My days are packed starting at 3:30am—that beautiful, silent time of day when the world is still and I think clearest. By 6 am, I’m wrapping up my writing and commencing the daily schedule. I love the order, efficiency, and freedom I get from having a plan.
Chaos and deviation are near certain, but the plan orients my vision so I am always able to adjust best. The day ends and I’m able to boot down knowing I have my objectives ready for the next day. I go home and am free to do as I like. Yet even with this freedom, I’ve noticed some odd patterns.
The Beauty of Habit
When I get in the door, I always put my bag up and place my laptop on the charger. When I kiss my son goodnight, I always say the same thing. Night-night, Ace. I love you very, very much. And, every night before bed, I walk over to the sink and brush my teeth.
These actions aren’t on the schedule. Come to think of it, neither was my 6:30 am workout, the oatmeal breakfast, or my lunch salad, yet I seem to duplicate these actions almost every work day.
This is the beauty of habit. There are things I need to do, but would rather not have to invest mental calories planning and executing each day. There was a time when I had to intentionally create the change out of clothes—brush teeth—go to bed habit loop. However, now I fight plaque and gingivitis every day without thought.
Habits—a cue, routine, and reward—infuse nearly every action in our life. Someone cuts you off in traffic triggering the anger protocol. You call them a low down dirty scoundrel—or worse. The smell of fresh cookies hits your nostrils and you commence gorging on them as if a judge is timing you for the Guinness Book of World Records.
There are good habit loops that take care of an immediate need: I finish dinner, collect plates, and promptly do the dishes.
And then there are profound habits, like what author of Habit, Charles Duhigg, called keystone habits. These are things that change your trajectory and positively amplify every other pursuit in your life. Exercise, for example, is consistently shown to lead to greater work productivity, mood, creativity, better nutritional choices, a more active day, and everything short of an ability to fly.
The Downfall of Habits
Unfortunately, driven by the age of mass-marketing, most of our societal norms promote less constructive habits. I feel sad and bored. I’ll check Amazon. Buying this will make me happy.
You see, there are also bad habit loops: You see a bite-size Twix on the table at a work meeting and then you eat that bite-size Twix. Or, that annoying leash you call an Apple-watch, buzzes on your arm and you look away from the dinner conversation to see what message has come in—a work email that dominates your focus the rest of the evening.
At Inspired Human Development, we focus on promoting inspired living by challenging the standard model of life:
“The standard model is life as we know it. It is the promise of happiness and fulfillment if you only just follow the expected and “normal” path through Western life.”
Societal habits are the hardest to fight. The normal path indoctrinates youth in habits that almost certainly will plague them with poor mental, physical, and emotional health. A 2016 Harvard study predicted that of youth between ages 2 and 19, over 57% will be obese by the time they are 35. This is certainly the current trajectory. In 1970, one in twenty youth were obese, but today that has grown to one in five. Anxiety, depression, suicide rates, and drug-overdoses have seen a similar climb.
The best thing we can do for our kids (and ourselves) is to personally demonstrate a better model. Your personal habits bleed out into your life and shape the institutional habits of your family structure. There is no greater call to get your own affairs in order than the understanding that your actions and attitudes will become your children’s. Strong parents. Strong kids.
Inspiration follows action, it will never consistently precede. Sure, everyone gets excited about the diet or workout that they are sure will turn them into Tony Robbins, but few follow through with their ambitious goals.
Consistent action only happens with habits. Therefore, we’ve found that the best place to start helping people create amazing lives is to help them create powerful habits. The IHD Core Habits are the daily actions that most amplify the joy, possibility, and engagement you feel in each experience and create the most powerful ripple effect into every pursuit.
They change the way you perceive, think, and act. Rather than focus on changing a billion small actions, prioritizing these three habits will permeate the rest of your actions.
Core Habit #1 – Daily Movement Practice
If you’re physically healthy and exercise regularly, that’s about 50% of the picture. There is a rare Winston Churchill exception to this rule, but almost universally happy, successful, fulfilled people are healthy.
They have a movement practice that has prompted them to develop a better understanding of their nutrition and rejuvenates their mental and physical vigor. This is the foundation their life is built upon.
Our psychology follows our physiology. The mental is first understood in terms of the physical. If it’s done right, physical exercise becomes a form of mental exercise. It’s a microcosm of all life, predicating the willpower and delayed gratification that underlies all success. At its most basic level, it models the necessity for action to stoke inspiration and change.
Core Habit #2 – Meditation with Gratitude
The human brain is always scanning the Savannah for threats—for what is wrong. Anyone who was inclined to assume every rustling bush would be harmless was eliminated from the gene pool a long time ago. Thus, we’re hardwired to see the negative. Yet, research overwhelmingly indicates negative people are less healthy, less adaptable, and more likely to miss opportunities.
Your operating system was not intended for the modern environment. It has bugs that require you to update. Practicing gratitude rewires your brain to perceive possibility and appreciate the abundant amazing world we all enjoy.
Meditation is the essential antidote to 21st-century overstimulation. Despite its frou-frou stigmas, it is the toughest mental training program I know, offering focus and an awareness of current thought patterns.
From awareness, we learn that our thoughts are not us and, therefore, don’t have to control us. We have the ability to see new perspectives and act with greater emotional control.
Core Habit #3: Feed the Right Wolf
We are assaulted with over 10,000 advertisements a day and the momentum of an entire society hell-bent on consumption, convenience, and comfort. You can only white-knuckle your rebellion from the normal for so long. Systematizing pulls toward your goals may be the most important step in staying on track and making the road to progress a fascinating, inspiring, adventure.
For more information on how to feed the right wolf and a deep-dive into all these habits, I strongly recommend IHD’s free e-book: The Essential Guide to Self-Mastery.
Justin Lind and I have created a clear plan of attack to help you understand the principles behind sustainable action. From there, we prompt you to apply these principles into a 3-week Self-Mastery Training Plan. We’ve included workouts, challenges, gratitude reflections, and clear direction for how to optimize your environment and embed these transformative habits in your routine.
The majority of people wish for change. Few have taken the steps to master themselves. In this guide, we give you the tools to create lasting, adaptable changes that permeate every area of your life.
This Week’s Mission
Download the Essential Guide to Self-Mastery and begin the Self-Mastery Training Plan. What could be more important than mastering yourself so that you can become the person you want to be? Life is too short to be normal.