Habits: A Scientific Guide to Creating Sticky Habits (+Break Bad Ones)
Habits are the building blocks of success.
We are easily deceived into thinking that the most successful people are just lucky or born with an intelligence we can't achieve.
However, the truth is that they think, respond, act, and behave with purpose. They have routines and activities they perform every single day to that support their goals and vision. They take luck out of the equation as much as possible and focus on what they can do.
In other words, they have realized their habits have a direct effect on whether or not they achieve their dreams. So as a result, they regularly make the effort to break bad habits and develop good ones.
You can do the same by developing your cognitive skills, creating a network of friends who support your endeavors, aiming to think more positively to help you become the person you envision.
On the other hand, negative thinking and surrounding yourself with people who bring you down can impede your journey to a better life.
Today, I will provide a overview on habits, from the definition of a habit to detailed instructions on how you can develop positive routines and responses; as well as how to eliminate the thoughts and behaviors that are stopping you from success.
Let's start by defining what a habit is.
A habit is a pattern of behavior, whether it’s good or bad. A good habit helps you reach your goals. Bad habits adversely affect your life. They are generally formed unconsciously; biting nails or smoking for example.
Changing habits can be tricky because many of them have been hardwired into us since birth and others we’ve developed unintentionally.
To change your behaviors, you must first be cognitively aware enough to understand which of your habits aren't helping. This means you have to first become conscious of how the way you think affects your actions.
However, forming good responses and routines and breaking bad habits is possible with discipline. Not to mention, every successful person you can think of consciously forms behaviors to help them achieve their goals.
You can read about how long it takes to form a habit here.
Habits of Successful People
Successful people see habits as a tool to respond and act in a way that promotes their health, wealth or happiness. I have outlined some of the most commone habits of successful people below.
Being aware of the way you think and how you process information is one of the hardest abilities to develop. You must monitor your thoughts and learn to redirect them to align with your desires. In addition, you must determine the ways you think and learn, how to create opportunities for yourself and be aware of the environments you perform best.
You might think the power of thinking positively is garbage, but there is significant evidence that our thoughts have a direct effect on what we attract into our lives. The movie The Secret, covers this concept in detail. It features several successful people who have changed their lives through the power of thought.
Their theory is that the law of attraction applies to everything, even your thoughts. So, when you expect positive things to happen and envision positivity, that’s what you attract. On the other hand, when you think negatively that is what you attract into your life.
Wake Up Early
As the old cliché goes, “the early bird gets the worm.” The most successful people normally start their days early. Waking up early offers many benefits including more time to work on projects before distractions start popping up. You are not going to get annoying emails from colleges at 5am, use this time to get focused work done.
Take Time Off
Workaholics view vacations and holidays as wasting valuable time that could be dedicated to improving ourselves, our careers, or pushing closer to our goals. However, studies are finding that time actually boost production and performance.
The European Union Time Directive mandates that EU workers have a minimum of 20 days paid vacation each year. Researchers from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that 9/10 of the most productive countries in its organisation were in Europe. They measured GDP per hour worked.
Vacation time allows you to decompress, relax, and return to work refreshed and ready to achieve your goals.
Meditate or Relax
Meditation and relaxation helps with everything from promoting mental health and wellness to even helping them achieve weight loss. Some surprising names use meditation to stay calm and focused.
Celebrities such as Bill Gates, Will Smith, Ellen DeGeneres, Clint Eastwood, and many other highly successful people use meditation to relieve stress and strengthen their minds.
We’re a society of people who are often reactive instead of proactive. However, preparation is the key to protecting you from financial, health, and career troubles and preparing you for the opportunities to come. Motivational speaker and disk jockey, Les Brown said, “It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one, than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.”
This is one of the top secrets of successful people. They cultivate themselves for the careers and success they want well before those opportunities are presented to them.
Building confidence takes time, effort, and persistence, but it’s certainly an important factor to help you live a happier and more successful life. Improved confidence can help you get the job you want, have better dates, address your fears, and produce better work.
This is a two-part habit. First, surround yourself with people and leaders in the areas you want to be successful in whether it’s work, your passion, or a hobby. Try to find people who are motivated and have plans to achieve similar goals as you.
Second, your circle of friends should possess the morals and values you want to encompass, and they should reflect the kind of person you want to be. They will encourage you to do your best and help you stay on track.
Giving to others will come back to you and it is a great habit to have because you never know how it might benefit that person. Some of the smallest acts of kindness lead to some of the greatest achievements.
Many publications suggest reading, but not everyone enjoys reading. You can watch videos, listen to audiobooks, or take classes. Learning new things and being on a continuous journey to improve yourself keeps your body and mind sharp.
Take Care of Yourself
Your mental and physical health are the key to a successful and happy life. Healthy food, exercise, and even grooming affect your confidence, cognitive abilities, and mood. Treating yourself to a new book, massage, or a day on the beach are other ways you can take care of yourself.
Pay Attention to Others
It has been said many times that we often listen to respond versus listening to understand. What many people fail to realize is that you learn very little by talking, because you already know everything you are about to talk about. However, you stand to learn a lot from others and being a good listener makes lasting connections.
Keep a Journal
Whether it’s writing your daily events down, sharing your deepest secrets and feelings, or making a list of the things you’re worried about, keeping a journal is one of the top habits of successful people. Journals also help you track your progress, record ideas that might be a solution later, and can improve your memory.
Strong Work Ethic
A strong work ethic is another one of the common habits of successful people. The most successful people aren’t always the best at what they do; they are often the ones who work the hardest. Actor and comedian, Will Smith, has often credited his achievements to having “a sickening work ethic.”
As we aim to better ourselves, it can be easy to focus on the larger goals and overlook our small accomplishments. You may find yourself feeling like you’ve achieved nothing or as if you’ve done a lot of work with little progress. However, make a point to identify the small changes in your behaviors and be grateful for the tiniest accomplishments. They will eventually add up to larger achievements.
Good Habits Examples
We’ve given you a long list of habits of successful people that you would benefit from adopting. As a result, you might feel overwhelmed, but here are several habits examples that can get you started.
Address your cognition first, because it transcends into everything else in your life such as your mood, problem-solving, and responses to circumstances. You can improve your cognitive abilities by:
- Playing word and memory games, teasers, and puzzles.
- Record your thoughts, including things you are confused about.
- Create opportunities for you to progress with your unique learning style, whether it’s hands-on, visual, verbal, or auditory.
- Ask yourself if your reactions are just or based on your personal experiences or culture.
If you’re a pessimistic or negative person, make a conscious effort to see the good in some of your most troubling times. Maybe it taught you a lot or gave you the opportunity to grow.
Take vacations but plan them well to ensure you’re not stressed while you’re on holiday.
Teach yourself to relax or meditate, which sounds much easier than it is. If you’re one of those people who struggles to shut their brain off, you can take courses or use apps that will guide you in meditating. One of the top apps for meditating is Calm; it offers numerous stories, voice guidance, and music for meditation and sleep. You might also try yoga; it’s a wonderful way to relax and workout.
You can be proactive by saving money and practicing for the career you want. Les Brown practiced being a disk jockey every day many years before he got the opportunity to become one.
Taking care of yourself and educating yourself have fairly easy habits examples. You can work out, take exercise courses, eat healthily as well as wear and do things that make you feel good about yourself. You can educate yourself by listening to audiobooks while you drive, read subjects that are unfamiliar to you, and take classes on new subjects. A great example of this is how Steve Jobs took calligraphy in college, which influenced the typography for Apple Computers.
My final habits example is on building your self-confidence. You can do this in multiple ways, such as surrounding yourself with people who support you. You can also create a vision board with a list of your goals then remove the goals as you achieve them. Another great way to build confidence is to say a type of affirmation every day to remind you that you can achieve your dreams and be successful.
The habits definition of unfavorable behaviors is simple. It’s anything that hinders you from being your best self, harms your health or wellness, or interferes with your goals and vision. Sometimes we develop a bad habit to cope with our lives, other times we develop a habit of surrounding ourselves with people who influence us to do things that hinder our abilities.
In other instances, it’s our way of thinking and responding to the environment around us. We also develop negative or poor behaviors from our home life and culture. Understanding the most common behaviors that prevent us from being happy and successful is the best way to change our ways of responding, thinking, and acting.
Pessimistic or Cynical Thinking
It’s the opposite of our section on positive thinking. Changing habits that cause us to view incidents negatively is one of the hardest behaviors to correct. It takes being aware of the moments when you are viewing an occurrence as a bad experience and of being ungrateful for the positives in your life despite anything bad that’s going on.
For instance, you might view a bad relationship with a friend or partner as something that should have never happened. You may also dwell on the things you should have said or done differently. However, we encourage you to assess what you learned from the experience. Maybe you are a better communicator, or know what kind of friends you really want, or know what qualities you want in a partner.
Poor Time Management or Procrastination
Behaviors that distract us from our vision and goals or help us procrastinate is actually a common bad habit. We might get distracted with a phone call, managing finances, or by social media, music, or cleaning the house. Some of these things are important responsibilities, but they become distractions when we do them instead of prioritizing our tasks by importance.
Neglecting Your Health
Breaking habits that lead to poor health is another behavior that is hard to change. Honestly, most of us enjoy binging on our favorite shows and foods, but your health is directly connected to your performance.
Obsessing or Perfectionism
It’s good to have a strong work ethic, but there’s a difference between such and obsessing to a point where everything has to be perfect. Nothing in life is perfect and these kinds of expectations can be discouraging to you and others.
Comparing Yourself to Others
Comparing yourself to others or defining your worth according to others’ standards is one of the biggest mistakes we make. It causes you to have unrealistic expectations of yourself, and it influences you to make changes to yourself that aren’t true to your personality.
Letting Fear Stop You
This is similar to procrastination and distraction, except that you avoid trying to achieve your goals for fear of failure or rejection. Think about artists who take decades to submit their art or expose it to the world; they are often afraid of being rejected or not being successful.
Rejection is a part of life. Stephen King was turned down by publishers, many times before one of his publications achieved him the success he’s known for today.
Substance and Drug Abuse
Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and other substances make us feel good but it’s temporary. Moreover, they can affect our mental and physical performance as well as our interactions with others. Substances can also make us lose focus on our objectives and responsibilities. That said, speak with your doctor before you quit any substance, because if you quit an addiction too quickly it too can have negative effects on your health.
We’re conditioned to believe that failure or mistakes are to be avoided at all costs and that they are unwanted. However, the habits of successful people view failure and mistakes as learning opportunities. We learn our best when we make mistakes. It teaches us what we're doing wrong and pushes us to strive for better results.
Surrounding Yourself with Negative People
Sometimes you need to limit your time with people or remove some people from your life. As hard as this might be, we often make the mistake of surrounding ourselves with people who bring us down, discourage us, or cause us to feel bad about ourselves.
Breaking Habits and Habits Examples
Breaking and changing habits isn't easy, but it is essential to living your best life. I encourage you to address your behaviors one at a time and focus on making purposeful choices. We will discuss how to break bad habits below.
Habits examples of breaking habits include:
- Identify when you procrastinate. Maybe it’s when you’re working on a project or because you work from home. It could also be you’re afraid of finishing a task and presenting it. It takes self-discipline to teach yourself to focus on tasks and to take risks. Small steps are always best because they build your confidence and allow you to get used to rejection and mistakes.
My final habits examples are how to minimize the effect other people have on you. Only compare yourself to the person you were in the past. Record goals and small achievements and reward yourself for meeting your goals. Eliminate people who are negative or treat you poorly. If you must be around people who make you feel bad, such as family or co-workers, limit your time with them.
Changing habits whether they’re good or bad, is critical to a successful and extraordinary life. Let’s revisit how our reactions and thoughts can benefit and hinder us:
- Habits Definition: Good or bad, it’s any pattern behavior that can either promote our physical and mental health, support us to achieve our vision, or they can interfere with our goals and make us feel poorly about ourselves.
- Developing Good habits: Do not try to complete our entire list at the same time. Pick one habit and work on it until you’ve mastered it, then move to the next habit.
- Changing habits: Exercise self-discipline, take risks, and don’t be afraid of rejection and new things. Change is hard but crucial to our growth and development.
- Breaking bad habits: As with developing good routines, breaking our bad behaviors takes time and discipline. Don’t try to correct all your behaviors and responses at once. Pick one, work on it until you feel you’ve overcome it, then move on to the next.
- Examples of good and bad habits:
- Good practices include taking yoga, reading new and challenging material, and being charitable.
- Poor practices are squandering your time, comparing yourself to others, and allow your fears to prevent you from achieving greatness.
I hope that this guide serves to help you grow into the successful individual you envision yourself as.