Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
A little more recently, Tony Robbins said, “It’s not what you know, it’s what you do consistently.”
These are two of my favorite quotes about habits. If I had to sum up everything I know about habits, I’d say, “If your habits suck, you’re gonna suck.”
That might sound a little over-simplified, but it’s true. In many ways, that’s actually a good thing. The process for creating better habits is easier than you might think.
Habits are…actually, pretty simple
When you get down to it, habits are just our repeated actions and thoughts – that’s it. Something becomes a habit when we’ve done it so much that we no longer consciously engage in the activity or thought.
If your actions and thoughts are positive, your habits will be positive. If your habits are positive, your overall experience will be positive, too. It works the same way for negative actions and thoughts. Here’s an easy way to remember it:
If my repeated actions and thoughts in my ____________ are negative, then my experience in ____________ will be negative.
If my repeated actions and thoughts in my ____________ are positive, then my experience in ____________ will be positive.
You can fill in the blank with whatever applies to your life right now – it could be your marriage, job, fitness routine, or something else. Think about your actions and thoughts and how they translate to your experiences in life.
How to create habits you actually want
You’ve probably heard some version of the definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you want a different result, change your habits. If you want different habits, change your thoughts and actions.
So how do we do that?
First, identify what you want to become. What kind of life do you want to live? Where do you want to find joy? Get down to the specifics of what you really desire and what you really want to accomplish. What’s important enough to you that you’re willing to make it an unconscious habit?
Second, find credible people that are living the kind of life you want to live. Find someone who can show you the nitty-gritty details and what it takes to be successful.
For example: If you want to become a successful salesperson in a particular field, you shouldn’t go ask a business professor for advice. Instead, you should ask the guy who is in the field right now doing the work and living the life you want to live.
Finally, relentlessly study and copy the habits of those people. This step reminds me of a simple little quote that I love to share with people: “If you do what others do, you’ll get what others got.” It’s really that simple.
If someone has something you want or is doing something you want to do, study their habits. Watch and observe. Ask good questions. Find out what their repeated actions and thoughts look like. Then copy what they do!
It’s all about perspective
As you get started on your new habits, don’t expect perfection – creating a new habit takes time. Be patient, use a little discipline, and the results will follow.
Before you start working on your new habits, write down the many reasons why they will be beneficial to your life. Make new habits really meaningful to you. For example, if a new habit you want to create is “eating healthy,” go deeper than just “losing weight.”
Eating healthy will give you more years to live. Eating healthy will give you the chance to watch your grandchildren grow up. Eating healthy will allow you to maintain a more active lifestyle. Eating healthy will help you avoid diabetes, a stroke, and even a heart attack. Eating healthy will allow you more time on this Earth to spend with your spouse and loved ones.
The more meaningful the new habit, the more motivated you will be to pursue it. What do you want people to say about you when you’re not in the room? What do you want your epitaph to say on your gravestone?
Dig deep. Decide what kind of life you want to live. Start chasing it today.