This is not a pointless collection of random habits.
Most articles that start with phrases like:
- 10 habits
- 7 ways
- 99 things
…are a completely random collection of tips that are — if you are lucky — somewhat associated with the thing you are trying to achieve.
We love to click on these headlines because they satisfy our need for instant gratification. We somehow think they will give us a quick-fix to whatever issue we are trying to solve.
This article is different — even though the title is the same.
I am not going to tell you to meditate daily and to turn off your phone more— even if these are great habits to adopt if you want to change your life. Instead, I am going to share with you 8 extremely powerful meta-habits that will transform your life no matter what you want to achieve.
They work if you want to lose weight. They work if you want to make more money. They work if you want to get promoted at your job or find a new job. They work if you want to have better relationships.
If you can make these 8 meta-habits part of who you are, your life will get exponentially better. Implementing one of them will change your life. Implementing all of them will turn you into a completely different person.
1. Become an Essentialist & Focus on What Matters Most
“You can do anything, but not everything.” — David Allen
As a Productivity Coach, I get the following question a lot:
“How can I fit it all in?”
People somehow think the key to success it to be able to “do it all”.
But in fact, the opposite is true: When we want to do everything and more, we completely lose touch with ourselves and what is truly important. When everything is a priority, there are no priorities.
That’s when we are busy but not productive. Constantly in motion, but never really getting anywhere. Whether it’s getting fit, improving our relationships or writing a book — when we focus on getting it all done, we’ll never generate any real momentum towards achieving the things that truly matter.
Being successful in life and business is not about getting it all done. It’s about getting the right things done. It’s about doing less, but better.
It’s about making progress on your most important goals every single day and consciously deprioritizing everything else. It’s about saying “NO” per default and saying “YES” only to the vital few things that truly matter.
In short, being successful in business and life is about doing what matters most. That’s why the belief that we have to “fit it all in” and “can have it all” is actually holding us back in life. Big time.
The real question is: What do you really want — a life of people-pleasing and struggling to fulfill all your commitments or a life of success in the few areas that truly matter to you?
Focusing on what matters most is the key to happiness, success and fulfillment, according to the author of “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less”, Greg McKeown:
”Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.”
Take Action Now:
Take some time to evaluate what is truly important to you. Make a list of your top priorities for this year. Priorities are areas of life like family, career, health, hobbies etc. Choose only 3. Create an action plan to eliminate, limit and streamline everything else.
Make a conscious decision to focus on these 3 things and accept the trade-offs you have to make. Whenever you are tempted by the fear of missing out and get distracted, remind yourself that focusing on what matters most is what will give you true success, joy, and meaning in life.
Start saying “NO” per default to almost everything because you know that when you are saying “YES”, you are actually saying “NO” to more important things you could be doing instead. Don’t let everyone else prioritize your life — take control of your choices!
2. Remove All Internal Conflicts from Your Life
The best way to hold yourself back from achieving a goal is to want two mutually exclusive things at the same time and as a result, start an internal fight in your mind.
You can’t want to lose weight and simultaneously want to spend your days on the couch eating ice cream and pizza.
You can’t want to build a profitable side business and at the same time want to spend all your free time hanging out with friends.
You can’t want to build healthy, consistent habits and also want to live your life completely spontaneously without a schedule.
When we want two different and opposing things, we create unnecessary resistance in our life that keeps us stuck. Facing an internal conflict is like walking through mud: It’s painfully slow, exhausting and disgusting.
But when we are able to create 100% internal clarity about what we truly want, we can finally break free from the mental blocks we’ve built ourselves and walk the path towards our goals without resistance, almost effortlessly.
Take Action Now:
Ask yourself what you really, really want and make a choice once and for all. Every choice comes with trade-offs — you can’t always have your cake and eat it too. Stop trying to pick the best from two contradictory choices. Commit to one choice 100% and accept everything that comes with it.
3. Start your Day with Your Most Important Thing (MIT)
The gap between knowing your goals and actually following through with them can be traversed by spending your time, energy and mental focus on what will get you ahead.
Most people experience their mental and physical peak before lunchtime. The morning hours are a prime time for doing deep work on important projects and getting in a workout before a busy day.
Yet, most people decide to start their day with insignificant distractions like social media, email and unnecessary meetings. As a result, they struggle to get anything worthwhile done before lunch — yet after lunch, the afternoon slump kicks in and they struggle to do good work. And soon enough, the clock hits 6:00 pm and it’s time for happy hour and Netflix.
If your typical day looks like this, don’t be surprised to find yourself with excuses like:
“I don’t have time to work on my side business.”
“I am too tired to go to the gym after work.”
The morning is your prime time to accelerate your growth and get ahead on your goals, so don’t waste it. The most successful people treat their mornings as a sacred time to proactively work on what matters to them, not everyone else.
They prioritize a healthy morning routine and deep work before checking their emails, taking calls and consuming information. That way, they’ve won the day by lunchtime and it doesn’t matter what comes after. They get ahead on their most important projects even if they have to spend 3 hours of their afternoon on a surprise urgent task.
They stay healthy even if they have a social event after work because they worked out before going to the office. Other people can’t derail their priorities because they proactively prioritize their goals in the morning before the madness starts.
Take Action Now:
Analyze your typical morning and evaluate whether you are spending your time, energy and mental focus on what truly matters in your life. Then, come up with a plan to start your day by spending 10 min on your top priorities like doing a quick workout, working on a side project or doing a quick meditation.
Start with the low-hanging fruits by replacing unnecessary habits like scrolling Instagram in bed for 30 min before getting up and changing morning meetings to afternoons. Then, if necessary, start getting up earlier to get extra time for working on your goals and work your way up to spend 2–3 hrs every morning on your top goals.
4. Obsessively Curate Your Input
“Garbage in, garbage out.”
When you feed your mind with distracting information and unsupportive conversations with negative friends, you are priming yourself for failure.
Watching a funny cat video on YouTube might seem harmless and maybe even puts a smile on your face. However, chances are you are not just watching that one video. And even if you don’t fall down the rabbit hole, imagine how you would feel if you listened to an empowering podcast about achieving goals instead?
Hanging out with friends that are constantly complaining and gossiping might seem harmless too — and maybe you’re even enjoying doing so. But now imagine hanging out with people that are on a similar journey as you and want to achieve the same goals. Imagine them empowering you to take action and sharing invaluable tips and strategies that help you get ahead.
I think you know where I am going with this.
I don’t think social media is bad. I don’t think cat videos are dangerous. And I don’t think everyone that complains and gossips is a bad person.
I just think we could be spending our time more wisely. I believe that when we obsessively curate our input and match it with our goals, we will receive a much much better output.
Take Action Now:
Evaluate your media consumption and the people you hang out with. Where can you make an upgrade that will significantly improve your life? What books, podcasts and Medium articles can you add to your reading list to help you achieve your goals? Who can you reach out to for an empowering conversation about your goals?
5. Train Your Brain to Get What You Want
Britain’s number #1 therapist, Marisa Peer, always says:
“Your mind does what it thinks you want it to do.”
Your brain is designed to get you what you want and keep you away from what you don’t want (pain, danger).
Now, you might think that you’re telling your mind that you want to be fit and sexy…but what about all those times where you are saying to yourself things like:
“I really want to eat that pizza. It’s my favourite. I wish I could eat it.”
“I don’t feel like working out today. I am tired and would rather stay on the couch.”
The problem is, your mind is always listening — not just when you are setting your goals. And when you are thinking things like that, your mind starts to reinforce your thoughts with feelings like a deep desire for pizza which gets you even closer to what you want — the pizza.
Thus, when you want to achieve big goals, you need to completely change your self-talk so that it matches what you really want. It’s actually quite simple: Just tell your mind what you actually want. All the time.
And when unhelpful thoughts and self-talk slip in, just correct them.
Here are some examples:
“Even though I love Pizza, I choose to have a salad and feel great about it. What I really want is to lose a few pounds and I am not giving that up for a few minutes of pleasure.”
“Even though I am a little tired right now, I am going to the gym. I know I will feel greater after and I will be proud of myself for showing up. Staying consistent with my workouts is really important to me.”
You can literally tell your mind how you want to feel. Even though it might seem fake at first, just try it and keep repeating empowering language to yourself — watch how you’ll start to feel differently!
Take Action Now:
Make a list of the phrases you say to yourself regularly about your goals and the habits associated with them. Then, come up with a more empowering version that is aligned with your goals.
Once you are aware of your self-talk and consciously make an effort to reframe it, it will become easier for you to correct your self-talk the next time you slip into unhelpful thoughts that derail you from what you actually want. And over time, your new thinking patterns will become a habit and you’ll automatically talk to yourself in an empowering way.
6. Become Accountable for the Promises You Make to Yourself
Everybody has moments when they feel extremely motivated and inspired to achieve a goal, improve themselves and build a better life.
And everybody has moments when they are tired, exhausted, demotivated or too busy to follow-through on their intentions.
But here is what differentiates successful people from the rest: They show up anyway. They don’t let excuses get in the way. They don’t let their mind talk themselves out of it.
Successful people hold themselves accountable for the promises they make to themselves. And every time they show up despite being tired, unmotivated and too busy, they build resilience and reinforce their habits. That’s how they become unstoppable.
Here are a few powerful strategies to help you show up even if you don’t feel like it:
Make a promise to yourself and whenever you are tempted to break that promise, remind yourself how important it is to stick to your word, why your goals are important to you and how great you feel when you stick to them. When you make it a habit to interrupt your excuses-filled mind chatter with these reminders, it will eventually become your default and excuses are a lot less likely to arise in the first place.
Work with a coach, group or accountability partner and set up weekly check-ins to review your goal progress and keep yourself on track. Social pressure can be a powerful way to make yourself show up no matter what. Doing a weekly review with yourself can also be a great way to hold yourself accountable and get back on track when you fall off the wagon.
Raise the stakes for following through on your goals by artificially creating negative consequences if you don’t. For example, you can create an accountability contract with yourself and define a punishment if you fail. Give the contract to a friend who will ensure that you’ll get your punishment. Another option is to invest financially in your goals by hiring an expensive coach or joining a mastermind group. The high investment will motivate you to follow through on your commitments because you want to make the investment pay off. Another funny example is pre-scheduling a really embarrassing Facebook post at 6:30 am every morning so you have to get up early to prevent the post from being published. There are endless options for negative consequences — just choose a punishment that really hurts and make sure it actually happens if you fail!
Make it inevitable that you’ll stick to your habits by creating success triggers in your life. Your environment can either support your goals or derail them. It all comes down to the type of behavioural triggers that surround you. An example of a negative trigger is hanging out with a particular group of friends that always make you drink alcohol, even though you want to cut back on your alcohol consumption. On the other hand, agreeing with your partner to always pick up the kids at 5:00 pm can trigger you to leave the office early and get more done during the day. Analyze your life to identify and eliminate destructive triggers. Then, create success triggers to help you achieve your goals.
Track your habits with a habit tracker: Apps like Streaks or Productive allow you to define when and how often you want to complete a certain habit and will remind you to do it. Seeing your habit streak in a nice graph will motivate you to keep going to not “break the chain”. Once you have created a nice streak, keep telling yourself: “I didn’t come this far only to come this far!”.
Habit Tracking App “Productive”
Take Action Now:
Choose your personal accountability strategy and set it up.
7. Stick to Your Habits Long Enough to Fall in Love With Them
Research shows that it takes exactly 66 days to form a new habit.
Starting something is always hard. Nobody enjoys the first day in the gym after a long break.
But if you stick with something long enough, your brain will form new neural pathways and you’ll become so used to doing it that it becomes a normal part of your day. You’ll feel weird if you don’t do it. Just think of not brushing your teeth before leaving the house — feels wrong, doesn’t it?
When you successfully form a habit, it’s no longer something you do, it becomes part of who you are.
However, it’s not just the familiarity and routine that makes it easier to stick to your habits after 2 months — there is something else that keeps you coming back: it starts to feel really good.
When I started my blog a few years ago, I found it really hard to publish multiple articles each week. The process of writing was just so painful. Sitting for hours in front of my computer and trying to create something out of nothing is incredibly difficult, especially when you are first starting out — after all, as a beginner your work always sucks. I had to motivate myself by constantly reminding myself of my goals and why I put myself through that type of torture.
In the beginning, the only strategy that kept me showing up day after day was the “5-second rule” from Mel Robbins. It is based on the concept that the most effective way to do something is to just do it. It works like this: Count down from 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 and then start. It’s surprisingly effective because it doesn’t give your mind a chance to talk you out of it. And usually, getting started is the hardest part.
Of course, writing every day was still really hard. But a few weeks in, something magical happened: I started to enjoy the process. I fell in love with learning new things from books and coming up with a structure for my article. I became obsessed with seeing my followers go up. I began to love the art of finding the right words. And I enjoyed getting better and better.
I fell in love with the habit itself, not just the outcome.
The beginning is always hard. But if you keep going long enough, your brain will support you by forming a habit and the joy of doing it will keep you coming back naturally. You just need to stick through the painful first phase.
Take Action Now:
Think of a time where you experienced this phenomenon. What is an activity that felt really hard in the beginning but you started to really like as you got better at it and did it consistently?
Now, think of the habits you want to form now and how you can make sure that you will stick to them long enough to fall in love with the process. Use the “5-seconds rule” and your WHY for achieving your goals to motivate you in the first phase.
8. Sharpen Your Saw to Ensure Consistent Peak Performance
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” — Abraham Lincoln
Nobody likes showing up for their goals when they are sleep deprived, sick, anxious or depressed.
And while it’s important to show up no matter what (see point 6), fighting against yourself every day is not a sustainable way to reach your goals.
When it comes to success, you are your most important asset. A healthy body gives you the energy you need to accomplish everything you set out to do. A strong mind gives you the resilience you need to keep going when it gets tough. And a happy soul ensures that you will feel great along the way.
Your body, mind and soul are your saw — and you need to keep it sharp if you want to cut trees effectively!
Here are a few strategies to ensure peak performance at all times:
Sleep: If you have a lack of energy, start by getting your sleep right before you do anything else. Just like you can’t out-train a bad diet, you can’t hack yourself to feeling great without sleeping well. Most people thrive on 7–8 hrs of sleep per night and a regular sleep schedule — don’t overcomplicate it.
Food: Experiment and find out which type of foods and eating schedule make you feel the best on a daily basis. Some people thrive on the keto diet, while others feel better when cutting out meat. Some people have the most energy on an intermittent fasting schedule while others need regular small meals to keep their blood sugar stable. There is no one diet to optimize your energy, you need to find what works for you! If you have no idea, start with having 3–4 small balanced meals consisting of fresh, real foods.
Exercise: Moving your body, especially when you are sweating, lifts your mood and increases your energy. Thus, daily exercise makes a perfect habit for a high-performance lifestyle.
Review your goals daily. Keeping your goals top of mind will help you prioritize what is important in your day.
Feed your mind with empowering input. See point 4.
Review your week. Track your progress and journal about what went well and what you want to improve. That way, you’ll have a regular check-in point to keep your mind focused on your goals.
Take time to do the things you love regularly. Only working on your goals and consistently delaying gratification is a sure-fire recipe for giving up. Allow yourself 1 hour of guilt-free relaxation time to do whatever you want each day. Also, find ways to reward and treat yourself in a way that doesn’t derail your goals. For example, if you want to lose weight, watch your favorite movie or buy a new dress instead of having celebration ice cream.
Liz Huber is a Mindset & Productivity Coach and Founder of refinedlife.io. With her books, courses, and 1-on-1 work, she helps entrepreneurs overcome overwhelm, lack of focus, fear, and self-doubt. As a result, her clients are able to confidently achieve their goals by prioritizing what is truly important and streamlining everything else.