I’ve spent the last two years intentionally reading as much as I could. In 2013 I read about 115 books and this year I have read 70 (had a baby so I lowered my goal). Recently I was thinking about how much I feel like I have changed as a person in the last two years and it dawned on me that the reason for that was my reading. It really, truly accelerating my growth in so many areas of life and I am so glad to have spent all the time learning.
I wish I could convince everyone to read voraciously. One thing I know to be true is that there is no substitute for learning through reading. I don’t think this needs to be said but maybe it does: you will never gain mastery over anything by reading articles on in the internet. There is no substitute for the depth of attention required for reading a book.
Anyway, my point….I want to share with you one of the MOST important things I learned through reading. It’s not sexy, it’s not profound, it’s not unique. But it moves mountains. It’s this:
what you do every single day (your habits) determines who you are.
We all have habits, good and bad. Almost everyone allows their habits to go un-examined. They never purposefully take on the task of eliminating bad habits and cultivating good habits. And they certainly never ask themselves if their habits are bringing them closer to an ideal self or farther away. It’s so easy to discount the little things we do every day (drinking a Diet Coke, checking your phone constantly or while driving, eating a doughnut that appears in the break room, watching mindless TV, etc) as not big deals. We rationalize and lie to ourselves and pretend these things don’t happen every day and that they don’t matter. We see them one small event at a time, as unique occurrences instead of as parts of a whole or parts of a pattern of behavior.
Once I started learning how important habits are, I started to make my bed every morning. I had never in my life done this before and it had no meaning to me. But time and again I read that small habits like making your bed can be a “small win” that starts your day off right and can lead to other wins throughout the day. You know what? It worked. Once I started making my bed every day, I began looking for other habits to cultivate and soon everything in my life was working just a little bit better than before. I was exercising every day, meditating every day, logging my food every day, writing every day, etc.
I didn’t make my life better by doing one big thing. I made it better by doing lots of little things and staying accountable to myself every single day. Eventually all of that attention to detail made me better at devoting myself to bigger and bigger projects.
Here is what I want you to take away from all of this: if you have big goals for yourself this year, don’t assume they exist outside of your habits. You may finish an Ironman this year or lose 100 pounds or get a promotion but those things won’t make you better at life. Your habits CAN make you better at life if you cultivate them. Are you doing at least one thing every single day that is for your health, happiness, or personal growth? Are you doing something every day that hurts your health or happiness? If you answered no to the first question or yes to the second, you can start there. Some ideas for good habits:
- 5 minute journal every evening
- meditate first thing in the morning for 5 minutes
- read every day
- floss (try doing it in the shower – it seems easier to remember that way)
- make your bed every morning
- set up your coffee and clean the kitchen before you go to bed
- stretch/foam roll every day
- log your food intake
- bring lunch to work
- cook your own food
I hope 2015 inspires you to make BIG changes through the tiny actions you make every day. It pays off in everything you do and will improve your relationships, too. If you want more ideas and inspiration, check out these links that I’ve personally found useful: