I’ve learned and grown more in 2015 than in any year prior and am truly grateful for all the experiences I've had. In some ways, I feel like I've evolved as a person more in this year than all prior years combined. I spent a lot of time on myself - reflecting, meditating, reading, writing, dreaming, planning, and executing. The year went by incredibly fast, but at the same time, I feel like I put so much into it and was able to get even more out of it. This is, without a doubt, the direct result of the habits I created based on the goals I set at the beginning of the year.
In an article I wrote around this time last year, I discussed creating SMART goals to accomplish a big vision. For me, that vision is becoming the best version of myself while inspiring others to better themselves. The “keystone” objectives I use to strive towards this vision are: increase my intelligence, improve my performance and athleticism, improve my musical abilities, achieve financial freedom, relax more, advance my career, grow my brands, and strengthen my relationships. The article detailed how I applied that strategy to upgrading my performance and athleticism in particular.
I also explained in that article that goals can be more easily accomplished by implementing good habits and creating an environment conducive to sustaining them. Throughout the year, I continued to add habits that compliment my vision and compound on each other. I also did my best to eliminate bad habits that were holding me back from reaching my goals and achieving my vision. In this article, I will share with you the habits that I implemented this year that have already had the most profound impact on my life.
The habit I have probably gained more from than anything else is reading more…a lot more. In years past, I would maybe read a handful of books spread throughout the year. This year, I have consumed over 30 books cover-to-cover (and still have the rest of December to add to that). These books’ topics range from personal development to health and wellness, to leadership and entrepreneurship, and even multiple works of fiction (stay tuned for an upcoming article recapping my favorite books I read this year with lessons learned from each). The most obvious area of my life this improves is increasing my intelligence, but the wisdom I take from each book carries over into improving my musical abilities, achieving financial freedom, relaxing more, advancing my career, growing my brands, and strengthening my relationships, in innumerable ways.
Sometimes I’m dumbfounded when I hear people say that they don’t have time to read. Don’t they know what they’re missing out on and how reading can make their lives easier, more enjoyable, and fulfilling? But, then again, I used to think that way too. Now that I know how much can be gained from reading prolifically, I will keep this habit for the rest of my life. To make this habit stick, I first had to have the intense desire to learn more about all the topics I read about. This desire manifested itself around the same time I had the idea to start AlphaNerd. Next, I had to make it part of my daily routine to really stick.
I have found that using the morning and bedtime routines - the “bookends” of the day - is ideal for implementing the most important daily habits. For example, meditating, journaling, and working out in the morning and using HRV training, performing my nightly hygiene routine, unplugging electronics, and journaling in the evening. I made reading a part of both my morning ritual and bedtime routine. Sometimes it will be just a few pages if I have to be somewhere early or if I’m getting to bed later than usual. However, I do my best to plan ahead so that I have the time to read about a chapter (depending on the book) in each part of the day.
Furthermore, I have become an avid user of Audible, the subscription based audiobook service. Oftentimes, I have my headphones on when I’m cooking, working out, running errands, driving, etc. I try to divide that time throughout the day between a chapter or two in an audiobook, one or two new podcast episodes, and some music to fill in the gaps where I won’t be able to listen for extended periods of time. Audible has allowed me to consume many more books throughout the year, and I know many people actually prefer the audio format. I strongly recommend giving the Audible trial a shot. It may give you the push you need to start making this a habit in your life.
The next most important habit I implemented in my life in the last year is meditating daily. I wrote an entire article on mindfulness meditation, the science behind it, my practice using the Headspace app, and the benefits I’ve gained from it. I can’t say enough great things about this practice and am grateful that it has become a part of my life. It has made an incredibly profound impact on the way I think, the way I react, the way I treat other people, and the way I treat myself. I’ll direct you to the article to learn more - I still believe that using the Headspace app to guide you is the best and easiest way of making this a habit that will stick.
Another habit that has been a game changer for me is very important because it actually encompasses multiple habits in one - journaling. In my article on Gratitude, I mentioned the Five-Minute Journal, which is a crucial part of my morning ritual and bedtime routine. Journaling gives me a time to write my thoughts down, practice gratitude, think about my affirmations, and reflect on what I accomplished during the day. Each of those habits by themselves are very profound. The Five-Minute Journal is incredibly powerful because it consolidates these habits into one easy to use place that I look forward to writing in every morning and night.
Speaking of practicing gratitude, this is yet another important habit that I have been striving to make consistently recurring for me. I ultimately want this to be a constant state of mind I remain in, and slowly but surely I’m getting there. Tools like the Five-Minute Journal and meditating with Headspace both help tremendously with this. Also, being conscious of it, saying thank you more often, and telling those close to me that I appreciate them more often have all helped strengthen my relationships and make me feel more happy.
If you recall, I mentioned that one of my keystone objectives is to improve my musical abilities. When I was younger, I played my guitar obsessively. I would practice for hours on end, both by myself and with the bands I played in. Unfortunately, that passion of mine faded for a while; however, I started DJing which filled the void it left. This year, I made it a priority to start playing my guitar again and become better at it than ever before. My goal has been to play for at least an hour a week - not much time at all, but more than I've been playing recently. Sometimes I’ll play for 15 minutes here and there, other times I will get lost in it and play for an hour or more straight. Purposefully scheduling it into my calendar has made it possible for this to be a habit of mine once again - one that brings me joy, entertainment, relaxation, and other cognitive benefits as well.
On that note of scheduling things into my calendar, that is the final habit I want to discuss. I’ve always been a highly organized person (some of my friends may argue I’m on the OCD side) and getting things done on time hasn’t really been too much of an issue for me (procrastination be damned). However, as my dreams get bigger and my goals become more grandiose, especially this year, my list of day-to-day tasks has swollen and my metaphorical plate is over-flowing.
Typically, I would use my calendar for important appointments, meetings, etc. and a to-do list to get all my necessary tasks done. This year, I quickly realized that this approach would no longer work. Luckily, I read some books and listened to podcasts that helped change my frame of mind on getting things done. Something I do now to allow me to get everything done is to break down my day into chunks and schedule each and every task on my calendar. Everything from reading to playing the guitar to writing this article - it’s all on my calendar now. Even habits that are already well-ingrained, like going to the gym every morning, are entered into my calendar in advance to keep my priorities straight, time managed, and life on track. In a future article, I will go into greater detail as to how I break up my day and schedule items throughout the week based on their importance and urgency, but the main takeaway for now is that a simple to-do list is insufficient for anyone who has a vision of being the best version of himself while inspiring others to do the same.
With the end of the year quickly approaching, I will certainly be taking some time to look back and reflect more on 2015. I already do this regularly, but I plan on reevaluating my goals and priorities to see how I can further advance my journey to realize my vision. Throughout 2016 I will continue to nurture the habits named above, add more habits conducive to my vision, remove habits and obstacles that detract from my goals, and refine my schedule. I hope that you can take something of value from this - maybe a specific habit or maybe my method of accomplishing goals throughout the year. Don’t wait until January or some arbitrary date to start. The time is now and the power is yours. Don’t hope for a happy new year (or life) - make it so.