Start your day with exercise

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

If you could just pick one or two (or seven) habits to create in the next few months — habits that will have the most impact on your life — what would they be?

I often get asked this question, because people are overwhelmed when it comes to starting positive life changes.

They ask me: what one or two habits should they start with?

It’s not an easy question. There are so many changes I’ve gone through, from quitting smoking to simplifying my life to reducing debt to many more. And they’ve all seemed life-changing, and they’ve all seemed important.

But if I were to start again, and had to pick one or two, it would be the one or two listed below. The list that follows is in order of what I think I’d do the first 6-7 months of changing my life … but realize that every person is different. No one should follow my choices exactly — you’ve got to figure out what works for you.

That said, if you followed the program below, and worked to develop these habits, you’d probably do pretty well.

"Men's natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them." - Confucius

How to Develop the Habits
I’ve written a number of times about developing habits, but here are the basics:

  • Do a 30-day challenge, focusing on just ONE habit.
  • Write it out on paper, along with your motivations, obstacles, and strategies for overcoming them.
  • Commit fully, in a public way.
  • Log your progress.
  • Remain publicly accountable — report on your progress each day.
  • Have support for when you falter — either in real life or online.
  • Reward every little success.
  • If you fail, figure out what went wrong, plan for it, and try again. 

The Seven Little Habits That Can Change Your Life
OK, so now you know how to form a habit — and remember, only do them one at a time — but you want to know the seven little habits. Here they are, in my order of preference (but yours may be different):

1. Develop positive thinking. I put this first because I think it’s the keystone habit that will help you form the other important habits. Sure, positive thinking by itself won’t lead to success, but it certainly goes a long way to motivate you to do the other things required.

I learned this when I quit smoking — when I allowed myself to think negative thoughts, I would end up failing. But when I learned how to squash negative thoughts and think positive ones instead, I succeeded. This discovery lead to me practicing this over and over, until I was able to form just about any habit I needed. It’s been invaluable to me, and I think it could be to most people.

Focus on this habit first, and you’ll have a much easier time with any of the others. Start by becoming more aware of your negative self-talk — do a little tally sheet throughout the day, marking a tally each time you notice a negative thought. Soon you’ll recognize them, and you can squash them.

2. Exercise. People who’ve been hearing me harp on about exercise might roll their eyes. Sure, exercise is healthy and all that, but how exactly is it life changing? I’m glad you asked:

  • It makes you feel better about yourself, and more confident. That leads to better success with other positive changes.
  • It reinforces the positive thinking habit — you need to think positive in order to sustain exercise.
  • It relieves stress and gives you time to think — this leads to better mental well-being in your life overall.
  • It helps with creativity. Don’t ask me to prove it, except to say that my best ideas and brainstorming sessions come from when I exercise.

3. Single-tasking. The opposite of multi-tasking — you’ve heard me harp on about this one as well. Why is it life-changing? A couple powerful reasons:

  • You’ll be more effective with your tasks and get more done. It’s hard to achieve important things if you’re constantly switching tasks and distracted by other “urgent” things.
  • You’ll be less stressed overall and (in my experience) happier throughout your day.

4. Focus on one goal. Just as focusing on one task at a time is more effective, and focusing on one habit at a time is more effect, so is focusing on one goal at a time. While it might seem very difficult, focusing on one goal at a time is the most powerful way of achieving your goals. When you try to take on many goals at once, you’re spreading thin your focus and energy — the two critical components for achieving a goal.

What if you have 5 goals you want to achieve? Pick one to focus on first. Break it into a mini-goal you can accomplish this month, if it’s a longer-term goal. Pick an action you can do today. Keep doing this until the goal is accomplished — do an action every day, finish the mini-goal, pick the next mini-goal to work on. Then, when your One Goal is completed, focus on the next goal.

Some goals are ongoing ones — like blogging every day, or exercising every day. In those cases, turn them into habits — focus exclusively on turning the goal into a habit, until the habit is ingrained. Then focus on the next goal.

5. Eliminate the non-essential. First, identify the essential — the things in your life that are most important to you, that you love the most. Then eliminate everything else. This simplifies things and leaves you with the space to focus on the essential. This process works with anything — with your life in general, with work projects and tasks, with emails and other communication.

This will change your life because it will help you to simplify, to focus on what’s important, and to build the life you want.

6. Kindness. Yes, kindness is a habit. And it can be cultivated. Focus on it every day for a month and you’ll see profound changes in your life. You’ll feel better about yourself as a person. You’ll see people react to you differently and treat you better, over the long run. It’s karma.

How do you develop the kindness habit? First, make it a goal to do something kind for someone each day. At the beginning of the day, figure out what that kind act will be and then do it during the day. Second, each time you interact with someone, try to be kind, be friendly, be compassionate. Third, try to go beyond small kindnesses to larger acts of compassion, volunteering to help those in need and taking the initiative to relieve suffering.

7. Daily routine. It’s so simple, but creating a daily routine for yourself can make a big difference in your life. The best routines, I’ve found, come at the start and end of the day — both your workday and your day in general. That means, develop a routine for when you awake, for when you first start working, for when you finish your workday, and for the end of your evening.

How will that change your life? It will help you get a great start to your day, and finish your day by preparing for the next day. It’ll help you firmly root the productive habits you want to firm in your everyday life. It’ll help you focus on what’s important, not just what comes up. It’ll help you make sure you get done all the things you really want to make sure gets done everyday. And that can mean a lot.

"We first make our habits, and then our habits make us." - John Dryden'

Post written by Leo Babauta from Zen Habits.

"Breaking a bad habit can be challenging, so to make it easier I replaced mine with a good one: always having a reusable bottle filled with water by my side. From the stainless steel bottle for the gym to the insulated one in my car to the glass water bottle on my desk, I always carry a reusable, safe, and BPA/BPS-free bottle with me. Since I am always hydrating, I now drink about a gallon or more of water per day, and as a result, I have experienced increasing health benefits that I felt compelled to share with others!

The Top 10 Benefits I Have Experienced From Drinking More Water:

1) My complexion has drastically improved.

Call it a miracle cure, but upping my intake of water has significantly helped my acne subside and face glow!

2) I no longer experience dehydration spells.

Especially when I was out in the heat all day, I would get occasional dehydration spells that would leave me feeling faint and tired. Now, I keep water with me all the time when I am outdoors, feel much more energized, and no longer get dehydrated.

3) Toxins are flushed from my body.

Over time, environmental toxins and those that end up in our food can build up in our body, leaving us feeling tired and just down-right lousy. Our kidneys need fluids in order to flush out the toxins from our body, and drinking more water has helped me feel better and have more energy.

4) My digestion runs smoothly.

Water can significantly improve your body's ability to break down food and has reduced any discomfort and digestion problems I used to experience.

5) I have little to no bloating.

With water as my drink of choice, I no longer experience the inevitable bloating that comes from drinking sodas, artificial beverages, and some juices. And on certain days when I do feel bloated, drinking water helps my symptoms subside.

6) I more easily fight off colds and sicknesses.

When I feel a cold or sickness coming, I make sure to drink a lot of water. I can't say this with a perfect science, but I can honestly tell you that when I drink more water I notice that my symptoms improve and I get better quicker.

7) I can better prevent hangovers.

This past New Year's Eve is the perfect example. Knowing I was probably going to have a "few more" that evening, I made sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day and night. I woke up bright and early the next morning feeling like a million bucks!

8) I "over-snack" less.

I've heard that if you are craving a late afternoon snack, you might be thirsty, not hungry. While an afternoon snack is part of my daily routine, I do think drinking water helps me avoid over-snacking and ruining my dinner.

9) I spend less and save more.

By buying safe, reusable water bottles and then refilling them with filtered water, I save money I would have spent on soft drinks and other beverages while out, or at home.

10) I am stronger and have greater endurance in the gym.

With all the water my body loses while sweating at the gym, the only way to get them back is to drink more water. Plus, it's hard not to crave water when you're working so hard!"



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