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16 Habits You Should Do Every Day


February 24, 2014 UPDATE

This post was very popular and the experiment that spawned the article is still going (over 700 days now…) Get the updated article with more insights and in .pdf format from the authors personal blog right here


I Overview
II Paradigms
III The 16 Daily Rituals
IV Implementation

I. Overview

For a long time now I have been ruthlessly attacking the question of what it is I do with my days. I began a project where I tracked my daily endeavors to see what I was doing with my time (see part IV). I have been keeping this up every day for the lesser part of a year now and I discovered that a large portion of my time was, regrettably, wasted away. I also evolved a system of growth that I want to share with you today.

Your daily habits are HIGHLY correlated with success or failure. By doing something everyday you can achieve goals that would be otherwise impossible. By doing something every day you can make yourself process oriented. By doing something every day you can give yourself the abundance mindset.

I can’t talk this up enough. For the last year I have been scrutinizing my days and how I appropriate my time. This post proposes 16 things that anybody can do to begin changing themselves and their life. I’ve gone through quite an evolution and am sharing the results of my experiment with you here. It’s a long post, but I encourage you to read through it – you will likely find some value in it.

II. Paradigms

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  -Aristotle

Before I get into the specifics of the rituals I’ve integrated into my life I think it’s important to understand the paradigms I’m operating under. The epiphanies and understandings I’ve come to have allowed me to implement these habits and take massive action. If you’re starting from scratch, I’d guess it would take about six months to a year to develop the self discipline required to sustain the regiment of habits I’m discussing. The first paradigm and concept you need to understand is the lifetime approach.

Habits – A lifetime approach

When considering doing something every day for forever you obviously consider what effect it would have on you. Both in the long term and the short term. You will look at what it is you want to do every day, such as exercise and consider the short and long term effects. In the short term what gives? Well it makes you feel pretty good for one. A runners high, a sense of pride and accomplishment, and also the rollover it has to other parts of your day. It’s not like you exercise and then hit mcdicks and your couch. Generally this converts to momentum that you carry to other tasks. The benefits of exercising on any given day are obvious and realized immediately. Consider also the long term effects. As you maintain a regiment of exercise your body fat percentage drops, your flexibility and strength increase (less chance of injury) your lifespan extends, your immune system is bolstered, you maintain your youth longer, you carry over a sustained vigor to other parts of your life, your resting heart rate goes down, and you have a general feeling of well being. Pretty sweet. Clearly exercising is very important; given both its short and long term benefits.

This is the algorithm I’ve used for proactively constructing my life. Take the activity, consider the long and short term effects and evaluate if that’s what I want in my life. Many activities I regularly engaged in had wonderful short term effects but terrible long term effects on my health, well being and prosperity.

Follow me through a short aside and lets apply this algorithm to a different and arguably negative activity; drinking alcohol. Short term effects can be great (state, fun, makes game easier) but with a little more inspection you realize the rollover effects it has. Health-wise this is obvious. Drinking is bad for you, especially binge drinking. But its easy to overlook what else is going on… its not just alcohol it’s the partying. The shitty sleeps when you drink, the wrecked immune system, the shitty food you eat drunk, my increased likelihood of smoking cigarettes and doing drugs, and the long term damage of alcohol (by the time im 26 years old that will have been a DECADE of binge drinking) Financially its obviously detrimental – drinks at the bar can crucify a student budget. Your productivity also takes a huge hit when you drink; the next day is a write off. Even if you have a lot of will power and momentum taking charge of your life, go at it a couple of days in a row and you set yourself way back. There are books to be read, weights to be lifted, laundry to be done… but no… hungover = DURR state.

By taking a step back and looking at the ecosystem of consequences your choices have you can better decide what things you do and don’t want in your life.

Mastery – The “S” Curve
The next concept is derived from George Leonard’s book Mastery.The idea is that progress with regards to anything skill related is not a linear equation, ie the effort you put in does not directly correlate with what you get out. The reality is that you spend most of your time on plateaus, putting in effort and not getting anywhere, until eventually you break through emerging better than before. I agree but would like to extend his model to include the exponential S-curve. The diagram below is fairly autobiographical.

In my limited time on earth I have found this to be true. Lifting weights, learning calculus, playing piano, meditation, carpentry, programming, writing, painting, gardening, using chopsticks, chess and checkers; They all follow this formula. Everything you do will have a discouraging period of slogging through with little to no progress (I refer to this as ‘sucking shit’)

It’s important to understand this because it can help prevent you from getting discouraged. Knowing that when you break through a plateau it will be with a bang and it will be glorious.

This is how it’s going to go. You make the decision that you’re going to walk the path. You’re going to learn how to program or play the piano. Now you begin putting in a force, a consistent sustained effort. You will do this every day. Now you can begin the process of advancing along the mastery curve. If you put in no effort you make no forward movement – obviously (*In my experience when you give up on a skill you don’t lose it entirely you just kind of accumulate rust.)

Exponential Growth and Spillover

Two things happen as you move along the mastery curve, and understanding these can help motivate you. For one, you will eventually gain exponential progress. Learning is exponential. You start to see compounding returns as you put the pieces together. You pick up a momentum. Your results are fuel for your motivation and it puts you into this self fulfilling cycle where you gain results, which give you motivation, which gets you to push harder until you get more results. This doesn’t really happen if you suck though… How do you hit that exponential growth – the cycle of improvement? You’ll do it through sheer FORCE OF MOTHERFUCKING WILLPOWER. That’s what it takes to break through.

The second thing that will happen is you begin to accumulate ‘spillover’ effects. For example, as you play more chess your critical thinking develops or maybe as you go out more your social skills sharpen and your performance at work improves. As you begin to cultivate willpower and self discipline in your life the probability that you will succeed when you pick up a new skill is much, much higher.

Meta-meta-cognition

Cognition is your ability to read something and understand it. Meta cognition is your ability to evaluate your comprehension as you read it. Meta meta cognition is thinking about the process of evaluating your comprehension.

Every level is a higher order of thinking. Basic cognition is purely operational – it may get you through life from paycheck to paycheck. Taking a step back and thinking about how you’re living your life is meta cognition, this can help you manage your life as you introduce an element of proactivity into it. Meta-meta cognition is taking one further step back and assessing the very values that you decide to live your life by – if any of that makes sense. Meta cognition will help you manage your life, finances, relationships, business, and learning. Meta meta cognition is thinking about your values, purpose, and direction in life. They say that meta cognition is associated with intelligence, then meta meta cognition is associated with brilliance. It is a very powerful tool. (expanded on in habit 16)

III. The 16 Daily Rituals

1. Exercise – Exercise is essential; I briefly touched on what happens to you in the short term but consider also the long term effects of regular exercise. As you maintain a regiment of exercise your body fat percentage drops, your flexibility and strength increase (less chance of injury) your lifespan extends, your immune system is bolstered, you maintain your youth longer, you carry over a sustained vigor to other parts of your life, your resting heart rate goes down, and you have a general feeling of well being. Pretty sweet. Clearly exercising is very important; given both its short and long term benefits.

But do you have to do this every day? That seems strenuous. Try expanding your definition – You don’t give it your 100% every day. Some days may be 10 minutes of simple light stretching, just to keep the habit. Other days may be 2.5 hour monster gym sessions.

I use this habit to help me accomplish two other things very important to me, meditation and getting into nature. Often times my physical exertion is a one hour walk through the park or along the water front. Practicing a walking meditation is a great way to center yourself and help carry the skill over to everyday life. Being in nature has a similar balancing effect on your well being.

But you don’t need me to tell you to work out. The benefits are all clearly documented by scientists and people. There are networks and resources for support and endless sources of inspiration to motivate you.

2. Meditation – This habit is invaluable. You need to meditate. Think about what part of the human experience spirituality addresses – the ego and fear – two concepts that would benefit you SO much to control. I think a lot of people get messed up here because the benefits are very intangible at first. The “S curve” of Mastery that I described above has a very looong period of ‘sucking shit’. If you’re not experienced then your image of what meditation should be like is wrong. Fighting your expectations will be a constant battle as you learn to meditate. Here are some resources to help you learn.

Reddit Article – Very concise introduction to meditation
Mindfulness in Plain English – Amazing book that covers the topic clearly and in depth
Meditation Retreat – 10 day intensive mediation retreat
Binaural Beats – Beats that can help induce a meditative state (great training wheels, also make sure you are using good quality headphones)
Self Transformation Through Meditation – Another article on this site you can check out

Practice – Start meditating everyday. The evidence is in by a landslide, both anecdotally and empirically. Meditation will change your life so start today, any reason you may have for not trying is an excuse.

Once you get the hang of it you will leave your meditation sessions feeling centered, calm, and relaxed. It has an ego-lessening effect and awareness increasing effect that spills over to your everyday life. If you keep up the practice you’ll notice that your focus and attention span increases dramatically, as does your sight and sound sensitivity (think of the most visceral things you do – sex, eating, sports etc.) Brain regions associated with attention, interoception and sensory processing will literally become thicker.

In the long term, meditation offers a ‘profound transformation of how you experience reality’ It will bring you joy, peace, and happiness. This is real and you need to be doing it.

3. Reading – If you read the right books you will be moved, inspired, and motivated.

Think about what you expose yourself to. There’s a million shitty blogs on the internet written by whoever. But then there’s books out there that will change your life. Books that the most gifted human beings on earth have spent years writing. A lifetime of experiences, insights, and lessons learned given to you in a nice handheld easily digestible form.

I started this habit at a half hour a day. Recently I’ve started reading about an hour a day and am burning through books. With a constant flow of information in, you increase your ability for information to flow out (applying knowledge to your life)

Reading is an easy habit to put off and you need to make it a priority. If you’re not regularly reading then you may start to fall asleep as you pick up a book. Your mind is not conditioned properly and you need to force yourself through that period. Your reading speed and comprehension do pick up over time – just stick to it.

If you have no idea where to begin, the recommended reading section is a good place to start.

4. Creative Recreation – People are going to approach this one very differently but if there is something you can sit down and do purely for your enjoyment than that’s awesome. Think of a flow state activity that you can put your full expression into. For me it’s playing an instrument. If you’ve ever seen someone play the guitar or piano at an extremely high level in a non performance setting then you’ll know what I’m talking about. The “S” curve of learning an instrument is very, very, very long. But you get out what you put in. Your amusements will leave you feeling rejuvenated and can often break up and lighten the day. As you invest in your hobbies you will get more and more out of them

I generalized this habit as ‘creative recreation’ because I want to emphasize the fact that recreation is not a spectator sport. Vegetating on the couch watching commercials is not recreation.

5. Nutrition – As you build a productive life your ability to stay focused and have energy becomes very important. What you eat has a big effect on how you feel. If you eat right you can avoid energy crashes, fight off sickness, and generally just feel ‘good’.

I know that I’m definitely not the best person to give nutrition advice but the resources are out there. It should be obvious that what you put in your body is very important. Do yourself a favor and learn how your body works.

For me, I don’t eat sugar or processed food. I drink 1.5L of water a day and I make an extra effort to eat more plant based foods. I supplement my diet with fish oil etc. I think what’s most important though is that you proactively decide what you put in your body. Make the time to cook your meals, keep your fridge stocked, and don’t buy convenience food.

6. Reasonable Spending – Like nutrition, this habit is more of a choice you make rather than an active investment of your time. Its pretty straight forward, every day I try to manage my money reasonably.

Apply the concept of reactivity/proactively to your spending and you have an excellent framework for managing your money. Did you plan on making this purchase? If not then don’t do it. The nature of planning a purchase is that it is in line with your goals and budget. The nature of making an impulsive/reactive purchase is quite the opposite, ‘it is right here and will satisfy me right now’ (mostly consumer/convenience items)

7. Brain Buster + Current Events – Part of my morning routine is to check out the economist, my local news site, or the new york times and read two or three articles. Given my background and where I want to go in life it is going to serve me well to be informed and have the ability to notice trends and understand the complexity of global issues.

I also work very hard to develop my critical and lateral thinking. Every day I challenge myself to solve one extremely difficult problem. Actually I only figure them out about 30% of the time. On my computer I have a repository of IQ, Mensa, brain buster type books that would take a lifetime to work through. Some problems I solve in five minutes others take me thirty until I break down and look at the solution.

If you run a business or are any kind of decision making authority (or eventually want to be in that position) then I can’t vouch enough for this habit. You need to be sharp and informed. Period.

8. Social – Every day I make an effort to advance my social skills. Your ability to communicate effectively with human beings has so many implications in your personal and professional life. I’ve gone through experiments with this habit and I think the less your around people the more you need to make it a priority (my lifestyle right now has me around new people ALL the time, but there have been other times in my life when I actively had to make that happen)

I’ve tried a few different things. For a while I really focused on listening to people with the intent to understand, pushing the urge to get my point across aside and giving other people the floor when they were expressing themselves. I’ve done different experiments with eye contact and physicality while communicating as well. Regardless, going out and just talking to people trumps all when it comes to developing your social skills.

9. Personal Management – This is the easiest of all habits to implement. Just 10 minutes a day and your bachelor pad is looking clean and fresh. Not many long term benefits here except maybe you don’t lose your possessions as often and they have and increased lifespan. In the short term doing your laundry, not letting your dishes pile up, and making your bed can offer you a peace of mind and allow you to work unfettered on other projects.

10. Project 1, 2 or more times a week – For me I set aside a two hour block twice a week to work on a personal project. This could be fleshing out a business feasibility plan, recreating my weightlifting routine, catching up on some reading, creating a budget, doing research, or writing this mega post.

At the beginning of each week I choose what two projects I plan to work on and within the week I find time to fit them in. Use this habit as a way of revitalizing old projects that are collecting dust or to begin something new that you’ve been thinking about but haven’t got around to.

The effects this habit has on your short and long term productivity are enormous.

11. Podcast/TED Talk/University Lecture – If you’re a thinking human being with a desire for knowledge then you should be listening to podcasts, watching ted talks and viewing the thousands of lectures professors and researchers have on the internet.

This is a habit I integrated for both its short term and long term benefits. In the short term I find it interesting to learn about new topics. A lot of times it’s on a subject I’m interested in at the time, other times its something completely new. Either way I’m exposing myself to the best and brightest minds of today and expanding my understanding of the world.

If you engaged yourself with this material every day, what would the long term effects be? Besides a vast and varied wealth of knowledge you would begin to draw disciplines together. Your understanding and awareness would grow so large that the value and wisdom you could offer other people would be incredible.

*For a practical tip, throw a queue of talks you’re interested in on your iPod and listen while exercising.

12. Language – Every day I spend thirty minutes learning a new language. This is an ongoing task that I struggled to integrate. You realize almost no immediate benefit and that makes it exceptionally difficult to do every day. The “S” curve of mastery is very, very long (years).

But alas, the benefits in the long term must be exceptionally rewarding. I can only speculate as I currently only speak one language, but from my time studying in Italy I can tell you I would have got a lot more out of the experience had I spoke the language. Coming from a business perspective being bi/multi-lingual would likely be a huge advantage.

For me, I intend to spend a large part of my life travelling. If you expect to live another 50/60 years of life on this earth then imagine the lifetime of opportunities and experiences other languages may open you up to. Don’t cut yourself off.

For some practical advice getting started I recommend the Rosetta stone. It’s a visual program that is a great way for getting you started. Listen to talk radio (via internet) and get a language book with exercises to help you practice. Get a woman your seeing to join in. It accelerates the process so much if you have someone to practice speaking with.

We are the first generation with ready access to the internet. The resources to help you pick up a language are out there and they are free – use them.

13. Plan the next day – This is so crucial.

Note that there is a small learning curve to this as you figure out a system that works for you. Maybe you like to manage your timetable through your phone, or maybe you just pencil out what you do on a list. Whatever the method it must satisfy two requirements: 1) The document must be easily accessible to you throughout the day, and 2) it must specify approximate times when you will complete each task.

It’s pretty simple. When you have some time to think with a clear mind you plan out what you want your next day to look like you do it. The time you know you have to yourself (mornings usually) you can set a more ridged structure than the times where there are many variables as to what you may be doing.

The plan is your servant, not your master. Never get upset if things don’t go the way you thought – it’s just a guideline to keep you on track. Lost time, interferences, failing to execute out of laziness or apathy, unforeseen events, all of this will happen. Don’t be worried, the element of proactivity you introduce into your life by planning your days out already places you way ahead.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your primary goal is not to be efficient. It is to be effective. Don’t be so worried about having some intense schedule that will burn you out quickly. Allow a good amount of time for transitions and even more for other forms of time you will use organically. If you have in your head a picture of someone ruthlessly triaging priorities, feverishly executing tasks and running around from one item to the next then you should rethink your understanding. As you go through your day you will apply yourself to each activity wholly and with everything you’ve got. You will take things slow and execute with passion, care and effort not with haste or carelessness.

14. Sleep – You’re either plugged into the matrix or you’re not. If you’re plugged in you’re a spectator – you watch TV, you kill time on Facebook, you days slip by as you wander through in lower consciousness. If your unplugged you’re a player – You are taking consistent and massive action, you are constantly ingesting new information, you are pushing your boundaries and limitations, you are growing.

So naturally if you’re living your life fully engaged you need a good night’s sleep. The amount of stress you experience by pushing yourself, the information your internalizing, and the focus and stamina you need to keep going can all be facilitated by a good nine hours on the pillow.

Take this shit seriously – you will notice a difference.
If you’ve ever studied sleep you know that your body goes through approximate 90 minute cycles (from deep sleep to REM sleep), you know the amount of light you are receiving effects your bodies melatonin production, you know that what you eat before bed can affect your sleep, and you also know that sound can disrupt your sleep. You know that sleep plays an integral role in learning and memory. You are also aware that the human body associates certain surroundings or conditions with sleep (think when you walk into a bathroom you feel like you have to pee. The same thing when you are in your bed – you get sleepy. Therefore only use your bed for sleep and sex).

I sleep in total darkness, in a cool room, with a fan for white noise (drown out traffic and creaks in house that would otherwise wake me up). I have comfortable mattress and I wake up to an alarm clock that gets brighter instead of making noise.(simulates the sun rising) I don’t set my alarm for the same time every morning, I set my alarm either 7.5 or 9 hours from when I fall asleep (so I don’t wake up in the depth of a sleep cycle – you may have to tinker with the times but you will learn your body). Try some of this and you will be amazed with the effects on your energy levels, retention of information, and how you enter your days in the morning.

15. Professional Development – You’re either working in the industry you want to be in or you’re not. Either way you should spend some of your day developing the skills necessary to succeed in the industry you want to be in.

If you’re stuck in a job you don’t like then this daily ritual is the key to breaking through. You will develop yourself in the area of your interest until you have the credentials, credibility, or opportunity to move permanently. Maybe you’re stuck working as a bank teller, but you want to get into internet marketing. You should begin to spend a part of your day learning the skills you are going to need to be an internet marketer.

Think of it this way, most people are reactive. Most people land a job through connections or convenience and after they have that job they then learn the skills necessary to succeed. You are not that person. You will do the reverse. You will gain the skills through your own force of will and then land ‘the job’. This is the formula to carve a life of your design and live your dreams.

If you’re already in the industry of your dreams then you should never stagnate. Constantly focus on learning new material, keeping up with trends, observing competitors, or expanding your professional reputation. Focusing on this will allow you to offer more value in whatever you do and will facilitate success.

16. Journal + Research – Keep a journal and update it every day.

What is a journal? A journal is a place where you write out your thoughts and then look back at them and ponder. You then write about what you thought of your thoughts and think about that. (Meta-meta cognition) Do you see how this can be a valuable tool for personal insight and growth?

This isn’t a high school dairy. It’s a tool you use to track your thoughts, expand on insights, accelerate your growth, and look back on your progress. Shits happening? Write about it. The very act of consciously creating syntax to your thoughts can help you become more rational and can facilitate problem solving in your life.

There is a second part to your journal writing ritual that you need to engage in. Research. As you make discoveries and insights you should seek out truth and guidance. We have the internet and it is an amazing tool for feedback.

Our parent’s generation had to live with misinformation their whole lives. Our generation enjoys the luxury to – with incredible ease – access the forefront of human knowledge in the snap of a finger. Use this luxury to fuel your growth.

IV. Implementation

“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”  -John Dryden

I am suggesting that you implement all 16 of the rituals listed above into your daily routine. I know this is hard – I’ve walked the path and failed many times. I learned that this is very hard to do. It takes discipline, skill, and proactivity, BUT if you can do it the rewards are great. The capacity for you to out perform others is massive.

In the next section I explain how I used technology to help track my progress. Now I’m not suggesting you do this as intensely or for as long as I did but you can always experiment. We spend an amazing amount of on screen time, and I figured since I was on my laptop everyday I would track my progress with a very simple binary system. I started small, 7 things I wanted to do every day. I opened up excel and made a spreadsheet with the dates on the x axis and my habits on the y axis. Fairly self explanatory, if I completed the task I would color it green, if I failed I would color it red.

I’ve kept this up now for the lesser part of a year and it has grown and evolved. I was always extremely honest with myself and I found the objective measure of progress to be very blunt. Your success or failure is right there, staring you in the face. No ego can manipulate the facts, only your interpretation.

Part of the reason this helped me was that I could recommit. I would continually recommit to something until I gathered enough first hand experience that the activity was something I should value. Your ability to stick with something for the long term is a function of intrinsic motivation (process orientation), not extrinsic (outcome orientation). If you’re motivated by validation or external forces you will likely fail in the long run.

This is what my spreadsheet looks like now. All 16 habits I discussed are incorporated into my daily life. Keep in mind that I am in school full time, have a girlfriend, play on pokerstars every day (for ~20$/hour), am preparing for my GMAT’s, and live an extremely social life – you can fit it all in, even if you work a 40 hour week. If you don’t think you can do it then you have limiting beliefs. There’s a lot of fat to be trimmed out of your daily routine, you just need to look.

Again, I’m not suggesting that you go full nerd like I did and track your progress every single day. But if you did do that you would definitely learn some very interesting things about yourself and how you operate. I’m going to share some of my discoveries with you here and hopefully they can help you on your journey.

Falling Apart – Four types

No matter how hard you try, or how much effort you put in, you will – at times – fall apart. I would say there’s four ways this happens: Getting sick, apathy, ‘short term mating strategy’ and consuming commitments.

If you don’t have a lot of self discipline then the most common way you will fall apart is apathy. You need to understand that apathy is death. Apathy IS death. It will kill your growth and suck you into laziness. It happens as you slip into lower consciousness. Correlating displays in your behavior emerge: depression, apathy, negative and low self esteem thought patterns, etc. There are so many things that can throw you off track and sink you into apathy: Loss of progress, negative feedback, feeling ‘blue’, video games, addictions, poor diet, lack of sleep, fear, financial/family/social stressors. This is where taking responsibility is key. This knowledge helped me fight myself when my brain would come up with rationalizations and excuses for why I copped out on my duties. The rationalizations were pretty good sometimes (I didn’t have enough time, I wasn’t physically able, I was sick, it would be counter productive etc (your brain is very clever)) but the facts were in. I couldn’t gloss over the correlation between my daily choices and how they affected my productivity. Eat shitty food, get poor sleep, and you will be less productive.

When you fall into the gutters of apathy the only way out is to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. If you have ever taken the time to write out your values then they can be a key extremely helpful in this situation. Read them over, ponder them and commit yourself to them. The quicker you can recommit yourself to your values and get back on track, the better. You will go through this process many, many, many times

The second way you completely fall of track is when you get sick. The average adult catches two to four colds a year. That’s two to four weeks of setbacks, suffering, and disruption. Not much you can do about it other than prevention (and as it turns out prevention is pretty effective! You don’t ever have to get sick… [drink water, avoid binge drinking, get all your vitamins and minerals, sleep, oral hygiene, washing your hands, and regular relaxation. This is only anecdotal evidence but I found that when I got sick, poor sleeps for many consecutive days was always a factor])

The third type of falling apart is what I will call your ‘short term mating strategy’. To be honest with you, I don’t think this is that bad. I look back at my excel chart of times where I was in this mode, nothing would be getting done. I would be drinking and smoking and doing drugs. Say a five day bender where I would be having the time of my life. Retrospectively I wouldn’t change a thing though because in those moments I was having SO MUCH FUN. I met so many people and developed so many relationships. When you’re in this mode you are just ‘on’. Its so amazing to me that your brain has these two levels it can operate on.

From my experience, the more resources you have (money, leisure time, lack of responsibility) the more intense the effects of the ‘short term mating strategy’ mode can be. Think, if you have a job or no more money etc. external forces like that can FORCE you to get your shit together. But when you’re in the mode you’re sure fucking good at rationalizing away your money, time, and responsibilities. So I think the key is to take an element of proactively into this. Acknowledge that this is going to happen to you and that it’s OK. You know you’ll get your shit together eventually. Just be smart about your life and don’t cop out on any major responsibilities.

The fourth way I would consistently fall off track with my habits is when I had a consuming commitment to honor. Maybe this was a family obligation or a travel day, or a big exam I had to prep for. Whatever it is you just do what you need to do and get back on track as soon as you can. When these kinds of things come up though I notice it’s a lot easier to bounce back as opposed to sinking into some apathetic hurr durr state – that’s the worst.

Rebounding – Two Phenomena

In my explorations I noticed two phenomena. The first is that you can’t just focus on one area of your life. If you start seriously working on one discipline everything follows. You start fixing yourself in ALL areas of your life.

The second phenomenon that I noticed when falling off the path is that you will come back stronger than ever before. I am not sure if this is because you have lessons learned from falling off or because your definition of what being on the path has now been expanded. Either way the process of growth is obvious, you fall and you get back up stronger than before.

Keep in mind that falling off the path is an inevitability and will happen (a lot). Its how quickly you notice (awareness and higher consciousness) and recommit (take right action) that will determine your growth rate.

Streaking

Looking back over my performance I noticed that my habits would streak. There’s an element of general momentum (Exercising in a day may give you momentum to complete other tasks) and then there is an element of discipline specific momentum (If you meditated yesterday it is more likely that you will today)

On the flip side there’s negative momentum. If you don’t do something today then it will be harder tomorrow and even harder the next day.

The result is that disciplines streak. You have runs where you’ll stick with it every day, but then you will have runs, sometimes for weeks, where it just never seems to fit in your schedule. For this reason extra effort has to be made to revitalize individual habits that are falling apart.

The Anxiety Response

The anxiety response is so key to your growth. I left this section last for a reason… this is such a POWERFUL concept. Your body comes equipped with the tools for your growth and that anxious feeling you get IS THE TOOL.

When you realize you don’t know what you need to know there is an uncomfortable anxiety. Your poor ego is exposed and your feel good belief systems are shaken. Do not run from this feeling of anxiety. It is SO human nature to suppress the feelings and rationalize them away. You look at your bank balance and you realize you barely have enough money for next months rent; an uncomfortable anxiety comes over you. Maybe you got caught lying and an uncomfortable anxiety comes over you. Maybe you see a woman you want to talk to and an uncomfortable anxiety comes over you. Your emotions are your feedback system.

Do not let your ego get the best of you. Your ego will rationalize your life away, giving you all the reasons to be O.K. with your mediocrity and failure.

When you feel that uncomfortable anxiety you need to ruthlessly seek out the cause and address it. Take full responsibility for what has happened to you. Maybe you realized you have been financially irresponsible. The ego response would be to justify your situation, “I needed to get that stuff, I had to make those purchases” This is unacceptable thinking if you want to grow. Consciously ponder the anxiety and take responsibility for your situation, “Wow I was managing my money extremely poorly this last month. I need to figure my shit out, etc etc”

By diving into that anxious response, figuring out what’s going on and taking FULL responsibility for whatever is happening, you will facilitate your ability to CHANGE and GROW in the future. Do not sabotage your growth and buy into your ego. The key to your growth is your emotional system, and you would do well to get in touch with it (hint- meditation)

Author: Ferguson Ross

Please check out his personal blog and get a .pdf of this post here!

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52 Comments »

  • Bart says:

    “Keep in mind that I am [...] dating multiple girls”

    lol dude

    • Mic Smith says:

      Are you people serious? This guy is full of shit. Taking this guy’s advice makes you dumber than he is. Did nobody else notice the huge ego? Be like me? You must start doing this? No bud, you keep it up. My only question is after all that growth you’ve accomplished in 300 days what’s left to learn? You got it all figured out already.The only thing I liked about this guy is his gambling addiction.

  • Dan says:

    Can you upload your spreadsheet file for us? Would be very useful.

  • Nick says:

    Epic post man. The spreadsheet idea is brilliant and I’m definitely using it now :)

  • Taylor S says:

    This is the best article I have read in a while; this is just the inspiration I’ve been needing.

    Although the start of my meta-meta-cognition was a slow one, on September 7, 2011, I started keeping a checklist that resembles your spreadsheet. It’s really been a big impact on my life. You’ve helped me realize how much I’m missing from my self-improvement routine; thank you so much for helping me climb to my next plateau.

  • For me the best parts were about ‘streaking’ and about the mastery curve.

    I’ve actually sort of been following these habits for 2 years now but I continuously fail at keeping them up. But yeah as you said, I keep getting back though and I should view this part of my life (creating habits and discipline) the same as I treat my instruments, which is that I will fail a lot and it’s inevitable.

  • James says:

    This is arguably the best article i have ever read on the internet. Thank you so much for this, I will be spreading this around as much as possible!

  • Andy says:

    Hey man, great post.
    This is an extremely useful set of tools, and like all readers here, I’m sure there are aspect of this I will be absorbing for myself.

    However – I would suggest dropping the entire routine for say 1 week in about 6 (as PART) of the routine. There is an element to life which does not abide spreadsheets, pre-planning and regimentation. There is a great passage in the I-Ching which summarises what I am trying to say which is something along the lines of
    “[useful preamble]
    Thus, by nature’s own decree,
    The hard and the strong are defeated,
    Whilst the soft and gentle are triumphant.”

    There is a curious reflective joy to having the occasional bender, napping for a week in winter, or licking cocaine off some lady’s earlobe at dawn.

  • Clark says:

    Great article. Meditation has done a lot for me.

    I want to suggest to the author learning one other thing. It’s small, but noticeable: your and you’re. If you want to say “you are” you may contract it to “you’re.” If it is a possession, you use “your,” as in “your article.”

  • achab says:

    Best article i have ever read.

  • Austin Rooks says:

    This is an incredible article. Very inspiring, it has given me a positive kick in the pants to organize myself. The meta meta cognition really hit home, defining that out-loud helped a lot of things fall into place that were aimlessly floating around my head. Good work and thank you!

    • Nike says:

      Life is all about organization and using your time wisely. Although we understand it is hard and what some might think as “impossible” taking a bit of time out of your day to even get 1 of these things into your life would benefit you.

  • Matt says:

    Nice list, but practically impossible for anyone with young children. I’d suggest that parents try to do just a few of these on a daily basis – particularly exercise, nutrition, and “creative recreation” (i.e. playing with the kids), then aim to do the rest maybe once a week.

    • Andy says:

      I agree. This plan would be difficult enough as a bachelor, let alone with a wife and especially kids. I tallied up the time it would take to do most of this stuff every day and you’re looking at about 5 hours. Every. Day.

      “Sorry honey, I’d love to help you cook, do the dishes, walk the dog, change some diapers, do the laundry, discuss our plans for the week, take care of the yardwork, pay our bills and listen to what’s going on in your life, but I’m gonna need to take the next couple of hours to meditate and work on my Cantonese. And please feel free to let me know if you’d like me to paint you something during my creative time. I don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten about you.”

      Kidding aside, the concepts of self-improvement still ring true, but I think that once you have kids, self-improvement should take a backseat to child-improvement.

      • nyoom says:

        to be fair, a few of these can be bundled up and done at the same time. you can exercise and listen to a podcast, and do stuff like listen to the news or think about logic problems while you’re showering or commuting. you just have to find ways to work it in there.

  • Lukas says:

    Awesome list man. I appreciate you taking the time to articulate such powerful habits for readers like me.

    Cheers!

    Lukas

  • So clear, extensive and devoid of any bullshit!

    I also routine myself everyday, but that’s going to help me do it way more efficiently.

    Thanks for the insane amount of work you probably put into this.

  • quality post man, meditation’s a huge part of my routine. Spell check that baby though, you’re getting a ton of eyes on your article!

  • Lawfer says:

    Thumbs up on this article.

    Really interesting way of planning/living each day.

    I will definitely try this in my life.

    Thanks man

  • Alpar says:

    Great article!
    Thanks for sharing your experiences, thoughts with us.

    Greeting from Hungary!

  • enlightenedbrah says:

    can you upload those iq/mensa brain buster questions??

  • DougD says:

    I like the suggestion of reading a national/worldwide newspaper every day. In the interest of time, I listen to the NY Times digital version distributed by Audible.com. It’s just an hour-long podcast of a person reading all the big stories from that day’s NYT.

    Oh, how I wish I had the time to sit and read NYT every day!

  • Rodrigo says:

    Thanks for the great article.

    I saw your habit excel sheet and felt it could be managed better:
    http://www.joesgoals.com/
    lets you easily track as many positive/negative habits as you want. It basically offers everything you need for that spreadsheet. I’ve been using it and its great, I can easily generate statistics regarding how often I actually engage in my habits.

  • M Black says:

    Amazing article! I will start implementing this in my everyday life!

  • Max says:

    Anyone have the spreadsheet?

  • buddybubble says:

    While I value your ideas and intentions, I personally find it hard to cope with a lifestyle like this.

    I’m working fulltime as a Software Engineer (which I genuinely love). I am away from home ~11 hours a day for my job (includes driving times). I have no idea how I could spend several hours a day reading, meditating, exercising, learning, playing guitar, cooking, etc. without burning out..I just need times in which I do nothing at all, just being alone and thinking about whatnot.

    I’ll try to set a personal schedule like this and I’d love to keep up with that but I fear I have to drop some of these daily habits.

    Thank you a lot for your impulse!

  • Lonzo says:

    As soon as I saw the S curve it all came together and it was obvious this was written by a poker player hahaha. Great article. Thank you.

  • OhManManMan says:

    apathy is DEATH!

    Great article! I already feel more productive I read it all.
    Wrote down the steps and I am switching my idiotic Social Apps for Productive apps on my gadgets and filling up my calendar.
    Thanks.

  • Good stuff make you smart and good with the stuff he write is very nice

  • Bastian says:

    Thanks for the article. Can you recommend a good book about sleep?

  • Thanks for the informative article, I’m positive that it will enhance my life.

  • Unix says:

    Wow. This is the single best read I have maybe done online in the last 5 years.
    Excellent work mate. I will buy your ebook also. Thanks a lot, I have incorporated all of these techniques and habits now. I made a nice Google Drive/Document form that I can fill out every day with the tracking and so on.

    Thanks a lot for sharing. This is precious blog wisdom!

  • Elijah says:

    Greatness! keep up the gud work dude!:D

  • Allan says:

    amazing post. Thank you so much for this.

  • Christopher Brooks says:

    You said you attempt to solve difficult problems Here….I also work very hard to develop my critical and lateral thinking. Every day I challenge myself to solve one extremely difficult problem. Actually I only figure them out about 30% of the time. On my computer I have a repository of IQ, Mensa, brain buster type books that would take a lifetime to work through. Some problems I solve in five minutes others take me thirty until I break down and look at the solution…..Can I please get a link to sites that provide these questions for ms daily?

  • Praaveen says:

    very good work !!!

    have already prepared a small list… i would push myself as hard as possible to accomplish or overcome the sucking shit…

    thank you..

  • A Habiteer says:

    I just had to make a comment about http://www.habitrpg.com. It is so helpful in managing yourself in these ways, and I actually found out about this post through the it.

  • Jason says:

    Just wanted to quickly say thank you for sharing this. This article alone has been a huge catalyst for me to get off my ass and start becoming the person I want to be. No more wasting away!

    -Jason

  • Alexandra says:

    For the immediate record, I read the entire list, though not the entire article. However two things stood out:

    1) This is obviously written assuming the reader is a straight male.

    and

    2) The author should spend some more of their time learning the difference between “you’re” and “your”.

    In addition to those two main problems, a lot of these things require a good amount of down time, and the ability to abide to a constant, strict schedule.

    The overall post is decent… but really… it was pretty sloppily written.

  • Danny says:

    Oh wow.. I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to put together something like this. I really cannot, and if YOU do.. Allow me to do so. I’m literally excited now and I haven’t ran into something so rich, in this search of mine, on things like this. Thank you. And if you are reading this: great, great depth here.

  • Sean Stewart says:

    Thanks so much for this post.

    I am 100% with you on this, but the challenge is we can only change 1-2 habits each 30 days, and we don’t know which one gives us the FASTEST results so we try to change too many things at once, and as a result we end up going RIGHT back to our bad habits.

    I share some of this stuff in my blog also check it out if you like !

    Also if you like me to send you a video as guest post please contact me and let me.

    Thanks so much

    Sean

    • Celesta says:

      I say meditation and exercise will probably impact your life faster than any other habit but I think doing the things you do regularly(if you do them) more often that will be a huge boost in confidence.

  • Lucas says:

    Reminds me of something I have seen that Ben Franklin did along time ago. Only no internet. (But I am pretty sure he dated more than one lady at a time also) Good read.

  • ezequiel says:

    exercise every day?? i stop reading when i read that….

  • phrakture says:

    The RSS feed is broken …

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