Have you been feeling the pressure to make New Year's Resolutions that you know you won't keep? It's the beginning of another year... a blank canvas on which to write out all your dreams and goals. You may be reminiscing about all the wonderful things last year held for you or perhaps recalling some great loss or regret as well.
This year instead of loading on more pressure and setting yourself up for failure with insurmountable goals that you know you won't achieve, I'm sharing a simple list of eight habits that form the foundation of success for me. If you commit to doing them daily for just thirty days, they may become habits for you, too. Believe it or not, it's really the small daily habits that have the ability to transform your life into what you've always dreamed it could be!
Eight Habits that Changed My Life
- Show Kindness: Be kind to everyone you come in contact with, from your boss to your barista. Simply appreciate others for who they are, not what you would like them to be or what they can do for you. Find surprising ways to bless others with a unexpected tip or word of encouragement. Put aside your personal agenda and look at interruptions in your day as opportunities to serve others. Bob Goff reminds us how in one of my favorite books, Love Does.
- First things First: Do your most important tasks first thing in the morning. Start with an intention and prayer and then move on to the tasks that matter most. Don't get caught in the urgent by default like most people do. Be deliberate instead of just responding to the crises that come your way. The classic book by Steven Covey is a great place to start if you want to learn more.
- Say No: Stop saying "yes" to every request that comes your way. Practice saying "let me think about it" before an automatic yes comes from your lips. I like to process important decisions for at least twenty-four hours and sleep on it before committing. Agree to only what is in line with your main mission. What is your mission? Define what you enjoy the most and do the best and then stick to it. Need help defining it? Read Essentialism... it may change your life!
- Recharge: Go to bed every night with enough time to get eight hours of sleep and wake up refreshed, preferably early. I am usually in bed by 9pm and will even say no to events that require me to be up past my bedtime as I know it will affect my productivity the following day. It's a standing joke that I may decline an invitation because "it's past my bedtime" but I always wake up refreshed without an alarm at 5am and my most productive, undisturbed hours are before the rest of the world awakes.
- Move: Make time for activity every day. Try something new....free weights in the morning, yoga at lunch or a leisurely stroll in the evening. Better yet, grab a friend or your spouse and enjoy great company and conversation while you work-out. My husband and I often jog in the mornings. On the way home, we walk and talk, discussing our plans and praying for our day.
- Enjoy! Find joy in simple things that don't cost you anything at all... a gorgeous sunrise, the sensation of cool grass on your bare feet, a snowflake on your tongue, playing fetch with your puppy, the gentle touch of a loved one, or the smile of a stranger. Many of the things that make our life most satisfying are free!
- Eliminate! Get rid of what no longer serves you... make a habit of cleaning out closets and other spaces in your home. Without intervention, junk accumulates and wastes our precious brain power and energy. Don't be afraid to give things away, especially things of value. There is no greater joy than sharing what God has blessed you with. This practice will ultimately free you from reliance on material things in your life, too. Need motivation? Check out the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
- Practice Gratitude: Perhaps the most powerful habit is gratitude... Be grateful every day and make it a habit, like brushing your teeth. Before you fall asleep, list at least three things you are grateful for every single day. Did you know that the two qualities most predictive of life-long happiness are gratitude and life-long learning? (If the title of this article was "Nine Habits", the next one would be commit to life-long learning so you get a freebie :-) )
None of these things are difficult but they require a change in mindset. Philippians 4:8 sums it up nicely, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things."