How to finally build the habits that will make you exceptional
The Exceptional Adult System to strengthen mind, body, and bank account — Part 1
I believe people should strive to grow, to become exceptional versions of themselves. I think all adults should become Exceptional Adults. The more I read personal development blogs, self-help books, and listen to motivational podcasts I realize just how much untested information is out there. I have realized just how much bad information is out there.
This year, so far, I have read 52 books. By the end of 2016, I will have read at least 65 books, most of which are business or personal development related. Last year I read 56 books, around half being of the personal growth ilk. I am a bibliophile, am obsessed with learning, and more obsessed with successfully putting to action what I learn, then sharing what works with my friends, family, and readers.
The action I took on what I have learned from these books have yielded mixed results. Some advice was earth shattering, some were decent, but most was mediocre at best. I’ve been the guinea pig for tens of thousands of pages of ideas on improving oneself.
I learned that not all advice works for me, that no piece of advice is universally motivational, and that knowledge, while great, is useless without action.
I recently heard Tony Robbins quote Jim Rohn on the Tim Ferris podcast. That is a lot of name-dropping, but in such prestigious “self-help” company, the Jim Rohn quote humbled both Tony Robbins and Tim Ferris. It read like this:
“As the saying goes, if what you learn leads to knowledge, you become a fool; but if what you learn leads to action, you can become wealthy.” — Jim Rohn
And now we come full circle. I have learned a lot of what not to do, but I have also learned what works, why it works, and how to repeat it. So, welcome to my blog post on how to become an Exceptional Adult through taking action, building simple, repeatable systems to achieve goals in the areas of Physical, Mental, and Financial Health.
You never want to buy a house with a weak foundation because it will cause massive problems with the rest of the house. Building on a weak foundation is an excellent way to put in a lot of work and have it all fall apart.
The same goes for self-improvement. You won’t accomplish anything if you can’t, won’t, or don’t establish a solid foundation. Exceptional Adults have a strong foundation of maintaining mental and physical health at all times. This is step 1 of 3.
The four habits of an Exceptional Foundation
Habits require consistent action over time before they really and truly become habits. The formation of habits requires a sizable amount of willpower. Willpower is the concrete we will be using to strengthen and form our exceptional foundation.
The four sides of our foundation will help maintain the shape and size of our willpower so that we can build the house we deserve on top of it. The house is a metaphor for an exceptional life if you weren’t following my logic.
There are only four habits that cultivate willpower. They are:
- Healthy Diet
So guess what that means. We need to build systems around these four areas so that we can, in time, create lasting habits that will dramatically improve your physical and mental health. Which in turn will pave the way for the next phase of our journey.
So, let’s review with a video.
Set up a system for consistent sleep
Humans have to sleep. It is a biological necessity, and yet, so many of us do a terrible job at it. Sleep is so incredibly important to both our physical and mental health that it is crazy how quickly we deprive ourselves of it.
For some reason, we go to bed later and wake up earlier in a vain attempt to squeeze more time out of the day. No matter what you think, what you have been told, or what you have experienced, you cannot function optimally without consistent, adequate sleep.
Sleep replenishes willpower. If you sleep enough at night, your day will be much more enjoyable because you have the willpower to shrug off all of the irritations of the day. If you don’t get enough sleep, that asshole that just cut you off on your drive to work in the morning will have you screaming in an unholy rage.
Basically, we all need sleep. The more consistent, the better. Playing catch up by sleeping 20 hours on the weekends is better than nothing, but by doing this, you are confusing your body. Consistent sleep gives your body a chance to get into a rhythm and operate efficiently.
So let’s set up a system. First, decide the following:
- How much sleep do I want each night?
- How much sleep do I need each night?
- What time do I want to wake up each morning, including weekends
Let’s use hypothetical answers to build our system
- How much sleep do I want each night? 8 Hours
- How much sleep do I need each night? 6 Hours
- What time do I want to wake up each morning, including weekends? 6:00am
Okay, so if you need to wake up at 6:00 am, and you need/want between 6–8 hours of sleep, then you need to be falling asleep between 10:00 pm and 12:00 am.
So set the alarm on your phone for 8:00 pm that says — “You need to be in bed in 2 hours, go home and stop drinking so much.” ← Your alarm might not say that exact phrase, but you get the idea.
Now set another alarm for 9:00 pm that says — “You have 60 minutes to be in bed! Make it happen please.” ← Politeness goes a long way.
Make these alarms recurring so each night you are reminded to put yourself in a situation to be in bed at the appropriate hour.
The system here is to get IN to bed by 10:00 pm. You might not fall asleep right away, but at least you are in bed and give yourself a chance to fall asleep within that 2-hour window. Over time, as your willpower grows from a consistent sleep schedule, you will be able to tweak this system accordingly.
Remember, YOU control your calendar, so YOU control when you can get to sleep.
Set up a system for meditation
Do you meditate?
If you don’t you should. If you think you can’t meditate, you are wrong. If you KNOW for a certainty that you can’t sit still and think about nothing for any amount of time, you are right, and that is the point.
Do you even know how to meditate? Probably not. Ready for the crashiest of all crash courses?
The basics of meditation:
- Sit someplace quiet, or not quiet. Preferably quiet for beginners.
- Focus on your breathing
- When your mind wanders, become aware it has wandered
- Make a mental note of your thoughts
- Re-focus on breathing
- That’s it 🙂
Why meditation is helpful:
To put it as simply as I can, meditation is good for our minds and body because it forces our brain to focus on right now, as well as to become aware of what we are thinking about. Focusing on right now makes it impossible to worry about the future or the past, temporarily reducing stress. And, when we become aware of our thoughts, we detach from those thoughts. They become merely thoughts, not who we are. That rude tinder date did not make YOU angry; they just caused you to FEEL anger. Big difference. Healthy difference.
Now let’s put together a system for meditation. Think about a task you have to do each day that, once started, takes up its own time and causes you to have to wait.
- Brewing coffee
- Heating water
- Microwaving food
- Starting Laundry
Let’s focus on the brewing of coffee or tea, since it is a very common practice, and I can assume most of you make yourself a coffee or tea every morning.
Well, what do you do with that down time between starting the brewing process and finally pouring your drink? Hint: Use it to start meditating.
This is called habit stacking, where you fit a desired new habit into an already established routine. You already do this drink-brewing practice each morning, so pair it with meditation. This is what I do: I french press my coffee, so while I wait for my water to boil, I will meditate for 5–6 minutes. I do this every single day, and not only does the meditation clear my mind for my morning writing, but it also makes me feel productive. Win win.
Find a place to fit a short burst of meditation each morning, then stick with it. Everyone has time to meditate for 5 minutes.
Set up a system for exercise
Exercising sucks when you never do it. Forcing yourself out of your comfort zone to go exercise sucks even more. Not to mention it is also a massive drain on willpower, which seems to be counter productive to everything I just said.
This is why the only way to exercise regularly is to establish a daily system.
If you have a gym membership, your system should be something like — “Go to the gym everyday.”
That means just drive your ass to the gym everyday, and you have succeeded. That is it. Start by just driving to the gym every single day. If, once you are there, you have the willpower to exercise a little bit, then hooray! That won’t be the case every day at first. All that matters is that you honor the system every-single-day and GO to the gym.
Eventually, you will start to work out every day. Just make sure you don’t exercise so much that you have zero desire to exercise the next day. That is the number one mistake potential Exceptional Adults make when trying to build an exercise routine. They go all out on day one, and can’t move on day two.
If you don’t have a gym membership, no problem. Your system can be as simple as standing up and moving your legs for five minutes. This can be something as simple as going for a walk outside for five minutes, or just walking in place inside for five minutes. You still have to do it every day.
The secret is to keep the system simple enough that it can be done every single day with little need of willpower.
Set up a system for eating healthy
This one is harder; I admit it. Humans (you and me) have a complex psychological and emotional connection with food. The marketing agencies of the world have done a fantastic job of addicting us all to their products. I won’t harp on that beyond this paragraph, but just understand that our habits around eating are profound and difficult to beat.
Screw it, we’re going to win regardless. Why are we going to win? We will win because we already know how to build simple systems around sleep, meditation, and exercise, all of which build willpower and increase our energy levels.
I suggest you work on the first three before tackling the final boss of your Exceptional Adult foundation.
If you a completionist and want to finish off the article, then run off with your new back of tricks I’ll write down what I have learned works well in building systems around healthy food.
Throw out all the bad food currently in your house
If you have a family, this will be hard because kids are master manipulators and will yank on your heartstrings until they get that damn pop-tart, which will cause your house to have pop-tarts.
Do what you can to clear out all temptations from your home and work. This is the first step on a journey in a healthier direction.
Do not worry so much about calories in the beginning
Focus more on reducing the poor food choices in your diet and replacing them with healthier options. Each of these small tweaks in the right direction will have varying, but positive impacts on your overall energy.
One great option is to cut out liquid calories first. Do you drink beer or soda on a daily basis? Replace the beer with red wine, and the soda with flavored sparkling water. You’ll still get that carbonated kick, without the crush of sugar.
Diet Sodas are a better alternative than their sugary counterparts, but not by much. Artificial sweeteners destroy the good bacteria in your gut that helps you maintain your metabolism.
Another idea is to replace soda or beer with a protein shake. Protein shakes are much healthier, keep your blood sugar even so you don’t have a sugar crash, and can stave off cravings for other drinks or snacks.
What other food choices can you replace with healthier alternatives?
Stop eating out so often
When you eat out, you cannot control any part of the process. You don’t control the quality of ingredients, the portion sizes, or the price. No matter how you slice it, eating out is harder on the health of your body, mind, and bank account than preparing your food will be.
If you absolutely must eat out, drink water with lemon, and choose a lighter option on purpose. Remember that eating healthy foods will increase your energy levels and overall willpower. When you feel better, it is much easier to build new habits and continue old habits, like that daily exercise habit ;).
Part 2 of this 3 part blog series “Build upon your foundation — Financial Health & Learning new skills” will be released next week.
This post will cover:
- How to get your financial landscape under control
- The only four ways to build wealth and how to implement each in your life
- Why the richest people in the world are always learning
- How to learn any skill in 20 hours
This content, while useful, is the best consumed once you have started implementing the foundational systems discussed in this blog, so start making a change now, so you are better prepared for the content coming in Part 2.
If you would like to be one of the first notified hop on over to my website and subscribe to my email list. I email out new posts to my list before notifying anyone else. They are my VIP :). Otherwise just follow me here and you will eventually get notified.
Thank you so much for reading!
Originally published at garrettpetticrew.com on October 13, 2016.