so we could all learn from each other.
You have to be conducive to learning. You have to adopt a growth mindset. You have to be okay with “not knowing it all,” and flexible enough to implement new strategies and approaches. Success, in any walk of life, is not about being wrong or right, it’s about growing, learning, and evolving. You need mentors to do that.
Everything we do at Mindvalley came about as a direct result of this habit. I use our events to invite and connect with people from all areas of life and every new teacher we partner with on our platform acts as a mentor to me, and I’m able to absorb and adapt my existing strategies for life by incorporating the patterns of behavior that resonate with me.
And remember, a mentor doesn’t have to be an idol. They can be a cheerleader, a friend, or anyone who sees ability or potential in you that you yourself may overlook.
HABIT #2: Look After Your Health
It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.— Mahatma Gandhi
If you want to perform at optimal levels you need to have your ‘hardware’ in the best condition. Physical health, for me, is determined by diet, exercise, and sleep.
Quite simply, you are what you eat. But ‘Big Agra’ and massive food corporations are heavily invested in pedaling us with a seriously unhealthy and nutritionally empty diet.
A few years ago, I met a man named Eric Edmeades who opened my eyes to the damage of the modern diet to the human body. Since taking his program, WildFit, I’ve never been healthier which gives me the platform to do everything else I do.
You don’t have to go vegan like Beyonce or Zac Efron, but getting conscious about what you are putting into your body and liberating yourself from addiction to the foods that aren’t right for you is a habit worth forming.
Start by keeping it simple. Cindy Crawford’s secret is a salad and a cup of green tea in her daily diet, apparently.
As well as getting the right fuel into the system, don’t forget to hydrate. We’re 70% water. Water is needed for all life. It’s obvious.
As well as what you put into your body, it’s what you do with it on a daily basis that makes the difference. When you’re at your physical best you can show up better in the world.
I take my inspiration from Richard Branson who, at the age of 69, put me to shame by swimming 3KM from Necker Island to neighboring Mosquito Island earlier this year. You’d be surprised how many of the successful people I meet devote a serious chunk of their busy schedules to keeping in shape.
But you don’t need to spend hours swimming across the ocean or sweating it out in the gym. As I said in a recent Forbes article, I spend only 45 minutes a week in exercise, but I am incredibly healthy and scored very well on a lot of different health markers. That’s because the style of exercise I do is scientifically studied and hyper-optimal
Sleep is massively undervalued in our fast-paced modern world. But sleep deprivation studies have shown that sleep is actually more important to survival than food. You can survive up to a month without food, yet the longest anyone has gone without sleep is 11 days. After only three or four nights without sleep, you can start to hallucinate.
There are so many entrepreneurs who buy into the myth that less sleep equals getting more done. Arnold Schwarzenegger famously said “you don’t need 8 hours sleep, just sleep faster”, but I couldn’t disagree more. Different people have different needs, but you need to find out your sleep requirements and do what’s best for your own sleep ‘chronotype’.
You can read more about the importance of sleep in my article here on Thrive “4 Legit Reasons Why Employees Should Be Able To Nap On The Job.”
HABIT #3: Meditate Every Day
We meditate to get good at life, not to get good at meditation.— Emily Fletcher
I love the fact that meditation is now mainstream. I’ve been meditating since I was fourteen, and it’s the one habit that I NEVER compromise on. The benefits of meditation to physical and mental wellbeing have been well-documented and acted as a healing tool to help ease stress, anxiety, and depression; if you’re not doing it already, I suggest jumping on the bandwagon.
Perhaps my proudest contribution to this field is the Six Phase Meditation — a method I developed that combines science, visualization, and meditation in less than 20 minutes a day — ideal for busy people and entrepreneurs who want to do more in the world.
Millions of people now use this method including Hollywood stars, music sensations like the soulful Miguel, and professional athletes like NFL Legend Tony Gonzalez and NBA star Reggie Jackson.
Since “The Zen Master,” Phil Jackson introduced mindfulness to the Chicago Bulls way back in the 90s, more and more sports teams are introducing meditation as a part of their training regimes. Sports psychologists have long advocated creative visualization techniques but now recognize the multiple benefits of regular meditation practice.
I think the reason Six Phase became so popular is that it combines multiple transcendent practices — gratitude, freedom from negative charges/forgiveness, creative visualization, intentions for the day, and “the blessing.”
HABIT #4: Networking
Your network is your net worth.— Porter Gale
There’s a certain amount of truth in the old adage — “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” so make a habit of consciously expanding your network.
Social apps and technology have given a new voice to networking, so this process is easier than ever. You can connect with people through Linked In, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and even indirect contacts that you make this way can prove invaluable.
Even small businesses have the opportunity to reach a global customer base, so if you travel be sure to make a connection with everyone you meet. Make it your business to deliberately know information about everyone in your network and connect people to each other so you become a valued friend and ally.
It’s important to provide value to others and you never know where the connections you make may take you.
HABIT #5: Follow Happiness
Happiness Inspires Productivity— Shawn Anchor
So many of us choose our work for the monetary reward, either from a longing for status, a desire for material comfort or out of the necessity of putting clothes on our backs and food on the table.
But what if we instead tried to choose how we make a living based on “ends goals” instead of “means goals”?
What if we pursued work that soothes our soul, ignites our passion, or makes a lasting contribution to a value we deem important?
What if, in lieu of making a swift buck, we joined companies whose ideas we believed in?
Life’s too short to spend the majority of your time doing something you don’t like, or that has no meaning to you.
There’s this strange cultural paradigm that we’ve created that suggests we sacrifice our time doing things that we don’t want to do, in order to make money to do what we DO want to do.
It’s as Alan Watts said:
Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.
As always, follow me on Instagram for more life-changing ideas.
(This article was first published on Thrive Global.)