Aligning our daily habits with our long-term goals is the key towards achieving what we want in life and become more successful. It is as simple as that.
Sounds too simple to be true? Just how many of us are actually aware of what we do every day? Take a check on your daily habits. Are they contributing or taking you away from your goals?
Warren Buffett in his wisdom said that chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken. He understands that innocent habits which seem trivial in our daily lives can actually make or break us in the long run.
All of us aspire success, and we know how we can achieve it. But doing it and putting in the work is another story. If we take a hard look at what we do daily, we may be surprised to find just how counterproductive our habits can be.
Unproductive habits are usually easy and changing them will be hard. But if you start to replace them with productive ones, positive results will start to follow.
Personally I struggle with a few counterproductive habits which have been quietly robbing me from achieving some of the importing goals in life.
Getting too Comfortable
The number one sneaky bad habit which I face every day is being comfortable and taking things easy. It is very natural for us to gravitate towards things that make us feel comfortable. It is always easier to procrastinate than doing the hard things.
Life’s challenges and hard things are the ones that force us to learn and grow. You cannot build muscles without resistance work or training. Our body is naturally lazy and will only develop enough muscle to deal with the loads placed upon it. To develop muscles, you have to work out hard and then let your body repair damaged muscle fibres through a cellular process where it fuses muscle fibres together to form new muscle strands.
If I want to run a marathon convincingly, I cannot just take training easy and run whenever I feel like running or stop whenever I start to sweat. I have to align my daily habits towards the goal of running a 42km race. That means I have to eat correctly, train consistently and even rest sufficiently. There are no short cuts.
Similar with physical growth, we cannot progress effectively in other areas of our life without going through targeted resistances and challenges that are relevant. If I want to build a thriving and profitable stocks portfolio, I have to dig in to analyse financial reports, learn technical analysis and research businesses and markets. It is going to take time to study but the sacrifices will be necessary.
The road to success is often paved with trials, disappointment and even failures. But it is these challenges that will force us to get out of our comfort zones and elevate us to greater heights. So don’t get too comfortable. Move towards your goals daily by keeping an open mind and staying hungry for opportunities that will stretch your limits.
Saying Yes too Easily
We are all guilty of this. We say yes, willingly or unwillingly for a variety of reasons. Fear of offending someone, fear of missing out, try to be everything to everyone, and even because we cannot make up our own decisions.
The reality is we have limited time and resources. Saying yes to one means you are unwittingly saying no to something else, and that something else may be more important.
Recently I was invited by the Parent-Teacher Association of my son’s school to join their committee. I felt honoured and was very tempted to say yes to the position, thinking that maybe I could contribute to help make the school better. They were persuasive and I naturally lean towards leadership positions.
After thinking through the offer however, I realised taking up the position will inevitable take up my time with my boys. Serving in the association may help improve the standard of the school my boys are studying in, but it comes with a price of having less time to nurture them personally. Looking at the invitation this way, it just makes no sense. So I politely declined.
Your success lies in your ability to distinguish the tasks that are important to your goals from the ones that screams urgent or non-essentials which you can either delay or delegate. Choosing to work on relevant and important tasks will allow you to focus on what is truly critical for your future success.
Warren Buffett is legendary in ways not so much about what he has done; rather it is what he hasn’t done. With all the demands on him every day, Buffett learned a long time ago that the greatest commodity of all is time. He simply mastered the art and practice of setting boundaries for himself. He is famous for saying that the difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.
Repeating the Same Mistakes
I read somewhere that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different or better result. Thankfully this is not the correct definition or else I should be considered insane for being guilty of making the same mistake many times over.
Why do we keep making the same mistakes over and over? Making the same mistakes repeatedly, no matter how trivial, is a damaging habit that can delay us from achieving our long-term goals.
For a long time I battled with anger issues. I get angry easily and this affected my relationships with my spouse and boys. Sometimes I would snap and get upset with my boys over small things. Whatever reasons I may have, this is not right and I should practice more patience to understand them, instead of letting my mood dictate my temper. I have since identified anger as a problem that I need to address. I cannot afford to repeat the mistake of losing temper because it takes me further away from my goal of building a supportive, caring and loving family.
To stop repeating the same mistakes, we need to be able to identify the underlying problem. What is not going well in your life right now? Are you overeating? Maybe smoking or drinking more than usual? Are you spending too much time at work instead of being there for your family? Are you spending more money than you can afford? Whatever it is, you will need to name it before you can start to deal with it.
Mistakes are the best teachers. Of course it would be better if we can learn from other people’s failures, but it gets seared in more firmly when they are our own. Learning from our mistakes is important, however, we must be careful not to continually dwell on our past mistakes. We can never turn back time and undo what is done. There is no point living in the past so we might well maintain a forward-looking perspective and do better next time.
Treat mistakes as learning experiences that make you stronger and better as a person. Your best successes will come on the heels of failures.
No Overnight Success
Usain Bolt’s incredible power and speed wouldn’t break the 100m record if he wasn’t sprinting directly towards the finish line. In the same vein, our effort in getting things done will not do us much good if those tasks do not bring us towards our long-term goals. One way to ensure that we work on the right tasks is by aligning our daily habits towards the achievement of what is important to us.
Benjamin Franklin is famous for asking himself every evening, “What good have I done today?” Asking that question does three crucial things. First, it makes you review the actions you have taken and evaluate the effectiveness of it. Secondly, it helps you to realign and resolve to plan better for the next day. Lastly and more importantly, it makes you aware of the progress you’re making towards your long term goals.
The journey towards success is challenging and long. There is no such thing as an overnight success. The secret of success actually lies in the little things that we do regularly. This is where our daily habits count.
Align your daily habits to your long-term goals and you will find yourself progressing towards success. Take it one day at a time. It may be slow but you will surely reach where you want to be.