Building positive habits is the key to success
As I wade cautiously through the second week of my job I’m starting to understand the importance—and difficulty—of maintaining my habits. Over the past year, and especially in the last four months or so, I have made a conscious effort to consistently do three things in addition to whatever else was going on in my life. Reading, writing, and going to the gym.
Reading and writing are probably two of the activities I value most in my life. The two complement each other immensely, and both are essential to your personal and professional development. Taken together, these two things will teach you more about yourself and the world than you could ever imagine. And writing specifically, gets you into the habit of putting your ideas out into the real world and flying the flag of your personal brand out there for all to see.
The gym is a way I can be better at the other two. If you are active for at least 15-20 min every day you will find yourself with the drive, energy, and clear thoughts to own anything that crosses your path.
Habits are easy to maintain when they’re easy to maintain
The last four months of my life have seen some pretty hefty transition. I returned from living a year in Germany, started the program of entrepreneurship and general badass-ery (otherwise known as Praxis), and now have begun a fulltime position at JACK Entertainment.
I am, at last, beginning to understand the difficulty of maintaining positive and constructive free-time habits when you have more responsibilities.
In college I had a lot of free time but didn’t use it constructively. My independent reading and writing were in their nascent stages. Most college students I knew had ample amounts of free-time. The ones who say different are either lying, terribly incompetent at time-management, or don’t understand what you’re talking about.
You’d think this bubble world that is free of responsibility would be an excellent time to reflect and create positive habits around genuine interests. But, alas, the perverse incentives often present in University life serve only to foster toxic and negative habits. But I digress.
I didn’t really start to build positive habits until the summer 2015 (after graduating) and didn’t really solidify them until my time living in Germany shortly after. But again, I ample time to do so. I organized my own schedule at the school I worked at, had a lot of flexibility in scheduling tutoring and conversation partner sessions, and really only worked in my official capacity around 20 hours a week at most.
The additional time I had was filled with reading and writing (okay, and a lot of German beer). I built my personal website, added content to it somewhat regularly (I didn’t yet have the sand to take on writing daily), read loads, jogged consistently, and climbed multiple times a week.
This was almost too easy though. When I got back to the States I stepped it up. I began writing nearly daily and then daily, read a book every one to two weeks, and joined Anytime Fitness. But apart from working on a couple other websites and working to build my personal brand through Praxis, I spent most of my time doing these things.
Sticking to your habits will make you the King of your own destiny
My new job isn’t really a 9-5 gig, but I treat it as one. The past week I have been one of the first in the office and am not among the first to leave. Not because I have tons of work to do, but just because I’m enjoying being on a consistent schedule for the first time in a long time. The view of the Detroit River and the city from my office doesn’t hurt either.
So I am at work from about 9-5 and even though I am not swamped with projects (yet), it is still more work than I’ve had in the last few months. This along with the hour commute each way (hopefully moving to the city soon) and just waking up early have posed challenges to maintaining my habit status quo.
But with challenge comes opportunity. Maintaining my habits now bring me immense satisfaction. When I wake up at 5:45 in the morning to go to the gym I feel accomplished. When I write a blog post before I brave the rush hour traffic for the day, I feel committed. And when I read later to unwind, I feel relaxed and satisfied with my day. The difficulty in sticking to them makes them more valuable to me.
And more than just difficulty, I now have the ability to make my habits have a tangible effect on my career. I can get the gratification of incorporating my writing or lessons learned from reading into my professional life. I can feel my time at the gym giving me the energy to power through challenges at work. I can put all of my habits into professional practice.
Forming and sticking to your habits has tremendous personal and professional value. Start small if you have to, but make some kind of deal with yourself that forces you to push yourself forward. Use your free-time in ways that are both constructive and enjoyable. Be consistent and you’ll notice the positive change in all areas of your life.
We have so much to gain and so little to lose!